Whitney Tingle and Danielle Duboise have just one ask for their customers: "Just start to include more plants into your life, and see how you feel."
And really, that’s how Sakara Life, the popular, celebrity-beloved lifestyle and plant-based nutrition service, was born. Danielle struggled with yo-yo dieting for years and was ready to have a healthier, more positive relationship with food. Whitney wanted an end to her chronic cystic acne in a way that didn’t involve being put on yet another Rx.
Together, the BFFs developed a nutritional and wellness philosophy focused on pillars like eating plenty of organic, nutrient-dense greens and veggies, healthy fats, and absolutely no calorie counting and began cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner for one another. How they felt? Amazing, so in 2012, they started cooking up meals for their friends and delivering the plates on their bikes around New York City. Fast-forward to today; They’ve quadrupled their client base in 2018 alone, received praise from celebrities like Oprah, launched healthy bars and probiotic chocolates, and yes, have delivered millions of meals based on the philosophy that "food is medicine."
We sat down with Whitney and Danielle to find out more about their start, their thoughts on the current trends in wellness, how they approach beauty, and more.
Tell us about how Sakara Life came to be.
Whitney Tingle: Danielle and I grew up in Sedona and we were best friends. We each moved to New York at different times for different reasons. I moved out to work on Wall Street. Danielle moved out to go to school; she was studying to go to medical school. I had been battling with cystic acne for a decade of my life, and I literally tried everything from acupuncture to Accutane and everything in-between. All the different lights, lasers, creams, I tried it. None of it would work. It was all trying to treat it from the outside and not getting to the root cause. Finally after going to see tons of different dermatologists in New York City and them telling me to do Accutane again, I hit my low point, and thought, "Enough of all of this." It was good timing. Danielle had come to the same conclusion through different means.
Danielle DuBoise: I had been battling body image issues since I was a kid. I have this memory of going to Costco with my mom when I was probably nine years old, and trying to hide diet pills in her cart. But, you know, it’s Costco, so you can only buy like 40,000 pills, so I totally got busted. At a young age, I didn’t feel thin enough or pretty enough, so that manifested over the following years. I turned to dieting and I tried every single diet. What that taught me was that food was the enemy. I kind of hit my rock bottom when I went to a retreat in Southern Arizona. A lot of people go there for these late-stage lifestyle diseases, but I went because it was my excuse to say I’m on a health retreat, so I didn't need to eat much. It was a water fast for seven days and then two weeks of all raw food. I did it, but I ended up really, really sick, as you can imagine. That’s when I decided to study nutrition instead of going to med school. I really wanted to heal my own relationship to food and really understand this idea of what "food is medicine" meant. Sakara really didn’t start off as a business. It was how do we heal ourselves. We developed what we call Pillars of Nutrition, and we developed a menu on those pillars for ourselves and we just tried it. After about two weeks, we saw such a transformation that we knew we wanted to make it our mission to help other people feel this transformation.
When did you know that Sakara Life was really taking off and becoming a business?
WT: We just started cooking ourselves, delivering on a bicycle. People told their friends and those people told their friends, and it just grew and grew. When press started picking it up and saying, "You need to check this out," we realized that it wasn’t just us that believed it in and us that wanted it. There were so many other people out there that wanted and needed this. For me, that’s when I realized we had a business. When Gywneth Paltrow is saying this is a business. Oprah putting us on her Supersoul 100 and saying these girls are on to something.
We’ve talked about the link between skin and nutrition, but what are your own beauty routines like?
WT: It absolutely starts with what I’m eating. My skin is not going to look OK at all if I’m not eating the right things, and so I eat Sakara most of the time. That doesn’t mean that’s the only thing that I eat. You have to enjoy life, too. Adding in a really good probiotic, so we have our own Sakara probiotic that is probiotic, prebiotic, and has an enzyme blend which helps with digesting food and your digestive track and helps with candida overgrowth as well. Your gut is like an ecosystem. You have to keep that ecosystem in harmony. I don’t use a lot of product. I definitely love to use more natural products. I think of skincare like I think of my food. It’s about high quality ingredients. Everything that I put on my body, I want to make sure it’s high quality.
DD: One thing we learned in our training was that you have to eat your water. Not just drink your water. Making sure you’re getting water-rich produce. We have these trace minerals called our Beauty Water Concentrate and our Detox Water Concentrate, so those really help your cells soak up more hydration over time. In terms of routines, we definitely think about what we put inside our bodies first, but I tend to use a lot of oils. I love Vitner’s Daughter. I love Tata Harper. I love True Botanicals. Things that feel like they’re made of plants.
Are there any wellness trends that you don’t agree with?
DD: I would say the trend of bio-hacking. For me, bio-hacking is just another word for dieting and It’s telling you what you should do and what you shouldn’t do. The idea of Sakara is that this is what we do most of the time, but there are no rules. I think that’s the only way you can effectively live your life and eat well for the long period. The things about bio-hacking and dieting is that there’s a ladder to fall off of. If you don’t do it anymore, it doesn’t work.
What’s one food or ingredient that you love?
WT: I love hemp seeds. It’s a really great way to get extra nutrients into any type of dish. They’re very neutral in flavor. You can put them in smoothies, you can put them on salads, you can put them in soups. They have healthy fats in them. They gave good plant protein in them.
DD: I’m really obsessed with fresh cold-pressed fats. Most of the fats and the oils you find out in the world are really terrible for you. Think about how we get a bottle of fat out of these plants. It goes through a really intense, crazy process, and if it’s not done by companies that you trust, then it’s not done well. They use chemical solvents. They use high heat. They use colorants, which naturally change the nutritive quality of the fat. So any type of fat that’s cold-pressed and fresh is what I love. You can taste the difference.
Sakara Life is a meal delivery service that comes with a cost. What advice would you give someone who wasn't able to invest in the program?
WT: We launched our 10-day Reset Kit as an entry point into living the Sakara Life. It gives you a guidebook on our nutritional philosophy and different levels of recipes – quick and easy, and also more complex. What we are trying to give you is our nutritional philosophy. If you have the time and want to start making your own food, then go with the 10-day Reset. If you don’t have time and your entire day is taken up at work, then we’re here for you and you can order our meals and we can have our chefs prepare them for you and deliver them straight to your door.
DD: I feel like our mission is so big and we have to keep going and creating. We want to make sure that we can impact as many lives as possible. For people that can’t do delivery or the Reset, we’re constantly thinking of ways to help people that maybe our current offering doesn’t speak to.