I’m stepping way outside my box today. I can’t even see my comfort zone line, it’s so far in the distance.
Today, I’m sharing stuff I’ve never ever talked about before. Personal stuff.
A warning, it get’s deep.
So maybe get yourself some tea.
Or, stop reading now.
Can you tell I’m embarrassed already?
Today, I set aside my nutrition coach, teacher and blogger torch, and come to you all as a solo woman entrepreneur fighting for a cause I believe in so fully.
Yes, because it’s part of my own story and answers the reason why I created Simply Real Health to begin with, but more importantly, this explains why I get out of bed every morning to keep on keeping on. Because sometimes it just ain’t easy.
Owning your own business, a blog, being a great sister, friend, girlfriend, daughter and homeowner, and trying to live a healthy balanced life has plenty of challenging moments, days and weeks.
But, at the end of the day. I’m a woman on a mission. With a purpose. And I won’t stop until I get there.
So, what deep desire motivates me to keep working my buns off, at all hours of the day, writing emails, coaching people one on one, coaching people in my group program, running the Food Academy, cooking, photographing, writing the cookbook, developing recipes, blogging, writing meal plans, taking people to the store, doing office talks, seminars and food education seminars, teaching everyone who will listen to me about the amazing-ness of real food?!
I’m sorry. I wish it were a shorter answer.
Side note: This might be the longest blog post that I have ever written, which is always something you’re encouraged NOT to do in the blogging world– so, consider yourself forewarned.
But, I find other people’s stories helpful and sometimes inspiring. Especially the open and truthful ones.. And, to be honest, I feel weird about sharing all of this, because I’m kind of a shy person when it comes to my personal life.
But anytime I feel that pang of being uncomfortable, I know it’s something even more important to force myself to do.
So, here goes nothing.
So, why do I get out of bed in the morning? What keeps me going on the days that are tough as a business owner?
I get out of bed every morning because I know there are so many people out there that have a negative relationship to food and to being healthy on the whole.
That so many people either think that they are currently pretty healthy (and are tricking themselves), OR that they aren’t healthy, because they think of healthy food as being boring, expensive, time intensive, bland tasting and not satisfying.
That for most people, their day is filled with tasks, either running at a million miles an hour or spent in total boredom, and oftentimes feel pretty unproductive and unfulfilled by day’s end, tired, hungry, overwhelmed and unimpressed with their life.
But because most people do want and need more energy, better sleep, more productivity, more happiness and more ease in their life, they dedicate their time and resources to quick fixes– eating more sugar, drinking more caffeine, and buying gym memberships that go unused. But they should check out the sleep calculator and find out how long they should be sleeping every night. That they grab whatever food is quickest, easiest, and requires the least amount of thought and time.
Rinse and repeat every few months.
They gain weight and sporadically become obsessed with losing it, thinking that losing 5 lbs-10 lbs will magically make their life so much happier and more fulfilled.
Or they notice that they just don’t feel great overall: when they wake up in the morning, or with huge energy dips or food cravings throughout the day.
That they have tried at least a handful of diets or strict approaches or intense workout regimes to try and “solve the problem” and “get healthy”.
Solutions that might work great for a little bit of time or maybe people don’t even get that far, because they feel miserable, hungry, deprived, pressed for time, or wanting to participate in the fun things in life– vacations, happy hours, dinners out, holidays, etc.
Either way, eventually people go back to their old habits and feel worse than before. That the amount of time most people spend thinking, obsessing, planning or feeling guilty about food is thought of as normal.
Because I used to be exactly like that.
I used to be crazy about food. And not in a good way.
Eating healthy, loving nutrition and a a deep WANT to be healthy started for me at a really young age. Like 8 or 9 years old. It’s literally a part of my DNA.
Maybe I got a head start from my hippie parents who stopped eating red meat in college.
That has got to have played a huge role in it, for sure. I never had any shame in being different about food, because I was from the start.
No pepperoni pizza at pizza parties (just the cheese, please). No hot dogs at the Mariner’s games (we had turkey hot dogs at home, which I detested).
Family trips to the local co-op store were the norm. I even got to pick my own flavored honey stick or a pack of dried pineapple as a treat. Bless my sweet parents.
And Lord knows it was far from being a cool thing, at that point.
Related: Why you need studying to become certified as a personal trainer?
But for someone encouraged to dress themselves for school however they wanted (stretchy pants and bright T-shirts with the names of various family vacation destinations stamped loudly on the front, patterned headbands and butterfly clips, and as many colors and mismatch things as possible), pick out their own glasses (rainbow, obviously), the concept of “uncool” far escaped me.
At least in my early, elementary school years. No lunchables. No crustless white bread sammies. No Coke. No chips. Cookies, yes. Ice cream? Yes. Just not a lot of the total junk stuff that my friends subsisted on. I was a happy small child.
Then came 5th grade.
When I became the tallest person (not girl, person) in my 5th grade class. Which I of course, found cool. All the boys were jealous. I just looked down on them and smiled.
Then came 6th grade. Middle School.
What I fondly refer to as “the-time-I-wish-I-could-have-closed-my-eyes-and-woke-up-3-years-later” phase.
New school. New people. New teachers. Me. 5 3″” with little womanly curves on my petite frame.
Not big or overweight, but definitely not with the long and lean pre-teen body that all my friends and sister had. I remember it being a slow process of recognition.
That going into Abercrombie, my best friend had the size 00 and I was already in a 4. Added to it, people started caring about what you looked like, dressed like, where your parents lived, and what elementary school you came from.
My parents told me it was what was on the inside that mattered. Somehow, that didn’t seem to cut it anymore.
That the cool crowd at lunch bought pizza, cup of noodles, terriyaki or Doritos and Oreos from the vending machine everyday. Not whole wheat sandwiches.
So I followed along. Or made pathetic attempts at it. And for as young as I was, I remember slowly starting to notice that when I ate what every other girl ate that my jeans would feel tighter and I would feel gross.
At age 11. That I was different that everyone else. I couldn’t just eat what I wanted and go along blissfully playing, studying, whatever.
Thank god my mom had always had such an amazing outlook on food and being healthy.
Looking back on it now, I know that if she did at this time in my life, things could have taken a much different turn. [Side note, moms. Figure out a way through your food issues before your kids get old enough to absorb it all.]
Thankfully, my mom never once talked about food, her weight, my weight, body anything, in anything other than a positive light and by modeling healthy eating & behavior instead. I am forever thankful.
But, I was still different.
I started to pay more attention to what I was eating. Because whether I was aware of it or not, I just felt horrible if I didn’t. I was just a slow burner. I knew I couldn’t without worse repercussions.
Those years were hard. Just trying to fit in. I felt so unlike everyone else. Glasses, braces on my huge teeth, unibrow, slightly uncoordinated, being in the advanced & dorky classes, still trying to determine my friends, and desperately wanting to be cool.
If I had enough courage I’d post some pictures to show you just how much I am not exaggerating on this. I had an awkward phase, like most people I know. Except that mine was 6 years instead of 1.
And so it went.
High school came. And my focus and interest on food became more intense (no doubt for some vain reasons). Making cheer. Trying to get a homecoming date. Usual teenage girl worries.
And it took my obsession with healthy food into overdrive. It was probably my way to control things.
Not an eating disorder, but just an absurd obsession with healthy food– or whatever I thought was healthy food at the time. I cringe now, thinking back on it.
Balance bars, Kashi cereal, eating only baby carrots and apples. Soymilk. Tofu. Whole grain, low calorie toast. Fat free everything– EVERYTHING.
I prided myself on it.
I paid strict attention to all of the marketing around food— like it was the truth.
Whatever my fitness magazines said. Counting every single calorie. Working out like a madwoman. The heart healthy diet. The South Beach Diet. Buying used college nutrition textbooks.
Yes, I weirdly read them for FUN. Sophomore year, I even had a phase of getting a Starbucks grande nonfat caramel macchiato and blueberry scone everyday on the way to school thinking I was using my calories on things I loved.
I was addicted to sugar, to garbage “healthy whole grains” and vegetarian/vegan processed food. I was always following the latest trend with all of the conflicting info, eating very little veggies, snacking a lot and working out all the time.
Basically everything opposite of what I would ever recommend someone to do and eat now.
I became obsessed with finding food with the right elements. Following the directions on what you were “supposed to do” to be healthy.
I became a calculating machine. My friends thought I was such a freak. Looking back, I totally sucked all the joy out of food and eating. I was neurotic.
All I cared about was being the healthiest. Which is not the same thing.
Then. came college. I was still obsessed with healthy eating, but getting more and more frustrated. For all of my efforts, I didn’t really didn’t have much to show for it.
I ate high protein, high fiber, low-fat food and counted my calories. I still read every book under the sun. I worked out everyday for at least an hour.
I bought my own healthy snacks and kept them under my bed. But my clothes just kept getting tighter. I kept feeling more uncomfortable in my body.
I felt like a crazy lady most of the time in my head about it- always thinking about food. Trying to plan my meals and snacks out. Going vegetarian. Then vegan for a brief stint.
I concluded that nutrition would never be my main career, because who would listen to someone who didn’t look like they were taking their own advice?
I had so much negative self talk going on around food. I loved the topic, but it didn’t come easy or love me back. I settled for it being my secret side hobby.
Then I went to Rome to study abroad for a quarter my junior year.
And was so sick of trying and focusing on food, that I think I just stopped. Potentially after being laughed at on a morning run, in my Nikes and Lululemons.
If you ever go, Italians to NOT do not run or workout. Don’t even try. The humiliation is not worth it.
So I stopped fighting it. No doubt that I gained weight, but it was a much different kind. My skin was glowing. I was rested. I walked miles every single day.
I layed out in the sun. I relaxed. I read. I ate chocolate. I ate pizza for lunch. And then again for dinner. I drank lots of wine. Ate gelato daily.
But I felt better. And more free. And the women over there looked like me. Petite, toned and like real women. Who loved food. Being a stick figure wasn’t the goal.
They didn’t count calories, they ate slowly and enjoyed their food, no matter what it was. They were confident. Happy.
Literally had no food baggage or weird mental stuff going on around food, you could tell in their behavior and attitude and what they picked off the menus.
They weren’t neurotic. It was such a different mentality that I’ve ever even thought about before. And so refreshing.
When I came home, the more I started researching it, the more intrigued I became in the concept of non-processed food.
I dabbled in it first, thinking that it was probably only in magical Italy that the concept could really work in real life. Slowly though, became re-inspired about food- thinking about it, but in a much different way.
So much so that after I graduated college, I turned down 2 job offers in sales and marketing that I had been working so hard to get as a intern for 2 years, and got a job at a wellness center instead. I totally immersed myself in learning more.
Remember I would try anything nutrition related. Looking at my food in a real food mentality, all I had to pay attention to what was IN things, not its attributes.
My head was spinning. I had anxiety around food still, but was trying to forget it all and try this real-food thing out.
Within a few weeks, it became easier. Magically, my extra little college chub was gone. Food started tasting better and I felt more in control.
I actually felt full, and in a good way, not just a stuffed way. I had way more energy for my workouts, and could work out harder and longer than ever before.
I slept great. I stopped craving so many sweets. I stopped having digestive problems. My usually high cholesterol came down. I stopped eating so much crap (that I didn’t even know was crap).
And it was only then that I realized how whacked out I had been before. How controlled I was by food. Even healthy food.
How much I had had a negative relationship to it.
How much time I had spent calculating, avoiding some social situations that were outside my food comfort zone, being extreme with my eating habits, having debates in my head, worrying and feeling guilty about my choices, and not totally confident in my own body aside from my desperate attempts to be.
After I started realizing what healthy food actually was, stripped away from all the marketing and dieting crap, all of that head and negative self talk went away.
Real food was actually really simple.
The easiest “diet” I had ever done. Things became so much more clear.
So much more interesting. So many more options and things to pick from. Cooking became way more fun. A certain tiny joy, love and appreciation of the food I was making and eating started to grow. That the process was beautiful.
That making fresh food was like a work of art each time. Eating out was way easier. Foods I had been avoiding- real cream in my coffee, butter in anything, eating a whole avocado if I wanted to [guilt-free] became common occurrences.
That given the new parameters, I could make a lot of stuff in the kitchen. I took a sudden liking to cooking– both out of importance but also because it was so much more fun to do now.
Because I felt my best, was operating at my best, and knew that I would never go back to dieting again. That I could actually eat more, but not feel bad as long as it was good stuff.
That what I was eating was directly related to how I felt, how I looked, and the ease with which I could handle almost all aspects of my life in a calm, centered and more balance way. No more craziness.
That I had spent the majority of my life up until that point trying so hard. Being so intentional. Too intentional.
All that time reading, researching, experimenting, trying to be the healthiest version of myself. But that it took so many years to realize that not everything I heard or learned about food in the mainstream media was helpful. In fact, most of it was doing the opposite.
And that if I was in that boat– as someone actually putting the effort into being healthy, there had to be other people just as frustrated.
Let alone all the people out there that knew little about food, health and nutrition to begin with.
Why didn’t people know about this? Why did it take me so long to find out and I was actively pursuing it for so long?! Why was almost everything I heard about food counter-intuitive to the way our body actually works?
I became determined.
That healthy eating didn’t have to be such a headache, such a drag, and such a negative thing. Not something to be ignored to push to the bottom of anyone’s list. And actually, no matter what they were looking to improve.
That eating real food could change everything about someone’s life. That it truly could make people feel good, look good, and take up less space in their life than it does now, but with much greater downstream effects in every area of their life– family wise, friend wise, work wise, etc
That when people feel better, they are more joyful, happy and healthy in all of the important areas. Without trying so hard and getting overwhelmed by it.
I wake up early and get out of bed every morning because I literally get heart palpitations when I talk to new potential clients on the phone and hear their current story and relationship with food. Because I know I can change it.
Because for every person that signs up for one of my meal plans or food education teaching sessions, I know, I KNOW that their life is going to be just a little bit better than before we started.
That if one little blog post gets someone to start drinking a green smoothie in the morning or looking at the ingredients on their food labels in a different way.
I know their life is starting to change, and in a big way, just like mine did.
It is the best thing in the world.
I get out of bed every single day because I think that everyone has that right to live at their highest, most productive, energetic, full-of-life potential. To be truly educated about food. To understand the connection between what they eat and how they feel.
To show people that there is a incredible lightness about living your life in a healthy way- physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
And making it easy to understand, adopt into real life and be a fun, beautiful part of life is my gift that I’ve been given. To light the way. Light your way, too, with top chemical engineering schools.
To show people how. To change, morph and grow into their healthiest and best selves. To get people to realize how bad and numb they felt before, how great they feel after, how calm their inner voices and anxieties around food are and how much more joyful food and eating can become. That worrying about their weight never has to happen again.
That everything gets a little easier when you feel great consistently. Life gets better with real food.
I get out of bed every morning on a mission.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
photography by carina skrobecki photography
Sarah Adler is a nutrition coach, healthy lifestyle expert, cookbook author real food lover and owner of Simply Real Health—a healthy lifestyle company on a mission to educate, teach, and inspire others to live their happiest and healthiest life.