We are thrilled to introduce our Supermom Spotlight Series! Each month we sit down with an inspiring supermom and dig into her story. From birthing experts and entrepreneurs to philanthropists and everyday moms, we aim to enlighten and empower the Supermom in all of us with each story.
For our first Supermom Spotlight, our own Jenn Freedman, founder of Plant Powered Livin', chatted with Alison Clayshulte, board-certified holistic nutritionist (BCHN). Alison’s passion for food, deep-rooted from her childhood family culture, has been a pivotal part of her life. Both of her parents, brother, and grandfather work/worked in the food industry. Her family had a substantial backyard garden growing up, where she learned about where food comes from and how to grow it, and Alison continues this tradition with her own children today.
Before she honed in on a career in nutrition, Alison had various roles in the food and farm industries, and even spent her free time volunteering with food-centered organizations like Three Stone Hearth, learning how to make traditional nutrient-dense foods, and the Cancer Support Center, helping to teach cooking classes about healing foods for cancer survivors.
Alison’s appreciation for food evolved even further when she struggled with infertility, and soon a new food focus emerged. Here is our interview with Alison...
We love to ask all of our Supermoms this simple question: Tell us about your breastfeeding journey?
Knowing about the benefits of breastfeeding for both mama and baby, I went into my pregnancy planning to exclusively breastfeed my children. However, with twins who were born early and spent time in the NICU, plus complications that occurred during early labor from HELLP syndrome (a severe form of preeclampsia), my breastfeeding journey didn't go quite as I had planned.
Due to my pregnancy illness and their early birth, it took a long time for my milk to come in. I pumped a lot in the NICU while holding the girls to help stimulate my milk production. Once my milk did come in, I had a hard time keeping up with the production they needed, and they were so small that they got tired easily while breastfeeding. My life revolved around feeding the girls for the 14 months that they breastfed. Every 2-3 hours I would feed them at the same time on an extra-large breast-feeding pillow, then give them each a small bottle of either my own pumped milk or formula if I didn’t have enough reserves. And while I was giving them bottles, I would put on my pump and pump to get as much milk as I could and to keep pushing my milk production.
While this was my first time being a mom and breastfeeding, I pictured rocking my girls as I fed them separately, and honestly the pictures I had seen in books and online made the whole thing look very serene. Instead, I felt like a cow who had to get the milk out, and if I fed them separately it took twice as long, and what was I going to do with the other baby while one was eating? To streamline things, it was easier to feed them together, then bottle, then pump and rock them while pumping, grab a bite to eat, and start all over again.
Today your professional focus is around fertility through nutrition. Can you tell me about your personal journey and how it brought you to this focus?
I struggled with infertility and miscarriages for three years before I was able to get pregnant and keep the pregnancy that led to my twin girls. During that time, I was working in restaurants as a pastry chef, making all kinds of sweet treats for customers. I had never thought about how food affects your body until I started seeing an acupuncturist to help me with my fertility. That acupuncturist introduced me to herbs and certain foods that would help support my fertility. My interest was piqued so I took a basic nutrition class at the local community college...and it was like a lightbulb went off! From that point on, all I wanted to do was learn about how food affected the body and how to use food in a medicinal way.
After my children were born, I kept reading and researching what I could about the importance of different foods. When my girls were two and a half, I went to holistic nutrition school to become a certified holistic nutritionist. I wanted to help other women learn about how important diet is for our hormone health and fertility.
Can you tell me more about your professional career and how it prepared you to launch Nutrition for Fertility?
For much of my professional career, I worked around food. It's funny to look back now and realize it has always been a passion of mine. In college and right after college, I did marketing for two different companies that supported farmers. After that, I left the food world for a bit to do marketing analysis for national retailers. When the recession happened in 2008/2009, I took that opportunity to get back into the food world.
I started working in restaurants and worked my way up from an unpaid intern to a pastry chef at several high-end eateries; I also did marketing and event planning for a non-profit called Roots of Change that works to ensure every aspect of our food chain is healthy, accessible, safe, and profitable.
Once I became a certified nutritionist in 2017 I started working for a local wellness company, Cambiati Wellness (where I still work part-time). Working there gave me a lot of direct experience as a nutritionist, helping clients reach specific health goals.
I decided to launch my own practice at the beginning of 2020 to focus more specifically on supporting women on their fertility journey through nutrition.
What types of programs and support do you offer?
So far I have primarily been working one-on-one with clients. This February I am running my first group program as an instructor of Feed Your Fertile Body!™ program, which is a partnership with Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Sara Russell. This group program will be a 6-week virtual class that focuses on preconception preparation and fertility optimization. There are six modules in the program covering everything from the best nutrition for fertility to lifestyle support to stress, supplements, and the microbiome. I've taught classes in other positions in the past and am really excited to start running this program going forward.
Has COVID-19 changed your business in any way?
I started my business in February of 2020, and within a month COVID-19 was upon us. I've had to gain much more of an online presence than I might have needed to pre-COVID. However, because everyone is now very comfortable working online, it has really opened doors for me to branch outside of my local area. So far I've worked with clients in three different states. That reach is super exciting for me and something I really want to continue in the future.
What an inspiring story by fertility nutritionist Alison Clayshulte. You can find Alison on Instagram @alisonclayshultenutritionist and through her website at www.alisonclayshulte.com.
Stay tuned for our upcoming Supermom Spotlight, where we interview sleep specialist Katy Bourzikas.