Sue Ann Gleason has a fabulous and very popular Facebook page called Chocolate For Breakfast which I interact with on a daily basis. She posts great photos of chocolate, and fun quotes…very happy stuff that’s easy to ‘like’. I became curious about who was behind the page, and whether she really ate chocolate for breakfast… so I did a little research and discovered this wonderful and intelligent woman who has amazing credentials and provides exceptional programs and content for women. Please enjoy my interview with Sue Ann…and if you’re interested in growing a business via social media, be sure to pay attention to her excellent tips below. Sue Ann knows what she’s talking about!
Bio: Sue Ann Gleason is a food lover, food writer, food-based healer and savvy marketing strategist. Founder of Conscious Bites Nutrition and the Well Nourished Woman, she inspires women to trust their intuition, unravel their food stories and take back their plates, one luscious bite at a time. Sue Ann shares her expertise through online programs and in one-on-one sessions via telephone or Skype.
To download her free No Longer Asleep at the Meal ebook, click here.
For Sue Ann’s free Chocolate Lover’s Guide, click here.
And for daily interaction and delicious chocolate suggestions and humor, visit her chocolate lover’s playground on Facebook.
Peggy: Where were you born and where do you live now?
Sue Ann: I was born in Buffalo, New York. I now live in Northern Virginia just outside of Washington, DC.
Peggy: I love the name of your blog, Chocolate for Breakfast. What inspired the name? Do you really eat chocolate for breakfast?
Sue Ann: I do eat chocolate for breakfast! My culinary nutrition work is all about pleasure and permission and showing women that they don’t have to deprive themselves of delicious treats to achieve vibrant health. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When we deny ourselves the pleasure of a treat we end up craving it even more. So rather than ‘curbing’ our cravings, I suggest we ‘honor’ our desires. And we do that with the very best chocolate we can acquire.
My own chocolate for breakfast journey began in January 2011. I was researching hunger and satiety for an article I was writing for my Conscious Bites Nutrition community when I came across the big breakfast diet. Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, a clinical professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, found that sedentary, obese women on a “big breakfast diet” lost almost five times as much weight as did women following a traditional, restrictive low-carbohydrate diet.
This was a very interesting and informative study, but my ears really perked up when I saw a piece of chocolate on the breakfast menu. Jakubowicz explained that our serotonin levels are highest in the morning. That’s the best time to indulge in a little treat because the brain won’t feel the same serotonin boost. Reaching for a sweet treat later in the day, when your serotonin levels dip, may contribute to an addictive cycle because your body begins to associate good feelings with the treat.
The important thing to note here is that a small square of really good dark chocolate is part of a larger meal that contains some form of clean, lean protein or healthy fat to keep blood sugar levels stable and contribute to satiety.
Peggy: You say you found your calling not once, but twice. What are those callings and how did you find them?
Sue Ann: Before opening my Conscious Bites Nutrition practice I was a teacher of small children, a dance and aerobics instructor, and a mentor to blossoming teachers. About seven years ago I experienced a health crisis that literally brought me to my knees. My vitality was virtually gone. I was falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from school and then falling into bed at 8PM. And even with all that sleep, I could barely drag myself to work in the morning. I attributed it to “burnout.” I had a very demanding class that year and I was pretty drained from that experience. When those symptoms persisted, I made an appointment with an endocrinologist.
Endocrinologists are trained to diagnose and treat hormone imbalances and problems by helping to restore the normal balance of hormones in your system. It turned out there was a lot to treat: my adrenals were shot, Hashimoto had taken up residence in my body (All I could think was, “Who is Hashimoto and what’s he doing in my body?”) I discovered Hashimoto is an autoimmune disorder related to the thyroid.
I also discovered that I had osteoporosis.
Yes, I was a virtual train wreck. Not to worry. The prescription pads came out and I was offered all kinds of solutions to my failing health. I was not ready to hop on the pharmaceutical train.
As luck or serendipity would have it I came across a book at a local bookstore, the Autoimmune Epidemic by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. I just opened the book to a random page and these were the words I found looking up at me: Chapter Three: Dirty Little Secrets, Cluster Epidemics from Buffalo to Texas. Buffalo, New York is my hometown. That book was the catalyst for a very deep study of the endocrine system and the beginning of my journey into food as medicine. I went back to school and for the next few years I studied the various components that make up the career I enjoy today: nutrition, culinary arts, the psychology of eating and positive psychology.
Peggy: What does a Culinary Nutritionist do?
Sue Ann: I help women cultivate a body wisdom approach to nourishment. There is so much conflicting nutritional information out there, we really don’t know what to eat anymore. A more traditional nutritionist might provide you with all kinds of scientific information to help you choose healthier foods. They might say something like: “A single serving of fresh corn tortillas delivers 8 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, over 100% the RDA for riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and C, and over 40% of the RDA for niacin, selenium, and vitamin B12.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll leave that experience clamoring for another session, right?
So, instead of handing women a 1400-calorie meal plan or point system and a packet of recipes they may never use, I like to cultivate their culinary curiosity and show them how they can prepare simple, healthy, exquisite meals and still have time to eat.
Rather than taking things OUT of their diet and labeling foods ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ I help women redefine pleasure and the true meaning of nourishment. We gradually build a new repertoire of foods and, even more important, habits around food based on my Conscious Bites Concepts™. Basically, I usher them out of the weight loss war zone and back to a place where eating starts to feel delicious, natural and sustainable.
Peggy: How did you become a chocolate connoisseur? Have you loved chocolate your entire life?
Sue Ann: Yes, my dad introduced me to ‘chocolate for breakfast’. As a special treat he would get up very early on a Saturday morning while the rest of us were asleep and drive to Jet Donut, Buffalo’s favorite donut shop. A beautiful box of yummy confections awaited us when we climbed out of our sleepy nests. My chocolate palate wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as it is now but I sure loved those donuts.
My ‘Chocolate for Breakfast’ connoisseur adventure began in January 2011 when I started my chocolate for breakfast blog and Facebook page with the intention of building a community of chocolate lovers who shared similar viewpoints on pleasure and permission. But much to my surprise (and delight) the chocolate journey took on a life of its own. As my Facebook fan base grew, chocolate makers from all over the world started sending me samples of their chocolates hoping to tease my palate and claim a space in my Top 12 Chocolate Finds ebook, or at the very least, my fan page.
The more chocolate I tasted, the more refined my palate became. Pretty soon I was choosing chocolate by origin, much like a connoisseur of fine wine develops a more informed and discriminating taste for the grapes of a particular region. It’s not that there is anything wrong with a varietal, it’s just that I became rather enchanted with the nuances of flavor that I had never before experienced in chocolate.
Peggy: Your Chocolate for Breakfast Facebook page has over 10,000 fans. You’re obviously doing something right! Do you have any social media tips for other entrepreneurs?
Sue Ann: Yes, that number astonishes me, too. I will celebrate the two-year anniversary of my fan page in January 2013. I never dreamed I’d have over 10,000 fans in less than two years. I never dreamed that the health editor of Oprah Magazine would contact me for recipes for an article on ‘dessert for breakfast’. I am thrilled with the engagement on that page.
Here are the tips I offer fellow entrepreneurs and my marketing strategy clients:
Be intentional: Make it your mission to provide the best content possible and your fan base will grow organically and authentically.
Build Relationship: This is a tricky one because there are only so many hours in a day and there are so many social media opportunities: blogging, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn. Whichever form of social media you choose to engage in, find authentic ways to interact with people on your page to keep them coming back. I don’t look at the ‘number’ of fans I’ve attracted. I look at the ‘engagement’ level. That little number speaks volumes. This is not a popularity contest. It’s a relationship.
Be Present: We live in an automated world. There is nothing more disappointing than being in a conversation with someone who isn’t present. You know that scenario. It’s the conversation you’re having with someone who is glancing over your shoulder instead of looking you in the eye. Social media is no different. You want to be present on your page. People feel your presence.
Keep Your Eyes Wide Open: Keep an eye on what are your fans are responding to. What do they want from you? I discovered early on that the people on my page want to have fun. They come to Chocolate for Breakfast for delicious recipes, chocolate recommendations, humorous posts and community.
Peggy: What are your goals with Chocolate for Breakfast?
Sue Ann: My goal is to continue growing my community while providing richly rewarding content. I offer two online courses: the Well-Nourished Woman Inner Circle and Clueless in the Kitchen No More, six weeks of ‘healthy’ culinary bliss with one week devoted entirely to chocolate. I am building a community of women who are committed to leaving a luscious legacy in the world. I am also writing a book. I bet you can guess the title.
Peggy: Dark or milk? What are some of your favorite brands?
Sue Ann: I stay away from milk chocolate because it is too sweet for my palate and dairy binds with the antioxidants in chocolate and prevents them from nourishing our cells. My favorite chocolate is small batch, bean to bar, single-origin that contains no soy and no dairy. I love Dandelion Chocolate based in San Francisco, Mast Brothers Chocolate based in Brooklyn, Ritual Chocolate based in Colorado and Potomac Chocolate right here in Virginia. For me, these chocolate makers represent the very best in artisan chocolate. When you taste these bars, you begin to understand the nuances in flavor in the chocolate itself. There are no distractions in a bar of single-origin chocolate, just pure unbridled intention.
Peggy: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
Sue Ann: My signature online program, the Well-Nourished Woman Inner Circle, runs twice a year for three months. I have been developing this program for the past four years and it has morphed into a truly exquisite online experience for women who are ready to take back their plates, one luscious bite at a time. I would love to offer your readers a kindred spirit special if they are interested in registering for the next session. They can contact me for details and simply mention Success & Chocolate interview.
Peggy: Sue Ann, thank you so much for your time. I have enjoyed learning more about the woman behind the fun chocolate Facebook posts!