Healthy Food Story  >  Happy Birthday to Me! 7 Things I Learned This Year

Happy Birthday to Me! 7 Things I Learned This Year

[caption id="attachment_3998" align="alignright" width="320"]Happy Birthday to Me Photo credit: 52 Thursdays[/caption]

Imagine me sticking a candle into a healthy chocolate truffle (or two), taking a deep breath, making a birthday wish, and blowing it out.

As you read this, I’m celebrating another year on earth in the best way I know how: a long run with these two, a quiet morning with my teapot in a sunny room, and a dinner tonight with all my guys. It’ll be mellow and relaxing...and that’s exactly what I need right now.

The last year has been one of the busiest, most exciting, and transformational in my life. It hasn’t always been easy for me to find time to relax - even though I know how important it is! But these past 12 months? There have been lots of lessons - sometimes learned the hard way.

Here’s what I discovered this year.

1. Turmeric stains like crazy If we ever meet in real life, just pretend not to notice that the tips of my fingers might be yellow. This was the year that people fell in love with my creamy turmeric latte – it was even served on the The Dr. Oz Show. (It’s true!)

If you, too, discovered the anti-inflammatory health benefits and staining properties of turmeric, here’s how to remove the beautiful golden hue from your skin.

2. When you hold on to the vision and do the work, good things eventually happen After years of persistent, dedicated (and not always glamorous) work, I was approached by a publisher to write my first book. I can’t tell you too much, but it will be filled to the brim with healthy & delicious recipes (of course!)… and bite-sized mindset shifts to help busy people finally make the time to nourish themselves properly. (That’s all I can say, for now.)

I wish I could go back in time and tell 2011 Elise to keep her chin up! Exciting things are coming!

3. Choose to do the important thing - even when it's challenging Almost three years ago, I envisioned and then created a series of hands-on workshops for the Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for caretakers and brave, young patients receiving groundbreaking medical treatment. In each session, they learned how to make healthy eating & nourishment more of a priority.

Every few weeks I’d lead the classes, sometimes teaching three people, sometimes thirty. And (I’m being honest here) there were times when I really, really didn’t want to do it. Was it worth it? Planning the curriculum, prepping for hours in advance, lugging the equipment across town, printing 35 packets when only eight people showed up?

But after every class I felt happy. Fulfilled. And I knew down to my bones (especially after seeing these sick children so engaged!) that I was doing some of my most important work - even if it wasn’t always easy.

In fact, the program has been so successful that it got approved for a grant! CookINN Together is now in its second “official” year, and I’m glad I stuck with it (and didn’t quit!).

4. Having a healthy gut can change your life (really and truly!) As Hippocrates once said: "All disease begins in the gut." When your gut is healthy, you have better immunity, more efficient digestion, balanced hormones, clearer focus...and the list goes on. I became even more committed to growing a good “gut garden” after creating 70 (!) gut-healing recipes for Dr. Robynne Chutkan's upcoming book The Microbiome Solution (August 2015).

Of course, if you can’t wait until then, my Cabbage Crunch salad is flavorful, delicious, and great for your gut.

5. Animals can be our greatest teachers Well, I knew that... but it became especially clear after caring for and losing two dogs to cancer last year. Willow and Jaxon taught me to appreciate the fragility of life, realize the importance of living in the moment and cherish the gift of unconditional love.

And now, we have two gorgeous, gregarious golden retrievers, a mother and son pair named Monty and Cadence. In addition to the important life lessons, my new teachers also bring out a more playful side and remind me not to take everything so seriously. (Who says that the weekends are the only time to have fun?!)

6. You need to put your time where your values are As I become increasingly aware of how the world around us affects the world within us, I’ve thought more & more about human health and the environment. This was the year I decided to actually do something with those ideas. I’ve long admired and been involved with the Environmental Working Group. In October, I solidified my commitment and joined their board of directors. I’m thrilled and honored to be a bigger part of the amazing work they do.

7. Make your health a priority No matter how much you know about nutrition and overall wellness, it doesn’t matter unless you make your own health a priority. Like so many people, I fell into a bad habit of allowing emails and other people’s needs to take priority over my own meals, workouts, and downtime. And then…I became cranky and irritable as a result.

My birthday present to myself this year? Walking my talk and getting my health priorities straight!

Now it's your turn. What have you learned since your last birthday? I’d love to hear your insights in the comments!

P.S. Last year on my birthday I told you 10 of my secrets and you shared some of yours - so fun!


  • Happy Birthday – what a beautiful blog. What have I learned this past year?
    That my time is more valuable than anything – one of the same things you learned.
    Although it sometimes appears selfish to make a considerable amount of appointments with ourselves, it allows us more space to give to others. Thank you for all of your inspiring tips. I look forward to all that you offer.

    • Thank you, Robert! You always have such a way with words. It has taken me a long time to realize that self-care is not selfish! Thanks for joining the conversation here.

  • Kate says:

    I learned to trust my guy and listen to my intuition in relationships. I learned three minutes of meditation in the morning helps clear my mind and it’s okay I don’t do it for longer, just a little bit helps. I learned binging on sweets or pizza after a stressful day is not a reward but more of a punishment because of how my body feels after. I learned to exercise because it’s good for my health and not because I ate bad that day or the day before. I learned that everything is a once in a lifetime experience. I am learning that I am perfect in my own perfect imperfections. I am learning how not to let anxiety influence my emotions and thoughts and relationships. I am learning to be at peace with not knowing what my future holds and to trust in the process.

    • Kate! This list! You need to frame it or keep it somewhere where you can remind yourself of all these HUGE life lessons. Thank you so much for sharing here. You inspire me.

  • Linda says:

    Happy Birthday, enjoy your day! What I have finally learned (with the help of your blog) this is my year. I need to get serious about taking good care of myself for a change. Can’t wait for your book.


    • Hi Linda,
      I am happy to hear that you are taking care of yourself. If we don’t make our own health a priority, who will?!?! I am thrilled to have you in this community. xo

  • Tish Gardner says:

    i am learning to be more aware of my body and using it efficiently.
    This leads to more concentration about what is important and far
    less time attempting to multi task and be scattered in my thinking
    and doing.

  • Helene says:

    Elise–happy birthday!!! What a year you have had! So happy for you…you so inspire me. Cannot get over all you have done and continue to do. You have found your gift, and it is so wonderful that you are sharing it as you do. This year I have learned the importance of being present…appreciating each moment without the tug of worrying about what came before or what is to come after. Just enjoying the present moment.

    Have a great day! xo

  • Jenny says:

    I learned that working smart is better than working hard. Slowing down to plan ahead is key to ease in 2015! You have had such an incredible year Elise! So glad you stop to take stock of the mountains you have moved this year. Your accomplishments are so impressive, so deserved and I am thrilled that someone with so much knowledge and leadership is in a position to keep helping more and more and more people. Happy Birthday Elise!

  • liane says:

    Your list is inspiring me to take better care of my gut! I know it’s important… but this is giving me the push I need to make it a priority. Going to check out your Cabbage Crunch now! Great list. Happy Birthday.

  • Stacey says:

    Such wonderful accomplishments and goals. You go girl!

  • Brenda says:

    Happy Birthday Elise! Tomorrow is my birthday, fellow capricorn! What I learned since my last birthday? That I should not fear with faith in God. Also, That I can do lots more than I realize! All the best for your health, happiness and prosperity!

  • Lisa says:

    Hi Elise. Hope you are enjoying your Birthday weekend! We are all so glad you were born. So lots of lessons I have learned this year, but the most relevant is about TIME. You can’t get it back and you have to use it wisely in whatever way it makes you feel whole and incorporates your passions. It’s ticking away.
    Remember to walk your talk. Thanks for “talking” – it inspires us all! ❌⭕️

    • Lisa! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom from the last year here. TIME is definitely something we take for granted. Great reminder to use it wisely. So happy to have you as part of this community. xoxo

  • Samantha says:

    Your blog is so beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your lessons with us, it’s a lovely post. I like how varied your lessons are 🙂 I think my favourite point that you make is to ‘put your time where your values are’ – so true! I’ve learned this lesson in the past little while too – and am taking steps to really put my time, money, and effort into where my passions and values are.
    Thank you 🙂

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