Hey there, I am Yanelis! I help people find balance while building a healthy relationship with food.
Here is my story:
Where do I even begin? As a young girl in the Dominican Republic I fell in love with cooking thanks to my grandmother’s talents, which she organically passed on to her younger generations. My fondest memories as a child revolve around the stove and the food we shared.
At ten, I immigrated to the Virgin Islands where I lived with my mother and father. My mom and I bonded in the kitchen over our shared love of cooking. Dietiting was not a thing in my culture but I remember the derogatory comments made towards “fat people” so I feared becoming fat. At fourteen, in my quest to stay “skinny” I decided to omit rice (a daily staple) completely for an entire year! I would skip meals but end up binging on juice, soda, and candy.
During my misguided attempts to stay skinny, my family members would criticize me and call me names like superficial and plastic. I didn’t care, I refused to get fat! This was SO conflicting with my love for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. I was also not shaped in the “ideal” latina pear shape, leading me to believe something was wrong with me that needed fixing.
After graduating high school, I joined the armed forces which introduced me to a tool I never knew existed, EXERCISE. I was the most unfit member of my squadron, NO JOKE! Remedial physical training was extremely embarrassing but I was determined to graduate in time so I did it! In 4 weeks I built up the stamina to run 1.5 miles in 13 minutes and do 45 sit ups and 27 push ups in under 2 minutes. It hurt, but I realized I had the power to overcome difficult challenges if I put my mind to it. For once, I felt great about my body! Unfortunately, I continued to eat mindlessly with little knowledge about nutrition but exercising enough to keep me “in shape.”
On occasion, I would try the Slim Fast diet, the cabbage diet and others, quickly realizing they were not sustainable. I would start, drop a few lbs, relapse, repeat and do it all over again. Sound familiar?
Then came pregnancy! I packed on 60+lbs with my first baby. I knew I was going to need something more than just exercise to get healthy again. Now I actually was overweight and my biggest childhood fear came to life. I started making healthier decisions and slowly educating myself on nutrition. I minimized fried foods and ran many miles to lose the 60 lbs, but I was still relatively ignorant to what true proper nutrition was. Because exercise was such a way of life for me, it appeared to be the KEY to healthy living.
Culinary school was a curveball. Though I stayed active, I gained weight that no matter what, I couldn’t seem to shake. This led me to dig deeper into the effects of food on the body. I didn’t want my weight to spiral out of control. I realized that while exercising was a crucial component to living a healthy lifestyle, it could not stand alone. Good nutrition was imperative to achieve long term sustainable results and get me to a place where I felt comfortable in my body.
Now, the bullying from family and friends continued. They did not understand my lifestyle and claimed that I was obsessed with being skinny. In a world filled with quick fixes and myths, I was going against the grain by taking the longer yet assured route. It was impossible to satisfy the expectations of others. If I gained weight, I was letting myself go. If I exercised and chose healthy foods I was “addicted” or “obsessed.” There was no winning.
Remember the saying: “First they’ll ask you why you are doing it then they’ll ask you how?” IT’S TRUE! I learned a lot about food and I fell onto the “clean eating bandwagon” and started to drift into restricting my favorite cultural dishes because they were “too sweet, too heavy on carbs, fried, too processed.” When I did indulge on occasion, I felt like I was eating “bad” per my clean eating lifestyle which led to lots of guilt. I would exercise more to work off the extra calories as though enjoying my cultural staples was a crime.. Sad! I know.
This internal struggle motivated me to recreate my favorite foods in a healthier way. That’s when I found the true key. I could enjoy the foods I loved, exercise for health and not for punishment. I no longer desired to be skinny or feared becoming fat, I just LIVED. I was working as a professional chef, exercising in the mornings and working nights tasting and enjoying all my creations for the many 5 star restaurants where I worked.
Through my journey I often found myself helping others who shared similar struggles. I realized I loved sharing what I had learned and empowering others to do the same. I started thinking about my future and went back to school for nutrition.
At this point, I felt like I had it all figured out. Then came baby number 2! I knew I would never gain as much weight as I did with my first baby because I knew better now. Boy, was I wrong! I was not one of those people who got pregnant and had to force themselves to eat, I WAS HANGRY! I gained 60+lbs and was left with the daunting task of “bouncing back” again. As a mother of two girls and a full time student,I found this extremely challenging. I started resenting my body and love for food, wondering why I couldn’t be one of those people who just didn’t gain this much weight or had to work this hard to lose it. Despite my feelings, I put my head down and went to work, again. This time I had to work harder and it took double the amount of time despite my education and past years of experience.
Thankfully, healthy eating and exercise did it again for me! One year later, with consistent effort, I was back! I felt better than ever before and I was fully committed to getting the education and credentials I needed to help others do the same. My struggles along with a family history of obesity, hypothyroid, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease motivates me to live this lifestyle not only to look and feel good but to teach my children and future generations to love food and understand its power! I love including cultural dishes with sentimental value in my client’s day while still accomplishing their goals. It’s MAGICAL for me!
To this day, I persist in balancing my fitness, family, career and life in general. I believe when you choose to stop dieting and prioritize your overall health including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, the choices you make naturally align with that. You no longer have to force yourself into this new fad because you are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Come along with me and let me hold your hand down a path that I have been walking myself for the past 20 years. I look forward to meeting and learning about you!