January 26th - 2017
Stephanie Middleberg: Health, Happiness & Prosperity in Brooklyn Heights
Instrata Brooklyn Heights resident Stephanie Middleberg is the founder of Middleberg Nutrition, a thriving New York City health and wellness practice. As a nutritionist who has helped thousands of clients establish better relationships with food, she is currently one of the city’s most lauded health experts. Stephanie is regularly featured in top media outlets including Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Fitness, Glamour, Shape, Self, Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health. Most recently, Stephanie authored The Big Book of Organic Baby Food, which offers over 230 delicious homemade recipes for babies, toddlers and the entire family. We asked Stephanie to share her thoughts on everything from starting a business and motherhood to New Year’s resolutions and living in Brooklyn Heights.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in nutrition and dietetics in NYC?
You could say my career started in high school. I was a very focused athlete – tennis in particular – and I realized very early on how important food was to my performance. Fast-forward to my 20s and working in healthcare public relations, I found myself far more interested in the health side of the work than the day-to-day PR work (although this experience was priceless; more on that in a bit). I opened up U.S. News & World Report’s best graduate schools and settled on the masters of public health Program at NYU. It was at the same time that I developed some serious stomach issues. Dealing with that and seeing all different types of doctors and doing my own research really left me without the answers or the remedy I needed. I realized that I’m not the only one dealing with this and that there must be a lot of frustration out there, so I dropped the public health focus and instead dialed in on the nutrition.
I was fortunate to be one of the few with an internship and job in a private practice. This experience was invaluable, as I saw firsthand how a small business was run and realized it was exactly what I wanted.
What inspired you to start your own company?
It was never my grand plan to start my own practice in or after graduate school. I was working at another private practice for several years and it came to a point at which I couldn’t grow anymore. I think being challenged and having the opportunity to learn, share and grow is so important in any profession, and since I had hit a ceiling, it was time to take a different route. Middleberg Nutrition opened its doors in 2010 and has grown organically since.
Along the way, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet fantastic people and participate in some very cool activities. A lot of them stem from my background in PR. Very early on, I learned how to effectively communicate, as well as the importance of brevity, timeliness and helping those you’re working with. These understandings allow me to work with a variety of journalists and laser in on what health information is important for the public to know. These relationships led to all other types of exciting partnerships. For example, I work with the storied 92Y to curate its health and wellness programming, including lectures and classes. But my biggest achievement to date is the publication of my first book, The Big Book of Organic Baby Food! This was near and dear to my heart, as I wrote it while introducing food to my son Julian – literally writing in real time! I’ve never worked so hard on one thing; it really takes it out of you! But I’m very happy with the result and hopefully there will be more to come.
Generally speaking, who are your clients? How do you find them and how do they find you?
My clientele includes young picky eaters, the CEO who dines out every night, the elite athlete looking to truly fine-tune his or her performance – but more often it’s just the person looking to feel better. I am fortunate enough to get many of my clients from word of mouth; there is nothing more powerful than a happy client who is eager to spread the word. I also get many of my clients from physicians and therapists from around the city with whom I have developed relationships.
Can you share some of your top tips for staying healthy?
Ditch the diet, processed, artificial foods and start to cook or assemble meals 1-2 times a week. Cooking can be super-intimidating and fearful, but really, if you can read, you can cook. It is such an important piece of getting to know and appreciate food, it helps strengthen your relationship with food, and has been extremely valuable in raising a child.
Also, breakfast really is important. It positively impacts mental sharpness, exercise routine and mood. Have a breakfast rich in what I call the two Ps, protein and produce, in the morning. This is when our blood sugar is at its lowest, and if you break your fast with sugar, it can increase your hunger hormone ghrelin. This response leads to increased hunger and blood sugar issues throughout the day. Protein will keep your appetite and energy consistent. Examples include eggs, full-fat plain yogurt, nut butter and smoked salmon.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My son is an early riser, so I am typically up by 6:30 a.m. for some playtime. Breakfast is at 7:30 and then I head out to the office at 8. I see 6-8 clients per day, so that takes up the majority of my time. I also do a lot of media work, writing or speaking to an editor almost daily. Lastly, I work on reviewing my client’s journals, answering questions, and calling new clients and doctors. I get home at around 5:30 p.m. and then switch over to mom mode, jumping right into dinner and our nighttime routine. My husband and I switch off with bath time and cooking, so that we have dinner on the table once Julian goes to sleep, which is around 7:30. Then I do a few more hours of work, finish up with 30 minutes of TV, and am hopefully in bed by 10:30.
What’s your favorite quote or mantra?
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Do you have any tips on how to stick with “healthy” New Year’s Resolutions? Did you make any of your own?
Make very, very specific resolutions. What I do each session with clients is outline 1-3 realistic things to work on every day, because there is no motivation to keep going if you feel like you are always failing.
I did make a few resolutions this year. I wanted to start a version of bullet journaling in an actual journal, set my alarm before my son wakes up, and take a few minutes to organize my thoughts, events, to-do’s and daily inspirations.
What’s the best part about being a mother? What’s the hardest thing?
The best part: constant adoration, love and giggles. The ability to just be with my son and forget about everything else. The hardest: being everything to everyone and being OK with when I can’t.
How do you balance being a business owner and mother?
On some days, I feel like I’ve got this, and on others, I feel like I am letting everyone down. Communication is key and something I continue to work on every day. If I’m overwhelmed, I need to communicate that to my team and to my family, as no one can read my mind or know why I’m in a mood without telling them. It’s still tough, especially in a service-based business. It’s very hard to put a client email on the backburner even on the weekend; most business owners don’t have the luxury to “disconnect” when they’re not in the office. I will, however, make sure that my phone is away in the mornings, in the early evening before bed with my son, and during dinner with my husband. At the end of the day, we all need to feel appreciated and valued, so I try to let my family and colleagues know that.
What advice do you have for mothers with their own personal dreams and aspirations?
Do it. It’s not easy, even without the responsibility of a child. But everyone has something, and if you really want it, if you wake up and it’s one of the first things on your mind, then you need to go for it. There are so many resources out there for someone to launch a business or even build a little “side hustle.”
What’s the best part about living in New York City? What’s the best part about living in Brooklyn Heights?
I grew up in NYC on the Upper East Side until I was nine years old, and I have such rich memories as a child here. I’ve always loved Brooklyn Heights, but it took some convincing to get my husband, who was born and raised in Manhattan, to cross that river. He’s full Brooklyn but without the beard. Brooklyn Heights is my favorite neighborhood. And it really is a neighborhood. I love that whenever I walk down the street I see at least two people I know. I love that I get to know storeowners. I love the water and beauty of the area. I love how easy it is to get anywhere in NYC. And I love how relaxed I feel when I get off the subway from a full day at the office.
How did you hear about Instrata, and what made you decide to live here?
Funny enough, we lived right across the street for three years and can now look into our old apartment. When it came time to look for a two-bedroom apartment, we popped in and were instantly impressed with the building and its staff. We especially liked how open and bright the apartments were. My son loves the building team and we spend a lot of time in the lobby giggling. The building is very kid-friendly! In fact, my son is part of a playgroup of at least five kids. He sees them daily, which has been an incredible experience for us.
How has living at Instrata accommodated your family life and career?
It’s a full-service building with a wonderful team, that keeps us all smiling and a bit less stressed. I also love the community of the building and am seriously looking forward to the opening of the playroom.