Nikki Sharp: Food for Thought

Nikki Sharp wellness expert

After getting her start as a successful model, Nikki Sharp had no idea what she wanted to do next. Her lifestyle choices up until that point had left her with several health problems, including acne, eating disorders, and depression. But instead of succumbing to her afflictions and insecurities, Nikki decided to push forward and choose a life of health and happiness. During her journey, she discovered her passion for food and wanted to learn more. So, Nikki studied how to improve her health and fix the problems that ailed her. She became a certified health coach and yoga teacher, studied nutrition for everyday living, and learned how to heal herself. Along the way, she learned the precious knowledge that has helped her live her best life and improve the well-being of others.

Now, Nikki is considered a health and wellness expert. With two Amazon bestsellers, a leading app in the iTunes Store, and a popular podcast under her belt, she is now a dominant influencer and author in the lifestyle and wellness field.

We sat down with Nikki to learn some of her best advice and tips for improving our everyday lives and health.

Nikki Sharp wellness expert
Nikki Sharp / Photo courtesy of Nikki Sharp

Health Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

There are thousands of healthy recipes and exercise routines online at any given time. We can find answers to our burning health questions and access helpful content with just a few clicks. So why do such suppressive health problems plague so many of us?  In the United States, the obesity rate is over 40%. Mentally, we’re not much better off. Almost 20% of adults report having a mental illness, with anxiety disorders and mood disorders taking the lead.

A lack of fulfillment in our daily lives causes our well-being and mental state to deteriorate slowly. As a result, we don’t know how to pursue our passions or become unstuck from our harmful habits. It’s easy to get burnt out and feel unhappy when you live for the daily grind. However, we simply don’t have the time or energy to make our lives more complicated and stressful when making healthy choices. 

According to Nikki, it doesn’t have to be this way.

After seeing her health decline, Nikki realized that she could help other people by documenting her own experiences. She created an Instagram account and started motivating people to look inwards and change their lives. Along the way, she learned how to help people by providing them with simple alternatives and helping them understand why they make certain decisions.

Nikki has discovered that moderation is key to living a healthy life through her growth and methodology development. To make new diet changes work, she believes that you don’t have to cut every pleasurable thing out of your life to live a healthy life. As one of the only wellness experts transparent about drinking alcohol and emotionally eating, Nikki believes that sharing her struggles and lifestyle helps keep her on track. In addition, her honesty and openness with her battles help her audience learn and grow with her. She states, “By being able to share with my audience that I binged yesterday or stopped working out, I’m able to show them how I got back on track.”

Nikki Sharp wellness expert
Nikki Sharp / Photo courtesy of Nikki Sharp / Photo by Dream Bella Photography

Being an Influencer

Although Nikki is honest about her struggles, most of the internet just isn’t like that. People only show you what they want you to see. So, if you’re trying to look like someone else or follow a diet, it’s essential to remember that great results require unseen dedication and work.

One of the most incredible things that separate Nikki from other influencers is her ability to be vulnerable. Recounting her struggles, she remembers looking at pictures of supermodels while battling eating disorders and wondering if they ever had bad days as she did. If you’re struggling with your body image and happiness, it’s easy to wonder what’s wrong and why your life can’t be perfect.

But everyone has bad days. It’s not just you.

While using her platform as an influencer, Nikki helps others and simultaneously works on her own goals. She recalls, “I remember as my following kept growing, thinking that I will never be a person who doesn’t show my struggles. I want to give someone hope because I never felt that while I went through what I did. It’s 100% a way to keep me on track. If the lifestyle that I live is also one that fulfills me, it’s so much easier to stay on track.”

According to Nikki, the best way to become a successful influencer is by being passionate about something. She advises people to ask themselves, “What are you helping people with? If you’re going to post photos about your life and your struggles, what does that actually mean in the long term?”

Helping People Is Hard Work

If you decide to become an influencer and help people, you need to work hard. Many people think that influencers have everything handed to them, but it takes grit and determination. Nowadays, everyone has everything at their fingertips, so it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of hard work when developing yourself and your business.

According to Nikki, if you want to be successful, you must pay your dues. She states, “If you want to make a living doing something, it doesn’t just fall into your lap.”

Keep in mind that there will be good and bad months. Sometimes you’ve got to do things that you don’t want to do. If you find yourself with some free time, keep yourself busy in other ways. Nikki advises to go out and meet people when you have down months.

Our success grows as our network does, and for some of us, a broad network can be integral in reaching our goals.

Even though Nikki has notoriety in her field, she is always working on her business. She states, “I don’t even think that I’ve hit that overnight success yet. I think I’m still in building mode.” Furthermore, she advises you to stay present and learn from those around you. If you spend all day on your phone, you may miss out on valuable insight and opportunities for growth.

Why Do We Fail at Dieting?

Every year, thousands of people fail at their new diet. But why? According to Nikki, we fail because most diets are complicated. Furthermore, most diets require us to drastically change our lives and habits. But we buy into these diets because we want quick results and believe that a diet will fix how we feel about ourselves. However, if you wish to change your diet, you have to get used to eating new things and turn your diet into a habit. Doing so can take at least a few months, but most of us give up before we can solidify our new routine.

Nikki further warns not to let your diet stress you out. She states, “Every one of my clients says they’re not going to start until tomorrow. And they just eat everything at that moment. They don’t give things enough time, and when they don’t see results quick enough, they switch to something else and go off track.”

To be successful, you need to recognize that dieting requires you to change actions in your life. Diets take time and aren’t a quick fix. But do they have to be? What makes us want to undergo these radical changes? To understand these questions, you must first look inward.

Nikki Sharp wellness expert
Nikki Sharp / Photo courtesy of Nikki Sharp / Photo by Mila K Photography

Your Subconscious Is Manipulating You

Since the time we’re children, our subconscious minds have stored information about our experiences and feelings. Unfortunately, this makes our brains a giant database that details every hurt and inadequacy we’ve ever felt. Our subconscious runs the show and makes the vast majority of our decisions.

Research has also shown that our subconscious can even influence our daily eating behaviors.

Once our subconscious mind develops an idea, it becomes part of our belief system. These personal beliefs then become a part of how we consciously think about ourselves. Nikki elaborates, “Your beliefs turn into thoughts, which turn into words. The things you say about yourself, either out loud or what you say to other people, influence your actions. Your actions then influence your results, which then influence your destiny.”

Nikki believes that if you understand this, you can break down your thought patterns and reason with yourself. According to her, most diets fail because people don’t know why they’re doing one in the first place. Nikki believes that dieting isn’t about the food you’re eating or the exercise routine you’re trying to follow; it’s about changing your belief system about yourself.

You Don’t Need Another Diet

As Nikki puts it, you don’t need another diet or recipe to achieve your desired results. If you’re looking for a quick fix or for a diet to solve your problems, you’re not going to find one. And unfortunately, that’s what most diets promote, a quick, easy fix that will make you feel better about yourself. But what if this is wrong? How are we supposed to stay motivated if we’re making extreme changes for the wrong reasons? If you want to be healthy, it’s essential to separate your looks from the equation.

Nikki advises focusing on all the benefits that a healthier life can bring you. Eating better can change your life for the better in so many ways. Nikki acknowledges, “When you put good food in your body, you feel good. You’re nourished and have clear ideas and better sleep. You have more energy, and things just flow.” With this improved methodology, Nikki reveals that she has never had a client relapse or gain weight while working under her care.

According to the CDC, eating better can also improve your body in several ways, including improving your skin, boosting your immunity, and helping you maintain a healthy weight. It also increases your chances of living a longer, disease-free life.

How to Implement Change

If you want to change your life, start with baby steps. A slight modification here and there may seem menial, but with time, these changes have the potential to elevate your life and change your mindset. Nikki’s advice is to “stick to something you can implement in your lifestyle that’s not a drastic change.” If you completely overhaul your life, you increase your chances of failing and becoming discouraged. How do you feel after work? If you know you’re going to be exhausted, you’re going to avoid cooking and become discouraged. Analyze yourself and your habits to figure out the best areas to implement slight changes. 

Set yourself up for success and realize that you have the potential to become an elevated version of yourself.

If you’re looking for something to change today, Nikki recommends starting with a healthy breakfast each week or focusing on your breathing. If you progressively implement little things like this throughout your week, you have a much higher chance of succeeding.

When people start with huge goals, they quickly get burnt out in the process. Nikki says, “When people come off a strict diet, they go and drink alcohol or eat cheese. They get super bloated, and as soon as something tastes good, you’re more likely to make a bad decision.”

When you allow yourself to change gradually and start small, you give yourself permission to stop binge eating and become a healthier person. 

If you’re a busy professional, making time for yourself and your health may seem unachievable. But according to Nikki, you can start small with this as well. When describing the difference a little change can make, she compares the progress we can make to a plane’s trajectory. For example, she states, “If you’re leaving LA in a plane and want to go to Florida, a one-degree change may lead you to New York.” That’s how powerful she believes these minor changes can be.

Nikki Sharp wellness expert
Nikki Sharp / Photo courtesy of Nikki Sharp / Photo by Dream Bella Photography

Focus on You

Above all else, you must first focus your attention on yourself. Even though these changes are small, you need to make time to do them. You cannot be at the top of your game if you don’t prioritize your health and wellness. If you keep pushing forward and choose work over yourself, you can lose sight of what’s invaluable. Once you create boundaries for yourself, you increase your chances of implementing positive change. Nikki states, “In today’s world, we have truly forgotten to understand that you come first. You come before your business, your partner, your kids, your animals. Because, if you’re not thriving, you can’t show up for someone else.”

According to Nikki, you have to choose happiness. Once you do, all the other pieces will fall into place, and life becomes more manageable. And for many of us, a lack of happiness leads us to diet in the first place. When you focus on your happiness, the weight will naturally come off because you’re making better decisions. When you choose yourself and don’t diet for others, you become your top priority.  

Practice Gratitude Everyday

If you have a busy schedule or don’t know where to start, Nikki suggests starting with a gratitude practice. First, get a notebook or Five Minute Journal and write down how you’re feeling and five things you’re grateful for every day. This quick activity can help alter your subconscious thought patterns and lead you to brighter, clearer thinking and better decisions.

There is always something to be grateful for, whether it’s where you live or the weather outside. Your choices don’t have to be extensive and elaborate; you can be just as thankful for the small things in life.

Once you break your negative thought patterns, you shift your focus away from a “place of lack,” as Nikki calls it. This negative thought loop may be focusing on how stressed out you are or not having money. If you want to be happy, you can’t spend all your energy focusing on destructive and unproductive thoughts.

If you’re unsure of where to start, Nikki recommends expressing gratitude for your friends or even ideas that you come up with. Once you practice gratitude every day, your thoughts will flow more freely. Your choices can be as big or small as you wish; it’s entirely up to you.

Nikki Sharp wellness expert
Nikki Sharp / Photo courtesy of Nikki Sharp / Photo by Mila K Photography

Make Sleep a Priority

Although it sounds like such a simple suggestion, our sleep schedules are often neglected. As a result, 11% of Americans report getting inadequate sleep every night. This can lead to a multitude of issues, including difficulty concentrating and moodiness. Furthermore, Nikki advises that sleep deprivation can cause our bodies to trigger our fight or flight response, leading to anxiety and other mental issues. 

Insufficient sleep and its side effects can cause an endless cycle of anxiety throughout the day. Nikki suggests that our phones also exacerbate this problem. Once we reach an elevated level of stress, we’re bound to repeat the same patterns frequently.

Nikki states, “We are programmed to fight or flight. So, the moment your cell phone dings, your body and the nervous system immediately go into fight or flight because you feel like you must respond right now. It’s why we’re kept up at night. And then, we’re on our phone at night and don’t get quality sleep because we’re not in REM sleep because of the cellphone’s blue light.”

A lack of sleep can also lead you to make more unhealthy decisions. When we’re tired, we overconsume caffeine, carbs, and sugar to feel energized. As we already know, these substances aren’t good for us and keep our bodies in a distressed state. It’s a never-ending cycle that can also raise our stress levels and lead us to overindulge in alcohol and use drugs.

As Nikki puts it, “Why people are having such challenges, with weight or relationships and depression, is because they’ve made things so grandiose. They think that they have to overhaul their life radically when they just need sleep.”

Once you pinpoint each of your issues, you can begin making positive changes and optimizing your lifestyle. One healthy change can impact several areas of your life.

What’s Important to You?

We’re all different, and what works for someone else may not work for you. Unfortunately, when we look at the media, it’s easy to assume that everyone is perfect and highly efficient. Remember that these people don’t operate at the capacity you see every single day. However, most incredibly successful ones do precisely what Nikki suggests – They prioritize their health above everything else and get adequate sleep.

So, what is it that you want out of life? What’s worth prioritizing to you? Are you making these decisions based on your ego or your well-being?

As Nikki puts it, “Ego is based on fear, which is based on not feeling seen or validated in your life. If you’re just doing things for money, you’re going to lose sight of why you’re doing it. Because if nobody knew your name and you had a million dollars, and you’re never able to spend it, does it matter? If you’re on an island with your closest friends and family but don’t have a bunch of money, which one would you choose?”

She brings up an interesting point. Does what you dedicate your time to lead to happiness in the grand scheme of things? If not, what’s something small you can change?

Modern Professional
Nikki Sharp wellness expert / Photo courtesy of Nikki Sharp / Photo by Dream Bella Photography

Wellness vs. Illness

As Nikki puts it, the difference between wellness and illness lies in each word’s first letters, “we” versus “I.”

We consider our loved ones and community when we focus on thinking in “we” or wellness terms. As an example, Nikki brings up Blue Zones and their values and beliefs. These health-focused communities are based on long-living people all around the world. As a group, members participate in exercises, healthy eating, and child-rearing. In addition, they work together and promote healthy lives by decreasing stress, increasing energy, and improving sleep. 

On the other side of the coin, we have the “I” in illness. Nikki describes this as, “I’m going to work harder, so I can have a bigger house and drive the car I want.” This self-focused motivation can result in selfish behavior and can even harm our psychological well-being and relationships. This egocentric strain can further fuel the cycle of inadequate health practices and misfitting intentions.

When you only focus on yourself and what you’re doing, you can miss out on some beautiful, impactful growth opportunities. As Nikki puts it, “You lose track of happiness, fulfillment, your passion, and the ideas that come from focusing on your health. But when you expand your horizons, you see who’s around to learn from.”

Your journey to a better version of yourself begins with the community around you. If you prioritize your health and learn from those around you, you can change your mindset and start to live a halcyon life.

The 5-Day Real Food Detox

In Nikki’s book, The 5-Day Real Food Detox, she incorporates a straightforward rule that’s easy to follow. Increase things in your body that are good and decrease the things that are bad.

Nikki’s definition of detoxing is taking something out of your life that isn’t good for you. For example, you can cut out sugar or even social media. Even though she believes in moderation, she also thinks that our bodies can use a break from some of the unhealthy things that we consume. Using alcohol as an example, she states, “If you’re drinking every single day, your liver needs a chance to recuperate from that.”

While writing her book, Nikki decided to make the detox five days instead of seven to make things easier for her readers and herself. According to her, seven days can seem like a challenge, and the detox is much more accessible when it only lasts five days. Nikki advocates that the first day makes people feel so good that they easily knock out the detox in five days, with some even keeping it going for longer. She states, “Men can lose up to twelve pounds and women up to ten regarding the reported benefits. Your bloating goes away, you sleep better and have more energy. Your skin clears up, and your eyes get wider. And you start to feel happy.”

Her book also incorporates some Ayurvedic principles to help readers. Ayurveda is a historical system of medicine in India designed to preserve one’s existing health and wellness by preventing disease. It often employs the use of several herbs and spices, including cumin, turmeric, and cardamom.

The concept of Nikki’s book revolves around removing food staples that we know are bad for us in excess amounts. These ingredients include coffee, alcohol, dairy, and gluten. However, unlike most diets, it still promotes eating five meals throughout the day, each packed with colorful, flavorful ingredients. These replacements include vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains, seeds, and high-quality protein.

The highly nutritious foods that Nikki promotes as replacements also help your body with several processes, including detoxification and weight loss. The meals in her book also ensure that you get enough nutrients throughout the day and stay full. Some of her recipes include black bean burgers, taco bowls, and even pancakes. Nikki also provides advice on lowering stress and identifying food allergies and food-related other issues.

You can learn a lot from her book, including portion sizes and how to make different, healthy sauces. It also teaches readers how to cook vegetables and how to eat them. Her simple recipes also make it easy to shop for groceries. With just one list, you can buy all the ingredients you need for several different meals. By teaching you how to incorporate these changes, Nikki hopes that her detox plan can help you reach your goals and stay healthy.

So far, Nikki’s 5-Day Real Food Detox has been tested by over 300,000 of her Instagram followers.

Although her book primarily focuses on food, her thoughts on technology detoxes are appealing as well. Our phones, computers, and televisions often over-stimulate our dopamine, resulting in decreased reward sensitivity. When we undergo a dopamine detox, we allow our brains to reset and get rid of impulsive behaviors.  

If you decide to detox, Nikki recommends detoxing at least once a year for only five days. That’s it. The simpler you make it, the easier it is to do. Of course, if it’s something that you decide that you like and want to do more often, you are more than welcome to do so. However, It’s vital to start small and stick to a simple plan to get started.

If you are interested in taking a digital detox, Nikki also has a video of its benefits, which can be found below:

Learn How to Deal with Your Emotions

Once you allow your emotions to simmer, they can control your life. Life is all about balance and moderation. If you completely remove one dominating aspect of your life, you may cause an emotional reaction and an unhealthy coping mechanism. As an example, Nikki describes people that quit drinking and start over-exercising. She states, “We’re the only species that gets to enjoy pleasure the way that we do. If we take too many things away that are pleasurable, eventually we’ll swing the other way.”

Are you someone that swings from one direction to the next? If so, you may need to assess what’s missing from your life that’s big enough to create a void.

When you deal with your emotions and ask yourself why you’re working so hard to distract your mind, you can start the healing process. As with anything, balance is a critical component of a happy life. Once you begin to look inward and steady your emotions, you can optimize your health and wellness to create a better you.

How Corporations Control What We Eat

Since the 1980s, the Standard American Diet (SAD) has robbed us of the nutrients and information we need to live healthy lives. For years, it has caused several health problems, including obesity and diabetes. Nikki further elaborates, “it’s a diet that makes people depressed and have anxiety. We get fatigued and have bags under our eyes. We have bad digestion, constipation, and bloating. Then, people take laxatives and fiber so they can continue eating the same things.”

It’s no secret that our food is slowly killing us. So, why does it keep getting shoved down our throats as the standard, ideal diet? For starts, Nikki believes that it’s because the same corporations that provide us with our overly processed and sugar-filled meals are also the ones that make the pills that fix our food-related diseases.

When recalling her journey to wellness, she recounts, “When I couldn’t sleep, doctors would just send me off with more pills, and so, I inherently began to realize that I needed to learn how to heal myself. As a society today, we’re kind of programmed to believe that we’re broken and need something from a pharmaceutical company, a pill. So, I ended up writing my detox program.”

Everything that we consume or is advertised to us is based on capitalism. To make money, these companies are interested in having us buy things instead of improving our health. And as Nikki describes, these corporations are giants that are interested in generating money above all else. So, they are both the reason why we’re sick and the cure. As Nikki states, “Heart disease is the number one killer by a long shot. But it’s also the number one preventable death and the number one thing promoted by food companies because it’s money-making.”

Nikki isn’t wrong. Since the USDA Dietary Guidelines were introduced in 1980, the number of Americans with type 2 diabetes or obesity has more than doubled. Even worse, food lobbyists spend an insane amount of money influencing the USDA’s dietary decisions. According to Green Choice Now, in 2015 alone, the dairy industry, meat processing and production industry, and food products manufacturing industry spent a combined $30.55 million lobbying for the USDA’s public food and health policy.

With these corporations controlling so many aspects of our lives, it’s difficult to break free and make decisions independently. However, once you realize this, it’s much easier to recognize your health patterns and take the necessary steps to change your life.

Look Forward to the Future

As we move forward and get ready for the new year, Nikki suggests harnessing a need for exploration. Ask yourself questions and seek an understanding of yourself and your body. Why are things the way they are, and how did they get to that point? If you’ve dieted before, ask yourself why that diet didn’t work. How can you improve how you approach your health?

If you continue to question everything, you can start to grow and heal yourself as Nikki did. If you want more information on her wellness path and how she became who she is today, watch the video below:

Nikki’s Recommendations

During our interview, we asked Nikki what kitchen utensils and tools she recommends for getting started. Her top two favorite gadgets for eating healthy are an air fryer and high-speed blender. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need fancy gadgets to get started. According to Nikki, a good, sharp knife can be just as powerful in the kitchen.

In addition, taking your time just to cut vegetables and cook can offer meditative relief from everyday stressors. Cooking, cleaning, and other similar chores can help you use routine, daily tasks as your form of meditative practice.

You don’t need to buy a bunch of kitchen utensils and cookbooks to get started. This can be a form of procrastination and something Nikki refers to as “shelf help.” Instead of taking the time to help themselves, people end up buying a bunch of stuff that never gets used. To avoid this, take things simply and start with a knife and cutting board.

Nikki also suggests only using juicing as a supplement. When we use a juicer, we throw away all the helpful nutrients and the fiber that aids our bodily processes. If you’re going to consume fruit, Nikki suggests buying a blender so that you can still drink other beneficial parts of the fruit.

Count Your Blessings

As 2021 and the pandemic wind down, it’s important to look back and appreciate what you have and what you’ve learned throughout this challenging time. It’s also just important to get excited about all the new things you get to experience this upcoming year. If you haven’t already, Nikki suggests using this time to clear out the excess relationships and fluff we no longer need.

What have you learned during all of this? Is there anything you had before that you’ve realized isn’t an integral part of your life anymore?

Nikki also suggests considering what version of yourself you want to bring into the new year. She states, “Write down the five greatest lessons you learned during 2021. What do you want to be, and what do you want to do? What do you want to change in your life for 2022?” If you have a large vision, break it down into bite-sized pieces for each month.

Moving Forward

Nikki Sharp wants you to improve your life and move past everything that is holding you back. If you’re ready to implement positive, healthy change in your life, she has provided all the tools you need to get your life on track. All that she requires is that you move forward and figure out who you are and why you want to improve. Then, once you decide to change your life, all you need to do is implement small changes. If you stick with them, these small steps can help you unlock the best version of yourself. Not just for yourself, but for those around you.

Cover photo courtesy of Nikki Sharp.

View this article in the December 2021 issue of MP.