Three years ago, I hopped on a plane to Denver for a women’s retreat where I’d meet a dozen strangers. Little did I know, I’d walk away with lifelong friends who each brought a unique, special talent to the world. Lucky for me, Brianna Towne was one of those women.
From the moment we met, I was amazed at this woman who had just given birth to her third child and made time to invest in herself for the weekend. When I had my first conversation with Bri, I immediately thought, “How do I become her friend?!” She was beautiful, radiating with happiness, and just a total badass who changed my perception of motherhood.
Flash forward years later, and Bri has launched her nutrition business and become a perinatal wellness coach. In my own conversations with Bri about nutrition, she’s helped me reshape my relationship with food and taught me not to deprive myself of what my body needs. Since March is National Nutrition Month, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to introduce you to Brianna. And believe me you’re going to want to follow her at @briannatowne, and check out her group course, Simply Nourished, which launches April 8!
Bri, we’ve had the pleasure of knowing each other for several years now! In that time, you’ve gone to grad school, launched a wellness company and have found your voice in this industry. Can you tell me a little bit about the path you took to start Hello Nourish?
So when I was pregnant with my first daughter, Charlotte, my OB told me to eat candy bars to gain weight because I wasn’t progressing quickly enough. And something about that stuck with me, and I felt deep down in my bones that candy bars were not the answer. But I didn’t know what the answer was! The more I talked to other moms, I began to hear similar stories of physicians recommending different diets or foods for pregnant and postpartum women. Come to find out that physicians only take about 19 hours in nutrition education in all four years of medical school! So clearly there was a gap there that needed to be filled. As a mother who was already a blogger and holding women’s circles for other mothers, I took it upon myself to get a graduate degree in Nutrition education as well as a handful of certifications in health coaching and fitness instruction to really bring the holistic wellness approach together.
You’ve had quite an interesting past and actually went to school for musical theater! We’ve had conversations and came to the conclusion that just because you’re talented in something, doesn’t mean you HAVE to do it for your whole life. It seems like you’ve found your true passion in your current line of work. What difference did you feel when studying nutrition vs. theater?
When I was studying theater I felt lost. I was good at what I was doing, but couldn’t grasp on to anything solid or concrete. And really that’s how the theater world is – there are no absolutes, there’s no “right way,” there’s no guarantee of anything, and that was a lot for me to handle. When I went back to study nutrition, it felt so incredibly exciting to just look over the course work before starting. Each class I took built on the one previous, and it all felt like it was leading somewhere big. I knew I was creating a solid foundation of knowledge for myself and for the women I would serve in the future. There’s still a lot of unknown in the realm of nutrition, but I felt really empowered to be taking a look at the current research and pulling back the curtain to bring this science to regular women.
What’s the biggest misconception you feel the general public as about food?
Oh, that’s so hard! I think the biggest misconception is that there’s a “right way” to eat and there are “good” and “bad” foods. The diet industry has made billions telling us about all the good and bad foods out there and it’s just a lie. There is a time and place for any food out there – yes, even the high sugar ones – and labeling them as “bad” messes with our minds and our willpower and self-control. Our brains want what we can’t have so putting something squarely in the ‘no’ section – especially if it’s delicious! It’s just opening ourselves up to shame and anxiety. Emotions that do not belong in our mealtimes.
You’re kind of superwoman. You manage to raise FOUR children while single-handedly running a wellness coaching business and creating online courses. What are a few ways you stay on-task and so productive?
Haha well, I don’t think I’m superwoman for starters. I think for me there are few key components of keeping on-task and productive:
- I have hard boundaries. I don’t work on Mondays or when my kids are home from school.
- I plan for alone time and time to recharge – as an introvert I NEED this
- I pretty much ditched what most people view as a ‘regular’ healthy lifestyle. I eat when I’m hungry not when the clock says it’s ‘lunchtime’ and I exercise whenever I can fit it in. I’m writing this while wearing my baby and doing some squats. Whatever works.
Aside from nutrition, yoga is a huge passion of yours. How do you bridge the two categories together?
A couple of years ago I got my yoga teacher certification as well as a certification as a postpartum corrective exercise specialist. For me, I entered the training wanting to deepen my own practice but walked away with so much knowledge about our bodies and muscle systems and how of us – especially pregnant or postpartum women – are exercising wrong and ultimately doing more harm than good. I felt it irresponsible not to share that knowledge, so I created the MIND + BODY + FOOD method for my work with clients that incorporates my nutrition education, fitness training, and my work in health psychology. It melds together so nicely for a truly holistic approach to wellness.
You mentioned facing bullying due to your petite size at a young age. Would you mind sharing how your struggles with weight and how physicians treat it helped spark your interest in becoming a nutritionist?
Yeah, so I was always a small kid. When I was in 6th grade, a few boys called me ‘anorexic’ and I didn’t even know what it was but knew it was bad. When my mom explained it to me I was shocked! Watch me eat some Chipotle, boys! But it led to a lot of shame about my body, and I ended covering up a lot and feeling like I didn’t deserve to be the size I was. When I was pregnant, as I mentioned before, my OB told me that to gain more weight I should eat a candy bar each day, and two protein shakes. It was such ridiculous advice I remember standing there in my kitchen looking at the huge box of king-size Snicker’s bars thinking ‘there’s got to be another way.’
We had a consultation call a few years ago, and you had such unique ways of teaching me how our body has to relearn how to eat. Can you explain intuitive eating to us in a nutshell?
Each of us is born with the innate knowledge of how much to eat. A baby won’t overeat – she knows to stop when she’s full and to ask for milk when she’s hungry. Over time, as we get older, we’re influenced by so many things: parents, family, friends, society, media, even our socioeconomic status about when and where and how and what to eat. And that can lead to a lot of unpleasant feelings and emotions when we try to move forward with a healthy lifestyle. Our brains literally have to make new pathways to get over those old habits and stories we’ve been telling ourselves about the ways we eat. Intuitive Eating, essentially, is a way to repair our relationship with food and get back in touch with those internal natural hunger and satiety cues.
A big specialty in your business is prenatal, pregnancy and postpartum nutrition. You’re a firm believer that EVERY woman needs her prenatal vitamins. Can you share why?
Yes! So regardless of your style of birth control, pregnancies can sneak up on us. And some of the most common congenital defects in a fetus are neural tube defects which develop very early in pregnancy – before most women even know they’re pregnant. A prenatal vitamin contains, among other things, folate which is a defense against NTDs. I recommend every woman of child-bearing age be taking some form of folic acid in supplement form as well as increase her folate from food sources so that, in the case of a surprise pregnancy, you’re already protected.
How has motherhood shaped your perspective on wellness?
Having a good relationship with food and wellness is really important for me to be able to show my children. Especially my daughters. I don’t want them to grow up thinking they have to eat a certain way or look a certain way to be accepted. My hope is that they can grow up in a world that welcomes all bodies and types and really honors the effect that food and movement have on the body.
What’s your go-to snack/favorite food?
POPCORN. Air-popped with a little salt and pepper.
Can you share a rewarding moment in your journey with us?
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?
You don’t have to do it alone. This year I’ve hired a mentor, an assistant, and an intern and been able to delegate a lot of my work. I’ve also learned that it’s just as important to take time off as it is to be ‘on.’
Where do you find inspiration? Any favorite locations, podcasts, or books you love?
I love cookbooks. I get a lot of inspiration from reading cookbooks and trying new recipes and then tweaking for my own use. I also get really inspired in my garden. We have a pretty big one this year with broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, loads of herbs, onions — it’s fun to go out there, pick what’s ripe, and create a meal from it
What’s one piece of advice you wish younger Bri knew?
That you don’t have to have it all figured out. The path will show itself in time — just start working towards something.