Samin Nosrat on Her Lifelong Journey Toward Intuitive Eating
The ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ author on CBD oil, therapy, and why she tried a cleanse
There are many ways to live a healthy life. The Health Diaries is a weekly series about the habits that keep notable people living well.
Samin Nosrat was studying English at UC Berkeley when she decided to take a detour into the kitchen at Chez Panisse. The rest, as they say, is history. But after years of working in professional kitchens, Nosrat has recently come back to her original love for words. Last year, she released a bestselling cookbook called Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking and now stars in a popular Netflix series of the same name. She’s also a food columnist for the New York Times Magazine, where she writes about food, art, culture, and cooking all over the world.
This week, Nosrat shares with Medium her love of CBD oil, supplements, and intuitive eating.
I wake up naturally and begrudgingly around 6:10 a.m. That’s wired in so deeply that I wake up at that time no matter where I am, in any time zone. I wish I could sleep later. And I’ll admit the ugly truth: When I wake up, my phone is right there, so I check my email. I live in California, so I’ll wake up to so many emails from people on East Coast time. Honestly, I send emails for about an hour, before I even have anything to eat and drink, until I feel like I’m not drowning anymore.
I recently weaned myself off coffee, which I’m really proud of. Now I drink black tea or Earl Grey tea in the morning. In January, I did this cleanse with blended breakfasts and dinners. (They were those horrific nutritional shakes!) After that, I found there was something strangely nice about having food that’s easy to digest first thing in the morning. So now I’ve become a person who makes green nutritional shakes every morning. It’s very weird. I never thought I’d be that person!
I take like 9,000 supplements every morning. I don’t know if it’s completely placebo or not, but I’m super committed to these supplements, like I can’t face the day without them. I take fermented fish oil and the MyCommunity mushroom capsules. I also take a super-duper crazy 50 billion–cultures probiotic and 1,000 milligrams of calcium. Oh, and 5,000 IUs of vitamin D. I’ve become that person with a huge pill box when I travel. It’s very intense to be this person. If I’m really feeling it, I also have some collagen pills, fiber tablets, and grapefruit seed extract. The whole idea is: Don’t get sick, promote healthy digestion, and maybe don’t get depressed.
My life is very ADD right now. There are so many things coming at me. I’m trying to hire an assistant as part of my wellness moving forward, because I really need to delegate. I have so much correspondence every day, it can feel like endless communication. There are days when I don’t feel like I’m doing any real work or writing because I’m just communicating. If I’m on deadline, I’ll ignore all of these people until they want to murder me. Basically, my life is a delicate balance of making sure no one wants to murder me at the same time.
I feel lucky to have an office of writers where I can go to work. We’re all there to support each other, but no one is looking over my shoulder. The most long-term professional writer there, Mary Roach, treats writing like a nine-to-five job. So I try to treat writing like going to a real job, too. It’s taken a lot of discipline! When I’m in town, I try really hard to stay at the office until 6 p.m. Then I’ll go to a friend’s house and have dinner or do something I enjoy, like going to the gym or the farmers market.
I live by myself, so I derive a lot of joy from being with my friends and their families. However, I also need a lot of downtime and alone time, because when I’m out in the world and traveling, I expend so much energy. I just got back from two weeks of traveling, and right now all I want to do is be by myself. When I’m not alone, though, being with my friends’ kids is restorative for me. You have to be present with them, and they don’t care about what’s good or bad in the news or my new book. It’s a good antidote to the daily noise.
I’ve had an untraditional trajectory with food: I was in my mom’s home, then I was a college kid making mac and cheese and quesadillas, and then I was a professional cook. I never had that time where you figure out how to cook for yourself at home. By the time I stopped working in restaurants, I was 29 and had to relearn how to feed myself healthy things every day for every meal. It took me a long time to realize that if I didn’t buy broccoli or carrots, there would be no broccoli or carrots. I didn’t know how to shop for one person. Now I have a lot of vegetables in the freezer, so if I come home late and can’t be bothered to go out, or if I don’t want takeout, I can still make something nourishing. It was a revelatory moment to learn that if I had healthy stuff around me, I could make healthy choices.
“For me, this is the definition of being healthy: being really in tune with my body and being responsive to its needs, both emotionally and physically.”
It’s very important for my mental health to watch terrible television in the evenings. Then I try not to take my phone directly to bed so I’ll read a paper book. I’m usually in bed by 10 p.m. The other thing that’s been helpful for me over the past couple years, with a lot of travel, time zone changes, varying levels of attention and anxiety, and whirlwinds of tension, is that I take CBD before I go to bed to calm down. Sometimes I also use those THC pens with a calming blend. I don’t drink much, so I think I use THC and CBD like people use a glass of wine.
As far as exercise, I like to go swimming. But I don’t have the discipline to do that when it’s rainy, so the rest of the time, I go on the elliptical or do Pilates. My constant challenge in life is figuring out what’s good for me and sticking to it and knowing that it’s a way of being nice to myself. I have a childlike mentality about healthy stuff, so even if I understand on an adult level that the healthy stuff will keep me strong, I still have discipline issues. I’m also planning to get a dog this year, and I’m excited for the activity this will inspire in my life on a daily basis.
I have never looked at a pizza and thought anything other than “I will eat this whole thing.” I love food, and I love delicious, cheesy, fatty things. But in January, I did a cleanse. It was an intense elimination diet. For some reason, I reached a point at the end of last year where I would look at a pizza or a burrito, and my stomach would churn. I could tell I was physically ready to do a cleanse, so I think that’s why I stuck to it. My body didn’t want those things, so it wasn’t hard to spend three weeks away from them.
For the whole cleanse, all I wanted was a loaf of bread. But then, after it was over, the bread didn’t taste that good. This is a different version of the same work I’m doing in therapy, which is listening to my body. My body is telling me what I want to eat. Sometimes it tells me I want to eat ice cream, but sometimes I’ll think, “I can’t possibly eat that right now.” Honestly, I actually turned down ice cream last week! For me, this is the definition of being healthy: being really in tune with my body and being responsive to its needs, both emotionally and physically.
I want my words to be an antidote for the things in life that pull us away from the basic joys of being a person. Of course, yes, I want you to learn to use salt, fat, acid, and heat, and you’ll be a better cook. But it’s more than that. We all have issues around food that show up in a lot of different ways. The joy I’m constantly demonstrating is about trying to be an antidote for the neurosis we all have around what to eat and how to eat it. To me, food is great, but my work is really about making people happy and letting us share in each other’s joy. I want us to be able to provide for each other and relate to each other. That’s the underlying message, even if the specifics of how to make a chicken get lost.