Balancing and unwinding with Justine

In the last few years a New Plymouth woman has lost more than 30 kilos, launched a hugely successful side hustle, and still finds the time to relax with friends. Taranaki Community News caught up with Justine Shera to find out what her secret is.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do? 
My name is Justine, I am a Mum of 1 gorgeous boy, Aiden, and married to Bill.  I work full time from home for an international company that I’ve been with for more than 15 years, but I also have a side hustle – Hello Audrey, and The Unwind.  We created Hello Audrey four years ago, is a caravan bar that provides a full bar service for weddings and corporate events. We also have boutique pop up bars.

A little over a year ago we added a 5m bell tent (Bella) which we do lux afternoons and overnight experiences in that we call The Unwind. It is exactly that – a space to unwind in and slow down, escape every day life even if just for a few hours!   With both our businesses we really wanted to have something unique and create memorable experiences for people.

The Unwind

You also have a hugely popular Instagram account called My Balance Project. What is this about?
My Balance Project started almost two years ago when I was at a really low point with my health. I was overweight and very unhappy with how I looked and felt. More than anything, I was upset that I couldn’t run and play with my son, who was 6 at the time.

I had what can only be described as a bit of a meltdown, and the next day, started changing my life. Everything changed for me overnight, and I started an incredible journey of changing my relationship with myself and food.  

At that time I created an Instagram and blog to share my mindset shift, and I lost 33kgs in that first year. The physical change was obviously huge, but the change in my head was the biggest part. Throughout the journey, thousands have joined me on Facebook and Instagram, where I share my life, including nutrition, family, fitness and my style.

Justine’s before and after

In 2018 I started a series of events called The Balance Project, which was an evening to bring that community closer and talk about women’s health, self love and that change in mindset.

I sold out the events in New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington with over 150 women attending. I am currently planning a series of small group workshops to take place in New Plymouth starting in May.   I’m passionate about helping women reach the same level of self acceptance and self love that I have reached – stay tuned!

In the first year of My Balance Project Justine lost 33kgs. CREDIT: Toni Larsen

What has the best part of this been for you? And what about the hardest?
There have been so many changes to every aspect of my life. There is obviously a huge physical change which people assume is the best part, but the most powerful part has been eliminating that negative voice from my head. I no longer speak in a negative way about myself and this effects everything in my life, absolutely everything.

The best part about all of this is my relationship with my son – I’ve always been a good Mum and we are very close, but I DO so much with him now. We hike, we swim (yes, in my togs, in public!), we adventure and participate instead of watching.

The events and the connection I have made with woman all over the country as also been incredible.

There has not really been a hard part – eating well and loving yourself is not hard once you decided to do it and learn how.

A sold out The Balance Project event in Palmerston North. CREDIT: Toni Larsen

What’s your greatest advice for someone who may be thinking about doing something similar? 
First and foremost – you have to let go of everything in the past. Stop beating yourself up for past mistakes and start fresh. You cannot move on and make a positive change while you hold anger towards yourself for where you are at today.

Start small – make small sustainable changes. When I started I made a list of things I was doing that I knew wasn’t good for me (sugary breakfasts, eating a tonne of bread, packets of chocolate biscuits on a regular basis…), and just started making changes one by one.

Once you start making positive change, the positivity creates this powerful inertia that keeps you going.  The number one piece of advice, is treat yourself with kindness. This includes what you say to yourself and what you put in your body.

Before and after

Can you tell us about your latest venture, The Unwind? 
When I started My Balance Project, we already owned the bell tent for Hello Audrey and were doing lounge setups for weddings.  While going through my transformation I started saying no to more things, so that I had more time in my life for the things I loved – which included reconnecting with family and friends that I had lost time for over the years.  

The Afternoon Unwind was born because I wanted to create a really special environment for people to do absolutely nothing. Show up, bring your friends and we will spoil you. We cater, bring cake and bubbles and you just have to show up with your tribe and unwind. It’s something we don’t do enough of.  We then added Overnight Unwinds which is an extension of the Afternoon Unwind for couples to reconnect.

Aside from The Unwind, what’s your ultimate way of relaxing?
When I think of relaxation I think of the outdoors – I love being close to the water or in the bush.  

We we are so lucky in Taranaki that we have so many incredible outdoor spaces. As a family we just love picking a beautiful spot either up the mountain or on the walkway, pack a lunch and go walking. You don’t have to be the fastest, just getting out in nature is so good for your mental health.

On the flip side, I also love to hang out at home and play board games with my husband and son, we are pretty nerdy and love quiet days at home when we can sneak them in!

It’s the middle of wedding season at the moment. What have you been doing this wedding season, and what’s a typical weekend look like? 
It’s been an incredible wedding season so far! As I write this, we have attended 15 weddings this season, with another 10 to go – three of which are this weekend.  

Hello Audrey

Audrey is booked every weekend this summer, and some weekends we have additional weddings with our boutique bars. For example, on Friday we have a boutique bar booked with an 8 hour service, Saturday Audrey booked for 8 hour service and another wedding across town happening at the same time with a boutique bar for 8 hours. Weekends are usually spent delivering, setting up and picking up whatever we have booked out and we try to fit in walks and fun family stuff in between.

We are really fortunate to have some incredible staff that work at the weddings, so they show up at the booked time to do the bar service. I no longer work at the majority of the weddings, it was a great move for us as a family to free up time and like I said, our staff are great so it’s a win win!

You can follow My Balance Project on Facebook and Instagram, or visit the website. You can follow Hello Audrey on Facebook and Instagram, or visit the website.You can follow The Unwind on Facebook and Instagram, or visit the website.