Kitchen Table Conversation with Sarah Galla

This week liv speaks to Sarah Galla. Sarah is sober, a mother of three young kids, and founder of The Nourished Seedling. A site dedicated to nourishing the body, mind and soul with whole food based recipes that are family (and kid) friendly.

Sarah has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition, and is a registered yoga teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance.  She has worked in market research, in the natural food and wellness industry.  Sarah is responsible for writing a Healthy Living Initiative for children at a non-profit organization.  More recently, she taught yoga, specifically prenatal yoga and yoga for kids.

Kitchen Table Conversation

 Liv: As this is a conversation in Liv’s Kitchen, tell me what have you had for breakfast today?

Well, today was a healthy day, and I ran this morning.  2 eggs with sautéed spinach, mushrooms and onions, plus Ezekiel raisin bread with some butter.

Liv: You got into recovery at 23, and will be 12 years sober this year. Congratulations! You wrote about your journey, here, and said that—like many of us—that you drank to overcome anxiety, insecurities and worry. You decided to take alcohol out of the equation and put the broken pieces back together, just what was broken?

By the time I stopped drinking, I had many broken relationships, financial insecurity, and fractured commitments.  And those were just the external issues.  Arguably the most broken was inside.  I had no faith in myself or my decisions.  I didn’t like who I had become, not quite understanding how who I wanted to be couldn’t quite come to light.  My ability to function as a human being, physically and spiritually, was broken.

Liv: You quoted Mark Twain when he stated, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”, what is your truth?

Hmmm, good question and challenging for me to put into words.  At the core, I believe my truth consists of speaking honestly and not holding myself above or below anyone, yet still holding myself accountable when I am acting, thinking or speaking in line with what I value.  It is based on the experiences and knowledge that have led up to that moment.  When I have new experiences, gain new knowledge, my truth – what is true for me – may change. 

Liv: Moving on to your recovery, how do you deal with the anxiety and life’s woes today?

Well, life has certainly gotten more complicated since getting sober.  I was single and on my own when I stopped drinking.  Now, married with three kids, a house and a cat (don’t forget the cat!), and my website, things definitely pile on.  In all honesty, I don’t do as much as I should.   It’s really hard sometimes.  There is only so much time in a day, and I feel really overwhelmed some days.  But when things start to pile up, I force a break.

I have a mental list of priorities, of things that I know will just have to wait.  I go to meetings.  I buy myself a healthy meal if I can’t make it (which is super hard because I am somewhat frugal, especially when I know I can make the same thing for less).  I get out in nature, simply taking a walk.  Also, I pray.  I think the first thing, and most important thing I can do is to surrender.  But this usually comes last because I think physically “doing” all of the things above seems like it will work.  Then I am usually humbly reminded that I can’t do it all on my own.  I either ask for help from my Higher Power, or from my husband, family and friends.  And then I make popcorn and watch an old episode of Murder She Wrote.

Liv:  A rite of passage for many of us in recovery is reconnecting with our bodies, and you believe that dis-ease manifests in our bodies, if we don’t deal with our feelings as they come.  You described fear as your nemesis, which took residence in your stomach. How did that become apparent?

I have always had stomach aches, going back to being 5 years old sitting under a table with a thermometer in my mouth for fear of throwing up.  My stomach hurt at daycare, at baseball practice, during tests, waiting for the bus, and on and on.  My parents did everything they could.  We were at doctors quite a bit, especially as a teen.  I had all sorts of procedures to determine the cause.  The doctors pretty much came up with nothing, except the generic diagnosis of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) – lovely, huh?

I’ve always been a voracious reader.  It calms me.  So, I began reading about the mind body connection.  When I stopped drinking, I went to a lot of retreats and surrounded myself with wise women with many years in recovery.  I kept hearing about fear and how fear really manifests itself in the body.  Louise Hay became a favorite author of mine, as well as Christiane Northrup and Mona Lisa Schulz.  These women all spoke of our body and mind as one, which never had occurred to me that it’s all connected.

The more I started dealing with my feelings, letting them be, and breathing into my stomach, the less my stomach hurt.  I was also learning about nutrition at this point, and I did eliminate processed foods and was eating mostly organic whole foods.  So, I really believe the combination of paying attention to my feelings, most of which stemmed from fear, and feeding myself well, helped in healing my stomach issues.  They still pop up every now and then, but I pretty much know when it’s coming due to either what I ate or what has been going on in life.  That awareness is something I never imagined I’d have, and in all honestly, is such a gift of recovery.

Liv: You said that in acknowledging your feelings and working through them, your stomach issues disappeared. What feelings came to light, and how did you work through them?

First, I think acknowledging that I actually had feelings, and that they were valid was the first part.  I didn’t judge them as right or wrong, or assess whether or not I should be feeling them.  Just letting them exist stopped the need to push them away, shove them down as I did when drinking.  Once I could simply not judge myself for whatever feelings came up, I was able to honestly look at what I was feeling, the possible reasons behind them and then move forward on how to deal with them.  Usually this process involved a trusted person, journaling and even prayer, to really look at my intentions and be honest with myself.

Liv: You moved on to clean up your eating, what did that look like? How did you begin?

I remember I was 23 years old, a few months sober, living on my own 2,000 miles away from my parents.  They sent me a gift card to the local grocery store for my birthday.  This was huge for me because I had very little cash flow and here I had $75 to buy whatever I wanted, with no one watching.  I wandered into the grocery store into the natural and organics aisle.  This was at least ten years ago when this section was small and extremely expensive.  I remember I filled my cart with some organic cereal, crackers, brown rice syrup, yogurt, apples and some spices.  It started from there, and I haven’t looked back since.

Liv: The Nourished Seedling is about nourishing the seed in all of us, tell me a little more about that?

A seed thrives when it meets all of the conditions necessary for it to grow, such as water, food and sunlight.  We are not different (just maybe it bit more complex).  If one part of the equation is missing (nutrition, healthy body and mind), we are literally missing a piece to wholeness.  When we give our body, mind, and soul the best fuel, we have the optimal environment to make the most out of every opportunity.

Liv: You went on to study a master of science in Holistic Nutrition. What did you take away from that experience in relation to addiction or alcoholism?

 Holistic Nutrition takes health from the standpoint of mind, body and soul.  I was shoving alcohol down my throat quite literally to shove my feelings as well.  I drank because I expected a result.  That result was to make me feel better, to make life easier.

From studying holistic nutrition, I became fascinated that certain foods, herbs, spices and nutrients could also bring about specific results.  Magnesium helps the body relax.  Healthy fats can help protect the brain.  I realized that I could apply my blind habit of using alcohol to reach a desired result to using whole foods and nutrients to conversely do the same thing, but in a much healthier and productive way.  I wanted to know what foods helped what and why certain nutrients reacted the way they did in the body.  A lot of pieces of the puzzle came together for me.

Everyone would say how healthy a certain food was, and yet, I didn’t experience the same result.  That’s kind of how life in general was for me.  Someone would say how great this one event was, and I didn’t take away the same feeling.  I realized that I was trying to fit into someone else’s diet of life, so to speak.  What works for someone else didn’t necessarily work for me.  Additionally, all of my holistic nutrition studies were lining up with what I was learning and experiencing as I grew in recovery.  My body knows best, and when something’s out of whack, when something doesn’t feel right, I need to pay attention.

Liv: Your passion for whole food and nutrition isn’t limited to adults, tell us what we can learn from nourishing our children well? And what does that look like?

Our relationship with food is crucial.  It is what literally feeds us.  It is perplexing how it is still so overlooked that what we put in our bodies affects us so greatly.  The food we eat affects our energy levels, our hormones, our emotions and how we generally feel as we go about our day.  I feel it is my responsibility to give my kids the best start they can get.  Life is hard enough without adding obstacles that come with poor nutrition.

Teaching my kids to eat well isn’t just about eating carrots and apples.  It’s about learning to listen to your body, eating with attention.  We eat fruits and veggies because they help keep us healthy, but we also talk about why.  My kids love salads, and not just because it’s plain lettuce with a bottled dressing (although sometimes it is).  They love salads because they are involved.  They get to pick toppings they love and avoid ones they don’t.  They like the way they feel after they eat it.  Our summer salads are full of vegetables they themselves have planted, watered and nurtured.  They taste the difference between store bought tomatoes in winter and our homegrown ones in summer.  So, first, it’s about teaching, and equally as important, it’s about experiencing it for themselves.

Let’s not leave out candy.  We enjoy it.  But I stress the importance of quality ingredients.  I kid you not, they love homemade cookies far more than store-bought ones.  I use sugar and butter, but they are usually free of chemical junk and have nutrients that have benefits and not just artificial flavors and colors.  We enjoy balance.  I understand not everyone eats like I do, and we don’t make a huge deal when we’re out.

Lastly, but possibly most important, they learn to listen to their bodies.  If they’re stomach hurts, they recognize it may be from food or from emotions.  We talk about things going on in their life that might be contributing to a stomach ache.  Equally, maybe their bodies truly don’t agree with a certain food.  My hope is that as they have the tools of recovery that I have been blessed (and worked hard for) without having to go through all of the pain I did.  They can experience and know what nourishes them, and what hinders their health – mind, body and soul.

Liv: Penultimate question: what is your favourite meal/dish?

I love a really good roasted vegetable sandwich, with some sort of avocado, pesto or herb spread.  Make it a pizza, make it a sandwich, but bread, roasted vegetables and some sort of sauce or cheese and I’m good!

Liv: Last, what are your top five recovery tools?

In no particular order,

  • God box, prayer
  • Yoga and/or physical exercise, especially in nature
  • Getting in the kitchen and cooking
  • Meetings
  • Reading a good book

Thank you for taking part in Kitchen Table Conversations.