As part of our upcoming food and nutrition group – East Nashville 30!, we will be sharing our personal experiences and experiments with food.  We all have our own unique stories about how our relationship with food has progressed over time.  To start, let me share my story and how I became passionate about food and nutrition:

I grew up playing soccer and played competitively through college.  As an athlete and young person, I could eat and drink whatever I wanted and not see any negative consequences, so I had the typical American diet of processed foods with few nutrients.  I ate ready-made meals and had fast foods on the go – I even recall eating chocolate donuts and milk right before a game! I rarely gave a second thought to nutrition or a well-balanced diet.

After I graduated college and joined the world of corporate finance at GE, I sat at a desk for most of the day.  I knew I needed to do something to counteract the sedentary desk work and my slowing metabolism.  To compensate, I started training for marathons and packing what I considered “healthy” lunches to eat at work, which mainly consisting of a sandwich, chips, and a drink.

After a few years of corporate work, I discovered Bikram Yoga in Chicago in 2008 and fell in love with it.  A year later, I moved to Cincinnati, where there was no Bikram studio, so the only way I could get my yoga fix was to go to Teacher Training and then open my own studio.  In 2011, during my first year as the studio owner and manager, I was still working a full time job at GE and had a ton of things on my plate.  It was essential that I maintained my energy throughout the week to accomplish everything I needed to do, so I began to focus more on what food I put into my body.  It was during this time that I started experimenting with raw foods, paleo method, whole 30, and even did a couple of detox programs with health coaches. From all of these philosophies, I started to figure out what types of food groups my body thrived on and which ones made me feel tired, bloated and sick. I love experimenting with new ideas, and after trying each of these methods, I gained more insight into how to fuel my body in a simple, affordable and sustainable way.

In 2012, I got married and soon after became pregnant with my first child.  Food became an even bigger focus for me because I was now taking care of a family.  However, it’s really tough to eat clean, whole foods when you are pregnant and crave carbs all day!  To help reduce my carb and sugar cravings I made sure to have fats, proteins and low glycemic carbohydrates at every meal. Water intake during pregnancy was key and helped me create a habit of drinking way more water then I was ever used to. My best trick for flushing the body and ridding it of junk is water, water, water. Throughout pregnancy I allowed myself to eat what I felt I needed, but by this time, I had enough experience to know that I would feel worse, not better, if I went totally bananas (no pun intended ;)), so I continued to just do my best with eating smart while balancing life… like eating cookies, when needed. :)

In summer of 2015, I sold my yoga studio, had my second child, and moved to Nashville. With 2 kids, 2 big dogs, and trying to navigate a new city, it was the first time in my life that working out took a back seat.  Food was they key for me to stay healthy and maintain when working out everyday just wasn’t an option. To kick start my metabolism and regain my muscle strength after pregnancy, I tried a couple another eating program which again focused on whole foods, paired with portion control and healthy protein/fat sources, which continued to give me insights into foods that my body thrives on. Around the same time, I discovered Buti yoga and really fell in love with it. Buti was my Yang to my Bikram Yin.

Today I’m leaner and more confident than I’ve ever been despite working out half as much as I did 3-4 years ago.  How is this possible?! Food. In my opinion, the food I eat determines ~80% of how I feel on a daily basis (energy, confidence etc.).  Sleep and exercise are important too, but food has really been my foundation for feeling healthy and energetic.  I am by no means perfect in my nutrition and am constantly seeking to learn more, but my current philosophy about nutrition has been very effective for me, and I think I can help others too.

Part 2: So what and how do I eat?

I focus on eating whole foods in their natural state.  I try to make delicious meals that also look good because it helps me get excited about the food I’m eating. Check out all of my creations on Instagram (@chelseayoungyogi)! During the week I try to stay away from dairy, grains (corn, wheat, rice, oats etc), and sugars (including fruits and natural sugars).

I still allow myself a couple of guilty pleasures, or as I like to think of them: rituals. These include coffee and wine! Rituals of life, celebration and fellowship with others. My day usually starts with coffee (sometimes a few cups ….but hey, I’m a mom of two young kids and don’t usually get a full night’s rest ;)).  I frequently end my day or enjoy a meal with my husband and/or friends with a glass or two of red wine.

What works for me may not work for you, but I hope that the group will at least provide inspiration to experiment with your eating habits and optimize them to best fit your lifestyle. For me, re-setting the body with whole food and getting creative by making my meals from a local source is one of my favorite challenges and gives me a great sense of accomplishment!

I would love to have you join our East Nashville 30!  I want everyone to gain energy and pride in what you cook and put in your body. We will share great recipes that you can save and grocery lists to make things easy. After 30 days, you will at least have gained some insight into what type of foods your body responds best to and others that weigh you down. I also believe that when you do things in a group setting you find more inspiration and accountability to make positive changes in your life.  If you want to get a better feel for how I eat, follow me on Instagram @chelseayoungyogi to check out some recipes.

The group starts August 15th, and there will be a detailed plan coming to the Hot Yoga East blog page in the next couple of days, so stay tuned!