With almost half a million followers to her YouTube channel and another 300K+ on Instagram, Sarah’s Day vlogger and influencer Sarah Stevenson is yet another of the incredible success stories coming out of Australia’s burgeoning digital health and wellbeing space.
But being a fitspo for the masses isn’t all Sarah’s bringing to the table. Having successfully launched her fitness program “Sweat It To Shred It” earlier this year – Sarah has been busily working on further product development, this time seeing the health influencer head into the kitchen. Launching a range of protein balls in collaboration with Health Lab, the move has seen Sarah dive into an area that we may just see her enter more into… watch this space…
Following this week’s launch of her cacao salted caramel protein balls, we sat down with Sarah to talk everything from getting hands-on in the kitchen to her top 5 health rules to what her usual Day On A Plate looks like…
Congrats on the launch of your protein balls! How hands on were you with the collab?
Very hands on! My thing was, I really wanted to work with someone who listened to my ideas and took my values into account. My brand image is that I only use real foods, whole foods – so that was really important to me in the product development. For the last few months, I’ve been going back and forward with Jess [Thomas, Health Lab founder] and the Health Lab girls. Essentially I would send a recipe idea through and then they would make a mockup of the balls. I would then taste test it and fill in a feedback sheet where I got to write comments and tick whether I agreed or disagreed on aspects. It was two months back and forth where I would send them a recipe and they’d say things like: “That’s all well and good, but technically we can’t make a ball like that because if we rolled it, it would crumble to pieces”. I got to be the creative mind behind it and they would say if realistically or logistically it didn’t make sense.
Is food creation something you’ve been wanting to get into for a while now?
100 per cent! Food and nutrition is really what I’m passionate about. In the last year or so I’ve had a lot of comments from people saying: “Your food looks so good, I wish you could be my personal chef!” So I took those comments on and thought ‘what’s a way that I could hack these comments to be their personal chef?!’ Coming out with little bite-size products was the perfect compromise where I could give my exact recipe and how I would make it – and they don’t even need to touch the kitchen!
Is this an area you think you’ll get into more?
Totally! Moving forward, this is something that I really want to get into. This is the tip of the iceberg for me. I guess for my first product, I wanted to think of something that was what everyone wanted and what everyone was asking for, plus what I wanted as a consumer. For me personally, with so many dietary requirements – being gluten intolerant, dairy-free, paleo, wanting something vegan, wanting protein in it but then not wanting it to high in sugar – it was so hard for me to find something. So I just used myself as a good example to come up with these balls! And I’ll just keep doing that. Eventually along the track, I would love to have my own little section of Sarah’s Day-approved foods. That would be awesome!
Your career has definitely taken off! Can you tell us a bit about the pathway you’ve taken to get to where you are today?
I use to suffer from really severe hormonal acne and I just wasn’t really healthy. I always had tummy pains, I suffered from pretty bad cellulite all over my body, I was carrying excess weight, I had no energy… I was just not feeling 100 per cent. So I decided to try this wholefood thing. I really got into the research and started to dabbling into health foods – and I completely transformed my life. I then started integrating fitness. People within my circle were saying things like: ”Oh you look different. You have such a healthy glow about you, what are you doing?” and these questions kept becoming more prevalent so I just thought, ‘I’m going to make an Instagram and I’ll just post my breakfast’. It was just pretty much: “Here’s what I had for breakfast and this is why!”
And then the questions started flowing in and people began asking more explicit questions, and I thought: ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t be bothered to write these huge captions – I’m going to make a YouTube video just explaining everything and answering the questions’. That video went so well and people kept asking for more videos, and then were asking me how I train. So I thought ‘Okay, I’ll bring my camera to the gym with me’. At this point, YouTube wasn’t really a thing. Nobody was a “YouTuber”. It wasn’t really a career. And it just kept growing. People were requesting more. I was at uni at the time and also in retail and I was just trying to keep up with my videos and listen to everyone’s comments.
Three years on and I had to make the decision of whether to keep going in retail and finishing my degree or giving my all to YouTube and health and fitness – and that really is where my passion is. I can’t even sleep at night because I’m thinking of my next project or my next video, so I thought: ‘I’m going to give it a go and whatever’s meant to be will be’. Now I’m a full-time YouTuber just trying to spread my message and collaborate with brands that are harmonious with my brand values and believe in the same thing that I do. It’s pretty surreal. I feel like I’ve made my own job up because when YouTube started it wasn’t even a thing!
You seem to have a rather hectic schedule. What does a usual week look like for you?
I upload every three days. I spend one entire day filming – I film 24-7. It’s a full day shoot and I’m using about three different cameras for different angles, multiple memory cards – it’s pretty full-on. Then the next day is spent editing. I really value my editing skills and I like to keep my audience engaged – so it’s really important that I have quick cuts and fun music. Everything that is in the vlog is in there for a purpose. There’s no long pauses or umms and buts, which is great – but it makes my editing process much more time consuming because I’m really pedantic about it! Normally a vlog will take me at least 12 hours to edit.
On an editing day, I try to get up really early that morning and get my training done – I don’t know about you, but if I sit at a computer all day for too long, I’m too mentally exhausted to really move. Once I’ve got my training done or gone for a walk – I come back to my apartment and get in the headspace to edit. I need to make sure that I’ve listened to some fun music and I’m in a fun mood – because that makes me create a fun blog! That day I’ll just edit all day.
And then on the 3rd day, I might edit for half the day if I haven’t finished, or I’ll respond to emails or do product development, think about a new product, plan my day, edit some images, and then that night I’ll upload and do the description and make the thumbnails. The next day I film again – it’s just a constant cycle. I don’t really get a day off, but I love what I do so I don’t really feel like I need a day off. I’m living the dream in my opinion!
What are the top five health rules you live by?
- Be positive and think of it as the glass half full. That’s one thing my mum has taught me and one thing I’ve really adopted this year. I had a staph infection this year and I’ve had a parasite – but I’ve used it in my favour and said, “you know what – this is a great opportunity for me to research, for me to test holistic medicine on my own body.”
- Eat real food, eat whole food, and don’t over complicate it. I say to everyone that if you’re at breakfast and you’re looking at the menu – just pick something which you know what all the ingredients are.
- Listen to your body. Even if you think: ‘I should have eggs for breakfast because I need the healthy fats and the protein’ but you’re craving a smoothie – listen to your body and have the smoothie. There’s a reason that your body is craving that – so listen to it and appreciate the signs your body is giving you.
- Drink loads of water. I know it’s so cliché – but honestly, it is my life goal.
- Mix up your workouts. As soon as you start resenting your workouts or dreading the gym – change it up.
Can you talk me through your Day On A Plate?
It always changes, but every morning I try and wake up and have a warm lemon water. I try to make it a daily ritual to have at least half a litre – but if I can only get a few sips down, that’s okay. Then I’ll go for a morning walk and grab a coffee – I have a long black with a dash of almond milk. For breakfast, I always have two poached eggs on paleo bread – and I have avocado and sautéed kale in garlic. I’m obsessed with that combo right now! Then for my morning snack, I love banana and walnuts – which are really good for the brain – and that’s usually my little pre-workout meal. Then I go and train and come home for lunch.
Lunch is always a nourish bowl. In my fridge I usually have prepped cubes of sweet potato, pumpkin and beetroot – so I’ll put a bunch of that in there. Sometimes I’ll put a little bit of quinoa if I don’t have enough sweet potato – but I usually just try to stick to vegetables as my carbohydrates. I load up on kale, baby spinach, rocket, and coriander. I also use this coconut amino teriyaki sauce and then mix up my source of protein – I usually have salmon or chicken or eggs. Then I put some healthy oils on top – whether that be flaxseed oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds or black sesame seeds.
My mid afternoon snack is usually a protein ball – so now we’ve got our protein balls, I would have that. I usually have that after my workout or around 3pm – when I’m craving something sweet. And I have to have it – otherwise I’ll end up gorging myself on a bunch of banana!. It’s really important that I listen to my body and have little sweet treats. And then for dinner – it’s really similar to my lunch but it’s usually a cooked meal on my plate rather than a nourish bowl. I’ll do loads of vegetables, some sweet potato, pumpkin, and a different source of protein than what I had at lunch. So if I had salmon for lunch, I might have chicken for dinner.
Every single night I have dessert – I have to! I usually have a smoothie bowl or a cocoa salted caramel smoothie. I also try and drink 3 litres of water a day. I’m all about really filling up – so I always make sure I eat until I’m full. Plus I make sure every plate is colourful so I’m getting a diverse amount of micronutrients in each of my meals.
Do you have any guilty meals?
Honestly, not really! People don’t believe me and are like, ‘surely you cheat sometimes!’ But my thing is that I really love healthy food and I make healthy alternatives and healthy hacks for everything. I guess my treats are always healthy – but I seem them as a treat because I’ve trained my taste buds. But I do love granola! And smoothie bowls. I could have a smoothie bowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner… I’m obsessed! And bananas! If I could live off one whole food – I would just live off bananas for the rest of my life.
What does your weekly exercise regime look like?
I came up with my ebook earlier this year called “Sweat It To Shred It” and that essentially is my workout routine. It’s an eight week programme and that’s pretty much my life – I just cycle through it. I also always mix it up so I’m not resenting my workouts and not getting stale. But pretty much three times a week I’ll do a plyometric style of workout that’s really high intensity – moving your body and really breaking a sweat; Lots of jump squats, burpees, sprints, pushups, sit-ups… very functional. I pretty much only use my bodyweight.
I’ll do two toning sessions which is about strengthening and conditioning. I’ll pick a body part that I want to develop more, so I might want to do a leg session or a shoulder session. It’s a more slow controlled session that again uses my body weight. Recently, because I did start to feel in that state where I’m unmotivated – I began boxing, so I’ve been boxing once a week as well. I box for half an hour and I absolutely love it – I get excited for my boxing sessions! And I think that’s what you should feel about exercise – you want to be excited to move your body. You need to find that thing you love – you don’t need to go to the gym, you just need to find a way to move your body that’s authentic to you.
And just lastly, what would be your number one tip for getting started on the path to health?
I would say ‘don’t overcomplicate it and don’t try to replicate’. Don’t try to replicate someone’s diet – don’t over research. Essentially when you start – begin with the basics and don’t complicate it for yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself – just try to take the healthy option. If you’re a person who always picks the pizza, maybe just try and pick the salad one time until eventually it will become a routine and become easier and easier. Be kind on yourself.