I recently met Nathalia Basso through a Facebook group that we both belong to and she graciously agreed to be interviewed for my blog. My questions focused on yoga for bigger bodies as well as fitness and diet advice for those of us on a weight loss and fitness journey.
Nathalia is a former bodybuilder who is now a yoga teacher, fitness model, and health food addict based in Austin, Texas. She has two Bachelor’s Degrees from the University of Florida and a Master’s Degree from Florida State University. Nathalia advocates a healthy lifestyle through a holistic approach including functional training, flexible dieting, and mindfulness.
I am really impressed with Nathalia as she has a very realistic approach to dieting, fitness and yoga. And I hope you will be too.
From Bodybuilder to Yoga Teacher
Millie: You are a former bodybuilder. What attracted you to bodybuilding? And how long did you practice it?
Nathalia: In college I was going to the gym and doing lots of cardio. I remained consistent and my cardio health was really great! I could get on a bike and go for 60 miles with no problem. But I wasn’t seeing the muscular and firm results I was hoping for. When I got to grad school I buckled down and self taught bodybuilding principles. When I was ready to complete I hired a bodybuilding coach to help me dial in.
I competed for 3 years, during which I qualified for Nationals several times. Non competitively I still train, so I still consider myself a bodybuilder. I just don’t plan on stepping on stage again.
Millie: Why did you switch to yoga? How long have you been a yoga instructor?
Nathalia: To be honest, when I was in the competition mindset I would scoff at the idea of doing yoga. At the time I had difficulty justifying the opportunity cost. If I wasn’t building muscle, I wasn’t interested in doing it. This mindset is common in the competitive bodybuilding world, especially among men in the sport, but it wasn’t healthy, and ultimately led to injury.
In 2016 I tore my rhomboid in the gym. It was so painful that it hurt to breathe. I had never felt pain like that before. It kept me out of the gym for a very long time. Every little movement hurt, so lifting any weight was out of the question.
As the injury started healing the only movement I could safely do was very minimal yoga. I came to yoga out of necessity, as many people do. I didn’t love it at first. It was just okay. Over the next couple of years yoga would transform my life. When I realized the physical benefits like increased mobility, flexibility, and proprioception, I was sold.
The practice helped me develop an even deeper mind-body connection and I was able to do things I had never been able to do before. My mind was as clear, my mood was stable, and my energy levels were sustained throughout the day.
Millie: What style of yoga do you practice?
Nathalia: I love all styles of yoga and am certified in Vinyasa, which is common in most studios as it gives the teacher the most autonomy over the class.
Millie: What services do you offer?
Nathalia: My focus is on wellness and I offer coaching in this space. I love teaching yoga, meditation, and like incorporating physical training, stretching, resistance training, etc.
Millie: Do you offer online sessions?
Nathalia: All of my services are offered online including the coaching and yoga classes!
A Better Definition of Fit
Millie: Your website’s name is www.nathaliafit.com. What do you consider fit?
Nathalia: My idea of “fit” has drastically changed over the years. Before I jumped into bodybuilding I thought that a muscular and lean body was a fit body. Once I was in the competing world, I realized how untrue this was.
The shredded bodies you see on stage are far from healthy. Most of them are overtrained, underfed, dehydrated, and many people use performance-enhancing drugs like hormones and steroids to get that look. I’ll admit, it is aesthetically pleasing, and I loved looking “fit,” but it’s not sustainable or healthy.
Once I stepped out of that world I realized that optimal fitness isn’t just about aesthetics or performance. The body is smart and works on a molecular level, so I like to think of optimal health and fitness in those terms.
Fitness is all-encompassing. It is your mental health, nutrition, physical fitness, spirituality, etc. To become optimally fit is to have a whole-istic approach. And at that point, it becomes a lifestyle.
Millie: Your body is your best form of advertising. How do you stay fit?
Nathalia: The first step was letting go of expectation. Endlessly chasing what you believe to be the “perfect” body is a rat race that will run you down.
I focus on overall health. Nutrition is the foundation of my fitness, so I make sure to eat whole foods, maintain a plant based diet, and purchase organic as much as possible. I avoid anything artificial and prepackaged, and limit sugar, so I cook at home a lot.
Feeling limited has never been an issue and I do have treats once in a while, like ice cream, pizza, or a glass of wine. With diet, it’s really about mindset and striking a balance between what is healthy, what makes you happy, and what is realistically sustainable.
My training split is simple. I make sure to properly stretch and warm up before doing anything physical. Every other day is a resistance training day and then a yoga day. My physical practice is usually 45-60 minutes.
I’ll take one day off a week for recovery. And I love scheduling a fun outdoor activity like swimming, SUP, rock climbing, or hiking. On days where I get outdoors I’ll skip the gym or rigorous yoga so I’m not over training.
The wellness aspect of my routine is really where everything ties in and elevates my overall health. I do physical therapy for my rhomboid every other day. This is something I will always have to nurse.
Breathwork is a really transformational practice, so I’ll incorporate this into my yoga or morning routine. Meditation is my weak spot, currently. It’s one of those things that I forget more than I avoid. But I’ve never regretted doing it.
Foam rolling and self massage are great recovery tools. There is so much more to wellness than I can dive into here, but it’s great to have an understanding of the 8 dimensions of wellness as you’re on your fitness journey.
Milie: I noticed that you offer nutritional consultation and something that you refer to as flexible dieting? Can you explain what this is and how it can help an overweight person like me?
Nathalia: Flexible dieting allows an individual to incorporate the foods that they love into their diet. It’s a balanced approach that can feel less limiting than a strict dietary protocol. Often, when people want to make a physical change they go to drastic measures, like crash dieting or totally revamping their habits overnight.
This approach is difficult, taxing, and not sustainable, which can lead to a yo-yo dieting cycle and negative thought patterns. A better approach is to start adopting smaller habits that are easy to stick to and then build from there.
Instead of cutting everything out all at once (yikes!) try to start small (for instance, replace sodas with carbonated water). The ultimate goal of any dietary protocol should be for it to evolve into an intuitive habit and lifestyle.
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Yoga for Bigger Bodies
Milie: When most of us think of yoga we see images of beautiful, lean, flexible bodies. But what about yoga for bigger bodies?
Nathalia: YOGA IS FOR EVERY BODY.
There is subliminal messaging everywhere telling all of us that yoga is an affluent white woman’s hobby. That you must have a certain income level, education level, outfit, and body type to participate in yoga.
This message comes to us from the consumer driven yoga industry in the west which profits off of this buyer persona, so this is what they push. It is the opposite of what yoga truly is.
As a yoga teacher I LOVE a diverse classroom. It’s amazing to see people from all backgrounds come together for a class.
The amazing thing about yoga is that it should be a non-judgmental space where you are free to come as you are and modify the poses to suit your needs. Do what you can and work with your body, not against it.
Poses will look different for different body types. For instance, If you’re busty like me, plow pose can be very uncomfortable and it can feel like your breasts are suffocating you, so when this pose is called in class I skip it or modify it.
Your yoga teacher will be thankful that you have skipped or modified a pose for yourself instead of getting frustrated at yourself, or worse, causing injury.
Millie: Have you taught yoga for overweight beginners?
Nathalia: I’ve taught all body types.
Millie: I have attempted yoga twice in my life but never stuck with it. What are the benefits of yoga for bigger bodies?
Nathalia: The biggest benefit is that yoga is a non-judgmental space.
You can leave your insecurities at the door and allow yourself to feel uninhibited in your physical practice.
It can be a great entry point for people who are not conditioned as it is low impact and, generally, slower paced than conventional fitness classes.
The emphasis on listening to your body as you move through poses can also be a relief for those who are starting their health and fitness journey.
Millie: What is the biggest misinformation we have about yoga for bigger bodies? And fitness for plus size beginners?
Nathalia: That you have to look a certain way, have certain abilities, or be at a certain level to start.
Yoga is a journey, even if you are an occasional participant. It’s a practice that allows you to start where you are and grow from there at your own pace.
Millie: I have seen headlines such as “Yoga Poses for Weight Loss.” Is there really such a thing? And if so, what are they?
Nathalia: There isn’t such a thing. Those headlines are click bait. If someone is overweight with no other fitness routine and they start doing yoga regularly they may see some weight loss.
There are poses and styles of yoga that are more physically demanding, such as power yoga. These classes tend to be more endurance based and aim to elevate the heart rate, which can help in weight loss.
There are also poses that help with digestion and metabolism, but effects from these won’t be physically dramatically noticeable.
Also read: Is 10,000 Steps a Day Good for Weight Loss?
Millie: I know you offer fitness programs to your clients. What advice would you give to an overweight person just starting their fitness or weight loss journey?
Nathalia: Start small. Start where you are, with what you have.
I caution against suddenly revamping things. Pick one, or a few, things to change and don’t add on anything else until you have those things down.
Don’t be afraid of going to a fitness class, the gym, or a yoga class because you don’t know what you’re doing. When I first went to the gym I had no idea what to do and I would look up how-to videos for exercises on my phone as I went along.
Getting started can be as much of a mental battle as a physical one, so be kind to yourself.
Most people are very nice and willing to help you out. Don’t be afraid to ask your yoga teacher or gym staff for demonstrations. They want you to be safe.
If you do come across someone who is rude, judgmental, or mean, it is likely their own projection and problem and not really about you. So you can relieve yourself of that responsibility and just carry on.
Millie: In your experience, what do successful people have in common? And what usually causes people to quit and give up?
Nathalia: Having a healthy mindset for your goals and what you’re doing is what drives success.
A sure way to not reach your goals is to bite off more than you can chew and overwhelm yourself.
Instead, be realistic and exercise patience. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong journey that will change along the way, so you’re in it for the long haul and you have the time to do it right and find what is sustainable for you.
Much of your journey at the beginning will be trial and error to find what suits your body and lifestyle the best.
Millie: How can my readers contact you for a consultation?
Nathalia: You can visit my site for more resources at www.nathaliafit.com
My Takeaways – Diet and Yoga for Bigger Bodies
It is so great to hear a yoga instructor with a very realistic approach to dieting and exercise. Here are my takeaways from the interview with Nathalia:
- Consider a diet that allows you to eat some of the foods you love
- Start with making small changes that are easy to sustain
- There are no yoga poses for weight loss but yoga can be a good starting point
- Everyone can do yoga and there is yoga for bigger bodies
If you are thinking of starting yoga, today is a perfect day! Contact Nathalia for more information.