The health and wellness business is a crowded place to be these days. With so-called experts popping up like mushrooms after a rainy night and blogs articles claiming to cure depression or obesity in seven easy steps it’s never been easier to feel trapped into a health related information overload. To break through the noise we chatted with Ashley Neese. The LA based artist now holistic nutritionist and yoga teacher shares her entrepreneurial journey and gets into the nitty gritty of what it takes to start a career in the wellness field.
“I started a blog about five years ago. It was just a self-care blog about my experiences, the food that I was eating and the yoga that I was doing. I didn’t expect much from it, it was more like a diary for me but slowly some readers started emailing me to ask for advice on what to eat and tips on how to stay healthy. I was not thinking in terms of business at that time but eventually it got so big that I thought I should probably go back to school and take this more seriously. Even though I had been practicing yoga for the previous five to six years I never really did any training to be a teacher. I took a yoga teacher training and followed the online holistic nutrition course at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and slowly started a career switch as a holistic nutritionist”.
“There is a belief that when things are right, doors open, and I believe that’s what happened with me. It’s not to say that I didn’t have to work hard, especially in the beginning. When you are starting a business or career you have to hustle and network a lot. There was a sense of ease to it because people responded to what I was doing and supported my path.”
Fascinated by the philosophy of yoga and holistic nutrition she firmly believes that when it comes to nutrition we should pay close attention to the whole person and her lifestyle. “ Food is one way that we nourish ourselves, but we also do it through relationships, spiritual practices, any form of movement and creativity. When I work with people I will pay attention to all areas of their lives. Most western nutritionists who studied just Western nutrition are going to tell you how many calories you should eat and give you a meal plan. It is rare that they but they will not look at the whole picture of your life. If you’re not taking care of your relationships, your creativity, and your spiritual life, it doesn’t really matter if you eat healthy everyday, you will still be out of balance. Health equal balance therefore it is critical to look at the whole picture.”
If you’re not taking care of your relationships, your creativity, and your spiritual life, it doesn’t really matter if you eat healthy everyday, you will still be out of balance. Health equal balance therefore it is critical to look at the whole picture
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet more of 50 percent of Ashley’s client are based outside LA. The majority of her consultations take place via Skype, allowing Ashley to reach the worldwide readership she has grown through her blog. As with her blog articles her philosophy is to provide enough knowledge to her readers and clients so that they can make a gradual shift in their relationship with food “My goal is to be able to empower people and give them the support they need to take care of themselves. I don’t want to encourage clients to become overly dependant on me. I’d rather share tools so that they can go live healthier lives and then eventually start helping others on the same path.”
After her first year being in practice focusing on serious health condition, like diabetes, high cholesterol or autoimmune disorders she shifted her focus on prenatal pregnancy nutrition while growing her sugar cleanse workshop, now in it’s third year of life. “The Sugar cleanse is a ten days online group cleanse of approximately 50 to 75 people. Every day of the cleanse each person gets an email from me with the outline for the day, a sugar-free, gluten-free, whole food recipe and a guide on how to take care of themselves. A handful of people have done the cleanse 2 or 3 times just because they like the community so much.”
With so many workshops and online courses it’s never easy to stand out from the competition especially in cities like LA “There are many people in the nutrition and wellness field. Sometimes I get asked how I separate myself from them. The short answer is that I do what I love and I do it with heart. One of the comments that I get from people that follow my blog and social media is that they really like how personal my writing is. There is so much marketing type of language in the wellness industry right now. We’ve all read about how to quickly lose weight or that you can love yourself in seven steps. Wellness is a long journey and actually that’s the beauty of it. In this area there are lot of ‘experts’ who show up and make these big promises that they can’t deliver. I just have to stay true to myself, stay grounded and not let my ego take over. It’s important not to be afraid when a client comes to you with an issue you can’t help with to say that you don’t know and you don’t have that experience is humbling and necessary. Building a really strong referral network has been huge for me. I can now direct people to someone else and feel confident that they are going to be taken care of.”
Actually practicing what she preaches and not hiding anything might be her secret formula to a successful career “ I was vegan for five years and I was having a lot of hormonal issues. My neuropath told me to eat some animal protein. It was hard for me because I was vegan for political, social, personal and spiritual reasons. When she said I should eat animal protein it was not an easy thing to do. It’s an humbling things to admit, especially when people consider you a vegan blogger. There is this idea, especially with the diet and veganism, that once you eat one way, you’ll eat that way forever. Many people don’t take into account that our bodies are constantly changing and that our nutritional needs are changing too. I work with a lot of women that were vegan in the twenties and have ended up with hormones imbalances and other health issues. Some people thrive on vegan diet, they feel very well and strong, they are healthy, other people feel very weak. We are all so different. “
There is this idea, especially with the diet and veganism, that once you do something, that’s it, you’ll have to do it forever. It doesn’t take into account that our bodies are constantly changing and that our nutritionally needs are changing too.
What inspires the most about Ashley is her down to earth approach to nutrition and life in general. “Many people come to me and just ask me to tell them what to do because there is just too much information and it’s hard to know who to trust. I encourage clients to learn to trust themselves. This is huge. We’ll start by trying a few things out to see what’s working. This gives clients firsthand experience learning how to listen to their bodies. Our bodies are amazing, they know what they need, it’s our minds that are so confused!”
The future of Ashley looks as bright as her present “ I’ve got some exciting work collaborations on the horizon as well as my first book. I’m in the stages of writing the proposal now and the next step is to contact some publishers who are already interested in working with me so it’s just a matter of flushing out the proposal and see what makes the most sense. Hopefully in two years my book will be out. That’s the plan.”
Ashley health tips for going through Winter
Drink less cold juices. Here in LA people are obsessed with juices, of course they are good but they are cold, and when it’s cold outside drinking something cold doesn’t really make sense for the body. Reach for warm drinks and grounding foods and some good healthy fats.
Use a diffuser with essential oils, something like a tea tree oil or eucalyptus. They are really great for protecting folks against getting sick.
Drink tea like ginger tea to keep your immune system strong.
Get loads of sleep and take good care of yourself.
If you can get to a steam room every once in a while, don’t hesitate, it’s great to sweat away bad toxins and helps to keep you warm.
Finally do some kind of exercise, I suggest a warming yoga practice, walking or Qi Gong.
Five Fun Facts About Ashley
- I was born in a small town in Wisconsin where my Dad’s family lived for nearly 100 years.
- Growing up I spent my summers at a Jewish sleepover camp in the north Georgia mountains where I rode horses, ate kosher, and learned to water ski.
- I’ve been told by many spiritual teachers I have horse and owl medicine in my life.
- I turned 30 on a silent meditation retreat in Northern California.
- I come from a long line of creatives and entrepreneurs and many of the women in my family are writers.
ASHLEY’S DAILY ROUTINE
I usually wake up around 6am and eat breakfast between 7 and 8.
First thing in the morning I drink a large glass of room temperature water with a splash of lemon. Then, for breakfast these days I am enjoying a large bowl of miso soup with veggies or a warming bowl of superfood porridge.
All of my days are scheduled a little different depending on what I have for that day. Usually from 8:30am-noon I am doing some combination of working with clients, teaching classes, practicing yoga, and/or writing for my blog.
Lunch is between noon and 1pm and the rest of the day is some combination of what I mentioned above. Dinner between 6 and 7 and the evenings I like to practice energy work and hang out with Jason and the cat. Right before falling asleep I give my partner a kiss on the cheek and say goodnight. We are usually asleep by 9.
The Last Question: If you could have dinner with three people who would it be and what would you talk about ? Where would the dinner take place?
I would have dinner with my paternal Grandfather, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Oprah. My Grandfather died when I was a baby and I wish I had a chance to know him. I’ve eaten in large groups with Thich Nhat Hanh and it would be incredible to share a meal in such an intimate setting. Oprah is such an inspiring woman and I have a feeling we would all enjoy each others company. We would talk about love, family, and building community. The dinner would take place in a beautiful natural setting and would include all of my favorite seasonal foods.@mariellevchua