Danielle DuBoise on the importance of empathy in motherhood and listening to your body

Danielle DuBoise, Co-founder of Sakara Life, the organic, plant-based food delivery service and lifestyle brand, sat down with Liz to talk about Sakara Life's mission to change how you think about food and nourishing yourself. She also shared easy healthy eating tips, talked about what motherhood has taught her about empathy and grace, and explained why being healthy doesn't have to mean giving up the occasional pizza or onion bagel.

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Liz Tenety: So. Hi Danielle. Welcome to the motherly podcast.

Danielle Dubois: Hi. Thanks for having me

Liz Tenety: . So I'm always curious because I think motherhood is the great before and after, right? And so what was your view of motherhood before you became a mom yourself, and how did that change after you became a mom?

Danielle Dubois: Oh, wow. I call it crossing the veil. like when, when I have friends that have babies, they're first. Now that I'm a mother, I always text them and say, welcome to the other side. Um, I think that I had a lot of judgment before becoming a mother and that really easily fell away once I became a mother myself. Um, I had a lot of judgment, not necessarily on.

Parenting and mothering, but much more around birth. Um, and how one chooses to give birth. [00:01:00] Um, I really wanted a home birth and an all natural birth, and I thought that, you know, there was one way to give birth and that's the way kind of everyone should want to give birth. And of course, I never said anything like this, but I noticed the judgment, especially after it went away.

I noticed that it was present. Um, and. Well, because giving birth is the most humbling experience on the entire planet. Like it's, it's, it's quite literally crossing the veil. I'm like, I wasn't sure if I was alive or like what that, that kind of existence was, but it was one I had never experienced before.

Um, and. Yeah, I guess. I guess I have a lot more empathy now. Um, I try and hold space for mothers now. No judgment in, in any capacity. Like I think becoming a mother helped me release judgment and of any form toward any parent ever. So [00:02:00] however you choose to handle tantrums, however you choose to feed your child, how long you breastfeed, how you decided to give birth, they, I have quite literally zero judgment. Um, and I think that came, that was really born out of experiencing just how difficult, um, giving birth is and becoming a mother is, and how much one has to sacrifice. And so however someone chooses to do it is, is their right?

Liz Tenety: Isn't it amazing how that experience. Draws out empathy,

Danielle Dubois: like, yes,

Liz Tenety: you could try and read about empathy. You could try and understand it, but until you go through it, it's like, Oh, there I am. Empathy.

Danielle Dubois: I get it now. It's just, it's just a part of me now. It's like a part of my brain, um, where it wasn't before in this capacity.

Liz Tenety: You know, I've also personally experienced, you have this new ability to see everyone as somebody's child to [00:03:00] have. Like a softness for people that you didn't have before, even when they don't necessarily deserve it, but you feel that like, okay, that person's struggling. There's someone's child's, you know, when you have that tenderness towards them in a new way, sometimes.

Danielle Dubois: Yeah, I call it grace and a, it just becoming a mother has allowed me to, you know, hold space and hold grace for people.

And it's exactly what you're saying. It's, it's witnessing somebody just go through whatever it is that they need to go through. Um, and I think it's because you watch your child go through whatever your child needs to go through, um, and you really firsthand witness that there's only so much you can do in any given situation. And it really just is about holding space.

Liz Tenety: So before we come into mother, you had this and still do you have this project, this beautiful business, Sakara Life, and from what I've read, you've been interested in this health [00:04:00] science and wellness from, from a young age.

Danielle Dubois:: hmmhmm.

Liz Tenety: What sparked your interest in health and, and how was nutrition talked about in your household when you were growing up?

Danielle Dubois: Well, actually it was my mother that. Uh, that really got me interested in the sciences. The medical sciences in particular. Um. And not necessarily because that was her interest. Um, it was because she was really sick for my entire life. Um, and, and out of the hospitals pretty much once a year was at least there for a few weeks at a time.

Um, and I witnessed doctors saving her life so many times that I wanted to be a part of that. And, uh, I also happen to be a total science geek. And I think that, you know, I, I recognized a healer in myself. I think we're all healers, but I, I recognize that part of myself. And I knew that that was my path.

[00:05:00] Um, but I guess what I thought was that I wanted to be a one of the medical doctors that was doing what I, what I saw that, um, what I witnessed my mom going through. But what I found was that. I needed to first heal myself before I could heal others and where I most needed the healing was around my relationship to my body and my relationship to my plate.

And really getting back to food as medicine because I had spent most of my adolescent years thinking food was the enemy and worrying about counting calories and carbs and points and pounds, and never learning how to feel good and never learning how to build a nourished body or an empowered body. Um, and so I studied biochemistry and I was, I was studying premed as well, and I was interning in a hospital with a cardiologist, and witnessing time and time again, patients come, um, needing a lifestyle change and watching how the [00:06:00] medical system just doesn't offer tools for lifestyle change. They're incredibly important for trauma. You know, if I get hit by a car, like I'm going to the ER, I don't want to go to an acupuncturist. Um, but I witnessed it time and time again.

These patients would come in with late stage lifestyle diseases and they were too far down the path for a switch in lifestyle. So now their only option was pharmaceutical intervention or surgical intervention. So I wanted to be a part of people changing their lifestyle, um, hopefully before it was too late.

So I, I used food as medicine to heal myself. Um, and I went on to study nutrition and I made it my mission to help other people understand the power of food is medicine. Because I'm still surprised to this day that people don't understand that every time you sit down to eat, you are making a choice about how you want to feel. And not just right now, but your future self as well.


Liz Tenety: As a daughter. How did kind of watching your mom be so sick and struggling with her health affect that trajectory for you of wanting to go into food as medicine for your, not just career, but like your vocation for what your purpose was.

Danielle Dubois: You know, I. I grew up in a very hippie town, so there was a lot of mind, body food medicine around me, but it wasn't necessarily in my household.

My mom was the mom that thought she was doing a great job because she was watching the commercials and you know, reading the back of a cereal box, it said whole grains and thinking that she was doing something great for me. So she was doing her best, but she was very much misinformed. Um, and so even though there was, you know, a lot of new age mentality around me, like our grocery store was run by a family who [00:08:00] owned the farm.

Um, we would have like raw dairy, raw milk… Nutrition as a form of healing, as a healing modality, wasn't exactly in my every day. Um, and so I think it, it, it did force me to go through my own personal transformation, but luckily what my upbringing absolutely to do is put me on the path of healing and of, of medicine.

Liz Tenety: So for those who are less familiar with Sakara life, how would you describe the service and the philosophy behind it?

Danielle Dubois: how we describe it now is we're a wellness company that's anchored in food as medicine, and we offer you the tools to help you build your most empowered self.

Uh, so that's in the form of ready to eat meals. And you can follow our nutrition program for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Uh, or you [00:09:00] can take our probiotic. Uh, order our snacks. Um, we also have a magazine where you can learn not just about the lifestyle and the nutrition program,, there's recipes, et cetera, so you can cook it yourself.

Uh, the philosophy is, is anchored in the science behind a whole food plant rich diet. So every single meal that we create is designed around our nine pillars of nutrition. And those pillars are things like making sure you're getting the highest quality, freshest produce on the planet. Uh, that's not covered in pesticides and herbicides and fungicides.

That's fresh. Um, so meaning it's come out of the earth recently, uh, hasn't been sitting on a shelf for ever and ever minimally processed, et cetera. Um, and then there's things like making sure you're getting enough greens. So we really focus on gut health, making sure you're getting enough leafy greens in your diet every single day.

So if you're on our program, you're getting upwards of six [00:10:00] cups a day. Um, and there's nine of them. And I could talk about them forever, but that's, that's sort of the just and, and, and it's really focused on, on gut health, on rebuilding the healthy bacteria that are in your microbiome that are dictating everything about your physical and emotional health and really flooding the body with nutrients.

So they kind of more, I guess, emotional, spiritual philosophy around it is about abundance and, and not deprivation. So there's no nutrition pillar that's going to tell you what not to do. There's no list of things not to eat. Whitney and I, my co-founder, we're not vegans or vegetarians. We're not extremists in any way.

Uh, what we believe in, what we know to be true now that we've transformed thousands of lives, not just our own, is that it matters what you do the majority of the time. So, it, Matt, what matters most is what you do the most. Uh, and I think that's really important, especially for those dieters like myself out there who, you know, if you gave me a set of rules, I would follow them, but then the minute I didn't, I was off the wagon [00:11:00] and would go to the other extreme.

Um, so we talk about eating this way as much as you can. Um, and that's really what changes your, your gut. Bacteria. Uh, but then when you don't, don't have guilt, there's no falling off the wagon. It's, it's, it's really just life. And, uh, we try and help people focus on the real thing they're after. So when I was dieting all the time, I thought I was after a better body or losing a few pounds.

But what I was really after was acceptance and self love, um, and feeling powerful. In my body. And I think sometimes people forget what they're ultimately seeking. So we try and help people not just come to us for weight loss or more energy or, um, you know, even more severe issues like fertility or autoimmune, but really like, how do you ultimately want to feel? And let's, let's really focus on that. [00:12:00]

Liz Tenety: You've talked about how there was a point in your life where you did see food as the enemy and it was a real struggle for you. And I know that as women, when we're, we're starting to think about having a baby when we're trying to conceive and then going through pregnancy and postpartum, it can be an opportunity to reset our relationship with food and our relationship with our bodies. Did you go through a transformation yourself when you became pregnant?

Danielle Dubois: Absolutely. And I have a dear friend who's going through it right now. Um, and it's just kind of bringing me back to how hard it was for me. I mean, I spent a lifetime building a body that I could finally love and appreciate and feel really good in.

And then one day it's just, it's not my own. And, um, it has to grow and expand. And for the first, I'd say three months, I fought it. And, uh, you know, I. It was, it's really hard. I don't, I [00:13:00] don't think a lot of people talk about this. I certainly didn't have words for it or understood that, that women went through this, or some women rather went through this.

Um, but you know, your body is changing every single day. Um, so there's not even like, you can catch up and then feel better. It's like, then the next day something else is due. Um, so it's a lot to keep up with. And there's this beautiful lesson of surrender, which, for me, it was my kind of first big lesson in motherhood, uh, that there are things out of my control and the more I can surrender and again, bring that grace in, uh, the easier the process was.

So, at around three months was when I decided that I was gonna let my body do whatever it needed to do to grow life and that I was gonna hold gratitude and space for that instead of trying to fight it. And that also meant, saying yes to -- I always craved, like, these onion bagels with butter.

It's something I might not usually, I might not usually have often. Um, but it's what I [00:14:00] wanted. And I said, I think holding space means just letting myself do that and not having judgment around it and not letting the guilt in. And the minute I made that decision, it's like this different resonance, this different vibration took over and my body expanded and did everything it needed to do.

But. I really release the guilt and it just became so much easier to embrace it.

Liz Tenety: So. We're just starting to learn more every day about how [00:17:00] nutrition and a mother's nutrition shapes her child while she's pregnant with that baby, and not just during pregnancy, but in postpartum in the early years of a child's life.

How can we take that fact that it has an enormous impact, that what we eat really does impact our children for their lifetimes and turn that into a positive thing where we can reset our relationship to food as medicine rather than feeling guilty about the onion bagel that we're eating while we're pregnant. It's hard to hold those two things together. I know it's something I've struggled with.

Danielle Dubois: I think that one of the beautiful opportunities of motherhood, if we allow it, is that. It offers an opportunity to really nourish ourselves and not make it about ourselves. And I think women always need that excuse of, okay, this is, you know, I'm pregnant, so I need to take care of myself.

And it's much easier to prioritize it because it's not about me. And hopefully what that [00:18:00] teaches us is how important it actually is to make it about us every once in a while or an often enough. I think that also in terms of [00:19:00] prenatal, postnatal nutrition, there's a lot of opinions out there, and I always tell women that I work with too, if there's one time to listen to your instincts, to listen to your gut, it is this time because you're going to need it for the rest of your life.

So practice. Listening to it start kind of getting those muscles in shape, so to speak, because you're going to use that intuition for the rest of your life. Um, and so try not to listen too much to the outside voices because there are a lot of them and there are conflicting opinions. There's conflicting science.

Liz Tenety: Has motherhood made you feel more powerful?

Danielle Dubois: Absolutely. I don't know. I really had to think about that.

Um, absolutely. Um, I would say another thing that that pregnancy did for me is it brought a whole new level of appreciation for my physical self, um, that I had spent my lifetime thinking that my physical self needed to look a certain way. And even through all the hardships I put it through and all the hate that I gave it and the dislike that I had for it.

Liz Tenety: So Danielle, so for those who can't sign up for Sakara as meal delivery, what are the main food tenants that someone can follow to eat in a more nourishing way, but especially as mothers?

Danielle Dubois: Yeah. Uh, I would say first and foremost. Begin to look at your plate as the first place to invest your dollars.

I think sometimes we forget and we say, Oh, I need that amazing face oil, or that spa treatment, or the soul cycle class or whatever. And although those are important, if they help you feel kind of [00:26:00] nourished and relaxed, I think we forget that. Um, investing in high quality food is important, and it's something that we have to do every single day.

Um, and you know, unfortunately, organic produce is more expensive than conventional, on average, about 45% more. Um, but I think that the more, the more that we decide with our dollars, the more we can drive that price down because it's organic is still less than 10% of, of all produce grown in, in America.

So, as we can increase that, uh, that will drive the price down. So, um, you know, think about where you're investing your dollars and remember that every time you sit down to eat is an opportunity to heal and nourish. Um. And then I'd say the second most important thing is to get enough greens in your diet every single day.

Um, I can't say [00:27:00] it enough. So the more we can eat. The greens. Um, the more we'll be cultivating that good bacteria and actually we can crowd out the bad bacteria so that it doesn't mean that you can't ever have that slice of pizza. It just means that when you, because you're, you're getting enough of those leafy greens every single day, there's actually less of the bad bacteria to thrive off of that piece of pizza that you have [00:29:00] every once in a while.

Liz Tenety: That's so fascinating and, and kind of reminds me of how much we're learning about. What we eat and its impact on our, not just our bodies, but also our brains work. We learn. We're learning more all the time about that. So I think you just told me I can eat pizza tonight, which

Danielle Dubois: is, it's all about balance. I truly believe that. And sometimes, you know, I tell a lot of the women I work with that sometimes just saying yes to what you're craving is actually better for you than the entire kind of mental process that and guilt and shame that you'd go through by not eating it. Um, and so sometimes you just have to say yes and then move on.

Liz Tenety: Love it. Okay. So what are the five foods that as a working mom and with a little kid in your home, what are those five foods that you always have stocked now in your fridge or pantry?

Danielle Dubois: I don't think I'm the best person to give this advice because I cannot get my daughter to have anything other than breast milk.

[00:30:00] But, um, but there are, yeah, she'll get there. Um, but there are things I always keep. Um, one is fresh greens. Um, I also am very much into them right now, especially as I'm breastfeeding. Um, so I get it from a local farm. Um, I always have some type of vegetable. That's like a colored vegetables. So carrots, purple potato, um, you know, purple, cauliflower, some type of of bright color.

Uh, I always have organic almond butter. And then recently I've really been into true sourdough, so it's truly fermented bread. Um, that's incredibly good for you and incredibly high in fiber as well.

Liz Tenety: That sounds so delicious. I don't know if I've ever had a true sourdough.

Danielle Dubois: Oh, it's really good. It's really good.

Liz Tenety: That that does remind me about the way that you described those five foods that are always there. Um, the colorfulness we're hearing a lot about eating the rainbow. Is that, [00:31:00] is that sort of nutritionally sound and something you're aiming for in the way that you eat and the, yeah. You may help your daughter eat when she's ready.

Danielle Dubois: Absolutely. It's actually one of our nine pillars of nutrition. Um, and it's for a few reasons. So one. Every single color that your food is represents different nutrient. Um, so especially, you know, like purple is apparently like one of the rarest, um, but most potent phytonutrients that, that you can get. Um, and there are antioxidants, so they help heal the body and calm inflammation.

Um, and there are things that you can only get in plants, like, you know, I hope people aren't, they're out there eating like purple eggs. So like a lot of these, a lot of these nutrients are phytonutrients, so you can only get them from plants. So, um, getting the rainbow means that you're getting a variety of nutrients.

A plant protein is a question we get all the time. Like, is there enough protein, blah, blah, blah. And I always say, you know, yeah, the protein that you eat, like a, if you've ever had a steak or a burger, I like [00:32:00] that cow only eats grass. So yes, there absolutely is protein in plants, but one of the keys to getting a enough is actually getting that variety because every single plant has different amino acids and it's how the amino acids come together to form complete proteins that matters. Um, and so if you're only kind of having the kale salad with avocado every single day, then you're probably not getting enough variety. And so your body actually isn't getting enough of that plant rich protein. Um, and then third, what we're finding with the microbiome, what's really important is, is species diversity.

Um, because, uh, different bacteria need different nutrients. And so the more kind of variety you can get within your diet every single day, the healthier your gut is. So on Sakara in a single day, you'll get anywhere from 50 to 80 different plant species across your three meals.

Liz Tenety: That's amazing. I love it. And I know my cofounder, [00:33:00] Jilll is a huge fan and doing programs right now.

Danielle Dubois: Yeah. We're doing it together. It's amazing. You know, and it really is, it's just, it, it really changed my life to just have ready to eat food in the fridge that I didn't have to go out. There's so many decisions to make, especially as a mother, um, that it's one less decision and a lot of people call us their Sakara moms.

Liz Tenety: Yeah. I heard someone call it like

Danielle Dubois: you

Liz Tenety: want to have fast foods too, in the sense of they should be fast and easy and ready for you to eat. You want them, of course not to be like a processed foods truly from like a fast food takeout place, but the idea that like mothers need easily available food options that are going to nourish them.

Danielle Dubois: And we absolutely,

Liz Tenety: we have to do that work to make it easy, easier for ourselves to get access to that.

Danielle Dubois: I think about like if, if you weren't a person that was good at putting yourself first before having a child, then you're not going to be the person that puts yourself first when you [00:34:00] have a child. So, if you can make it easy, um, to nourish yourself and do the things that make you feel really good, the more likely you are to do it and the better you'll show up in life and for your children.

Liz Tenety: So Danielle, at Motherly, we talk about how motherhood brings out our super powers and helps us discover strengths and talents and wisdom within ourselves that we didn't know was there.

As you've become a mother over the last year, what do you see as your super power.

Danielle Dubois: Oh my goodness. Um, maybe TBD. But I'd say one thing I've noticed that I've become better at is not apologizing. And I think that sometimes is inherent in kind of the feminine aspect or feminine human nature. Um, is to apologize and know my, my husband and I.

A have full care of our daughter, so we don't have outside help [00:35:00] as of yet. And so that means that my worlds merge a lot. So sometimes I have to bring her to the office. Sometimes I have to bring her to a meeting. And I think that before having a daughter, I might have been the type to apologize for something like that.

Um, but now I, I make sure that I don't say sorry for when my worlds merge, um, because it's nothing to apologize for. So I'm not, I'm not just a mother when I'm at home with my daughter. I'm also a mother while I'm running my company, just like I'm also a CEO when I'm at home with my daughter. Um, and so allowing my worlds to merge has allowed me to kind of quote, do it all, even though I'm not doing it all whatsoever.

But, um, you know, it's allowed me to do a lot more, let's say. I love that. Well,

Liz Tenety: Danielle, thank you so much for joining us today on the podcast.

Danielle Dubois: Thank you so much and thank you to you guys for all you're doing for us mothers.

Liz Tenety: Well, you're welcome and likewise for nutrition and all the inspiration that you've been able to [00:36:00] provide today.

Danielle Dubois:Thank you so much.

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Hosted by Liz Tenety

Liz is an award-winning journalist and editor, and the co-founder of Motherly. A former Washington Post editor, she thrives on all things digital community + social media strategy. She's passionate about helping to provide women with more support, (and way less judgment), on the journey through motherhood. This podcast is an extension of her commitment to hosting honest conversations about modern motherhood. Liz resides outside NYC with her husband, two sons, one daughter and one amazing au pair.

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