I recently sat down with Soshy Adelstein, owner and wellness coach of Embody Nutrition to learn more about her journey that has led her on a path helping women all over the country make peace with their bodies and heal their relationship with food.
I’m very exited to share that Soshy will be a special guest at our upcoming Wild Woman Weekend Retreat in Buena Vista, August 9-11th. She’ll be sharing her wisdom during a campfire discussion, opening up conversations about some of the hard-to-talk-about subjects like body image, binge eating, dieting, and body acceptance.
A: What has been your journey of starting Embody Nutrition, and what was your pull to create a business around intuitive eating?
S: I tried my first diet when I was 19 and lost weight in the first two weeks. After that, I got an intense craving for sugar and carbs. I was living in Brooklyn at the time and walked to my local store and went up and down every aisle and grabbed everything you can imagine. I went back to my apartment and ate it all at once. And, for the first time in my life I was following this binge eating pattern. I felt tremendous guilt and shame.
For the next six years I gained and lost hundreds of pounds and struggled tremendously with food and my body. I also had a really toxic relationship with exercise. So by the end of this six years, I was out hiking and I slipped and broke my ankle. That was a very, very low point in my journey, and I basically sat in my bed and felt like I wanted to die.
I felt so out of control with food. A few days later I was having a conversation with a friend, and they started talking to me about intuitive eating, and the concept of health at every size.
The next week I was in therapy, and I learned about the practice of intuitive eating. Within a few months I stopped binge eating. After five months, my binge eating was completely gone… and that was nine years ago.
Before I had broken my ankle I was in school to become a health coach, so I knew everything I was learning because I had been so diet obsessed. I knew everything there was to know about nutrition, but it was all from a logical perspective - and it wasn’t until I learned about intuitive eating that everything changed and I healed my relationship with food and my body.
Once I recovered from that whole experience I started talking to women and asking around with my friends and community, and I came to learn that it wasn’t just me struggling with food. It was everyone. And everyone had a strong, powerful story about their own relationship with food. Most of the time it was negative, and 100% of the time it was women. And the same thing held true about body image.
I realized this was a major cultural issue, and I started talking about it out loud, and realized that I wanted to help women heal their relationship with food, using this non diet approach called intuitive eating.
A: This is certainly a topic that is a little taboo in our culture, and is also so pervasive, but people don’t talk about this openly or what the root causes are. I’d love it if you talked a bit more about the intuitive part of this… because certainly with Howl Often, it relates in the sense of being in tune with your inner self, but that can mean so many different things. From an eating approach, what does that look like?
S: In short, it’s eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Eat food that you love, and eat food that feels good in your body. So A) it’s a non diet approach that is a way to do food that doesn’t feel restrictive. And, it not only takes your physical body into account, but also how you relate to food, like cravings and pleasure.
One of the things that is so incredible about it, is it really helps you tune back in to your own body to figure out what you need and how much you need, and how to listen to yourself. Because, in our culture there’s an over abundance of wellness information, but people still struggle with food tremendously. And there’s a reason for that.
Take sugar for example - we all know it’s bad for us, but we still want it and eat it, even in private if we have to. And the reason for that, is because no matter how much knowledge you have, it still doesn’t help you tune in with what is happening on the inside.
A: As you said, almost 100% of the women you talked to have at some point in their lives struggled with body image. I certainly have struggled with it since I was a teenager, and still do from time to time. And it’s sad, that so many women live this way, just kind of secretly hating themselves - even if it’s just in your subconscious. This general self-acceptance can be such a battle for so many women. Outside of your coaching, if you could give advice to a woman struggling with this, what would you say to her?
S: Be very mindful about what you’re taking in. I don’t think we understand how that directly affects how we feel about ourselves. So, people talk a lot about detoxes - sugar, carbs, alcohol, etc… but we don’t understand that the advertisements we are exposed to, the people we see scrolling through Instagram, the friends we have on Facebook talking about their latest weight loss transformation, dinner time conversations with family around the holidays, articles we read - it can all affect the perception of yourself, from a positive and a negative standpoint.
So clean up what you’re taking in on a mental and emotional level. If it’s about being thin, body transformation or weight loss, if you’re struggling with these things, then it’s probably not going to feel good on an emotional and physical level to be exposing yourself to these impossible standards.
A: I hear you talking a lot about what we choose to take in on social media, and comparing ourselves whether we are consciously doing it or not. There can obviously be great things about social media, but it can also be a challenging world to navigate for people struggling with these types of issues. Do you think social media can be a safe place for people to engage in? Can there be a balance to it?
S: Yes. I think so. When I started doing this work, I told people that I wasn’t going to try to lose weight anymore, and that having a “fat body” is perfectly okay. People looked at me like I was bat-shit crazy! And now, there’s a million women industry of body-positivity and body diversity.
So now when I’m working with a client who struggles with body image, I tell them to go out and find someone who has a similar body type, and then go find people who you don’t typically see in the media. And follow them and look at them every single day, because we know now that research proves that exposure to these things can really change your perception of yourself over time.
We’re constantly seeing images of women who don’t look like us, and it makes us think that we aren’t beautiful enough, or skinny enough. So the best way to heal that, is to surround yourself with people who have similar body types as you, or that you aren’t typically seeing in the media.
A: I know that you really love nature and specifically, hiking. How would you say that nature has helped you through personal moments of struggle?
S: Oh, nature! I could go on about this topic forever. I really only got into hiking about 7 years ago, after I moved to Colorado. I like hiking in that - if you don’t fuel your body, you can’t go. Just from a nutritional standpoint, that’s one of the things I’ve noticed that is very powerful for me, that eating can sometimes just be strictly for energy, and you can feel that when you’re really exerting yourself.
It’s not a workout thing for me at all, it’s an overall sensory experience of connecting with the trees and just getting lost in the repetitive movement of one step after another. As I mentioned before, I had a really toxic relationship with exercise and it almost feels like I’ve done a full 360 because of hiking. It’s always just about the movement that feels incredibly healing. And this year, I’m really tapping into nature more than ever, and it’s truly medicine. I’m basically getting weird out there!
A: Well that is the great thing about nature! You’re free to be who you are in that moment, and sometimes it can get a little weird, but that’s part of the experience.
So, leading off from that, how would you say that amongst the craziness of life, and with being a mom, how would you say you integrate grounding into your daily life? Or do you have some personal rituals you adhere to that help to keep you centered?
S: Movement is definitely one of them. I try to stay off of social media in the morning. I meditate a few times a week for 15-20 minutes. Right now, I’ve been integrating crystals and palo santo wood into my meditations, which is beautiful. Since I have recovered from dieting, and as the years go on, I’m just really starting to see movement and therapeutic - this year for instance, I just started gardening, and it’s a really interesting thing to tap into, to ground yourself. Sometimes I’ll listen to music and do some slow stretching. But a lot of the time it feels a little chaotic, because of Rosey (my daughter.)
A: As a mom, do you feel like there are barriers for you in getting outside? Do you feel you’re accepted in the outdoor community as a mom?
S: That’s such a big question. Since Rosey was six weeks old, I made it a point to go for a hike every single Saturday. It’s just one thing that has been a non negotiable for me, and I definitely carry her on my back. Sometimes she screams at me, but I think you have to let go of expectations of what your life was like before you had a kid, because you have more and more limited free time. But I think it’s about what feels good to you and what doesn’t.
A: What would you say up to this point in your life you feel the most proud of?
S: Most people would probably say being a mom, but for me right now, I’m really proud of how my business has gone. It feels I’m doing my soul’s work, and I just see it going up from here. But motherhood is certainly another thing I feel proud of. Healing my relationship with food and my body definitely comes after that, for sure.
A: I think one of the biggest things about this topic, (around food, body acceptance and body image) is that women end up feeling isolated because it’s embarrassing to talk about, even though so many of us feel the same way. What do you think about this?
S: One of the things I always do is open up with conversation, because women think they are on an island, and the truth is, they aren’t. A woman may walk into a room and find that they are the only size 16 there, and that can feel really isolating. Or maybe they struggle with binge eating, and it feels like this hugely shameful, self perpetuating problem, and they think they are the only ones dealing with it. But they aren’t.
When I was struggling with binge eating, I kept it hidden for six years because I felt I was so disgusting. I think it’s becoming more open now, but it’s incredible to me how many women struggle with binge eating, and same with body image.
But we also need to understand the “why”. Like, why don’t we enjoy the one body that we’re going to get in this lifetime?
A: Yeah. Any time I start nit-picking myself and judging myself (which I do from time to time) I think about the things my body can do, what it’s capable of, and I think about how thankful I am that I have legs that can get me up a mountain, or how my lungs can power me to run on the trails… All these amazing things our bodies can do that we inherently take for granted, and how strong we really are, and how important it is to just be grateful for these simple things. There’s this false idea of perfection that is still so rampant in marketing and popular culture, and that is really hard to escape from.
S: Yeah, I don’t think people understand to the level of how they are being influenced and thinking that they always need to change something. I think the scariest thing right now, is how the wellness industry can appear so healthy, and beautiful and the right thing to do with your body, but it leaves you feeling like you can constantly be eating better and looking better. What I’m seeing showing up in my practice is that people know so much about wellness, yet they struggle so much with their relationship with food, and not understanding why.
A: How do you start this healing process with a person who is struggling with food or body image?
S: One of the first questions I always ask is what was your relationship like with food growing up? What did dinnertime look like as a kid? What is your mom’s relationship with food and pleasure? What did men say to you? Usually, there’s a huge, complicated story behind these questions. And oftentimes the early childhood experiences around food can really shape ‘how we do food’ for the rest of our lives.
But kids can still pick up on this… it’s really interesting what children sense, and in the same way that we love certain foods from childhood, we have these distinct memories of how food was done from childhood. I help my clients go back in time and reflect that they are the way they are because of what they learned around food so early on, and I help them create new patterns around food, that are just you, as an adult.
A: Talk about taking back some power!
S: No matter where you are in your health journey, I think intuitive eating can be helpful to you.
You just keep on working and working until you reprogram your body to work for you.
A: If you could go back now and talk to your 16 year old self, and she would listen to you, what advice would you give yourself?
S: Oh my gosh… go have fun! Don’t take life so seriously. I would also say say, enjoy your body, get dressed up, don’t worry about what anyone thinks of you because you ARE good enough. Know that your body is perfect and beautiful, and enjoy it because it’s the only one that you have.
Soshy was born and raised in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to a Hasidic family and community. After many years of struggling with obsessive dieting, binge eating and body acceptance, she has taken food into her own hands through the path of intuitive eating. She shares her knowledge and expertise with other women all over the US as the owner and wellness coach of Embody Nutrition. Soshy lives in Colorado with her daughter, Rosey and hikes as much as possible. She believes that if we listen to each other, it will change the world. Follow her journey on Instagram and connect with her on Facebook.