Dancer-turned-nutritionist Maite Bou has a thriving business teaching healthy-living concepts to Chattanooga-area clients — mostly mothers and/or busy career-women.
It's a career that's been shaped by her life path, she says. Her website, MaiteBou.com, is the nexus point for her services, which include one-on-one client consultations, group nutrition classes and social-network-based diet education.
Growing up in Barcelona, Spain, Bou struggled with skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, she says. Doctors proscribed steroids and topical creams that only dented her discomfort. As time passed, she also began to feel bloated and depressed, conditions she now links with her childhood diet. Her father was a baker and her house was always filled with wheat-based goodies, she says.
"Back in the '80s the medical world did not put together the correlation between a good diet and skin issues," says Bou, who moved to Chattanooga with her physician husband, Brian Daily, several years ago. "The gut-mind connection was not there yet. Now we know disease, or wellness, often starts in the gut."
Bou, 38, says her path to wellness began as a teenager when she started hanging out with a friend's family in Spain. By happenstance, the friend's mother and father were early adopters of an organic, whole foods diet that minimized dairy products and processed foods. Almost by osmosis, Bou began to share meals with them and, consequently, to feel better. She now attributes her earlier childhood health woes to a gluten-rich diet she was served at home.
By her late teens, Bou was cooking organic meals for herself. Her mother gave her a special drawer in the cupboard to keep her food, she said. In her 20s, she moved to New York City to continue her studies in modern dance, but a torn ligament in her knee put her on the shelf. Searching for new career she hit on her life-long interest in diet and enrolled in a holistic nutrition school in New York.
When her husband moved here in 2013 to serve a medical residency, Bou began to build the groundwork for her business. Networking through social media and word-of-mouth, she began marketing a brand of nutrition consulting that boils down to providing "easy, yummy, family-friendly recipes" to busy people.
On top of that, she provides a layer of life coaching. She says her studies taught her that there are two levels of sustenance. Primary "food," she says, includes spirituality, finances and relationships. Unless, those issues are in balance, dietary changes are moot, she says. "If your primary food is not in place, it doesn't matter what you eat," Bou says.
She often meets with clients at Wildflower Tea Shop on Market Street to map out goals. She also does cooking and shopping tutorials for her clients — often teaching them how to read labels to identify harmful ingredients. She notes that sugar goes by dozens of names on food packages.
Bou says that having children (Eleoner, 5, and Oliver, 18 months), has given her new respect for the dietary challenges that mothers face. Much of her work with young mothers, she says, is teaching them how to "hide" nutritious foods in kid-friendly recipes. For example, she makes her kids a "chocolate smoothie" that contains cauliflower, zucchini, bananas and spices. "Kids love it, but they don't even know what it is," Bou says. "I turn comfort food into powerhouse food."
She subscribes to an 80-20 philosophy of building a diet for children. She says 80 percent should come from nutritious basics and 20 percent can be considered "treats." In her world, kids' treats are things like goat milk and raw honey, she says, not processed pizza and Twinkies. "That's just junk food that makes you sick," she says.
"If you don't enjoy what you eat it doesn't matter how healthy it is, you aren't going to stick with it," she says. "You are going to end up hungry, or 'hangry' (hunger mixed with anger)."
Bou says that she and her physician husband are looking for ways to partner in their professions. She uses him as a sounding board for clients with health issues if they agree to share information, she says.
The family lives on Chattanooga's Southside and Bou often rides to meet her clients on an electric bike, which fits with her philosophy of earth-friendly living.
"What I do has to be very connected to what I am," she says. "I live it in first-person."