Written by A Wild Dove | Photographed by Caitlin Mitchell
When Robyn Youkilis was growing up, no one had taught her how to have a healthy relationship with food, or with her body, even as it began to change. “There I was with hips, thighs and a generous tush at 13 years old, and was constantly comparing myself to other thinner women,” Robyn said. “I rode the diet roller coaster for years - hoping to get that ‘perfect figure’ and labeling everything I ate ‘good’ or ‘bad.’” After one too many roller coaster rides, Robyn finally got off the cycle by enrolling in nutrition school and becoming pregnant with her daughter. Throughout her studies, she realized the foods and activities that made her feel her absolute best and put the scale off to the side. Now, a mother and wellness coach, Robyn has her own vision of health that she’s imparting to others through a new book and a booming business. We sat down with this rockstar mama to chat nutrition, the all important gut and when she’s flying high.
Can you start by sharing your philosophy and how it differs from other health coaching....
I explain digestive health in a way that allows people to connect with their gut instincts, learn to make food choices from a place of wisdom, banish bloat, and leverage the power of the act of chewing. I have women all over the world making more home-cooked meals, slowing down and discovering the foods and practices that help them feel their best. My approach looks at all areas of your life. Your body wants you to feel good, and the best way to reach your natural weight is to keep your gut flora happy and balance the other parts of life that “weigh” you down. Together, these two forces will have you looking and feeling fabulous.
What was your personal "trigger moment" in starting this journey and helping others?
A love of cooking and food led me to enroll in nutrition school. Through my studies at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), I realized that every person needs different foods to feel their best and thrive. I re-learned the art of eating, and the specific foods and activities that were right for my unique body. And while I was healthier, my biggest transformation came when I became pregnant and then a mother. Not only did I have a whole other level of understanding of my body, I had this beautiful, incredible little human that I was now responsible for. I stepped up my self care game not because I wanted to lose weight or have toned abs, but because I wanted to be the best example that I could be for my little girl.
What are a few tips for us busy mamas that we can put into place asap?
First, meal prep is your friend! For many of my mama clients, meal prep has been the difference between eating the healthy food they know they want to be eating, and ordering in. I teach my totally doable (and delicious) way of meal prep in my new book, “Thin From Within.” Second, take time for yourself. Maybe that means you get a babysitter once a week so you can get to your favorite yoga class, or you get your groceries delivered so that you can have one less errand on your to-do list, or maybe that means you tell your partner that you need 20 minutes to yourself in the morning. When you take that time for you, you’re better able to show up for your family, your co-workers, your dog – everyone in your life!
We LOVE that. Why is wellness more important now than ever and how do you view wellness within the context of what you do?
I see wellness as the health of both your body and your mind – it’s not a perfect formula or number on a scale but rather a delicate balance of all parts of our lives. You can’t be fully “well” if a part of you is out of sync, which is why in my coaching and teaching I address both physical and what I call emotional weight.
How has having a child changed or impacted your vision on healthy living?
When my husband and I began talking about starting a family, I shifted my focus from “How skinny can I be?” to “How can I create the most ideal ‘home’ for my future baby to live in?” And then I had an aha moment - Our bodies are our homes—this is where we live. Shouldn’t we treat them right? I let go of trying to look a certain way. I slowed down even more at meal times and chewed my food completely before swallowing. I began to focus on the foods (and the activities) that made me feel my best. And guess what? The foods that made me feel (and eventually look) my best were those deeply nourishing foods, the foods that pack the most bang for the nutritional buck, the foods that feed and balance the microbiome (aka your gut).
Yes! So how do you put your beliefs into place at home with your daughter and what are some easy ways others can extend that healthy lifestyle towards their children?
I try to lead by example when it comes to food, how I talk to my body, and my attitude towards life. I’m constantly asking myself what would be supportive for myself, and for my daughter, rather than following someone else’s “should.” I have conversations with her too and give her the space to express herself, to communicate her needs and feelings. We loosely follow the RIE method of parenting and it’s taught me so much, not only as a parent, but as a person. I’m much more aware of honoring and validating someone else’s feelings as well as my own.
How do you find balance in your own life?
Ah, that tricky word - balance. We all strive for it, right? Some days are definitely easier than others! Sometimes when I feel like I’m being pulled in all different directions, I just have to take a moment to breathe. Just close my eyes and take a few breaths. I try to have my family time that I hold very dear. It’s my time to put the phone down and tune into my daughter and her needs. I always find my center when I’m with my daughter!
Can you talk about the inspiration for your new book?
I didn’t want to write this book – my publisher was the one who wanted a weight loss book! But the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that this book needed to be written. My clients wanted a way to think about and approach weight loss that felt sane, that felt in alignment with their spiritual selves. Here’s the truth - you can love and appreciate your body as it is right now and still want to lose weight. Your body is your business, and if you want to look and/or feel different and that desire comes from you—not from the media, your mom, or your boyfriend—it’s alright to take action to make your dream body your real body.
What is your therapy?
My “therapy” is any way that I’m able to connect to my body, my gut, my intuition. On a daily basis that looks like meditation, journaling, and just spending a few minutes each morning to be with self. Movement is an essential part of my life - not only does it connect me to my body and my breath, but it’s often on a run or in a spin class where I work out the things that are swirling in my head. Spending time with my daughter is also so grounding - she reminds me what a pure joy it is to be alive, and that magic exists in the world around us. Taking time to connect with my friends and family is also important to me.
What makes you fly?
Right now I’m fired up (in the best way possible) about my new book, “Thin From Within” . The incredible messages I’ve received from readers are proving that what I’m sharing is resonating, this work is changing lives and perceptions. The biggest win for me as a coach is when someone can shift the conversation they’re having with themselves about their body. I can talk about self love for days, but when that actually lands with someone in a way that feels real and true in their life, that’s the real point of it all.