ARI: Now I’m speaking with Nadya Andreeva, who is the author of Happy Belly and an
Ayurvedic practitioner. Nadya, thank you so much for talking to me.
NADYA: Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.
ARI: I want to get right into it. Let’s talk a little bit about your journey and how you came to
Ayurveda and also how Happy Belly came about.
NADYA: Sure. I just wanted to make a small correction. I don’t think of myself as an Ayurvedic
ARI: No problem.
NADYA: I have a background in psychology, so my Master’s is in psychology. But Ayurveda
for me was a part of my journey to healing, in a similar way that it was for yours.
ARI: Fair enough.
NADYA: When I graduated from my Master’s program, I found myself slightly stressed out, in a
little bit not as healthy and not as vibrant state. I had PCOS, which is Polycystic Ovarian
Syndrome, and that’s very much connected with insulin resistance and basically [inaudible
00:01:01] and bloating. That was what got me to start looking for other solutions besides being
on hormone therapy which my doctors prescribed.
That brought me to an Ayurvedic practitioner, which was very interesting and explained things
in such a different way than what I had heard from the Western medicine that it got me
[inaudible 00:01:25], and I started doing retreats and going to the workshops, doing courses,
basically learning as much as I can, and within two years, probably, completely getting rid of
cysts and improving my digestion.
NADYA: I also started writing a blog, which was kind of my experiments with what I was
doing, what I was thinking.
ARI: I love the title.
NADYA: Thank you. There were more and more women who were emailing me and saying
“I’m having the same issues. I’m chronically constipated. I’m chronically bloated.” So I just
started giving tips, and then I got wellness coaching certification – which is, again, mostly
psychology based, because I think a lot of people know what they should be doing, at least in a
general sense. Like they shouldn’t be sitting in their house the whole day, and they shouldn’t be
eating hamburgers, but they’re not doing it.
So the psychology and the habit change is an essential component of improving health. Whether
somebody chooses Ayurveda or any other diet, you need to change habits to implement what you
learn. That was the course that I chose, but Ayurveda is an essential part of what I teach and
what I use with my clients.
ARI: Great. I want to back up a little, first of all. So PCOS is something that seems to come up a
lot, and you hear about – there’s lots of stories now, especially in the health and wellness
community, of women who had PCOS and they were having trouble getting pregnant, they were
having weight issues, and hormones in general seem to be kind of an issue nowadays, probably
brought on by stress and all sorts of things. First of all, why don’t we just talk a little bit more
about PCOS and how, in your opinion, that sort of comes about.
NADYA: Well, it’s hard to say what exactly leads to PCOS. I think a big part of it is being on
birth control pills, and that was the story with me. I was on birth control pills for almost 10 years.
It puts your hormones in kind of a lazy state when your body knows that something else will
produce hormones for the body, and it’s like “I don’t need to do what I’m meant to do,” and if
there is a way for the body not to do one of the functions, it’s going to preserve its energy. It’s
not going to do it. So it relies on the artificial replacement.
When you take the pills out, your body is at a complete loss, like “What’s going on now? I’m
supposed to be doing something again.” It takes time for the body to rebalance, and in a lot of
cases, for women, they will end up with a case of PCOS, and it will take years and years to get
back to a normal cycle. And the quickest solution the doctors offer is get back on the pill, and
that’s what my doctor told me. “Get back on the pill, and once you start thinking about having a
kid, then we’ll talk about it then.”
That’s what a lot of the women who come to me hear, and that’s not really a long-term solution.
There’s no guarantee that later, if you decide to stop taking birth control pills, you will suddenly
get pregnant. So most of the women end up exploring other ways to have babies, not necessarily
the natural way.
But also, PCOS is very much connected to insulin resistance, which again, can be connected to
overconsumption of carbs.
ARI: Right, which can be driven by hormones.
NADYA: Yes. It can be driven by hormones, and it’s very unclear which one is the first, whether
it’s overeating carbs over hormones, or hormones over eating carbs. They’re very much
interrelated. But overeating carbs, especially if it’s sugars, definitely doesn’t help PCOS.
ARI: Right. And then if you don’t mind sharing, did you have any other symptoms? Were you
overweight? What else were you experiencing because of the PCOS?
NADYA: For me, I just didn’t have my period for nine months. For me, that was actually the
opposite; I was underweight. I was about 20 pounds lighter than I am now. Also, I was very
frazzled. I’m not sure what other way to describe it. I was all over the place in my head, and
that’s a very strong Vata imbalance, according to Ayurveda, which can come from overwork and
stress. If someone has had two jobs or tried to study full-time and work full-time, which is my
case, it’s really easy to get your nervous system out of whack, and once your nervous system’s
out of whack, your cortisol level shoots up, and that affects your productive hormones as well.
ARI: Sure, okay. And stress is such an important part of the work that I try to do with people,
and I think it affects so much of life, and eventually chronic illnesses in many cases. I think
that’s really important to recognize that. Okay, you sort of got turned onto Ayurveda, and then
what were some of the methodologies that you found were really particularly helpful? I
definitely want to talk about ghee, by the way, but go ahead.
NADYA: I think that [inaudible 00:07:16] weight in the beginning, I was so [inaudible
00:07:20] many of them because my Ayurvedic practitioner was like “You need to start eating
more,” and I was juicing all the time. It’s like, well, you can’t drink juice all the time. You need
to start eating food. She was like, “You need to gain some weight.” I was like, “How is
somebody telling me that I need to gain weight if I’m being so healthy and doing two hours of
workouts every day and having a gallon of green juice every day?”
But I started following her advice, even though it took some mental recalibrating. I started
working out a little bit less, even though I still kept with high intensity interval training and yoga.
ARI: Good combo, in my opinion.
NADYA: I think it is the best combo. I think if you do just high interval training, it can be a little
bit too stressful for women, but combining it with yoga, it provides you with the necessary
stretching and calming down the cortisol levels afterwards. So that was my choice, which I’m
still sticking to, so it’s really working for me.
But I also started having a lot more herbs and soups, so a lot more turmeric and fennel seeds and
rosebuds, which were lots more soothing, feminine energies. I was also having a lot more
warming foods, which are grounding in nature. When you eat those foods, they’re very
nourishing, and it’s – I don’t want to say you’re not as hungry, but you feel a lot more nourished,
not just on a physical level, but on an emotional level as well.
I still think it’s really important to get enough raw foods in your diet, but having some cooked
foods, especially lighter dinners like soups, was very essential for me, because it allowed me to
actually wake up with a lot of energy because my body was not digesting animal protein at night.
That might not be the case for everyone.
ARI: That leads me to the question, of course, about doshas. Can you just share with everybody
really quick the different doshas and how that speaks to different people?
NADYA: Yeah. According to Ayurveda, each one of us has a different body constitution, and
there are three main energies. There’s Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. We all have all three of them
present in the body, and usually one or two will be dominating, and that will determine our
looks, our likes, our likelihood of getting certain disorders or disease.
There’s Vata type, which is very tall, kind of bony, very lean. They usually have a very active
mind. They’re very creative; they can come up with ideas, but they don’t like to finish stuff.
They’re just getting an idea and then they need to hand it off to somebody who can manage the
project. They have trouble staying grounded. They usually will get [inaudible 00:10:49] or can’t
fall asleep. They’re really good at making connections with people and networking and talking to
anyone that they meet, but if they’re stressed out, they’ll have fear, anxiety, and very
Physically in the body, it can show up as neurological disorders, anything connected with
[inaudible 00:11:16] or mind, and dry skin, dry nails, dry hair, bloating, and constipation. So it
basically dries, too. Any sort of cracking or dryness, that’s a sign of Vata. Actually, the cracking
in the joints like arthritis is one of the Vata disorders.
Then there’s Pitta, which is mostly fire and oil. It’s a little bit oily, it’s a little bit heavier. So Pitta
people, they’re usually muscular. They’re not as tall. Their muscles are very well-developed.
They’re very ambitious and very goal-oriented. They can be very competitive; they like
competitive sports, so they have that fire burning in them. They can be very pragmatic in terms
of choosing people that they want to build relationships based on the benefit that they will get
In terms of the way it shows up in the body, they can overwork. They are more likely to put
themselves in a position that will burn them out, so they overdo everything. They overeat, they
overwork; if they party, they over-party. So they’re a lot more likely to be people who will have
binge disorder or overeating disorders. In the body, it can show up as any sort of inflammation or
burning sensation, so psoriasis, any sort of rashes, any burning on the skin, heartburn; those are
all signs of high Pitta or acidity or inflammation in the body.
Kapha is the slowest and heaviest of all doshas, so people who have dosha Kapha, they are more
likely to be a little bit overweight. They love sweets, they like desserts, like ice cream, and they
are much slower to make friends, but if you make a Kapha friend, that’s the person that you can
then go to when you have a problem, because they can listen. They will make you feel so
welcome and so at home and so loved. They’re the people who will give amazing, long hugs.
They’re very compassionate, very loving.
But when they have a little bit of an imbalance, they can get sluggish, tired, they don’t want to do
anything new, they get very depressed, they can become overweight. They can become greedy or
create too much clutter at home because they have trouble throwing things out, so they save
everything. And in the body, it can show up as spring allergies, lots of mucus, lots of heaviness
and any sort of mucus, whether it’s in the stomach mucus or in the nose mucus. Yeah, I guess
those are the main things. Kaphas are the most prone to be overweight.
ARI: It’s important, I want to reiterate to people, that everyone has a little bit of each of these in
us, but there is a dominant one. Like personally for me, I believe I’m Pitta dominant to some
extent, and that may have some relationship to Crohn’s. One of the things I wanted to share with
everybody, too, is that Ayurveda was a part of my healing process, but more importantly to me, I
was seeing an Ayurvedic masseuse for years when I was younger, even when I was running track
in high school, and she told me five years before I was diagnosed with Crohn’s that I was going
to probably get Crohn’s if I didn’t do some changes that I totally blew off, because I thought that
she didn’t know what she was talking about.
NADYA: That’s amazing.
ARI: Yeah, she was like “You really need to start having some more yogurt in your diet” and
some things. She would touch my stomach and basically be like “You’re going to have some
digestive problems. You really need to start taking action here.” I totally ignored it, because at
the time, I didn’t have any reason to think otherwise. So it’s a very – some people may look at
Ayurveda and think that it’s just some sort of alternative medicine, but I’ll tell you that there’s
records of Ayurvedic practitioners performing cataract surgery thousands of years ago, so it’s a
fairly advanced way of looking at the human body, I have to say.
NADYA: It’s a very holistic way of looking at the body, because as you mentioned, your
practitioner was looking at your stomach, and sometimes an Ayurvedic stomach massage can be
very painful. But they’re also looking at your eyes, at your tongue, at your pulse, at your skin, at
your nails. They’re basically including all of the body’s symptoms, all of the communications
that the body provides, before they recommend something.
ARI: It was funny, because she was the only masseuse I’ve ever had who the very first thing
she’d do when she’d walk in the room was grab my wrist and take my pulse. I just, you know,
“Okay, fine.” but it’s really pretty fascinating.
So how did Happy Belly come out of this? And, for that matter, Spinach and Yoga, which, as I
said before, is an awesome name for a website. I want to talk about a couple of things you’ve
posted actually recently. But how did Happy Belly come about?
NADYA: I was working with a lot of women, and that was the manual that I provided them. It
was just a PDF file that I would give to people. Before we would start working, they were
required to read it. So then everyone would print the same thing over and over a million times.
Then my boyfriend, now fiancé, we were traveling, and he’s like “What are you carrying with
yourself? Why are you dragging so much paper with yourself?”
He had a friend in a publishing company, and we just sent him the manual, he looked over it,
said that some things needed to be added, some things needed to be subtracted. That is when the
whole long process of the writing began, which took a little over a year, and I had no idea that it
was going to be so long and so much work would go into it.
ARI: And you say that Happy Belly, it’s A Woman’s Guide to Being Vibrant, Light, and
Balanced, but I think that a lot of these practices apply almost equally well to men. Of course,
the hormone balancing issue is different and whatnot, but what made you focus on women?
Other than having had your own experience.
NADYA: Women have a slight difference in their physiology in terms of digestion. Our
digestive tract, for example, is a little bit longer. We do have lots of reproductive organs that are
right around the colon and intestine, so we have a lot more [inaudible 00:18:18], and that just
makes digestion more complicated, so women are more prone to gas and bloating than men are.
And then women’s hormones, they’re somewhat a little bit more volatile, I would say, so the
perception of stress in women is not necessarily – because we live all a similar life. It’s not that
men have less stress in life; they don’t. But women’s perception of stress is a lot more acute, so
they’ll react to it like everything is a brain surgery.
NADYA: And that just makes their nervous system a lot more likely to go into that high cortisol
mode that will affect the rest of their body as well. Because I was working mostly with women, I
didn’t feel that I would be the person to tell men how to treat their bodies, because for women,
any sort of healing or habit change, is has to go first through the emotional aspects and then
through the “Eat this, don’t eat that.”
Men, I feel, are a lot more goal-oriented, and they’re really good at making up rules, making up
their own mind, and just doing it. Women are all over the place. We’re like “Well, I feel this
way, I feel that way. Maybe I should try this, maybe I should try that,” and we change our mind
10 times a day. So there has to be a very strong emotional commitment before there is an actual
commitment in the habits or actions.
ARI: So how do you work on that? How do you work on that habit change? Because that’s
something that I’m always interested in as well. But how do you begin to enforce a habit?
NADYA: One of the most – and the book covers that in a lot more detail, but one of the most
important things that the book begins with is helping somebody really crystallize their ideal
version of themselves. Because now there’s a lot more research that shows that we need to really
use neural plasticity to change our behaviors. Basically, creating that image of yourself and then
identifying with it to the point that you can use it as inspiration to help you cultivate actions that
will support you getting closer and closer to that ideal vision of yourself.
To give you an example, if a woman imagines that she wants to be light and graceful and lean
and always happy, she has that image of herself, and then we can use it in meditation or in a
daily little mental exercise where we use that image and think, “What does that version of myself
do on a day-to-day basis to feel that way? What can I do today to cultivate those feelings? What
kind of foods would I eat to feel right? What kind of clothes would I put on to feel graceful?
What would I do physically to feel lean?”
And that goes away from “Well, somebody tells me I should be doing this type of exercise to
feel lean” and more into “What would make me feel lean?” That makes it a lot more internal.
The resolution comes from within you, not as an outside advice. Because a lot of people have a
really hard time following advice that’s given to them by someone.
ARI: Sure. I always like to say that I think there’s a big difference between “I can’t” and “I
don’t.” “I can’t” is a restriction, whereas “I don’t” is a choice, and it’s the same goal in some
cases, but frames it very differently.
NADYA: Exactly. If you say “I can’t eat ice cream,” you’re going to want ice cream. But if you
say that “I’m choosing not to have ice cream because that’s not making me feel the way I want to
feel,” that’s a very different way to look at things.
ARI: Yeah, and I also think that there’s this tendency for people to reward good behavior with
bad rewards, basically, you know? You spent the day doing yoga and being really good, so now
you can have that ice cream at the end of the day or whatever it might be. It doesn’t really make
sense, but we sort of make it make sense. Breaking that chain, I find, is really important.
NADYA: Again, that’s going to happen only if doing yoga in this case was, in the mind, a
restriction that “I need to do yoga.” It’s not a choice that “I want to do yoga.” Because then it’s
going to be a reward on its own.
ARI: Absolutely. There’s a recent blog post on your site, which was the “3 Easy Recipes to Heal
Your Gut,” which I love. One of them was tea, and one was a soup, and then one – sorry, two
were soups, actually. I want to talk about the two soup recipes, actually, because they both begin
with a fat, they begin with ghee or olive oil. So let’s talk about the role of fat in helping with
hormones, helping with healing, or in general.
And ghee, too. For people who don’t know what ghee is, it’s clarified butter. You’re basically
getting pretty much all the animal protein out of it and you’re just ending up with the pure, pure,
pure fat, and it’s delicious.
NADYA: I don’t know if your listeners know, but “oil” or “fat” in Ayurveda is the same word as
ARI: I didn’t know that. That’s great.
NADYA: Yeah, so when you have fat or when you put oil in your body, you provide love.
ARI: That’s awesome. What’s the word?
NADYA: I think the word is sneha. I’d have to look it up, but I believe it’s sneha.
ARI: Okay, that’s incredible in itself. I didn’t even know that. But okay, go ahead, sorry.
NADYA: The practices in Ayurveda especially, you do panchakarma, which is an Ayurvedic
detox. You basically put oil and fat everywhere. To give you an example, you eat ghee by
tablespoons, up to like 12 tablespoons per day on an empty stomach. It’s not something you
should be trying; you have to be under the surveillance of a practitioner. Don’t start eating ghee
by the tablespoon.
And then you put oil in a massage form all over your body with medicated herbs, and oil, if it has
herbs in it, it absorbs everything. So if you put chemicals, it absorbs chemicals. If you put in
herbs, it will absorb herbs. So there are lots of grounding, healing oils that you can use on your
skin every day.
And then you have enemas with oil as well. So you kind of oil the body inside out, everywhere,
and that’s a very healing, grounding way to soothe your nervous system and to soothe your
In terms of day-to-day use of fats, I think a lot of people are very confused about fats, and they
will equal, for example, nuts to good fats, and like ice cream to bad fat. People are either really
scared of fats or they think that all fats are good, and then that opens the door to eating garbage.
In reality, not all fats are the same, and I’m sure, as you mentioned – for example, ghee or
coconut oil or good quality olive oil, those are healing fats. Nuts in that case are actually really
hard to digest, and they’re not that good a source of a healing fat, because most people will have
quite a hard time digesting nuts. That’s why there’s so many nut allergies. But having a good oil,
whether it comes from coconut oil or good quality olive oil or ghee or even maybe a raw cultured
butter, if you don’t have dairy sensitivity, those are incredible fats to add to your daily menu.
ARI: Great. Also, in the recipe, you mentioned to add in curry powder or a dosha-specific spice
mix. For instance, for me, for Pitta, what would be a dosha-specific spice mix?
NADYA: Pitta, because they’re more prone to information and activity, you would have
something cooling and alkalizing. Here, you can add – for example, now it’s spring, or if it’s
summer, you can find so many amazing herbs. You would use cilantro and dill, because those
are very cooling. If it’s colder months and there’s no fresh herbs, you would use coriander,
which is basically dried up cilantro, and you may use a little bit of cumin. You can use rosemary
because of that slightly bitter, detoxifying taste, and it’s also very cooling. In terms of herbs, you
can also use aloe vera. You wouldn’t necessarily put aloe vera in the soup, but you could add it a
little bit to your water. So those herbs would be cooling.
ARI: By the way, that was one of the recommendations that this practitioner had given me, was
to have aloe in water, and I tried it once, and at the time, I didn’t have a very varied palate, I
think. Because the texture is a little – it’s something you have to kind of get used to, to drink aloe
NADYA: Yeah. It tastes kind of like lime or lemon.
ARI: Oh, it tastes fine, but it’s just a little gooey.
ARI: But now, I would probably eat that by the gallon if I wanted to. It’s interesting, having
gone through this whole process, now I’ll eat fermented foods that I never ate before, and chia
seeds, which also get kind of that gooey quality to them. Yeah, it’s just interesting about the aloe
Okay, we’re just about out of time here, and there’s a question that I always like to ask people at
the end, and I really would love to hear what your answers are to this. Basically, what are your
top three tips for being more effective in everything you do? It can be from anything you’ve
learned ever, but what are those top three things that you live by to be more productive, more
efficient, more healthy?
NADYA: I would say get very clear on your priorities. The way you do it is – I don’t know if
you’re familiar with Danielle LaPorte?
ARI: Yes, of course.
NADYA: I absolutely love her idea of core desired feelings. [Inaudible 00:29:25] what is it
that’s really, really important in your life in terms of your values, and it helps to look at if family
is your value, if you’re spending your whole time at work, then your value is not supported. If
your value is self-development, but you are not doing anything in your day-to-day life to actually
self-develop, then you’re not supporting that value. So get clear on the values and see what you
do day-to-day or week by week to support those values in your life. Because that’s going to, in a
big chunk, determine your level of happiness.
Then identify how you want to feel and what you can do on those day-to-day things to bring
forth those feelings. I personally, for me, it’s really important to feel balanced and to feel
grounded. I spent three hours today on my practice.
NADYA: I’m not saying that anyone should be doing it, but that’s a very high value thing for
me. I will prioritize that no matter what. I think that helps for other people as well; as soon as
you’re clear on your priorities, make sure that it shows in your day-to-day actions.
And then get rid of the clutter. One thing that’s super helpful is don’t read your emails; process
ARI: Ooh. Okay, go ahead, sorry.
NADYA: In your inbox, don’t read and then put “Unread” and close it, and read the next one,
put “Unread,” close it. If you open it, answer the email. If you’re not going to be processing
them, don’t open them. Just do it twice a day. That’s it.
ARI: That was two, right?
ARI: One more. But I have to say, that’s what I say too. I say I don’t read my email; I process it.
I love that you said that. But go ahead.
NADYA: The other is [inaudible 00:31:29]. Another thing is, something that really helps me be
productive – and that might, again, work for somebody but not for everyone – is make sure that I
eat with a closed computer and without the phone. Because usually, if I don’t – and again, that’s
something that a lot of women are prone to – food is a source of nourishment, satisfaction, and
pleasure to a certain degree. If you are not giving yourself that source of pleasure and you’re
trying to multitask, you’re much more likely to feel that you’re missing something or craving
something throughout the day.
For a lot of women, for myself and a lot of my clients, it kind of gets into that mind cycle where I
want something, and I know what I want; I’m going to go eat a cookie, I’m going to go eat some
[inaudible 00:32:27], I’m going to have some chocolate, and I’m still craving that thing because
I’m eating at the computer. But if you give yourself that rest time of half an hour to eat the meal,
then you’re fully able to be present with your work after you’re done with your email. that’s kind
of a simplified version of “be present with what you’re doing.”
ARI: I absolutely love all of those. They really resonate with me, and I’m pretty sure they
resonate with the people listening to the show because of the content that we tend to put out.
Those are great tips. All of the information that you’ve given is so wonderful, and Nadya, thank
you again for your time. For people to find out more, what’s the best place to find you?
NADYA: It’s spinachandyoga.com.
ARI: Spinachandyoga.com. I love it. Nadya, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
NADYA: Yeah, of course. Thank you for having me.