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Sarah Wilson - Fortune Favours The Brave

Editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, hostess of MasterChef and author on the edge of the digital revolution: Sarah Wilson is a pretty impressive figure. Almost intimidatingly so: all of this success and she’s not even forty. If it wasn’t for the fact that even the smallest interaction with her work makes you realise what a great character she is, we'd be green with envy! Her writing is peppered with hilarious anecdotes, cheeky asides and a wicked sense of humour. A fine blend of profound insights and profane pranks which grant the reader access to her world, where health and wellbeing is everything and everyone is welcome. Cormac had a chat with her last week to find out a little bit more...

A brief perusal of Sarah’s online presence tells a tale of adversity and bravery, from her New South Wales adolescence to the 2008 onset of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, a chronic auto-immune disease with symptoms ranging from weight gain (Sarah put on 12kg in a matter of months), fatigue and migraines to memory and hair loss. It was this that led to Sarah’s drastic reevaluation of her life and health, and which ultimately brought her to her current focus – sugar. Having just published the follow-up cookbook which accompanies her highly successful e-book, I Quit Sugar, she’s no stranger to food writing. In fact, she started her journalistic career reviewing restaurants (more envy!) and has since been involved in many aspects of the culinary world, leading to a finely tuned awareness of the trends which it’s currently going through.

“People are realising they’ve got to take charge of their own health and diet” she begins, “because most of the messages out there are just plain wrong. People are now working out that fat isn’t that bad! Sugar is the issue.”

Her well-documented I Quit Sugar project is a fascinatingly well thought-out concept. Having grown up on a subsistence-living farm, one assumes that Sarah ate plenty of meat & dairy from a young age; these days we hear a lot about different diets from the paleo approach to the raw vegan, so how did her diet as a child fit in with her present ideas on food?

“As a kid I ate simply and close to the source – with minimal ingredients and very little that came from a packet. My family ate this way, not because my parents were health nuts but because it was economical, efficient and just made plain sense. I apply the same approach now. We’ve eaten meat and eggs and fat and nuts for hundreds of thousands of years. Eating this way today is in keeping with how our bodies metabolise best – [it] also naturally cuts out all additives.

I Quit Sugar Sarah Wilson

Yet as Sarah’s bout with Hashimoto's goes to show, life can take the most shocking turns, even for those of us who consider ourselves healthy. One aspect of the disease is that it meant she had to cut down on exercise, which was putting too much stress on her body. Another was that her hormonal system went out of whack, interrupting her menstrual cycle for almost a year. In the end, she’s come through the other side with a number of strategies which have gone on to have a lasting positive effect on her life.

“Meditation has had a massive impact” nods the 38-year-old. “It’s calmed me down and gets me really clear and focused every day, and empowers me to be measured with my energy…which is very important with Hashimoto’s.”

A former newspaper columnist and prolific blogger, Sarah’s insights and opinions are in high demand. And with good reason – she’s got her finger on the pulse. In an opinion column from a few years back she wrote ‘time has lost its meaning now. Everything happens in the download of a tweet. And ones contribution to life is something that’s not honed, but stumbled upon, whimsically.’ Tongue-in-cheek such comments may be, but the fact is that life continues to intensify in terms of speed, social media and the ‘sharing’ of personal experience - not just for Sarah, but for all of us.

“The challenge used to be to acquire more information” muses the writer. “There was cache to being able to hunt down extra data. Now, it’s the opposite. Success and happiness is about blocking out information and putting up boundaries. This is so key to…survival. Now, we have to create the boundaries ourselves. We can’t rely on our employer to do this. I personally commit to checking emails two or three times a day only, to turning off my phone and email when I need to focus or when I’m with family and friends, to having my mornings to myself: no phone, no Twitter etc.”

As a high-profile, high-vis media figure, privacy and access can presumably be an issue.

“Again, this is about creating boundaries. Part of my message or ‘brand’ is to show by example. I put myself out there as a human guinea pig and I have to expect that readers are going to want to contact me and interact with me. I can’t get grumpy when they want too much of me…to be interviewed for the school assignment or to get advice about their health condition. I, instead, have to be clear with my boundaries and give where I can and pull back to conserve my energy.”

Perhaps the most affecting thing about Sarah is the fantastic confidence that she exudes in all of her work. Yet as is often the case, those who seem the most confident are those who’ve had to work the hardest to develop this part of themselves.

“Some close to me would say I’m not very confident…” she reflects. “I would describe myself as brave and tenacious instead. I’ve operated in a state of ‘holy crap…what am I doing’ my entire career. But my bravery sees my lunge towards fear and my tenacity sees my ‘work it out’. My advice is to plunge into life, and then have faith you’ll work it out…”



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