How to Simplify Healthy Eating and Exercise as a Mom with Emily Tyson
Emily of Sculpt by Emily is one of my oldest, closest friends and has always been a huge inspiration to me as I’ve followed her through the many phases of life. Five years older than me, she literally taught me some health basics at an early age: swap my white bread sandwiches for whole grain, eat more vegetables, and that seltzer > than soda 😂.
Emily is a certified Pilates instructor and trained ballet dancer and has created her own method of movement, SCULPT, which she currently teaches on the Eastern end of Long Island, along with CARDIO JUMP which is a cardio class on rebounders.
I love this interview because Emily keeps it super real (always has) in sharing her honest and practical advice for busy moms…or any of us who just want to feel our best simply.
All photos by Kim Zapien-Miller unless otherwise noted.
How did start teaching SCULPT? What’s your story?
When my daughter was born almost 4 years ago I struggled with major postpartum depression. I couldn’t really see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I realized that so many of those feelings of anxiety and depression came from feeling stuck (both literally and figuratively).
I needed to move my body and after giving birth my life was just around the clock nursing. I really wasn’t prepared for how horrible I would feel. Before kids, I could do whatever I wanted when I wanted. I could take a yoga class any time of day, or go for a run. I could go surfing on my time, and eat on my time and do things to help me feel better when I was feeling sad, like hike or go for a long bike-ride.
Suddenly, being physical just wasn’t available to me because of the demands of new motherhood. I began putting together mat routines that were a blend of dance, Pilates, and light weights and would set them to amazing music. I would do my routines when my daughter took her longest nap in the middle of the afternoon. Eventually I moved my mat from my bedroom to my bathroom because I could get it really hot with a space heater.
I found that working out in the heat was exactly what I needed to get those extra endorphins flowing. I would work up an amazing sweat and it was so helpful in my postpartum recovery. It has truly been an organic evolution into what my classes are today.
A year ago, when my second baby was just 6 weeks old I decided to take my classes out of my bathroom and began teaching at a local studio just one day a week. They became so popular I now teach about 7 classes a week and have a list of wonderful clients who are seeing real results and positive changes in their bodies.
Describe a typical day.
I have a 1 year old and a 4 year old and they wake up very early! Around 5:30am. In the summer my days are very different than the rest of the year because I am on summer vacation (I’m a high school teacher too). So a typical day in the summer always starts with coffee. I drink mine with SO Delicious Organic Coconut Creamer. I have 1-2 cups of coffee then head to the studio. I always teach on a totally empty stomach. I just don’t like exercising with any food in my belly and that is a personal choice, it’s for no other reason.
I usually teach a morning class and they are high intensity classes so I’m dripping sweat after. I drink a lot of water throughout class and the rest of the day. I also always have at least one green juice. After I teach I head home and make a smoothie. My husband and I pack a cooler and go to the beach with the kids. The days are at the beach ALWAYS. My children both take an afternoon nap at the same time every day so I am always coming home to make sure that happens. It’s very important for them to have that routine and sleep in their space.
No matter where we are or what we are doing we are always home by 2pm for naps which go until 4:30. When my kids nap that is when I work. I’ll plan classes, listen to music, do dishes etc. The evenings are pretty low key. We don’t go out a lot, we like to stay home and be with the kids, make dinner and play. If my husband and I are lucky we will get to surf together or go to dinner.
All about the details! What do you typically eat for:
Really simple and easy, either peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or turkey and avocado sandwiches and yogurt and fruit. I always buy organic products and produce. Lunch is typically eaten at the beach so nothing fancy. If I am at home I’ll make a salad with everything in it (fruit, nuts, cheese etc). I was recently given a wonderful homemade salad dressing recipe and I put it on everything! Here’s the recipe:
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
We eat a lot of lean protein (chicken, fish, burgers) and salad. Dinner is typically a barbecued protein and a salad. Again, nothing too complicated. I also love sautéing garlic and a ton of spinach, onion and mushrooms and topping that all on a frozen cauliflower pizza and drizzling with a little oil and parmesan. It’s so easy.
SNACKS OR SWEETS
Fruit, Larabars, rich dark chocolate, dried mango. Crackers with sliced avocado and feta cheese.
Water, green juice, coffee, LaCroix seltzer. I don’t drink alcohol ever. I stopped 2 years ago and have never felt better.
What is something you do every day to feel your best?
Sweat. It is non-negotiable. I also listen to music that I love which helps to elevate my mood. It is also imperative for me to do something in nature, usually a hike in the woods with the double BOB stroller!
What’s your biggest tip for self-care, especially for working moms?
Make time to exercise. Whether it’s a walk on your lunch break or waking up before everyone else to get a workout in. Exercise makes me a good mom. It isn’t about being thin either, exercise has become what makes me feel strong in my body and helps me move stuck emotions. If I have any free time, it is used to work up a sweat.
What’s the closest thing you have to a beauty secret?
Sleep, sweat, and taking a quality prenatal vitamin. Also having a rich social life. I have a lot of friends and very close relationships that bring me real joy. I laugh a lot and I think that keeps me young. Also I don’t dress like an old person. I keep it young and hip. A fresh haircut with good highlights is very important. And my biggest beauty secret is NO MAKEUP! Makeup ages you.
What’s your favorite quote or mantra?
Honestly, “fuck it.” Just to be me and never apologize for it. I don’t hold back. I am unapologetically myself.
Where do you look for inspiration?
My girlfriends, my friend Lindsay Allen is so gorgeous and effortless and I love her style. I look to the women in my life who I feel are really just killing it but also being super real and authentic. I find that inspirational. I find rawness and honesty to be so attractive. Like give it to me straight and I am all in!
I love the ‘90’s so I am always inspired by my high school fashion days, sweatshirts and ripped skinny jeans and hightop Nike sneakers. I am always always always inspired by music, all kinds. I just look to people who are themselves and obviously so. I can smell it from a mile away if you are pretending to be something you’re not and I can’t be around that.
I’m very much inspired by my children who teach me the love and pure joy of just moving and playing and having an imagination. I look to the women and men who come to my class totally ready to commit and move with me and breathe with me and burn away all the shit that doesn’t serve them.
What is one thing you do that simplifies your life as a mom?
This is a great question. I want to have some kind of amazing answer but I really have to be honest here and say that I don’t overthink the simple stuff. Like if my daughter wants a cookie I let her have it, or if a few extra minutes on the iPad means I can get a few more tasks done then it’s all good.
We don’t have a TV in our home, and 90% of what my kids eat is healthy and organic but I also have balance. I also don’t read any parenting books lol. I just shoot from the hip. I think not being too rigid with rules helps to simplify things because as a mom I have to be flexible. Another thing I do not do is compare myself to any other mom. I’m doing amazing and that’s all that matters. Every mom should remember that.
What are your top money, time-saving, and/or sanity-saving tips for eating healthfully, especially when you’re busy (aka always)?
Another great question! Frozen food or pre-chopped food. So like I said before the frozen spinach goes right in a pan and then right on a frozen cauliflower pizza! I’ll chop a ton of vegetables and roast them and eat those for a few days. I also love plain avocado chopped up with some feta cheese.
I really need some money saving tips, I spend a lot on food but quality matters to me and where I live we don’t have options like Trader Joe’s. The grocery stores here are really expensive!
We always have drawers full of fruit and veggies to eat with hummus and lots of quality bars, like Larabars, with all real ingredients.
Photo by Minimalist Baker
Favorite go-to recipe?
Ok this is a good one! I LOVE this recipe from Minimalist Baker! You can substitute the tofu with shredded chicken which I sometimes do!
I make this meal and it gets gobbled up by everyone. I also add A LOT more veggies than the recipe calls for. I add like 4 more full cups of sliced peppers and carrots and green beans. Sometimes I’ll even throw in kale and spinach. It’s one of those dishes where you can just throw in whatever you have. I like that!
What are your top five health and wellness products you cannot live without?
Garden of Life Prenatal Vitamins (I am so mad these were bought by Nestle!)*
*A note from Ally: A great prenatal vitamin is this one by MegaFoods if you want to support another brand!
What are some tips you’d give someone who wants to exercise but feels like they don’t have the time or know where to start?
The not having the time thing is a tough one for me to accept because I bet that same person who has that excuse is all caught up on every Game of Thrones episode. You have time, but you must make it.
I think so many people are hesitant to carve out time because exercise is typically boring and not enjoyable. However, if you can find something you look forward to doing, then it becomes fun and not the dreaded part of your day. Don’t be stingy when it comes to spending money on a quality class! Especially if that gets you out of your exercise rut! It’s funny to me that someone won’t blink an eye for dropping $25 on lunch, but $25 for a class seems like a lot! It really is all about how you look at it.
If you find a class that brings you joy and gives you real results then it is totally worth it! So I would say explore some group fitness classes where the instructor is kind, knowledgeable and approachable! A lot of clubs and gyms are willing to let you try your first class for free, so look around and try out many classes until the right one fits! Also ask your friends...see what they are doing, then go along. It is always fun to have a friend to workout with.
Sometimes after a class someone will come up to me and literally apologize for not being able to do some of the exercises. And I WANT TO SHAKE THEM!! Like why are you apologizing! You must shift that mentality! No one cares that you can’t do something perfectly, that’s not the point. You do what you can and take small steps toward your goal.
I also can’t stress enough how beneficial and easy walking is. Like if you need a starting point, just start walking! Lace up your sneakers, get a great one hour podcast and hit it!
What are some of the physical and mental benefits to your signature Sculpt class?
The physical benefits come because you are working all of your muscles simultaneously for the entire class. Your body becomes very strong while also gaining flexibility. I believe so strongly in equal parts strength and flexibility. So much of my method is rooted in ballet positions and the Pilates philosophy, which is all about lengthening the muscles and working with control.
People who take my class naturally just lean out and get that gorgeous dancer body and posture. I notice people who do SCULPT just seem more lifted and lighter on their feet and more confident in their skin. It gives you a beautiful defined body because every movement is intentional, every single movement is initiated from the core. So you naturally just gain that core strength and stability and the physical aesthetic that comes with that.
The mental benefits are the real reason I was drawn to creating this class, because there is no other endorphin rush like it. We workout in a warm room, so the combination of the movement, with the music, with the heat, leaves you in a happy puddle on the floor. After I teach I almost feel high. But it is that amazing natural high from moving in a really amazing way. After I do a SCULPT workout or a CARDIO JUMP workout I actually feel empowered and refreshed and energized. It leaves me feeling like I can take on the day with confidence and not a frazzled mess.
Photo by Loveleaf Co.
How can someone get started doing Sculpt with you? What do they need?
You can watch some of the videos I have on YouTube and I also have some videos on my website. I am currently in the process of overhauling my website because I have so much content and I want to be able to get it to the masses! I think streaming is such an amazing way for people to workout with me at home. Be on the lookout for my updated website with fresh content soon!
Here’s what you need to take my classes:
Ankle Weights (1.5-2.5 lbs)*
Space Heater (for at home workouts - a bathroom works great!)*
You also can join me in the studio! I teach at Feelin02good in Riverhead and at the Hampton Bays School of Dance in Hampton Bays. There is really nothing like a live in the studio class! Book a class here.
*The only thing you REALLY need is a yoga mat! The rest are optional.
Do you have any recommendations or resources you’d like to share to live a healthier, happier life simply?
I recommend going through your house with a garbage bag at least once a month and just filling it up with stuff you don’t want or use. THEN DONATE IT! This is so true if you have kids. I just walk through my house and toss stuff into the bag and send it to donation and never look back! I think too much stuff and clutter also clutter your mind so it helps to get rid of stuff in order to simplify. (I recommend doing this when your children are sleeping otherwise they will want to keep it all).
I think it’s also healthy to have boundaries, especially with people who are energy suckers. It is imperative to put yourself first so that you can give back to your family and friends. It’s ok to say no to things, no one is going to be mad at you (and if they are then that’s an issue with them) I am always telling my friends, if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it!
I also obviously recommend following my workouts as they are more than just exercise. They leave you feeling really good, and the sweat is everything!
Here is a link to a free SCULPT class, just for Loveleaf Co. readers!
You can follow me on YouTube at Sculpt by Emily.