No matter our size or food preferences, we all have complicated relationships with food. Certified Eating Psychology and Nutrition Expert Elise Museles created the Food Story platform to help individuals understand that relationship with food and make sure it’s one they feel good about. We chatted with Elise about her work, her new podcast, and where she likes to eat in NYC!

Downtown: What even is a certified eating psychology and nutrition expert?

Elise Museles: Most people think of nutrition as the food on their plate and see an expert to learn “what to eat.” I realized early on that the “what” is only part of the nourishment equation, so I studied at the Institute for Psychology of Eating to empower people to think about how they eat and who they are as eaters. My training provided me with a strong skill-set and the ability to work with the most commonly seen and important eating concerns of our times: weight, body image, overeating, binge eating, emotional eating, endless dieting, digestion, fatigue, immunity, mood, and much more. In a nutshell, I help people with what’s on their plates and what’s in their minds.

Downtown: What are some key things to think about when figuring out your food story?

EM: Understanding your food story is the key to lasting change. Even if you’re reading this and thinking, I don’t have a Food Story, you do! We all do. Unlike your relationship with food, which is just YOU and FOOD, your Food Story is multi-layered and written over years and years. And the beautiful thing about a story is that it is always changing and evolving.

So, when you have behaviors and habits that you would like to release, discovering where those unwanted challenges came from can help you heal them. Because when your stories remain unprocessed, they can zap your life force energy, literally draining you of your vitality. But understanding the root cause, empowers you to release what is no longer serving you and enables you to write a new chapter! When you go back in time and make that connection, you can say, “well that’s not my story anymore, and I have the power to change it!” That awareness will propel you forward to change.

Downtown: When someone comes to work with you, should they expect to totally disrupt their current way of eating?

EM: I always meet people where they are instead of pulling the rug from underneath them. The only solution that I’ve found that works is to make small changes over the course of a long period of time and to focus on all the “do’s” as opposed to the “don’ts.” Instead of telling my client to “quit all dairy tomorrow” I suggest using almond milk in their coffee every morning for the next month. Instead of talking about the negative impact of some the processed foods they are eating, I help them add inlots of fresh colorful choices so they lose their desire for the less ideal foods. Nobody likes being told what they “can’t” do, and I find it much more effective to focus on all the awesome habits and meals that they canhave.

Lasting results usually come from consistent actions and subtle, meaningful shifts. It really is so much more sane and sustainable to be realistic and take it slowly with positivity. It all adds up, and those good habits are likely to stick around when you adopt this approach!

Downtown: What are the most important eating habits healthy people should practice?

EM: Every person and every single body is unique. Here are some ways that we can all benefit:

  • Eat more plants, which leaves less room for the not-so healthy choices. 
  • Add lots of color to your plate. 
  • Make sure to balance all your meals and snacks with a combination of good carbs, protein, and healthy fat. 
  • Think ahead of time and be prepared. It is hard to make nourishing meals when you don’t have fresh food around. 
  • Schedule me time into your calendar so you have a better mindset to follow through with your good intentions. 
  • Sit at the table without distraction so you can tune into your body during meals.
  • Set realistic expectations instead of being so hard on yourself, allowing room for flexibility.

Downtown: What have you learned about yourself since getting into the food and nutrition field?

EM: The biggest takeaways that I have since immersing myself in this field:

Healthy eating is never black and white. I like to say there are many shades of green. I have released my rigidity and now allow space for flexibility and give myself permission to EVOLVE. That means, my habits and food choices might change with the seasons, my hormones, with age, and activity level. Saying goodbye to all the crazy food rules has made eating a lot less stressful and even helped me maintain a better weight!

I also now realize that you can eat all the kale, quinoa, smoothies, and superfoods in the world, but if your mind is filled with toxic thoughts, then you’re never fully nourished. I pay equal attention to what I eat and what I think.

Downtown: You started a podcast this year, what would you tell someone who wants to start their own?

EM: While it might appear to be easy, hosting a podcast is a big responsibility that takes a lot of time and effort, but it is also extremely rewarding. I decided to start Once Upon a Food Story as a different way to share my message and to be able to go deeper in conversation than I can in a blog post or social media caption. What I didn’t realize is that there is a lot of behind the scenes that takes place before an episode goes live, from interviewing a guest to editing the conversation to writing show notes to getting social media graphics and content ready. 

Having said that, my best advice is to make sure that you have the bandwidth to take on the demands. Get clear on your why behind it. Have a message or niche carved out. Be consistent with your episodes. (Many podcasts publish weekly.) Most importantly, have fun with it! 

Downtown: What’s your favorite recipe?

EM: My favorite recipe changes with each season since our bodies naturally crave different things in the cooler versus warmer months. One of my favorite meals any time is a sweet potato loaded with lots of veggies, spices, and plant protein like my Fiesta Stuffed version. And I always have a supply of a healthy (and vegan) chocolate chip cookies ready and waiting to satisfy my sweet tooth. Try out the recipes for yourself!

Downtown: Where’s your favorite place to eat out in NYC?

EM: I feel like a kid in a candy store in NYC because there are so many incredible restaurants and innovative places to eat. I love ABC Vbecause I can go and get a plant-based meal that is creative and satisfying even to people who aren’t as heavily plant-based!