Dishing it Up with Former International Model and Founder of Holistic Heels Monica Elena
Updated: Jun 13, 2018
Share a little bit with us. Who are you and what do you do?
Hi! My name is Monica Elena and I’m a former international fashion model turned holistic nutritional practitioner and founder of holistic heels. holistic heels is my baby--it’s a company that integrates nutrition with self-love in order to create a positive impact on women’s health--in particular models. When I’m not doing one-on-one consultations or group workshops, you can typically find me in one of two places: experimenting in the kitchen without a recipe in sight or walking the seawall.
How did you get into the health and wellness community?
I was at a crossroads in life. I had been modelling for over eight years and the passion and excitement I once had for my career was dwindling, as was my self-esteem. I was so fixated on my external body that I wasn’t giving my internal body enough love and attention, so I decided to delve into nutrition school while still traveling abroad for work. I read every textbook from front to back; I was consumed by it. Nutrition became all I ever talked about. I began opening up to others about my journey in maintaining a slim figure in line with industry requirements. I became more open, raw, and vulnerable than ever before—and the more I did, the more others did the same. I spoke to women, men, teenagers, and a lot of fashion models. I started to see a pattern of struggles that were common yet very taboo—one of which stood out the most: a desire for a “perfect” external image with neglect on internal workings. There was no room for self-love. When I saw that everyone struggled with this on some level or another, I knew I had found my calling. I knew I wanted to develop a company that would help women, in particular in the fashion industry, achieve optimal true health while navigating common concerns, struggles and hardships. Initially, my interest in nutrition and self-love was more about healing myself, but now it’s all about helping and healing others so that people don’t make the same mistakes I made throughout my journey.
What inspires you?
-Women. In particular women in the world of modeling. The life of a fashion model may appear glamorous from the outside but it’s not all glitz and glamour; it’s an industry that tests your physical, mental, and emotional health. These women are warriors and I have a lot of respect for them. I have experienced firsthand the hardships of navigating the industry completely on your own without the help of a nutritional practitioner, personal trainer, or life coach—and it can be lonely, hard on self-esteem, and a complete rollercoaster of emotions. These women deserve the best, including the knowledge and ability to be the best versions of themselves—and I can help them get there.
-Travel. I love meeting new people and sharing stories. I love taking on new customs—like standing at a neighborhood cafe in Milano and sipping an espresso while chatting with the family that owns the joint. I love aimlessly exploring—stumbling upon local faves. I love sharing a table with strangers and indulging in authentic cuisine. I love being in the present moment without the worry of capturing it on camera. Travel allows me to feel grounded, energetic, alive, and at peace all at once, but more importantly it allows the resurfacing of purpose and power to flow through my body.
What is your food philosophy?
I truly believe in making food decisions based on vitality and nourishment rather than body image. I also strongly believe in the power of balance. Coming from a period in my life where I had incredibly strict and regimented eating habits and exercise routines, I have worked very hard to be where I am today. My world used to revolve around food— not in a positive way. I would obsessively calorie count. I would justify eating something based on how many calories I had burned that day. I would have a mental should and shouldn’t list. It was draining and ultimately detrimental to my overall health. Today I no longer have a should and shouldn’t list and I eat because it serves me a purpose; food gives me energy and it allows me to be present and clear-minded. Nourishing internally radiates externally, so I pack my meals with wholesome ingredients that are as close to their natural growing state as possible. I do however like indulging in things that I don’t typically have on a daily basis, like traditional Japanese cuisine, or red wine, or gelato, to give a few examples. Balance is key. It allows for a lifestyle as opposed to a diet.
Walk us through what a typical day looks like for you:
No day is the same and I absolutely thrive on that. I knew I couldn’t go from a modeling career of spontaneity and beautiful unpredictability to a 9-to-5 job—one of the many reasons why I chose the path of an entrepreneur. That being said, I still find a pattern in most of my days. I always start my day with warm water and freshly squeezed lemon. I work on the computer doing everything from emails to website content to workshop content, and I try to do this on my patio if the weather cooperates so I can get some vitamin D and fresh air while working. Currently my days on the computer are filled with researching and writing about self-love, whether it’s for social media content or for group workshops. It’s a topic I think is absolutely fundamental in health, yet something people don’t typically acknowledge as part of the journey in true health. I’m hoping to change that with my company holistic heels—one baby step at a time. I tend to go for at least one walk a day, typically around the seawall or Queen Elizabeth Park. What differs substantially day to day are things like meetings, events, and meals. Some days are spent working at home while other days are packed with back-to-back meetings—meetings with clients, meetings with storeowners I’ve partnered with for my workshops, collaboration meetings with others in the health and wellness field, etc. Summertime I find myself going to far more events than the rest of the year; I think people are generally more social in the summer, myself included. I typically try to go to at least two or three events a month in Vancouver’s health and wellness community to get to know the strong community and the successors behind it. These events can be anything from store openings to anniversary parties to product launches and so on. I believe it’s incredibly important for people and companies alike to support and inspire each other and help get across the importance of holistic health. Six out of seven dinners are usually homemade, eaten either in the dining room or on the patio with my boyfriend or friends. I make sure to slow down the pace from the day and spend a couple of hours with loved ones. Uninterrupted quality time is vital for my own personal self-love and I find it allows me to grow closer to loved ones. If I have a busy week without that uninterrupted quality time, I often feel unbalanced, so I make sure I create that time. Over the last few years I’ve noticed my sleep needs have changed significantly; I no longer function optimally on four to five hours of sleep, so I try to get eight hours to feel my very best. Sleep hygiene is huge for me so I follow a few tips and tricks that help my body settle down for a good night’s sleep: sipping on chamomile tea with a scoop of magnesium and calcium powder to relax my nervous system when I’ve had a very active day, putting my phone on sleep mode a couple of hours before bed, and making sure my room is cool and dark, to name a few examples.
Is your company holistic heels only for models?
No. Helping models in the fashion industry is currently my primary goal because it’s so close to home, but ultimately I want to make a broader impact on women’s health because I feel as though every woman (and man) can relate to similar health and body-image issues on one level or another. I’m starting to see more and more that we’re living in an image-obsessed world where bodies are treated like commodities and the exterior is treated more importantly than the interior—and I want to change that in any way possible. My workshops and talks are open to everyone, as are my one-on-one consultations.
What are some of your go-to foods/snacks for busy days?
Raw nut bars. Veggies and dip. Whole avocado. Simple yet nutrient-dense snacks that keep me satiated and energized for hours and help me perform at my very best. I keep raw nut bars everywhere, from my car to my gym bag just so that I can avoid getting hungry. I truly dislike the effects of going without food for too many hours; being hangry is no fun for you nor the poor person you’re with. I’m inspired by seasonal items at small neighbourhood grocery stores and farmer’s markets, and I typically try to focus on “imperfect” or “near expiry” items when making snacks and meals. I’m not one for following recipes step by step, so I usually just whip things up and adjust based on taste, texture, and consistency. I like to have fun with it!
What advice do you have for those who are new on their health journey?
Be patient with yourself as well as the journey. Health is a dynamic thing—it’s not as simple as “eat your greens and exercise daily and all your health concerns will immediately dissipate!” It’s a process that requires willingness and dedication, and the reward is incredible. Enjoy the process and acknowledge the little accomplishments along the way, and don’t beat yourself up if you have a little hiccup because we’re all human after all! Having a support system such a close friends and family and a nutritional practitioner along the way makes for a smoother journey. Speak to yourself gently and with kind intentions. The more you love your body, the more your body will show you love—it’s a symbiotic relationship. You’re worth it—don’t forget that!
You can find Monica here: https://www.holisticheels.com/