2018, you have been one of my favorites yet. I sometimes find myself having those “pinch me” moments after thinking about all that has happened this year.
It is crazy to think about where I was three years ago at this time. Specifically on December 3, 2015. I was a newlywed living in an on overpriced but adorable apartment in Chelsea, recently fired from my job and feeling so incredibly lost in this world at the ripe age of 25.
Fast forward a few years to today and I truly cannot believe how much has changed since then. Both professionally and personally. I started sharing end of the year reflections a couple years ago and they are one of my favorite blog posts to write for you! If you haven’t read 2016 and 2017’s, they are worth a read (or at least a skim) to gain a better idea on what has been happening over here for the past three years. And also where this blog even came from and the details of getting fired from my so-called “dream job”.
I feel very different ending 2018 than I did this time last year. By the end of 2017, I was battling chronic stress, hormonal issues and was a one women circus running my business from my apartment. I can’t say much as changed in the circus department, but I have been able to better manage my stress levels (more on that here). A year ago I had hives all over my body, which to be honest I think were from stress and nothing to do with food looking back. I had the darkest circles under my eyes and while it may have appeared that everything was rainbows and butterflies to a stranger, I couldn’t have felt any worse physically and even mentally. Something I didn’t share much about on Instagram stories or my feed. I was running on zero. Think of the gas tank in your car completely out, not even on and still running. Basically stalled in the middle of the street. But I knew that wasn’t a way to go into another year, and it certainly wasn’t going to help me in the long run.
I have always been someone who isn’t competitive whatsoever with others. Someone can do laps around me and I wouldn’t think twice. But when it comes to competing with myself, well that is a different story. I always try to do more and to be better in every way. I have a hard time settling and am constantly looking ahead at what is next. I am sure many of you can relate and yes, it is as exhausting as it sounds. This year though, that has taken a step back. Instead of focusing on becoming better all the time, I am focusing on just being me. The good, the bad and everything in between. This comes with skipping workouts when I just don’t feel like it and eating a gluten-filled pizza because it tastes pretty darn good. I don’t regret saying no to handfuls of collaborations, events and social things this year to be home with my husband, focusing on us instead of trying to be the social butterfly I usually am. I certainly don’t make effort to keep in touch with as many people as I used to and have learned to prioritize my friendships instead of trying to please and be friends with everyone. I remind myself that we all F up and that is okay. No one is perfect, nor should they have to be.
Physically, I had a bit of a challenge this year. I stopped harping on my body a couple years ago when it comes to its appearance (story here) but when we begin doing infertility treatments, that put that relationship to the real test. It wasn’t easy watching my stomach bloat to the point of looking pregnant when at the time all I wanted to be was pregnant. It certainly wasn’t easy at first for me to mentally take hormones and “give in” that my holistic practices just weren’t cutting it to make a baby. But this year I have truly fallen in love with my body. And I don’t mean that in a “dayum you so fine” or superficial way. No, I never got abs and my stomach was constantly puffy for the first 6 months of the year thanks to hormones. But the moment I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t even believe how f**king amazing my body is for allowing me to carry our baby. Something I dreamed of doing for what felt like forever. I truly fell in love with the experience of being pregnant. It showed me a new love for my body I never had before (more on pregnancy things here). There is so much more to having an amazing body than looking like a Victoria’s Secret model. The real amazing bodies are the ones that allow us to feel our best and grow a family inside our flipping BELLY. It is beyond crazy to me that it took me 28 years to truly realize this (here is some more info on getting pregnant: part one and part two of our infertility journey we shared).
Now one of the most common questions I receive from you guys these days has to do with monetizing my blog and working with brands. I totally owe you a blog post just on this topic but for the sake of this post, I will keep it brief. My relationship with brands and products, or as I like to say “brand partners” has continued to evolve each year. And this is also how I sustain my business and make a living (crazy, unconventional and I love it). Some may say that is so cool and I am so lucky, and while I am eternally grateful to do what I do, it isn’t always easy. The constant up’s and down’s and there is no consistency. This year and gong into next, I have decreased the amount of products and brands I post about and really streamlined the collaboration process. I have continued to be a stickler about ingredients, brand culture and ask if I truly love the product before even thinking of working with them. If I don’t love the product or am hesitant on an ingredient or even just get a bad vibe from the brand, it isn’t happening. I value the trust of my readers too much to risk it to work with a brand that will pay a lot. Sure, there are many brands with big mama budgets that would pay me more than I make now, but who would trust me? I certainly wouldn’t if I was posting about products that are questionable with creepy ingredients. Your trust means everything to me and my brand.
I am beyond grateful for the amazing relationships I have built with brands and their employees over the past few years. I find myself calling and texting them more than emailing and truly become friends instead of just making this whole thing a business transaction. And I think that is key in what has been successful in partnering with some of the same brands for years now. I love seeing you guys enjoying the brands too (hello Perfect Bar wrapper boomerang and sipping on Spindrift all day every day).
Each year is a learning experience. Sounds cliche but it is entirely true. As I evolve and grow as a human (and grow a human), my brand will do the same. I try not to get too comfortable but as a creature of habit, that isn’t alway easy for me.
A few highlights from this year, both personal + business:
- Signed my very first cookbook deal with Clarkson Potter at Penguin Random House (coming in Feb 2020!)
- Jord (my husband) and I are expecting our little dude in February 2019. Still pinching myself over this every single day
- Through infertility struggles, I was able to learn how to slow down and treat myself how I deserve instead of being a crazy person running around all over
- Traveled to LA, Miami, Boston, Chicago and Palm Springs to host events with some of my brand partners (hey Garden of Life) and hang with some of YOU! And was able to sneak in some trips with J to Big Sur, Ojai and Europe with my family. Oh and Expo West with mama + papa blogger (they’re crazy and I love them)
- Ventured back to Florence, Italy where I was at rock bottom of my eating disorder back in 2010. Last time I was there I was 95lbs and this time when I went, I was pregnant! Talk about doing a 180..
- Created the rachLeats tribe on Facebook for women to connect and for me to connect with you in a different way than just Instagram
- Practiced disconnecting from social media and emails by deleting email from my phone for basically the entire year and also not posting on Instagram usually on Saturday’s to take a little break
- Took days off or at least mornings/afternoons at least 3-4x a month to walk aimlessly around NYC, get a manicure, meet a friend for lunch, anything I wanted to do to step out of the kitchen and away from work and just refuel my mind
- Jord and I modeled in a pregnancy awareness shoot – HA! (sharing more soon but it was SO fun to do together)
From a food perspective, I shared 139 new recipes on the blog, created and tested over 125 recipes for the book (wow, that it is a lot of food omg). I was nerd-ing out on my analytics earlier and also looked to see which recipes shared in 2018 have been the most popular! Sharing the top 10 below that I shared this year..
#1. Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bread // #2. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Bars // #3. Chocolate Zucchini Bread Brownies // #4. One Bowl Healthy Vegan Carrot Cake Loaf // #5. The Best Whole30 Tuna Salad // #6. Whole30 Almond Butter Thai Noodles // #7. Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Cookie Cake // #8. Vegan Dark Chocolate Chunk Protein Cookies // #9. Healthy Vegan Cinnamon Rolls // #10. The Easiest Fluffy Vegan Pancakes
What is to come in 2019 + beyond + things I’d like to prioritize and focus on:
- NEW brand partnerships on the blog! I cannot wait to share these products with you guys This does mean that some of the current brands you see on here will no longer be a partner on the blog and my Instagram but I promise there is a reason for everything 🙂 Hint: new plan-based snacks, ready-to-eat meals + PANCAKES!
- Continue to establish quality partnerships with brands I love and ones I think YOU my friends will also enjoy. If you have any requests on types of products you’d like to see (food or anything) comment below, I’d love to hear from you
- A BABY! Planning to take a maternity leave from Feb 1 – April 1. No emails and slowing down in the kitchen during this time. Not sure what exactly a maternity leave means if you work for yourself but I’m going to follow my intuition on this one. I love food too much to not make it for awhile. I will 100% still be active on Insta though and sharing prescheduled content (which I am working on now) on the blog during that time!
- Tons of book prep. Fingers crossed for pre-order this time next year for the holidays
- Practicing work/life balance as Jord and I start our own family. It is going to be key to continue to put our marriage and relationship above all as we have our baby
- Sharing more than food with you guys. I 100% do not mean transition out of food blogging – that is something I do not plant to do EVER. I love it way too much and lifestyle content aka posting my face a lot isn’t something I really enjoy. But I want to show you more than just the peanut butter drizzled on my pancakes. Sharing my hormone and infertility stories were huge for me to open up about. But there are also things like grocery shopping and not going insane that everything has no plastic, not being neurotic about toxins and chemicals in everything – just to name a couple ideas. We are all human, and I think Instagram can really make us think otherwise sometimes. Sounds like I want to talk a bit more the B-word (balance)
- Still would love to do a product of sorts. Not something on my own but a collaborative partnership with a brand of sorts. It is such a great way to connect with you guys and bring you something from my kitchen into your hands! Any requests there?
I always feel like I am forgetting something when I write these posts so I will of course come back and add anything I may have forgotten.
A huge thank you to YOU for support my brand and I truly mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say I wouldn’t be where I am today without your support. I cannot thank you enough and cheers to another amazing year in 2019 and beyond!
I LOVE reading these year in review sort of posts. It makes me smile to read that you consider 2018 to have been your best year yet despite all of the hormones and infertility struggles you went through for nearly half of it! I would say this past year has been one of my hardest yet but you’ve encouraged me to look at all of the growth that occurred.
You’ve been hot on the recipe game–so much so that I don’t think a month has gone by where I haven’t made AT LEAST one of your recipes. I’m just wondering where the crispy baked avocado fries and the doughy chocolate chip cookie pizza are?! Those are certainly at the top of my Rachel recipe favorites list for the year!
Lots of love to you! I’m excited to continue following along with your food and the woman behind the yum ♥