As a yoga instructor, boxing instructor, personal trainer, and marketing manager, Nancy Chen keeps a full schedule. She even runs a blog and popular Instagram account known as “Nourish by Nancy,” where she shares a variety of gems to help you live a healthy life. She intersperses advice on nutrition and fitness with posts on wellness, beauty, and even travel. We chatted with Nancy to learn what motivates her and how she stays well.
What is the story behind the creation of your blog?
I started following a Paleo lifestyle in 2015, when I was in college and struggling with an eating disorder, mental health problems, and a ton of digestive issues that came with it. My dad had suggested the way of eating — one of his colleagues was following it — and since he’s a research scientist, he sent over a ton of research papers on grains and digestion and the gut-brain connection.
I gave it a try, and it completely changed everything. Paleo wasn’t really popular then, especially not amongst college girls, and I started my blog and Instagram as a way of showing that real food can be pretty and satisfying. I also wanted to show that Paleo wasn’t just cavemen food and eating steak every night.
My blog was similarly named Approaching Paleo at first, and I found this amazing community of like-minded people [in Boston and beyond] that I really connected with.
Over time, I began to simply be Paleo-ish, but didn’t want to be defined by my way of eating anymore, and Nourish by Nancy was born — to help others (and myself) live a more nourished, holistic lifestyle.
How would you describe your approach to nutrition and healthy eating?
I avoid categorizing foods into groups (“healthy” “unhealthy” “good” and “bad). I do know that there are foods that make me feel great (real foods, fruits, veggies, proteins) and foods that make me feel terrible (refined sugar and processed carbs), and I hate feeling terrible (brain fog, lethargy, sugar crashes). I’ve learned that from an early age, and I’ve carried that with me even now.
As a former athlete, I also eat for performance. I try and be intuitive about my hunger levels, and to fuel my body with as much whole foods as I can.
I’m a firm believer that food that nourishes your body should also taste good, and that nutrition is hyper-personalized because every body is different, so what works for one person may not (and likely will not) work for another.
What is one interesting thing about you that your followers wouldn’t know?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer! I have a nonfiction book coming out in January 2021 and just finished writing my first novel (so if anyone knows any fiction publishers… let me know).
With so many activities on your schedule, how do you stay energized and avoid burnout?
Scheduling time for myself is super important. I have a morning routine and try not to respond to anything (emails, texts, DMs) before I get settled and do some deep work, have coffee, walk my dog. I also try and unplug at least once a week from all social media and even texting – getting outdoors has been magical!
Even though I love my routine, sometimes I understand that I need to throw it all out the window and forgo all the things I have planned if I am feeling burnt out – the key thing for me is to catch it while it’s just starting, before the burn out gets too bad.
What is one trend in the wellness space you find to be a little “eye-roll emoji”?
Ooh, I’m going to get a lot of hate for this, but I think oatmilk is pretty overrated. Definitely a good plant-based alternative for people who are allergic to nuts, but doesn’t live up to the hype for me.
What is the one health product you think everyone should own?
A Theragun if you have back problems! It’s quite pricey, but really worth the investment. For a cheaper alternative, a foam roller also does the trick.