Photos by Erin Falter
“WELLNESS TO ME IS ABOUT TAKING INVENTORY OF YOURSELF–YOUR MENTAL, PHYSICAL, SPIRITUAL SELF–AND ADJUSTING ACCORDINGLY,” SAYS NELL DIAMOND FROM THE WEST VILLAGE FLAGSHIP OF HER CULT BEDDING AND LIFESTYLE BRAND, HILL HOUSE HOME. Like Diamond, the well-appointed jewel box of a shop is impeccably outfitted. From millennial toile fabrics to her signature clean crisp white sheets and bedtime accoutrements embroidered with cheeky slogans like, “Avocado is my ambien,” and even day-of-the-week Epsom Salt packets. And though Diamond has earned a devoted following on Instagram and graced dozens of glossy “It” girl pages where fashion fans track her every ensemble, the entrepreneur and new mom has recently upped her wellness game, posting virtuous homemade meals and treks to the gym, under the tag #healthnell. We caught up with the Princeton grad to talk her own approach to nourishing herself, how she approaches toddler meals and her own definition of self-care.
I’m loving all the new “health Nell” Insta stories you’ve been posting. What has inspired your interest in cooking clean and working out?
It’s been a journey! I have a one-and-a-half year old son and for my entire pregnancy I was nauseous. Truly, every day. I threw up in the delivery room eight times. It was a pretty harrowing nine months; the baby and I were both totally healthy, but the nausea really did a number on my mental health – I couldn’t wait to feel normal again. I also gained a lot of weight while pregnant **despite** the nausea, which feels like some cruel trick, but also meant that after giving birth I was really eager to lose weight. For the first six months after giving birth I was CRAZY restrictive — like, not a single grain in the house restrictive — and though it was helping me lose weight, I felt pretty awful and every few weeks I’d get super nauseous again and spiral.
Was there a turning point where you wanted to make a significant change in your diet and approach to nourishing yourself?
Around this same time, my mom was preparing for a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Watching her prepare for surgery was like seeing someone ready themselves for battle. She was getting her body and her mind in shape to recover from an incredibly invasive, scary surgery – eating well, exercising, taking time to do things she loved. When she finally had her surgery, her recovery was insane. She was up walking laps around the hospital wing that same afternoon. Her doctor told her in no uncertain terms that her recovery was going so well because of how she had prepared. I remember thinking – Oh, ok – this is not just about looking and feeling good. There’s a whole world of forces at play that are affected by how I eat and move. I wanted to build stores of nutrients, build resilience, and to think about health on a longer tail — not just how I was going to feel and look tomorrow, but what effect does what I do today have on my body in a year, and five years, and ten. That mindset has helped me commit to a more consistent #healthnell and even when I do things like eat strange terrifying weekend meals I can’t write down, I forgive myself because I’m thinking about things on a longer timeline. All that is to say; I’m committed to being easy on myself, to trial and error, to taking my health and my physicality seriously!
How would you describe your workout regimen now?
I’m obsessed with my FitBit Alta – it tracks my steps, heart rate and sleep – and it’s really motivated me to exercise more. Working out has always been a struggle for me. I have a lot of anxiety around exercise – constantly thinking about whether I’m doing it “right” and comparing myself to other people in the gym. Focusing on getting my heart rate up using my Fitbit simplifies the process for me; all I have to do is move, pushing myself consistently for 30-45 minutes, and I’ve done it right. I’m even trying to run for the first time, which is a huge step for me. By taking the pressure off of myself I’ve allowed the experience of working out to do what it is supposed to: help me feel healthier and happier. I exercise 3 days a week now, usually at the gym with a combo run/walk, and I also like streaming OBE short classes on my iPad.
Take us through a day in the life of “health Nell” in regards to meals and drinks from morning to night?
I usually try to start the day with hot water and lemon. I always imagined myself as the type of person who said that in interviews about their food consumption and I’m blessed to say, here I am, living my dream. Turns out it is a really nice way to start your day, and I like not having coffee right away. Once my son is dressed I’ll run to get an iced coffee with oat or almond milk from my favorite coffee shop, Grounded on Jane Street. I haven’t been as hungry in the morning recently and I’m trying to **listen to my body**, so whenever hunger hits I’ll have a chia bar, a smoothie, or some berries and fruit. For lunch, I rotate between Sweetgreen, where I’ll get a salad with greens, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage, and lots of other veggies, or Hu Kitchen, where I’ve been loving the Summer Slaw salad and Rotisserie Chicken or Chicken Soup. In the winter I have Juice Press vegan soups literally every single day – they are SO good, especially the Lentil Mushroom Chili. In the afternoon if I’m hungry I’ll have cashews or another nut, and then for dinner I’ll do usually a fish and veggies if I can. I try to limit dairy as much as possible, and I probably have a burger or steak twice a year. I’ve never had pork ! I grew up with chicken as pretty much the only meat in my house so I tend to gravitate towards that when I’m eating meat. And then some days I eat like a petulant toddler who is rebelling against the concept of nutrition. Balance!
What is one indulgence you’re not willing to give up?
Bagels. Love those guys. Just not every day!
Your daily healthy non-negotiable?
Health Warrior Chia Bars! They are so good and I literally almost cried when you gave them Bonberi approval because I love them so much.
Favorite new “health” discovery?
Lipspheric Vitamin C that I buy from Clover Grocery. I swear it helps me from getting sick.
What is your favorite method of self-care?
Extremely hot showers and long, meandering walks through the city.
Are you loving an “clean” beauty products as of late?
I’m obsessed with True Botanicals, especially their shampoo and conditioners.
You’re a fan of the Health Warrior chia seed bars, do you have any other favorite healthy snacks/drinks you stock at home?
I order food on FoodKick a lot, and they have these packs of portioned cashews that I really love. I have to buy the portioned ones though otherwise I eat an absurd amount. I also really love oat milk as a milk alternative.
Since delving into cooking, what’s your favorite healthy thing to make?
My favorite healthy meal has been an egg baked in a portobello mushroom cap, with some lightly wilted spinach on the side. I crack an egg into a mushroom cap, and then bake it in the oven, and wilt the spinach while it bakes. Sometimes I add vegan pesto (I like Gotham Greens Vegan Pesto which I also get on Foodkick) to the egg-mushroom combo and it is INSANE it is so good. I use avocado oil to wilt the spinach and add Maldon salt.
Now that he’s on solids, what’s your approach to feeding Henry?
I approach Henry’s meals the way I try to approach most of parenting; by letting him lead, and not taking myself too seriously. He’s a great eater and he’s absolutely enormous so I at least know he’s getting enough! He is obsessed with berries of all kinds, and he loves prunes, chicken (especially rotisserie), scrambled eggs with broccoli and banana bread. I feed him fresh, organic, whole foods as much as possible and sometimes he eats a pizza crust and a cookie at 8pm.