Abbey Sharp – Health, food and mom blogger, dietician, YouTuber, TV expert and author
SC: Tell us about yourself.
AS: I wear a lot of hats. My professional title is Registered Dietitian (RD), but I’m more accurately described as a blogger, YouTuber, content creator, author of an award winning cookbook (The Mindful Glow Cookbook), TV and radio expert, and mom.
My professional goal is to help young people dismantle diet culture and cut through the overwhelming and conflicting information about food and eating. I want people to find peace with food and their bodies, and bring it back to basics eating with the intuition they were born with.
Now, I’m a mom of a toddler and another on the way, and I am very passionate about helping young families gain confidence in feeding their families in a way that supports their health, while also supporting mom and dad’s sanity. Despite what Instagram will tell you, healthy eating doesn’t mean perfect eating, it’s just about balance. And that also means balancing nutrition with finances, time, skill and fun as a family!
SC: Can you take us through your career path?
AS: It hasn’t been a straight path. But interestingly, my own experience with disordered eating in my teen years propelled me into my education and interest in dietetics. Once I got there, I started a hobby food blog, and it was my determination to turn that hobby into a career that helped me break free from my eating disorder and heal my relationship with food. Soon my blog following grew, and I started to film YouTube videos as a more visual way to teach the public about food and nutrition.
Last year, that channel exploded and now, I get dozens of emails and messages every day from young girls who have told me that I’ve completely healed their disordered eating thoughts and helped them distinguish between good nutrition advice and problematic content online. I also do a lot of traditional media as well, appearing as a regular on the Marilyn Denis Show, Global Morning and CHCH, and making appearances on international shows like Dr. Oz.
A few years ago, I published my first cookbook, the Mindful Glow cookbook (Penguin Random House), which won Gold at the Taste Canada awards. Today I’m looking forward to welcoming my second baby and hopefully (when I’ve recouped some sleep), I’ll think about book baby number two (this time with a focus on family meals).
SC: What unique obstacles might you have had to overcome to get to where you are today?
AS: As an entrepreneur of an evolving industry (blogging and YouTubing full time), there are daily challenges. My education as a dietitian never taught me anything about being my own boss, or social media, and it taught me very little about media and public communications, in general. While now there are lots of resources for bloggers and YouTubers, when I started out about a decade ago, there was nothing! I had no mentor, or guidebook to follow, so as a result, I was limited to trial and error. Those were some expensive years! But now I mentor other influencers with media training e-courses and one on one consulting.
While my brand and following has grown, I’ve faced a lot of criticism. I remember the first time an internet troll wrote something mean about me online. It was a whole smear article on a trashy gossip website. My husband found it first and tried to hide it, but soon, people were sending it to me so I read it myself. I was immediately crushed until my husband reminded me that if someone is taking that much time out of their day to write about me, I must be leaving my mark. I must have made an impact.
I’ve since learned that especially when it comes to nutrition (which is akin to people’s religion nowadays), in order to make a positive change, you have to ruffle feathers. People are going to be mad. People are going to hate you because you are essentially criticizing what they believe in (even if it’s scientifically wrong and dangerous on a population health scale). Nowadays, I have disgruntled YouTubers creating full exploitive videos about me every single week as they’re unhappy I pointed out flaws or dangers in their “wellness programs” or the (mis)information they share. It comes with the territory and it no longer makes me upset – it just reminds me of why I do what I do.
SC: What social issue are you most passionate about?
AS: Professionally, I’m really passionate about debunking diet myths and dismantling diet culture, especially since we know that disordered eating is on the rise, and girls are starting to diet at an increasingly young age. I know our society tends to focus so heavily on the obesity epidemic and the importance of eating less or eating more “clean”, but eating disorders are the number one killer of all psychological disorders and they disproportionately affect young women. Not to mention, a “new” eating disorder called “orthorexia” is so pervasive in our culture, it’s often wrongfully mistaken for balance and healthy eating.
Personally, I struggled with infertility and both of my kids (including the one currently cooking away and due in August) were conceived using IVF. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to afford treatments, as I know that the financial burden alone (never mind the psychological one) can be overwhelming for families. So I have personally donated a lot of money to local initiatives to help families who would otherwise not be able to afford starting a family, and I am very open about discussing my infertility and miscarriage journey. I believe that the less we talk about these things, the more stigmatized they remain and as a result, women feel they are even more alone and that their body’s are uniquely “wrong”. I think it’s important that we start to discuss this more openly so that we can all acknowledge how common and normal it is to struggle to conceive.
SC: What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
AS: To expect the unexpected and never close doors. I went to an arts high school and all of the “artsy” kids were often made fun of by the science and gym teachers. As a result, I loathed science and made it my personal mission to never even consider a career requiring any kind of science background. I stopped science classes after grade 10 and went to university thinking I would teach music and theatre (which were my majors in high school). But while I was in university, I took a random anatomy course and fell in love with the laws of science. I knew that I had to change my career trajectory, as scary as that thought was, but since I took dance, singing and musical theatre in high school, I had to go back to high school part time for grade 11 and 12 biology and chemistry in order to pursue a degree in science.
Obviously now, as a dietitian who works in creative media, I have been able to combine my training and talent in performance and public speaking, with my education and knowledge as a registered dietitian. But had I never allowed myself to take that anatomy course, who knows where I would be!
So now whenever I speak to teens, or parents of teens, I tell them that life is crazy. Things you think you hate when you’re young, turn out to be your calling later on. So to make life easier, try to take high school and your younger years as an opportunity to explore all of the possibilities.