Wellness Expert Robyn Youkilis Shares How to Teach Kids Healthy Habits
Photos courtesy of Caitlin Mitchell Studio
As a certified health coach, Robyn Youkilis has devoted her life and career to finding ways to help others maintain healthy weight and embrace their internal (and, consequently, external) wellness. Considering the fact that she’s released two best selling books, Thin From Within and Go With Your Gut, and been the to-go source for the likes of The Today Show, The View, The Chalkboard Mag, and more, it’s safe to say that Youkilis has become a respected authority. And in addition to being a teacher to people all over the world, she’s also doing her best lead by example to her young daughter, Navy.
But if phrases like “wellness” and “health” coach automatically cause you to assume Robyn spends her days only consuming green juice and quinoa, you’d be wrong. Part of the reason her approach is so popular is because she’s also totally relatable. And as a mama, she encounters the same food battles as the rest of us — which got us wondering how she’s instilling healthy habits in her child (even at a young age), as well as the biggest misconception people have regarding diet, and the not-so-guilty guilty pleasure she’ll never stop enjoying.
What first interested you in the wellness/nutrition industry?
Food is a way we show love, and also how we receive it — and I grew up in a home where this was all too true. My mom always cooked delicious meals for our family; Coq au Vin was a regular Wednesday night occurrence. Her food was infused with love. I bonded with my dad over giant soft pretzels, and my brother and I had a ritual of getting Vanilla Coke floats together.
As I navigated my way into the adult working world, I knew I wanted to do something with food, I just didn’t know what. Living in Los Angeles working as an actress and in documentary film and film festival production I felt unfulfilled, and grew tired of working gig to gig. I began to consider alternative careers.
I knew I didn’t want to work in a restaurant or necessarily go to culinary school, but I was obsessed with cooking and sharing my creations with my then boyfriend (now husband) Scott. That’s when a friend told me about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Training Program. As with so many big decisions in my life, the moment I held the program brochure in my hands, I just knew this was the next step for me. I didn’t know where the program would lead me, or what my career or job would look like after getting my certification, but I did know that my gut was telling me “yes.” Without a real plan but just pure passion I trusted that it would lead to something, or at least provide me with more clarity on where I needed to go.
While attending IIN’s health coach training program, I learned that I could have a business (and actually make really good money) doing what I loved. I could cook for a living in my own way, while still having the flexibility to travel and be my own boss. And here I am nearly a decade later!
What's the biggest misconception most people have about diet?
The biggest misconception people have about eating healthy is that it has to be all salads and quinoa bowls. While I love me a good plate of greens, this just isn’t true. Healthy eating can be delicious, and it’s been my mission to prove that through the recipes in my two books.
Also, cooking for yourself and your family doesn’t have to take hours and hours every night. With a little bit of prep and planning, healthy and delicious meals can be ready without too much fuss (or a pile of dishes). I’m a mom, a business owner, a wife and a friend and while I do enjoy being in the kitchen, I also love to be in my life: traveling, going to music festivals, hitting up the latest workout classes, and more. I’ve taught hundreds of women and men how to meal prep my Thin From Within way (and now have a fully online workshop that you can do from the comfort of your own kitchen or home) so that delicious, healthy meals can come together easily.
In terms of food — can you share your "guiltiest" pleasure?
I don’t like to use the words “guilty pleasure” or “cheat meal.” I try not to label foods as good or bad, on or off limits. Before I eat anything, I connect to my intuition and ask what would be supportive. Sometimes that’s my “Rule of 5 Plate” from Thin From Within and yes, sometimes that’s pizza! It’s all about the intention behind it and the connection you keep to your body while you’re eating.
But if there was one food it would definitely be cheese! I love cheese and will pretty much go straight for the cheese platter at any fancy event. On a daily basis, I opt for organic sheep’s or goat’s milk cheeses as they are usually easier for our bellies to digest.
Can you share how you convince your little one to adopt healthy habits at a young age?
My best advice for encouraging little ones to adopt healthy habits is to lead by example. This applies to food yes, but also how you talk about your body and your attitude towards life. Kids pick up on everything, so it’s important that we try to show them the practices and belief systems we want them to develop (versus just telling them “Eat your vegetables!”).
When it comes to specific parenting decisions, I’m constantly asking myself what would be supportive for myself, and for my daughter, rather than following someone else’s “should.” My husband and I loosely follow the RIE method of parenting and it’s taught me so much, not only as a parent, but as a person. Through this method, we give my daughter space to express herself, and to communicate her needs and feelings. These practices are so important for developing children, but also for all humans - we all want to have space to express ourselves and simply be heard.