Model, wellness advocate and social media guru Nikki Sharp has amassed over 300,000 Instagram followers based on her fad-free, five-day detox program that encourages eating real, whole foods (hello vegetables, goodbye fads). Here, she shares with me her best tip to beat food cravings, a common diet myth that doesn’t work, and how to eat without deprivation or restrictions.
One of the most difficult things about social media – image-laden Instagram in particular – is that it’s easy to believe that what you see is what you get. That pictures speak the truth, and that friend you’re following must be healthy because she posts pictures of her green smoothies and workout sessions at least four times a week.
Authenticity is hard on Instagram.
And it’s sometimes difficult to work out where the fantasy stops and where real life begins, particularly with health and fitness related accounts, which can be all #strongisthenewskinny hashtags and photos of salad and green juice. (Don’t get me wrong, I love freshly made juice. But let’s be honest – there’s only so many vegies you can have in a day.)
Luckily, some voices cut through the crap and offer genuinely healthy, inspiring content that doesn’t make you feel guilty if you haven’t exercised, meditated and had a glass of warm water with lemon juice all by 6am.
One of these voices is Nikki Sharp (find her on Instagram at @nikkisharp) an international model turned healthy lifestyle guru. Most well known for her ‘5 Day Detox’, a PDF meal plan ($8) that I think is refreshingly fad-free in a world of juice cleanses, Nikki shares her daily experiences – including the highs and lows – in a way that I find very easy to connect to.
The Colorado-raised starlet, 27, started modelling at 16 and had travelled the world at the age I was still eating leftover takeaway pizza for breakfast, skipping uni and drinking vodka like water (no, not last week… aged 20). It was just over two years ago that she decided she needed a break and headed back to her home town, where she started doing yoga and hiking every day. After a few years in London and now based in Los Angeles, she’s concentrating on promoting her Stay Sharp Be Strong brand/business, which has grown rapidly from a humble eBook to five eBooks, a soon-to-be published book, cooking classes and healthy lifestyle courses.
While Nikki’s version of clean eating is quite standard – lots of vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, tons of water, organic lean meats (she eats good quality meat, although it’s not included in her detox), free-range eggs and eating “at least three colours at every meal” – it’s the way she shares the wine she drank on the weekend and that time she ate three magnum icecreams in one go that I really respect. She also practices what she preaches, doing her detox herself once a month.
She’s the first to admit that she’s not perfect, and that it takes constant practice of self-love and acceptance to ensure not just a healthy diet but healthy mindset. She often dispenses advice on the emotional side of eating that is incredibly useful. I’ve heard her mention on many occasions that if you slip up and pig out, that’s fine – we’re all human, it happens to the best of us – but it’s what you do afterwards that matters.
“I’m genuinely passionate not only about nutrition, but the spiritual and emotional elements that tie into our lives. I’ve experienced first-hand what so many people go through with weight yo-yoing, eating incorrectly, and not understanding what balance and moderation is. I’m humbled that with the knowledge I’ve acquired, I feel I can help others overcome negative body images and teach that life is not about dieting and restricting, but rather about looking at food differently and understanding that each small, positive change, will lead to a better you!” – Nikki Sharp at Stay Sharp Be Strong
Here’s what else she has to say.
Many people are educated and know what they should or shouldn’t be eating, but life sometimes gets in the way. What’s your best practical tip for beating emotional cravings?
“Take each meal at a time. Track your progress, either mentally or by writing it down, and after one or two good days of eating, it’s easier to keep the ball rolling if you. If you binge, I always suggest not starving yourself the next day but to eat healthy, which means herbal teas, water, citric foods and lots of greens. Also, get out of the house! Go for a walk and most likely the craving go away.”
Your 5 Day Detox has been incredibly success. Why do you think it’s resonated with so many people?
“Detoxing is a pretty big buzzword right now, but most people think it means starving yourself or can only be done by drinking juice. My detox is so different in that it allows you to eat five meals a day, all with very delicious food, which is what people want. I also support people through my Instagram account and so I believe that everyone who does the detox feels like they become part of a community where they’re all trying to help each other. My detox is not just about the five days though… it’s about ongoing changes that you’ll see and feel.”
Is there a diet fad or myth you bought in to in your teens or your early 20s that now you know doesn’t work?
“That cardio is the best way to lose weight. Cardio is great for you, but it won’t tone your body, reduce cellulite, increase your metabolism or make you look amazing in a swimsuit. But lifting weights will!”
Apart from the food you eat, what are you the other ways you nourish yourself?
“With primary foods, which are based on your relationships, spirituality, work and exercise. For me it’s very important to find a balance with all of these, because I can eat all the kale and blueberries in the world but if I’m not doing the rest, then the antioxidants won’t matter as much. Taking care of yourself as a whole is far more important than just the food you eat.”
How do you stay motivated to work out when you’re just not in the mood?
“Good music and just getting out of the door. That’s always the hardest part if you’re not motivated, but for me, once I’m at the gym I remember that I love working out when I have my headphones and pumped up music.”
What tips would you give to young women who are struggling with their body confidence?
“First, eat clean! When you eat processed foods that are full of chemicals, preservatives, sugar and salt it bloats you, gives you acne and gives you brain fog. If you eat clean, you will automatically feel better about yourself. I also think working out is important, even if it’s just walking for half an hour every day – it’s necessary for our bodies and minds. Lastly, finding spirituality in whatever form that works for you. I personally think yoga helps wonders with this. (And also, just know that we all go through phases of growing up and you’ll start to appreciate yourself more!)”
What does the future hold for you?
“Lots of exciting stuff. I’m going to hold a four-week intensive clean eating course in LA, teaching people how to eat healthy at restaurants, what foods to buy, how to shop and how to cook with minimal ingredients. My detox is getting published to a book (so excited for this!) and I’m really amping up my videos on how to cook, do easy and effective workouts and give a more insider look into my lifestyle. The next year will be a busy one, but completely amazing one at that!”
[Edit: Her book is out now! See here for more.]