How Brianna Towne Harnessed the Power of Mindful Nutrition

Following some questionable eating instructions from her doctor when she was pregnant with her second child, Brianna Towne took her diet into her own hands and went back to school to study nutrition. Today, she is a nutritionist with certifications in Hypnotherapy and Intuitive Eating. She is dedicated to using her knowledge and experience as a mom of four to help women in all seasons of motherhood find a healthy and balanced food lifestyle. 

I’ve always been a very intuitive and empathic person. I’m an Aquarius, so I go off the beaten path a lot. I’m kind of independent in that way, often thinking, “I’m going to do this and maybe people will catch on and maybe they won’t.” Also, I’m 10 years older than my siblings, so I grew up doing a lot on my own and figuring things out for myself.

That independent spirit served me well when I was around 23 and pregnant with my second child. During that pregnancy, the baby was small, so my doctor told me that I needed to start eating candy bars and milkshakes to gain weight. But something about that advice just didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t really know what healthy was at that point but eating junk food didn’t seem like it.

I grew up a dancer and I had a lot of disordered eating issues. I wasn’t clinically diagnosed, but my view of food and bodies was very skewed towards being the perfect size for a ballerina. I wasn’t used to eating candy bars and milkshakes, but I also didn’t eat very many vegetables or meat. When I was in third grade, I was eating chicken and had this vivid visual of a chicken actually flapping around inside my stomach, so I stopped eating meat entirely. I basically lived off of cereal, pizza rolls, and pasta. I have a small frame, and food never really showed up externally, which is why I never realized that how I was eating wasn’t healthy. I didn’t know anything about muscle mass or protein. As long as I had enough energy, I figured I was fine.

I graduated college a year early and moved in with my now-husband who’s a marine. I didn’t know how to cook or make dinners, so I was like, “Well, he eats meat, vegetables, and potatoes, so I guess I’ll cook that and start eating meat again.” The standard American diet. 

My daughter was born at a small, but healthy 5 pounds. During her birth, the doctors discovered the source of her low weight: she was so small not because I wasn’t eating enough, but because the cord was wrapped around her head five times. But they never checked for that. Instead, they jumped to, “Oh the baby’s not growing. You need to eat candy bars and milkshakes to gain weight.”

Throughout my journey, I realized there is a huge gap between what doctors are telling us, what the diet industry is telling us, and what science is telling us. And then there’s the gap in what we actually know.

Around that time, we moved to California. I didn’t know a single human besides my husband, so I felt really isolated. I was also suffering from severe postpartum depression after my second baby, and I was on Zoloft for a long time to help balance that out and treat my anxiety.

It was during this time that I started trying all these fad diets and eating more veggies and plants. Being in L.A. made that easy. There were juice cleanses, Whole30, Keto — you name a food trend, I tried it. I started meeting new people, too. I would meet moms at the park, and we’d end up discussing food. Like, “Oh what does your kid eat? And what do you eat?” They were all on some sort of diet. But diets never made me feel good. They just made me feel like I was going back to how I was as a child: I was eating different foods — not cereal and pasta, anymore — but it was still restrictive.

So, I started cooking for myself and eating vegetables and trying new things. Instead of just taking care of two tiny humans I was looking up a recipe and planning out a healthy, balanced dinner for my family. It gave me purpose. I also realized I didn't want my daughter to grow up the way I did: not understanding her body and not understanding food or eating right. 

During this time, I started thinking, “Well, what do I do with this? I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom anymore. I want to do something to help people.” So, when I was pregnant with my third baby, I made the decision to go to grad school for nutrition. My son was three months old when I started. I’d get up around 5 or 5:30 and watch the lectures and do my assignments while the kids were napping. I finished the online program in 28 months.

I’ve always been really interested in why people do what they do – the science behind it and how our bodies actually work. So that became my focus. Growing up, I didn’t have any guidance. I didn’t know what healthy looked like. My mom drank Slim Fast every day and weighed her food, which I thought was ridiculous. Throughout grad school, I quickly realized how messed up our ideas of health and food are, and how diet culture is so ingrained in our minds that it shows up in tension, anxiety, and stress and it messes with our hormones and skin. In my early 20s, I had some bad acne around my chin and forehead. Then, I changed what I was eating, and it disappeared. I was less anxious and had more energy, too. Even my sex drive was better! A few months ago, I switched to decaf coffee because, after 20 years of drinking several cups a day, I had a feeling it was messing with my anxiety. After two days of massive headaches, I now feel great.

Throughout my journey, I realized there is a huge gap between what doctors are telling us, what the diet industry is telling us, and what science is telling us. And then there’s the gap in what we actually know. Like, what are carbs? How do we know what has sugar in it? Most people don’t have this crucial knowledge.

So, that’s my goal as a Food Therapist: to take the science of how your body functions and how food works and pair it with intuition and mindfulness — feeling your hunger and feeling your fullness. How can we use our brains to harness the power of habits and rewire our unconscious minds so that making better decisions is second nature?

I got my bachelor’s in philosophy, so everything in my life is coming full circle. This is what Plato and Socrates were talking about – understanding what the mind and the human body need and how it makes us do what we do.

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