Nutrition & Healthy Living Coach Nell Stephenson spent years trying to find balance. For her, this meant turning her kitchen into a creative workspace in order to craft a nutritional plan that would allow her to heal her body and reach peak athletic performance. As someone who has struggled with a lifetime of gastrointestinal issues, Nell knew that the road to wellness wasn’t an easy one.
Her GI issues turned out to be a blessing in disguise: they forced Nell to take a closer look at what she was eating and how it was affecting her body. “If you rely on the advice dispensed from the food pyramid and the USDA—unless something happens to open Pandora Box’s—you can be on a long, arduous path to health,” she explains. Realizing that the classic food pyramid didn’t work for her is what led Nell to pursue health through dietary changes.
After years of tinkering with her diet, Nell landed on a high-fat Paleo diet. If you think a high-fat diet seems counterintuitive, you’re not the only one—how can you maintain a healthy body weight while increasing your fat intake? The key is to choose healthy fats; Nell mentions that ingredients like olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, pasture-fed lard, grass-fed tallow, or rendered duck fat are ways to add healthy fats to your diet.
When Nell’s body fat dropped to 9 percent on a diet consisting of 80 percent fats, she knew she’d found the right balance for herself. However, she explains, balance means something different for every person. Some general guidelines: eat abundant leafy green veggies, moderate protein, plenty of fat, and not too much fruit. Nell also recommends an “authentic” Paleo approach that consists of eating in season, choosing organic foods that are grown near where you live, and being mindful about what you’re consuming. Following an authentic approach is generally more effective than simply eating foods labeled as “Paleo,” many of which do not fall into an overarching nutritional plan.
Nell and Dr. Oz talked Paleo when she was featured on his show in 2013.
In addition to being a nutrition coach, Nell focuses on holistically promoting healthy lifestyles. As an accomplished Ironman athlete and marathon runner, Nell knows just how vital the tie between nutrition and movement is. “I finally tapped into the way to eat and move,” she says. “When you’re feeling healthy and not sick, you can move better.”
Nell’s principle when it comes to movement is that if it’s not fun, it’s not right. She loves running the most—especially the training process and competitive nature of races—but balances it out with yoga and strength training. Like our team at FluidStance, Nell hates sitting: she works in her kitchen, often piling up cookbooks on the counter to create a makeshift standing desk, and stays in motion on her Level throughout the workday.
Over the years, Nell has struck a balance that’s right for her body and mind. Maintaining balance, however, requires constant movement and adaptation; Nell takes changes into stride—whether that means learning to train smarter or how to heal a stress fracture—knowing that she’s fueling her body with the right nutrients to keep her moving.
While we were chatting with Nell, we spoke about the importance (and difficulty) of maintaining high levels of energy. Here are a few of Nell’s energy-boosting food tips:
- Turn fat into fuel. Rather than starting the day with a meal rich in carbohydrates, even natural carbs such as those you’d find in a bowl of fresh fruit, choose a breakfast based on higher fat, protein, and veggies. A ripe avocado or a serving of coconut oil can help you jump-start your morning without resorting to carbs (or worse, sugar-free carb substitutes).
- Don’t use coffee as a crutch. Stay moving, hydrated, and well fed throughout the day. With constant steady energy and a rested mind and body, don’t be surprised if you don’t even think about heading over to that coffee shop two or three times per day anymore.
- Opt for green tea. Yes, it still has some caffeine, but it’s balanced out with L- Theanine, a compound that helps to promote relaxation, modifying that jolt you’d feel if you’d have gone for a quad espresso.
“Anybody can move,” Nell says, “but I think 80 percent of how we look and feel is based on whether we’re eating a healthy diet.” When you’re looking to maintain balance in your own life, don’t neglect the impact of starting with your dinner plate.
Nell Stephenson is a Paleo-inspired Nutrition & Healthy Living Coach based in Los Angeles. She offers customized Paleo nutritional counseling, teaches mindful cooking classes, and has written five books on Paleo Living. Learn more at www.paleoista.com