We all know that being a woman isn’t easy but it’s our belief at HerFeed that no matter how different our life stories are and/or the characters in them, there are times in life where getting the reassurance we aren’t alone is invaluable. This series, LA Ladies We Love, is a partnership with WhyWeRise featuring amazing women surviving and thriving in Los Angeles.
Today’s LA Lady We Love is Sarah Anne Stewart, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach (AADP) who runs a leading mindfulness-based private coaching practice in Los Angeles. Sarah’s unique heart-centered approach has helped hundreds of women make sustainable lifestyle changes and heal their relationship with food and their bodies. Sarah is the founder of the Awesome Inside Out Movement, a community embracing food freedom, self-love, and a blissful life. (Full disclosure: I’m a member, I love it and it’s free! If any of you ladies want to join the movement, click here.) Sarah is also the author of the e-course, “Meditate Slim Mastery,” an advisor to international wellness brands, and a soon to be Hay House author.
Sarah is not only a quintessential #GirlBoss and LA Lady We Love, but she is truly an inspiration. Read on for her incredible interview and I’ll bet you will admire her as much as we do after you’re done reading it.
1. We all know that life isn’t easy. What is something that you’ve struggled with in your life?
Growing up, I struggled a lot with my relationship with food and body image. I internalized a lot of mixed messages around body image from growing up with scoliosis and issues walking as a child, being taller than all the boys in my class, watching my parent’s relationship with food, severe bullying, and later in life the intense pressures of a career in modeling.
At the age of 15, right after my father cured cancer using the healing power of foods, alternative medicine, and holistic treatments, I signed a modeling contract which perpetuated my severe eating disorders for over a decade. With agents instantly barking at me to “stay skinny” and “don’t eat until next week,” fears and anxiety around my weight soon consumed my entire life. Over ten years, I gained and lost hundreds of pounds and almost lost my own life to anorexia. Even with all the knowledge of holistic health and well-being from my father, old stories and beliefs continued to drive my experience with food. Luckily, I was able to get help and overcome these beliefs and heal from my eating disorders.
2. How did you overcome this?
After my experience in the hospital, where the doctors told me I was going to lose my life if I continued on the same trajectory, I decided that I needed to make a change. I immediately recognized that the environment I was in and the relationships I had at the time weren’t going to support my ability to heal. I removed myself from that life entirely and decided I needed to get help. I traveled and immersed myself in several holistic health programs, seminars, and workshops to learn how to heal my body. But, even after my physical body had made a full recovery, I found myself still struggling with thoughts that triggered anxiety around my relationship with food.
In a moment of complete surrender, almost accepting that this would be my life, I met a meditation teacher. As a child, I remember my father making me sit for meditation instead of putting me on a timeout. It was then that I realized that no amount of information on food was going to help; I needed to shift my old beliefs and negative thought patterns that were damaging to my self-esteem; I needed to get back to the basics.
I started with simple meditation, learning from my teacher Chandresh, founder of Break The Norms, and incorporated a consistent yoga practice focused on reconnecting my mind with my body rather than focusing on my weight. I further added in breath-work and energy work, all the while looking for a particular program that would use these techniques to help me repair my relationship with my body. Unlike the plethora of fad diets and weight loss pills on the market, there was not a lot out there to support the internal work. I started to integrate personal mantras with meditations geared at helping repair my subconscious beliefs about my self-image. I coupled this with mindfulness exercises to help create a new relationship with food. I practiced day in and day out, and I slowly began to feel my self-love return. I found I was caring about myself again and taking care of my entire being. I felt the grip of anxiety and depression begin to release while I started to live again. And, finally, after a turbulent decade of self-deception and self-hate, I found myself reclaiming my freedom, my mind, and my life.
3. What advice do you have for someone going through a similar experience?
In the depths of an eating disorder, the scariest thing to do is ask for help, because asking for help translates to having to admit there is a problem… and potentially surrendering to reaching a healthy weight or giving up the behavior of control. I get that help (actual help and recovery) is terrifying. However, from someone who almost lost their life to an eating disorder, I can speak from a space of clarity and say that choosing to get help was the BEST decision I’ve ever made. I wish I would have asked for help earlier. It took several hospitalizations and other painful, unnecessary experiences to wake me up to the fact that I was living with so much guilt and shame, that I was lying to myself, and there was no one in my inner circle I could trust. The world around me validated my behavior, and I realized I needed professional help. I encourage anyone suffering to seek help and trust that there can be freedom on the other side – and it is important to receive it openly and be grateful that it is available.
4. Can you please tell us about your business and why you started it? (Also, what does it mean to be an Integrative Nutrition Coach for people who may not understand/know.)
Because meditation reprograms the subconscious mind and teaches us self-compassion, forgiveness, and how to tune into what we need- beyond just food- it has become the foundation for all of my coaching programs. I realized that, like myself, people don’t always need more information about what to eat, or what not to eat; we are inundated with so much nutrition content, yet most people are still struggling with how they feel. I started because I saw the need for a program that focused on the mind-body connection, self-love, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach (AADP), I am trained in both diet and lifestyle changes to help improve one’s health and overall well-being. It is a collaborative experience. Together, we look at different elements beyond food that might be impacting one’s health, and their relationship with their body, and find ways to bring those areas back into balance using holistic tools and practices, like meditation, journaling, breath-work, and movement.
5. What has been the most rewarding aspects of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is when I see women begin to shift their mindset and discover they are worthy of a happy and healthy life. When this shift occurs, they naturally desire clean and healthy food. They start to surround themselves in environments that support the dynamic change in their bodies. They find happiness and joy in movement. They see it easy to stay on track no matter where in the world they may be. Or, when someone shares with me that something I said or did somehow inspired them to take better care of themselves and focus on true-wellbeing!
6. What is the most challenging?
The most challenging aspect is helping people let go of the social conditioning that is wiring them for unhappiness. Specifically, today the conditioning that is happening on social media, which creates comparison, fear, stress, anxiety. Learning how to harness the energy behind these feelings and quieting the mind creates positive dramatic shifts.
7. We all have bad days (months or even years), and you’ve been very open on social media about some of the struggles you’ve faced and bravely overcome. Do you have any advice for someone who may be going through a hard time?
Ask for help! Most of us shy away from help because we are conditioned to believe we should be able to ‘do it on our own’ or asking for help means we are ‘weak.’ But getting support from a coach or mentor, from our community, or getting professional help – takes courage, but people want to help. You just have to be willing to ask and trust that people’s hearts are in the right places.
8. In the last few years, you’ve had a lot of changes in your life (moving across the country, expanding your business, getting married, to name a few…) Most people find that transitional periods in life are hard, how have you managed to cope, survive and/or thrive with all of these EXCITING but BIG changes in your life?
A consistent meditation and yoga practice. Yoga not only kicks up my endorphins but has helped me break through blockages and limiting beliefs that change is hard and challenging. It doesn’t have to be – it can actually be exciting. This practice, along with my top self-care practices like meditation, hiking, and being present with my dogg helps keep me grounded during significant changes.
9. Although every relationship is different, what would you say is the key to a healthy relationship?
100% – the willingness to do the work, change yourself, take responsibility, and grow together with support.
10. Onto a different topic about love, self-love… a topic that you are definitely an expert on and a topic that you cover a lot on your social media. It’s also a topic that I know many of us (including myself) have struggled/struggle with. Why is self-love really so important?
Self-love is so important because it’s the foundation for every decision you make. Without it, we engage in behaviors and habits rooted in societal/cultural conditioning or programming, instead of what’s best for us. Self-love leads to self-actualization. Meaning, we can reach our full potential by taking care of our mental and physical well-being first. By putting this love into practice, you will always be led to more significant and more expansive opportunities to become more of who you came here to be. Equally important to remember is that to discover self-love we ALWAYS have to go within – it is an internal process and journey, not external.
11. What three things can a woman start doing today to build a better relationship with herself (and/or create more self-love for herself)?
Start a gratitude practice (every morning)
Start a emotional food journal (& stop counting calories)
Throw out your scale!
12. I know you use affirmations and they can be really helpful for some people. Why are these helpful and what are some examples?
Affirmations are a powerful way to reprogram the subconscious mind by writing out, or mentally affirming during meditation, the new/empowering belief that you want to take on- even if it doesn’t register as true for you yet.
It could be something as simple as, “I enjoy healthy and nourishing foods that fuel my body.” Or, “I trust my body to tell me what it needs.”
It has to feel good for you and empowering when you say it. Affirmations are helpful in up-leveling your old way of thinking or being and redirecting that energy and attention to the reality that you want to create instead.
13. What advice would you give to your younger self?
As I mentioned before, I learned to meditate when I was five. But once I reached high school, I became “too cool” for it, so I threw everything my parents had taught me out the window. If I could advise my younger self, I would tell her to keep meditating and get help earlier than I did. I would also say surround yourself with positive people. There was one point in my life where there was no one I felt I could turn to. I know now that having people who you look up to, people who genuinely want the best for you, people you can trust, is essential for growth.
14. You’re an inspiration to so many women out there. What woman (or man) inspires you most? And why?
Chandresh Bhardwaj – my personal teacher who inspires me every day to keep coming back to my truth and to “break the norms.” I have read his book five times and never leave the house without it!
15. If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
I would love to have lunch with Mallika Chopra, the author of Intent. Her book and the work of her husband, Deepak Chopra, has transformed my life.
For more information about Sarah:
Company Name: Sarah Anne Stewart International Intl.
Here is more information about our partners for this campaign…
WHY WE RISE and WE RISE are calls to action, asking you to join a movement to break through barriers and defy old assumptions about mental health care and the many related social conditions that compound problems and hurt our communities. Together we can fix a broken system. This campaign is an ongoing project of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) launched during Mental Health Awareness Month in May 2018. LACDMH provides a wide variety of mental health-related services to hundreds of thousands of people each year, offering hope, recovery, reconnection and wellbeing.
Check out Why We Rise on Instagram!