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Life & Work with Kristen Brogan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristen Brogan. 

Hi Kristen, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I grew up eating superfoods. You know, things like flaxseeds, wheatgrass, and cod liver oil. Movement, whether it was exercise, sports, or just goofing around, was also a big part of my upbringing. I was not the typical kid, and my health nut personal trainer dad is to blame… or thank. 

My family vacations were always centered on some form of exercise, such as hiking the sand dunes of Northern Michigan or skiing in Colorado. But no matter where we went or what we did for our vacations, we would pack up the car with a cooler full of grilled chicken and sliced bell peppers. Typical family huh? 

Like most teenagers, socializing became my existence. The more time I spent away from my house and my family, the more I began to see that my lifestyle wasn’t so normal after all. My friends and their families were eating potato chips, pizza, and cookies; drinking soda and energy drinks. Nobody even knew what the heck a superfood was! It got to the point where I couldn’t help but feel that I had been missing out on all of the so-called “good stuff.” Here I was, mortified, eating hummus and my beloved cucumbers for school lunch when all of my friends had Doritos or Oatmeal Cream Pies. I remember asking my dad, why can’t we eat like normal people, why do you have to be such a freak? All I wanted to do was fit in, be hip and cool. I decided to do the opposite of everything my dad practiced and preached. The happy and healthy young girl turned into a junk-food-eating teenager. Fast food with friends was the new norm. I even got a job at Johnny Rockets serving up hamburgers, with free food and milkshakes anytime I wanted. It was the life, so I thought… 

Just a few months and fifteen pounds later, I was diagnosed with asthma and put on an inhaler. At the time, I was a promising track athlete, but with my new lifestyle, I was running the worst times of my life. I felt terrible too. It wasn’t that hard to connect the dots. My new lifestyle, the opposite extreme of how I was raised, was not sustainable. 

Slowly, I fell back into eating superfoods, like I did as a kid. But I struggled with the taste of many of these foods and didn’t enjoy the process of consuming them. This is where and how my mom really influenced me. She comes from a big Lebanese family and is the best cook I know. Thankfully she got me into the kitchen cooking at a very young age. We began experimenting with superfoods, incorporating them into the dishes we loved. Believe me, there was plenty of trial and error, but also plenty of success. Importantly, I learned from my mom that there is so much more to eating than to be healthy. Food is love and eating should be a magical, joyful experience–every time. 

I began incorporating this “mindfulness” philosophy not only into eating but also everyday living. I no longer ate certain foods just because they were healthy, instead, I endeavored to make great-tasting, healthy food. Rather than exercise just because I knew it was good for me, I found new and fun ways to get my body moving. The benefits were both immediate and long-lasting. I lost the weight and, guess what? My asthma magically disappeared. 

Now as a superfood chef, cookbook author, yoga instructor, and the registered dietitian at On Target Living, I teach people how to live a healthy lifestyle that blends mindful eating, mindful moving, and mindful resting to build your whole self. I recently landed my dream job as the Executive Chef for the Governor of Michigan and am more motivated than ever to make healthy taste delicious. I believe nothing is off-limits if it’s made homemade. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Since I grew up with a very natural and intuitive approach to food, the formalities of becoming a dietitian was a bit of a struggle. The medical nutrition side of food and “backed by science” information, did not make sense to me. Why did I have to have my heart patient on a strict no-salt diet? Can’t I improve the quality of the salt or find ways to incorporate superfoods that are designed to make the heart healthier? Do I really have to recommend this patient drink an Ensure? Look at all of the ingredients-I can’t pronounce any of them. 

Fast forward: I got through my dietetic training, passed my registered dietitian exam and celebrated with a grass-fed beef burger! The medical side + holistic side of nutrition really gave me a leg up in my career and I am now able to have a well-rounded approach to nutrition care. I believe common sense eating will always win. 

Working for my family-owned company also came with some struggles. More pros than cons, but we definitely had some arguments along the way. Ultimately, we had to learn how to separate work from life and find ways to play into each other’s strengths (and weaknesses). My brother (also my twin) eventually found a way to combine our twin powers to become unstoppable. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work so closely with him and the rest of my family. If you can’t beat em’, join em’! 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I like to say I’m best known for teaching people how to live healthy without making sacrifices. While this world is complicated enough, eating shouldn’t be. Common sense + eating closer to the source is the formula for mindful eating, a lifestyle that allows you to reach your goals while still eating the foods that you love. I just launched a mindful eating audio course that breaks this all down. 

On another note, I live in East Lansing with my husband, Sean, and two boys, Brady and Brooks. You will most likely find our family running around our block in our double running stroller, wind in our hair! 

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs, or other resources you think our readers should check out?
I’m bias but love the On Target Living podcast and books! 

Jennifer Segal’s Once Upon a Chef cookbook is my favorite cookbook. 

Kristin Hannah is my favorite book author! 

Nicole Belica is my favorite yoga instructor and has amazing yoga/meditation offerings. 

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