This episode of the Feel Good Effect podcast focuses on how to listen to that intuitive food voice we all have and how to quit the serial dieting cycle.
How to Tune Into Your Intuitive Food Voice and Stop Serial Dieting, with Robyn Youkilis
This week’s guest is Robyn Youkilis, a certified health coach, author, speaker, and leading expert in holistic digestive health. Robyn is the founder and CEO of the global health coaching practice, Your Healthiest You, and the author of bestselling books, Go With Your Gut and Thin From Within.
Robyn offers advice for those who are constantly looking outside themselves for a fix as well as those interested in this lifestyle change, explains why the gut matters and how fermented foods play a role in gut health, and breaks down her rule of 5 in building a meal.
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Today’s guest on the Feel Good Effect is Robyn Youkilis, a certified health coach, author, speaker, and leading expert in holistic digestive health.
Robyn is the founder and CEO of the global health coaching practice, Your Healthiest You, and for nearly a decade she has helped clients shed emotional and physical weight with her supportive coaching style
This episode focuses on how to listen to that intuitive food voice we all have and how to quit the serial dieting cycle.
Note: this is not about intuitive eating- that’s a whole other topic we will cover another time.
Right off the bat, I want to call out something: the name of Robyn’s most recent book is Thin From Within, and when I came across it I had a little cringe moment at the title.
But, I wanted to give it a chance so I opened up the book and what I found was incredibly insightful and tactical.
It was also very much in line with some of what we talk about on this podcast.
Part of this show is asking Robyn about what inspired her to land on her title, and part is also about holding space for people who are actively looking to lose weight
On one side, there is the “healthy at any size”, body-acceptance movement and then there's the “thinspo”, hate-yourself-and-lose-weight side of the spectrum.
But there are also people out there who are interested in changing the way that they eat and health and weight are important issues for them.
So we’ll talk about holding space for them to do that in a way that is not diet focused and is nurturing.
This episode is brought to you by our Simplified Guide to Meal Prep + Planning, a free resource for helping you streamline and simplify getting real food together.
Part of this journey around our intuitive food voice and getting off the diet train is really about cooking your own food and nourishing yourself in that way, which takes a little prep and planning.
On what inspired her books:
Robyn has struggled with weight her whole life.
At 13, she started to notice differences in how her body was changing compared to everyone else’s and how she looked compared to how women looked in magazines.
She felt like something was wrong with her that needed to be edited, and that began what she called a career of dieting.
Essentially, it was a conversation around “something’s wrong with me and my body, I need to fix it, here are the ways that I can fix it. Here’s how everyone else has the keys to what I deemed a problem”.
Robyn read about diets from magazines and tried what the celebrities were eating, but it was part of a larger mass message: this is the way, and you don’t know anything.
Her mom wasn’t really sure how to talk to her about it; she saw Robyn fluctuating in her weight and obsessing over it, but no one had the conversation with her mom, either.
This continued into college where she continued with an unhealthy diet.
She never really had an answer or a solution to it, but she did have quite a bit of spirit, sass, and confidence and she continued to live some version of her best life, even though she was struggling on the inside.
Robyn ended up finding her way to nutrition school through a deep love of food.
Although Robyn struggled with her weight, her mother was an incredible cook who made extravagant meals throughout the week.
She remembers watching her father struggle with his weight, too, and watched him go through the various diet fads.
When she went to nutrition school, she went with an interest in food and a hope to have a career with food.
Robyn attended the Institute of Integrative Nutrition nearly a decade ago and realized that she had some serious eating stuff going on.
She started to take a look at what she was eating, how she was eating, the habits she had created around food, and her mindset around food.
“None of this was technically what I’d classify as an eating disorder, but it was definitely disordered eating behavior”
She didn’t feel nourished by, supported by or connected to her food.
It was more like trying to leave some food on the plate at the end of her meals or only having a bite of dessert.
But when that wouldn’t happen, she would hate herself.
And then she would try the next new diet.
Even though she learned a lot about what she was going through, she wasn’t really able to find her own way through it.
Healthy had become another diet.
What really shifted all of this and prompted both of her books, was this new way of connecting to her body and her intuition.
She acknowledged all the information, but also found herself looking outside of herself for something to fix her- feeling like something is wrong and someone else has the keys to make it better.
It all shifted when she started to talk about family planning, wanting to create the best environment for her baby and then realizing, this body is her body too and she should treat it with the same respect as she would for a child.
So she started to think about that, connect to herself, connect to her body, slow down more, and develop her intuitive food voice, asking: What would feel supportive right now? What do I need to eat here? What would feel good?
Getting calmer around her food, getting quieter, slowing down, and really going through those steps of inquiry was the real inspiration for her book.
“There was something here that needed to be shared: there was a way that we could talk about ourselves and have these goals of wanting to get better in our bodies, but coming from a place of support and love rather than shame and fixing”.
Advice for those who are constantly looking outside themselves for a fix:
Ask yourself: “What do I really need here? What’s really going on?”
This isn’t to find the answer that’s going to be the key to everything, rather, it’s more about starting to have that real conversation with yourself so you can get curious and start to release yourself from the idea that there is a there.
Robyn remembers looking back at photos of herself from a trip where even when she was practicing yoga daily and training for a marathon, she was still thinking, “I wasn’t thin enough. I didn’t look good enough”.
But now, she looks back at those same photos and thinks “if you weren’t there when you were there in this place, there is no there”.
Use that process of inquiry to get real with yourself and connect to that release of there.
“Its finding that sweet spot between working towards loving yourself as you are right now, just climbing your way to higher, more loving thoughts, but still actually doing some work to get you to a more balanced place”
In that way, Robyn is about the emotional and the practical.
The emotional component is doing that inquiry, doing some journaling, and asking those harder questions; it's noticing what feels heavy in your life right now.
The practical component comes in because some of us really do need to be meal prepping or be more mindful while we are eating; these are practical tools to anchor us along the way.
The key with practical tools, though, is to pick one or two and use them to support you.
On how Robyn interprets the word thin in her book:
“Thin” is controversial!
The title, Thin From Within, comes from a coaching program she ran a while ago.
Women were coming to her without directly talking about weight loss, but somehow it was part of their goals.
The idea of thin from within came from the question: “if you’re connecting to what you really want in your soul, how can we bring that out and reshape it in a new way?”
So much is happening around self love and body positivity, but with that, there is some shaming around women who still want to lose weight.
This is a new way we can have these conversations from a place of support and a place of love.
Using “thin” in the title, connects to people’s old diet brain while giving them a new way to think about it.
“A desire to lose weight is a sign that we want something different in our bodies, but even more so in our lives… It’s only when you consider your body as whole that you will finally feel that lightness you’ve been searching for on the scale”.
Body positivity is great, but there are plenty of people with legitimate reasons for wanting to lose weight as well.
You can come at it from a place of self-hatred, or you can come at it from a place of self-love with a desire to nurture.
It’s a complicated, messy conversation that has so many layers; for some people the title is going to be what turns them off, but for some people that’s what’s going to get them.
All these flat-this, flat-that conversations have a ton of followers, and even though we’re all having this body positivity talk, people are still ordering flat-tummy tea.
On why the gut matters:
Starting with the gut leads to so many positive changes.
The gut is the center of our being; it digests and assimilates the nutrients from our food, but it also is physically the center.
Its where majority of our immune system is: 70-80% of immune tissue is in the digestive tract.
The gut is also like our second brain; emotional well being and how we perceive ourselves and the world comes from our belly.
And then there is a huge emotional, intuitive piece.
We all have those feelings from deep inside meant to guide us, it’s just about how strong it is for you or how often you’re listening to or trusting it.
Starting with the gut seems to have the quickest, deepest, and longest results; it is a great place to base everything else off of.
And it’s really accessible; even if you don’t have a super restrictive diet or an illness you can understand that the gut is important.
On the rule of five:
Robyn’s rule of five is a great template on how to think about your food or structure a lunch or dinner.
A lot of clients that were coming to her were dieting through their meal, but eating through their days, meaning their meals didn't have enough micro- or macronutrients to physically sustain them.
Your body likes to burn through all the fuel you give it before you pile something else on it.
It comes from Ayurveda, an ancient healing system from the Sages in India, a sister practice to Yoga, that focuses on nurturing the mind, body, spirit, and soul.
Think about it like a pot of rice: if your rice is almost done cooking and you throw some more grains on the pot, they’re not going to cook.
The same thing happens in your digestive system.
However, mind you,
“know thyself and go with your gut”.
If gut issues aren’t most prevalent for you and you do better eating every few hours, go with that rather than focusing on denser meals.
The rule of five plate:
When building your plate, think about:
1 | Greens: include a salad or serving of cooked greens on your plate
Check in with your intuition, or experiment to see how well you can digest raw greens.
2 | Healthy fat: these are essential for nutrient and vitamin absorption and help you feel full.
3 | Protein: similar to healthy fats, these are satisfying for the body and a great macronutrient.
4 | Fermented food: something like raw, fermented, probiotic-rich sauerkraut that is going to be loaded with good for your gut bacteria.
This is going to help your body digest the meal you’re eating and is an ultimate superfood (with highly absorbable vitamin-C and anti-cancer compounds).
Note: this is not the same stuff you get in a jar; it needs to be like yogurt, found in the refrigerated section and to says something like raw, fermented, probiotic-rich, or no vinegar, so you know you have a live culture in it.
It’s sour or bitter, and your mouth needs balanced taste and balanced flavors to achieve balance in your body.
5 | Cooked vegetable: adding a grilled or cooked veggie makes a meal feel more grounded, filling, seasonal, and satisfying; it really balances your bowl or plate.
Lunch idea from the rule of 5:
salad greens + avocado + canned sardines + sauerkraut + a roasted vegetable, like cauliflower.
Dinner idea from the rule of 5:
*bean pasta + sauteed kale + roasted vegetable + olive oil + fermented beets or carrots
*Bean pasta: pasta made from black beans or chickpeas (experiment with what works for you!)
On eating fermented foods:
In American, we are typically are the only culture that don’t include a fermented food into our staple diet.
Around the world, we see fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, natto, miso, tempeh, and injera bread.
And we’ve all partaken in fermented foods, but they might not be a version with a raw or live probiotic bacteria in them (foods like bread, wine, chocolate, and cheese all have a fermentation process).
Today we are talking about ones that either have some probiotic compound in them, or are easier for your body to digest.
Tempeh, which doesn’t contain live enzymes, is a fermented version of soybeans, or tofu, but it is predigested through fermentation process so it is easier for your body to break down.
We just aren’t really used to the flavor of probiotic rich foods.
It’s okay to think it’s weird, but you might like the flavor and, even more so, you might love how you feel.
Within fermentation, is a process of lactofermentation, which is when starches (carbohydrates and sugars) are transformed into bacteria boosting agents, via lactic acid.
Lactic acid contains probiotics which nourish the probiotics that are already growing in our belly or microbiome.
There are trillions of bacteria living on and in us and to be in their optimal state, they have to be fed.
If you can't digest dairy, you may be able to digest cultured dairy products, like cultured yogurt or kefir (a fermented milk drink).
Fermented foods like kefir, kvass (a fermented beet drink), sauerkraut, and kombucha (a fermented tea) are meant to be condiments.
Think about them as an add-on, like a few forkfuls of sauerkraut on your plate.
They are dense in sodium and not a replacement for fresh veggies.
Kombucha is a fermented tea, a live, fermented organism has been introduced to a tea-sugar combination; the organism eats the sugar and grows good bacteria.
Kombucha still has sugar, so keep in mind what your body needs- one serving tends to be 4 oz, yet most bottles are 12 oz.
Some of these products are more expense, so you can go with a smaller serving, or make your own.
Advice for someone interested in this lifestyle change:
Get the book and start reading!
It looks like a cookbook but it really is a coaching book that discusses the emotional pieces and practical components; see what resonates with you.
Also, start with chewing your food completely before swallowing
Robyn has a free, 21-day chewing challenge.
Digestion begins in our mouth with saliva and enzymes that start breaking up our food making it more easily digestible in our gut.
It’s easy to talk about mindful eating and slowing down, but a practical component is to just chew your food.
Think about, “how much can I chew this food?”, and you’ll end up being more mindful about it.
On the emotional side, slow down around meals.
We use foods to not feel, and if we are forced to slowly go through what we eat we start to feel more.
It can feel like a lot at first, but over time it can feel really freeing.
It creates more space for a conversation around what you really need.
On where she’s headed:
Robyn has a weekly coaching program, The Rockstar Coaching Collective, a weekly, live, coaching program spanned over 9 months with no set agenda.
This creates space for clients (and Robyn) to be on video and seen, with no hiding, where Robyn teaches from whatever she is inspired by at that time.
She’s also working towards her next book, themed around how to go with your gut in the parenting space.
On what it means to be healthy:
“Whatever feels good for you right now, knowing that what felt good yesterday, this morning, might change, so how can you connect to that voice inside of you that is here to give you that information, and how can you listen to it.
What feels good for you right now, that to me is what wellness is all about”
Robyn Youkilis is an AADP Certified Health Coach, author, speaker and leading expert in holistic digestive health. She is the Founder and CEO of the global health coaching practice, Your Healthiest You. For nearly a decade, Robyn has helped clients shed both physical and emotional weight through her straightforward yet supportive coaching style. She is the author of the best selling books, Go with Your Gut and Thin From Within - The Go with Your Gut Way to Lose Weight, and has been featured by The View, The Today Show, The Cooking Channel, The Wall Street Journal, Health, Mind Body Green, Well + Good, The Chalkboard Mag and more. Robyn currently lives in New York City and Los Angeles with her husband and their daughter, Navy. She enjoys traveling, music festivals and eating dessert at fancy restaurants, one bite at a time.
To learn more about coaching with Robyn and to join the #YourHealthiestYou community, visit www.RobynYoukilis.com.
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