Meet Lila Volkas: Holistic Nutritionist, Food Writer, and Illustrator
In college, Lila Volkas’ diet consisted of Swedish fish and Skippy peanut butter. Now? Lila is a certified holistic nutritionist who teaches kombucha workshops and digestive wellness classes. Lila’s journey with food shows is a good reminder just how much our relationship to food can change and evolve.
“I am still on my ever evolving relationship with food. This journey has seen darkness even when I was eating my “healthiest.” Right now I feel really happy to be in a place of balance and intuitive eating.”
Based in Berkeley, Lila’s down-to-earth approach to eating and accessible meal plans, is a welcomed change in today’s somewhat complicated western world. This Summer, Prep School partnered with Lila during our Gut Health workshop. We learned how to make gut-friendly veggie smoothies, digestive tea, and the importance of intuitive eating. Read more about Lila and her wellness journey.
Where did you grow up? What was your experience with food during your childhood?
I am a Bay Area native and grew up in Oakland and Berkeley. My experience of food growing up was like most kids in the 90’s/early 2000s filled with dreams of lunchables, go-gurt and gushers. I enjoyed my mom’s home cooked meals, but somehow all those brightly packed foods just seemed so much more exciting than lentil soup.
How would you describe your food journey and your relationship to food?
When I was a freshman in college, I pounded coffee to stay awake late into the night. Snacks in my dorm room consisted of Swedish fish and Skippy peanut butter, and vegetables were merely ornamental on my plate of pizza and mac and cheese. I felt terrible - I was exhausted, bloated and unhappy. My second year of college, I turned a health corner. After deciding to become an indoor cycling instructor at my gym and drinking some of the “gym culture kool aid,” I started to make the connection between what I put in my body and how I felt. This felt like a revelation. I got involved with my student food co-operative on campus, started practicing yoga, switched the coffee for tea and began to eat more vegetables.
How did you first get into nutrition? What do you love most about it?
I first got into nutrition when I experienced firsthand, the healing powers of food. My health journey took an unexpected turn my first year out of college when my body exploded with unexplainable skin rashes all over my face. Why was this happening to me?! I felt like I had more of a handle on my self-care and nutrition, so I was devastated. It took these existing imbalances inside my body to rise to the surface of my body for me to take the deep dive into healing. Three years of numerous practitioners, herbs, different elimination diets and spiritual reflection helped me tease out what wasn’t working and quell my rashes.
I felt like shifting the food I was eating, made the the biggest difference in my health and overall well-being. My healing journey is what inspired me to become a Holistic Nutritional Consultant. It is deepest desire to share my experience and all that I have learned to support the embodiment and health of others.
What’s your perspective on all these wellness trends like the keto diet or paleo?
I think that all of these wellness trends are helpful in moving folks away from the Standard American Diet of processed food. In some cases they can plant the seed in people to reflect on what they eat makes them feel.
The dark side to the wellness trends is they promote a “one size fits all” mindset. I strongly believe in the “bio-individuality” of each person and that every person has unique health and food needs that vary from person to person.
I also think that there isn’t enough emphasis on the quality of the food in ‘keto’ or ‘paleo’ diets. And no where is the mass media is the idea that how you eat can affect how you are feeling just as much as what you are eating.
What’s the most common issue most of your clients come to you for?
Digestive issues are the most common hands down! Second runner up is fatigue and often they go hand in hand.
What’s some advice people should abide by if they deal with digestion problems?
Make sure to thoroughly chew your food, take three deep breaths before you start your meal and eat in a calm environment for optimal digestion.
If you could only have one meal the rest of your life, what would it be?
Homemade chicken soup with lots of vegetables!
How would you describe your best self? What are some things you do to get there?
My best self is fully accepting and honoring of how I am showing up in every moment. I get there by growing my self-awareness, reading/saying affirmations and doing things that make me feel nourished like cooking, spending time outside, and drawing pictures of fruits and veggies.
What advice would you tell your younger self?
Take care of your body by feeding her the most delicious and nutrient dense foods, so she can glow from the inside out. But also enjoy balance and don’t miss out on living your life! Love your body completely, with all her scars that capture moments along her journey of becoming herself.
The first thing I do in the morning: Drink lemon water and sit at my alter and meditate for 10 minutes!
My go-to breakfast: Whatever I had for dinner the night before! Dinner for breakfast is my JAM. Usually something like roasted carrots/yams, sautéed spinach and zucchini with ghee and some baked salmon.
Favorite restaurant in the bay: Right now it's Gather in Berkeley, it is one of the few fully organic restaurants in the Bay Area.
My guilty pleasure: Having “dessert lunch”which is commonly avocado mousse, berries, coconut yogurt and cacao nibs. No guilt about it though, its all pleasure! This lady loves dessert.
Life motto: You are exactly where you need to be and you won’t be given anything you can’t handle.
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