Welcome to another Freedom Friday Interview! To read more about Freedom Friday Interviews, please click here.
Stephanie is a long time friend of mine. Actually, she is more like a sister to me. It feels like I’ve known her for my whole life and she’s helped me through many dark days years ago, yet we have not met in person. Hopefully, that will change very soon when I visit Toronto, where she lives, this fall! Enjoy her story, this girl is one of my favourite people.
1. I am so happy to have you on as a Freedom Friday guest! Give us a little background about yourself before we dive into the juiciness of freedom and how it applies to you and your life!
Thanks so much Meg for having me! Hi everyone 🙂 I’m Stephanie Tucci, Culinary Nutritionist and Wellness Chef, based out of Toronto Ontario. I have a unique educational background that has allowed me to build this epic toolbox of skills that I get to combine on daily basis. I started out in the Fitness Industry as personal trainer, during this time I had undergone a very tumultuous health battle with my digestive system (10 year struggle in total). So understanding our internal health became something of high priority to me. I enrolled at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition, so I could get a better understanding of my own health but also the health of my clients to better their performance and help them reach their goals more holistically. During this period, and after dealing with my personal issues of food freedom (which you’ll read about below), my passion evolved further and I headed into the realm of culinary arts. I wanted to create food that allowed people to thrive and live to their fullest potential and live without binding food fears. So I packed my bags and moved to New York (sounds like a Hollywood movie story ;)…) and attended the Natural Gourmet, a health supportive culinary arts program. I was given the opportunity to study under some amazing health supportive and traditional chefs to help further my skill set and passion. I am now the Executive Chef and Culinary Nutritionist for Impact Kitchen, a health forward restaurant here in Toronto. I call myself a Wellness Chef, because every recipe I create and everything I make, I do with a healthful purpose and healthful intention.
2. What does “freedom” mean to you?
To me freedom means living without a state of emotional worry or emotional stress that can stop you from living to your truest potential and being authentic self.
3. Share about the time in your life when you lacked freedom. What was your struggle?
I was a fitness competitor for 4 years, and during this period I fell into a deep state of being orthorexic. I lived in a 4 year routine of training twice a day, eating egg whites, asparagus and chicken 6 times a day and weighing everything before I even thought about eating it. I was so disconnected from my own body and health, and I solely focused on my physical appearance. I was over training, over dieting and became completely obsessive compulsive about my food. I became “fearful” of what going “off plan” would do, and when I did I would find myself deeply depressed. I truly felt like I didn’t have the freedom to lead a balanced life and felt like I had to act like I had things together all the time. I simply, couldn’t be the true Stephanie freely anymore.
4. What was your turning point? When did you realize that you needed to embrace freedom?
The turning point for me came in two different periods, and it was both of them that allowed me to make the drastic changes needed. My first major clue was when my health spiraled out of control. I hadn’t had a cycle in 5 years, my weight starting increasing (no matter how hard I trained), my digestive issues became so bad that getting out of bed became so painful that I couldn’t cope with my day. My second huge red flag, was waiting for my boyfriend to pick me up for dinner and I cried for a solid 2 hours prior because my anxiety about eating out became out of control, something I never told anyone including him. It was then I realized I needed to stop and find a way to embrace freedom and stop living without such restriction.
5. How do you allow freedom into your life on a daily basis?
I put health first and always. I now understand what my body needs to live a healthful balanced life, a life that fills me with happiness and self love. Sure I have my tough moments, but I quickly pull myself out of them now. My past struggles with my health, weight management, hormonal control and dieting keep me in a very positive light now toward continuously moving forward. I’m a Chef now, so taste testing and living without food restriction is crucial, so every day that I taste something or create something without overthinking or obsessing, is me allowing and embracing that amazing thing called FREEDOM!
6. I believe our journey towards freedom never truly ends, it just continues to progress to more and more freedom. How have you challenged yourself recently to embrace more freedom into your life?
My job in general does come with more stress at times then I’d like, but that’s the nature of this industry. There are times, this past month especially, where I’ve been faced with higher levels of exhaustion then normal. So my way of embracing more freedom into my life is listening to how my body feels and working with it, rather then against it. For example, regarding training: when I’ve worked a 12 hour day and feeling beyond exhausted, I now understand that going to the gym and having a hard workout isn’t always the best option. I now allow myself the freedom to not obsess over the gym, and recognize when that extra hour of relaxation or sleep is necessary for my overall health.
7. What is one golden nugget of wisdom you can provide to those who are currently struggling with embracing freedom today?
My golden nugget of wisdom would be to start slow and allow yourself time to fully adapt to your new lifestyle. You need to allow yourself that adjustment period to figure out what works, how you can adapt your lifestyle and how to overcome your daily struggles. It took me a solid 2 years to find that complete balance, it was a struggle at times and heck, I cried a lot along the way. However, now I live a life of Food Freedom and I’m now in love with my own skin again.
8. And before we say good bye, how can we stay connect with you over social media?
You guys can catch me on Twitter and Instagram @stephanietucci
You can watch my crazy kitchen life, the odd time of being dolled up and my silly outlandish attitude on snap chat @cheftucci
Finally, good old facebook “Stephanie Tucci Culinary Nutritionist”
For recipes and the life of a lady chef, you can check out my blog over at www.stephanietucci.com