I’ve been a dietitian for almost 20 years, and I’ve been a food blogger for about four of those. Four years isn’t a very long time, but being the sort of person who always says what other people are thinking, I was probably born to write the sort of controversial stuff that people love to read. Whether it’s taking down fad diets or writing about how much I hate calorie counting, I’ve amassed a large social media following because I’m not afraid to call things like I see them.
I develop recipes and shoot food photos, too. Those are the less incendiary parts of what I do, and they’re a super satisfying creative outlet for me. Unlike some of my younger colleagues who started their careers relatively recently and integrated social media into their practices and online presences on day one, I’ve had to play catch up. I had to work as hard and as fast as I could to make this thing fly, and that meant 80-hour weeks. It still does. Having said that, I can say that it’s the best work I’ve ever done. But blogging life isn’t all about big money and testing out free swag while I lounge around in my pajamas.
Here’s what my typical day is like:
7:30 A.M.: Post to Instagram (from bed)
Even before I get out of bed, the first thing I do in the morning is post to Instagram. Through years of trial and error, I’ve found that this time works best for me, so I’ll have my post done and ready to go the night before. My posts are always of food, and usually feature dishes I’ve made using fresh ingredients. Then I check my email and social media feeds. The day begins.
8 A.M.: Wrangle the kids
I’m already late. I jump out of bed, yell at the kids to get ready for school (I have two daughters, ages 7 and 10), and pull myself together to get them out the door.
9 A.M.: Work out and refuel
Having dropped the kids off, I either go for a run or I go to an indoor cycling class. I get the bulk of my exercise in early because when I sit on the couch to write something, I’ll look up and realize that three hours have gone by. After my workout I’ll grab a handful of almonds and some dried apricots to keep me going until I can have some breakfast later on, which is either oatmeal with butter and brown sugar, or low fat plain Greek yogurt with a healthy handful of granola.
11 A.M.: Grocery shopping, food prep, plating, styling, shooting, re-shooting
Still in my workout gear, I walk to the neighborhood grocery store to pick up stuff I need for an Instagram photo. Take the photo above as an example: It took about $40 and three hours to create, stage, and shoot. I special-ordered the red-veined sorrel, then had to buy the vegetables. Aside from the ones you see, I bought others I decided not to use. I cooked it all, took photos, didn’t like them, moved the entire set to a different location, shot some more, and edited (the day was really cloudy and the photos came out dark). That background is a board from Erickson Surfaces that I ordered from the US—it cost me about $300. Even though the dish isn’t cooked in a frying pan, I shot it in my Lodge cast iron pan because I couldn’t find the black plate I wanted to use. Eventually, I got the shot I wanted. While I was doing all of that, I was also cooking and shooting the pasta dish you see below. That “marble” set that the plate is on isn’t really marble; it’s a $40 bathroom tile that I bought to use as a background. Real marble is very heavy and expensive, and when shooting photos, you’ve got to lug a background everywhere to find the light for your picture.
All in all, I took 94 images and chose four favorites. Four out of 94 sounds like a ridiculous ratio, but it’s pretty typical. It takes a lot of time and money to do Instagram food photos right, but all it takes is one gorgeous photo for me to get a job with a food client that pays it all back and more. When potential clients see my Insta feed and and like it, they hire me to get their products featured. Then it’s all worth it.
Working with food clients and doing sponsored work—for example, when I partner with a company to blog or develop recipes with their product—pays well, and not only that, it’s really fun. This kind of work includes developing recipes with a product, doing TV segments in Toronto or different cities in Canada, getting free stuff like appliances and food to test in recipes, and going on press tours to peach orchards in California or date gardens in Arizona. Those are perks of my job. That said, these perks still demand that I be in full-on R.D. mode at all times, which is still work. It’s just more enjoyable (for me, at least) than working in an office.
1 P.M.: Check the mailbox, hope for $$$
One thing about working for yourself is that it sometimes takes a long time to get paid. And by “long time,” I mean months. Last summer, I literally had invoices out that totaled a year’s worth of mortgage payments, and nothing was coming in. I maxed out my credit cards and my credit lines waiting for the money. When you own your own business, your debt tolerance really rises! I still lie awake sometimes though, worrying about being paid or where my next job is coming from. It’s a totally normal part of the job.
1:30 P.M.: Salad and writing time
I gulp down my favorite homemade salad—a 5-oz. box of arugula mixed with Italian-style tuna, avocado, feta, croutons, and balsamic vinegar. Then, I start a piece for one of the outlets I contribute to, like SELF, or maybe I start something for my own blog. Writing a 1500-word article like this one can take me anywhere from three to eight hours, depending on how complicated it is. Writing doesn’t pay as well per hours spent compared to something like recipe development, but it’s an important part of my job. Not only do I absolutely love it, it allows me to say what I need to say about nutrition topics, in my voice, and get my ideas across to thousands of people. I feel really lucky that I have these platforms and that for the most part, my writing gets positive feedback.
2:30 P.M.: Respond to emails
Even though I check email and social media throughout the day, at some point I do need to focus on writing people back, and that includes people who have questions (which I happily answer; teaching people about nutrition is what I do), those who have constructive criticism about something I’ve written, and, of course, my haters. When you put your writing on the internet for the world to see, there’s inevitably going to be people who don’t like what you have to say. I do write some polarizing things, so this isn’t a surprise (although writers who are less controversial get hate mail too).
I’ve been called a bitch and been given one-star reviews on my pages. People are shitty sometimes, but 90 percent of the feedback I get is actually really sweet and positive. As my husband says: I’m eliciting emotion from people, and making them think. That’s my job.
4 P.M.: Work/life multitasking
I’ve picked the kids up, but my workday is far from over. I work really unconventional hours, so from this point in the day forward, I’m juggling dinner, kids, husband, my dog, and writing. The tradeoff to my weird schedule is that I have the luxury of being with my kids more. I do unplug for time with them (and my husband), but other than that, I’m pretty much never not working. I won’t lie, it’s a struggle sometimes. I never want to be that mom who’s more interested in her phone or computer than she is in her kids, and I work really hard to ensure that doesn’t happen. It’s difficult though, because the days seem short and the pressure to make money and keep a high profile so I can get more work never ends.
6 P.M.: Dinnertime
My husband comes home to a full-on dinner—typically something like a whole roast chicken with baby potatoes and grilled cauliflower—that I’ve cooked from scratch. He’s lucky that he married a food blogger, because on recipe development days he gets to eat what I created. My kids, on the other hand, prefer pasta with chickpeas, or chicken strips with a ton of vegetables. Nothing fancy.
9 P.M.: Netflix and get more work done
We’re watching Netflix, during which I’m still working. I’ll unplug for a while, but then I’ll get an idea for a piece or a recipe and I’ll start researching it, or I’ll go back to something I’m already working on.
11 P.M.: Bedtime, finally
This is my time to shut down, read my book, and sleep.