Food Story: How to Eat Like a Yogi
Elise Museles is a certified eating psychology and nutrition expert, creator of the Food Story Method and platform, and host of the popular podcast “Once Upon a Food Story.” We recently spoke with Elise about her recent book Food Story: Rewrite the Way You Eat, Think, and Live.
YogaUOnline: Elise, how did you have the courage to take a leap from your career in law to find your true passion?
Elise Museles (EM): Part of it was because I became a mom. When I went back to immigration law after having kids, the laws were so much more stringent, and it was really hard for me to know that some of the court decisions were breaking up families. I ended up having some internal conflict about it.
Somehow, I always knew deep down that I would end up working in nutrition. And once I finally decided that I was going to take the leap, it was a full-body “Yes!” There was a period when I was going back and forth wondering, “Should I really go for it? This is crazy after all the years of law school!” But I’m so glad that I trusted my gut, and now I’m doing what I love every day.
YogaUOnline: We’d love to hear more about your upcoming book. What inspired you to write Food Story?
EM: It’s something that’s been inside of me for a really long time. I just wanted to be able to have a place where I could put all my methods together and help women work through some of their eating challenges and issues that prevent so many of us from living our best lives.
I started to think about the book in 2014. Then, I signed up to go to a writing retreat later that year and while I was there, I got an email from a publisher asking me to write a different book that was much more recipe-oriented. Some of the people at the retreat were already established authors, and they encouraged me to take this opportunity. It was literally handed to me.
And then, while I was writing that book, I was asked to do recipes for a really big book on gut health called The Microbiome Solution. I said yes, and that meant Food Story got put by the wayside. When I finally started to focus on it again, I realized the way I had it laid out just wasn’t right. So much has changed in what I’ve learned from people, and so much has changed in the way we communicate as a culture about food, vulnerability, and our stories.
So, I completely scrapped my proposal and rewrote the whole thing. It felt so right, and the timing was also right. Sometimes those things that you see as obstacles actually come because you aren’t really ready yet or it’s not the right timing to do what you think you’re supposed to be doing.
I’m so grateful for that extra space to be able to establish my voice and to learn more about women’s hang-ups, concerns, and deep-seated issues about food. Everything felt aligned when I submitted my proposal to the publisher in 2019. It then took me a year to write the book from the time I signed a book deal to when I turned it in and then an additional year for the publisher to finish the editing, design, and printing process.
YogaUOnline: How did you decide which recipes to include in Food Story?
EM: There are so many incredible cookbooks out there, and I knew that I needed to come up with an approach to food that felt new and different so the reader could experience food in a brand-new way. I offer a fun science-backed approach to eating that puts you back in the driver’s seat.
All the recipes are organized according to mood! I identified seven different moods in the book: happy, focused, comforted, strong, radiant, sensual, and calm. Because those are the desired feelings that in my experience people want to feel. It was so much fun for me to research ingredients and understand how certain foods affect the brain and the body to influence our thoughts, behaviors, and overall mood.
YogaUOnline: Are there any comforting recipes for late fall to early winter that you’d like to share with our readers?
EM: A great recipe for this time of year is my Roasted Root Vegetable and Chickpea Soup. It’s filled with warming spices that have anxiety-reducing properties. This dish is also a hearty way to flood your body with nourishment and calm. Along with the grounding root vegetables, it’s packed with plant-based protein from chickpeas.
And I did something interesting with the chickpeas in this recipe. You purée half of them so they’re actually smooth in the soup, and you’re not just eating whole beans. Then, you roast or bake the rest so they’re crispy, almost like a crouton that you put on top.
All the ingredients in it are very soothing, and soup is nourishment for the soul.
YogaUOnline: What was the greatest challenge you faced in writing Food Story?
EM: I signed the book deal in the fall of 2019, which means that I wrote a big portion of the book during the pandemic. And nobody wants to talk about what it was like at the beginning of the pandemic, but we were all panicking, which made me question everything. I started thinking, “Is anyone really going to be interested in resolving deep-seated food issues when we have this world crisis going on?”
The pandemic made me reevaluate everything and be even more selective about what I chose to include in the book. It stirred up emotions for me, which is good because when you release those feelings, and you get them out, they’re not sitting inside of you.
There’s something so powerful when you write out your own story, which I did as I was working on the book. Food Story is not a memoir by any stretch, but I share snippets of my own story in the book. I learned a lot about myself in writing my clients’ stories and my own past, struggles, and triumphs.
Another challenge I faced: when I turned Food Story into my publisher, I had 50 recipes, and I had this whole concept that my book is going to be a hybrid book containing the Food Story Method in the first part and the recipes in the second part. I thought the two parts were going to be equal.
But my publisher said, “If we create this book the size of a cookbook and put an image of you on the front with a beautiful dish, it’s going to go on cookbook shelves, and nobody’s going to read the beginning. They’re just going to skip to the recipes. And we feel like this book adds so much value in other ways. Not that other cookbooks aren’t valuable, but we don’t want it to be mistaken for a cookbook.”
We decided to take out a third of the recipes, change the size, and come up with a completely different vision that we worked on together for the cover. I had these preconceived notions of what the book was going to be, and it was a little bit of a challenge to be able to step back and say, “Actually, this is a better idea.” But now that the book is done, I agree with this change in direction, and maybe the Food Story cookbook will be next.
YogaUOnline: Why do you think Food Story is an essential read for yoga students and teachers?
EM: There are a lot of parallels in this book with the yogic lifestyle. One of the main messages I want to impart to the reader is that they can trust their body and learn to relax in their body. Because good things happen when we’re connected to our bodies and when we aren’t in a stressed-out state. And I think that yoga also offers that.
My book is about being present with your food and present in your mind because when you worry, you’re focused on some uncertain future. And for me, one of the most powerful lessons that I learned as a yoga student was how to be in my body in the moment.
I never use the word “mindfulness” because it has become such a part of our language now that it’s overused and loses meaning. But if we get back to the root of what mindfulness means, this book teaches mindfulness through being present at your meals, paying attention to how your body feels and responds to food, and noticing your thoughts. And I think yoga teaches the same thing.
YogaUOnline: How has your own experience practicing yoga shaped the writing process?
EM: Before I became certified in nutrition, I did yoga teacher training. I was in LA for one year in 2009 and took advantage of all the incredible studios in the area. That year solidified my commitment to yoga. Now, yoga is so central to my being, and whenever I feel anxious or stressed, I know that getting on my mat is a really fast and easy way to reduce those feelings.
YogaUOnline: Do you remember one teacher or story that helped you have a life-long love of yoga?
EM: It might be a bit controversial! There is a teacher in LA at YogaWorks named Vinnie Marino, and his classes were mat-to-mat, hot and sweaty. This was pre-COVID, of course, going back to 2009. And Vinnie played a lot of loud rock music during class.
I had such a busy mind at the time, and I didn’t know how to shut it down. But when I took his class, the music was a distraction from my mind. And it was the first time I was able to tune out my thoughts and be where I was.
There was just something about his classes that really inspired me, and they were almost addictive in a way. I think that was the beginning of my love affair with yoga. It was not the beginning of my practice; I practiced for probably 10 or more years before that. But that was really what solidified my deep fulfillment from yoga.
YogaUOnline: What is your best self-care tip for all of us?
EM: For many women in today’s day and age, we put everyone else first. I think knowing how to flex your “no” muscle is key. That means even if I really want to do something, but I know it’s going to create stress because I’m overwhelmed or stretched too far, knowing how to say “no” can be a major form of self-care. That’s such a huge thing.
Also, acknowledging that you’re just as important—if not more important—than everybody else. The expressions, “You have to fill your own cup first,” or “You have to put your own oxygen mask first,” have stuck around for a reason because it’s true!
You don’t need justification. It should just be part of your day to say, “I know I need X amount of quiet time; I know I need to move my body, journal, or have a gratitude practice,” or whatever it may be that flips that switch so you’re less stressed and more grateful.
There are so many moms who don’t sit down to eat because they’re busy feeding their kids and tending to their needs. But you need to sit down to eat, too. So, if you have to, put your own self-care on your calendar and do it until it becomes part of your day. You don’t need to justify it. Just make it your routine! It is crucial not just for you but for everyone around you, too.
YogaUOnline: In a few words, what’s the biggest takeaway message from Food Story you hope your readers will come away with?
EM: The first thing is that we all have a food story. And a food story isn’t necessarily negative. Your food story is a big swirl of many things: your memory-laden meals, the messages you received from family members and other influential people in your life, and all the meals along the way. There are so many moving parts that go into creating a food story, and just because your story played out a certain way doesn’t mean that it will always be that way.
The beautiful thing about our story is it’s always evolving. There are new characters, new themes, and new plot twists that come in. If we realize we actually have the power to pick up the pen, it will help us move forward and feel more hopeful about creating a better relationship with food—and ourselves.
YogaUOnline: What, if any, projects do you have planned next?
EM: I love teaching, and I love connecting with people, so I’m thinking about a Food Story course. That’s my next thing. And down the line, there just may be another book in store. But for now, I have my podcast, blog, and practice where I see clients. I also do a lot of speaking, so that will keep me busy. But I’m really thinking the Food Story course is the next big thing.
YogaUOnline: Anything else you’d like to add?
EM: We all have a certain amount of conditioning, and we all have some exposure to food issues and trauma. And trauma can be big or small, but it may limit you from being completely at peace and relaxed around food. I want everyone who reads Food Story to come to a new place where they feel comfortable with their choices and where they don’t blame themselves if they don’t get a habit right off the bat.
And like I said, your food story is always evolving, and there’s always another opportunity to do things differently. But having that trust in yourself that you hold everything you need to write the next chapter and do it your way—I hope everyone walks away with that. My hope is that you don’t feel shame, frustration, or any internal conflict with what you’re eating or cooking and that you feel relaxed and at peace with food.
YogaUOnline: Thank you so much, Elise! We look forward to reading your book.
** This interview was originally posted in October of 2021.