As a management consultant, Vani Hari was recognized as a successful, motivated professional. She guided her clients to perform efficiently and effectively. She burned the midnight oil to ensure, she thought, her position at the top of the game. It wasn’t unusual to find her at her desk fueling a few extra hours with takeout dinners or on the road with three restaurant meals a day.
The result: A highly successful professional was slowly becoming a very unhealthy female. “During the holiday season over ten years ago, I found myself in a hospital bed. I was sick, overweight, and I was ready to change!” she vividly recalls. “I made a personal promise from that point on to make health my number one priority in my life, above anyone else’s priorities – including my boss at work! Putting myself first was the key to finally stop short-changing my health.”
The same energy and determination Hari put into project management was soon evidenced in her pursuit of healthy living. Feeling better, looking better and learning more about food, additives, and exercise, she transformed and grew a business changing lives.
Today, Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe, known throughout the world as a revolutionary food activist, creator of FoodBabe.com, author of the number one selling book, The Food Babe Way, was named one of the Most Influential People On The Internet by Time Magazine.
In her work, Hari has influenced how food giants like Kraft, Subway, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, and Starbucks create their products, steering them towards more healthful policies. She teaches people how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store, how to live an organic lifestyle, and how to travel healthfully around the world. Her uncanny investigative ability to find the food truth is well documented by the response she generates from major industries.
How long did it take for you to look and feel healthier when you made the commitment to eat healthier?
When I started eating organically something dramatic happened — it took time, but all the issues I had as a child — asthma, eczema, allergies went away. I was on several different prescription drugs depending on the season and I’m on zero today. My weight normalized, and I actually lost another 5 pounds (on top of the other 30+ pounds I gained!) I began to have more energy. The way you treat yourself, the way you treat your body, what you put in it, can make a HUGE life changing difference.
Can you tell us about the first weeks of living a healthier life and the daily challenges you experienced?
In The Food Babe Way, I methodically take someone through the healthy changes he or she can make to live a more energetic and vibrant life. I share the life-changing habits that have allowed me to maintain my weight for over a decade after losing the extra pounds I had been holding onto for years. For instance, I drink warm lemon water with cayenne pepper as soon as I get up in the morning. Starting my day with this simple habit sets me up for success for the rest of the day and is a reminder that my health comes first.
What do you do for yourself to maintain your physical wellness, or is it all in the food?
Exercise for me is more about stress relief. It is easier for me to make healthy food choices during a day when I have been active too. I love taking classes with challenging instructors — Barre Class, Hot Yoga, Fly Wheel and Soul Cycle are my current favorites.
How has your management experience transferred to your Food Babe success?
I was trained to quickly help giant corporations shift their policies, develop new strategies and implement change within their organizations. This experience has allowed me to quickly understand how the food industry works and how to make it change for the better.
After you decide to investigate a specific ingredient or company, how do you begin your research?
I talk to many experts, read scientific studies and consult with consumer advocacy organizations and farmers. Sometimes I’ll go to a specific restaurant and ask employees about the ingredients. That’s what happened with Chipotle. After visiting three different Chipotles, I finally got one of their employees to show me the boxes their food was shipped to the store in. I took pictures and documented the ingredients. This is what eventually got Chipotle to post their ingredients online and also start to remove some controversial additives. Since then the company also became the first large restaurant chain to remove GMOs from their food.
How long does it usually take and what does it take for companies to respond to you and actually make changes?
It takes a really long time to enact regulation in the government, that’s why I ask people to vote with their dollars and petition companies directly for change. After Kraft announced the removal of artificial food dyes due to our petition, so much awareness spread about the risks of artificial food dye. Other companies like General Mills, Kellogg’s, Hershey’s, and Mars had no other choice but to follow suit.
This issue of Inspire Health is all about balance. It can be easy to over-obsess about healthy eating and living. How do you maintain a balanced life while keeping yourself healthy?
I truly believe living The Food Babe Way doesn’t mean you need to deprive yourself of your favorite foods — you just need to know your ingredients and where your food comes from.
For more information from the Food Babe, head to foodbabe.com.