Fresh, organic ingredients, locally sourced, are tools for health. Photo by Patrice Mitchell.

Fresh, organic ingredients, locally sourced, are tools for health. Photo by Patrice Mitchell.

By Caitlin Switzer

MONTROSE—(August 20, 2013)  In another life, she was a marketing professional. Today, she has become the beautiful face of her own brand—a Montrose-based business called Flourish to Thrive that helps busy people take control of their health and develop positive, rewarding relationships with food. So effective are her strategies for weight loss and health, that she has become a go-to resource for local fitness trainers wanting to take their own health and well-being to a higher level.

When personal Chef Sarah Mandell celebrated a milestone birthday last week, she was in the best shape of her life—and refreshingly honest about what it took to get there.

“There is no magic pill, or diet,” said Mandell, a trained vegan chef who specializes in delicious meals prepared with organic, whole foods, locally sourced. “You have to make that choice; and when you get off track, don’t beat yourself up—get back on. There is no replacement for health.

“You need to eat the right foods, and realize when you are full. It’s pretty simple.”

Mandell also tells clients the brutal truth—that drinking alcohol and coffee on a daily basis can make it much, much harder to drop those extra pounds.

However, with a strong client base in Telluride, Mandell can find herself so busy at times that it can be hard to follow her own advice.

“Lots of people skip meals, and then when they do eat, they forget to chew,” she said. “They don’t eat mindfully. I tell my clients to eat three meals a day, and to not eat after 6:30 p.m. if possible.

“But people know that I have times just like you, times of the year when I get off track,” she said. “Just like you, I want a glass of wine.”

So this summer, rather than simply coaching clients through weight loss and detox, Mandell immersed herself in the process, detoxing, exercising, and eating the same foods she prepared for others. All the while, she documented the experience on social media for others to share.

This summer’s fitness campaign began with an instructor at the popular Z-Fitness club who wanted to drop a few pounds, she said.

“For the first two weeks, I made all of her food for her,” Mandell said, “healthy, whole foods—grains and lots of veggies. And she started losing weight.”

Others began to notice, and to ask Mandell for advice about weight loss and detoxing. A discussion about detox campaigns turned into just that.

“There were five of us,” Mandell said. “I knew that I needed to supervise, but I decided to go ahead and do it right along with them. That way, I could share what they were going through. The group experience was fantastic—we all felt accountable to each other.”

As the group began to grow, Sarah found herself delegating some cooking chores.

“We took shifts to help prepare the food,” she said. “They all came over and cooked, and we learned a lot. I had never done that before, and it was a great experience.”

When the group attended the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June, they found their resolve challenged.

“There was food everywhere! And drinking!”  Mandell said. “But we had support, and we stuck to it. We took our energy soup and our detox food with us.”

Among the things Mandell tells her clients is to plan ahead—that there are three meals every day.

“I ask questions,” she said. “Is your lifestyle energizing or depleting you? And if they become frustrated, I cook for them—mindfully and consciously like I do for myself. They succeed when I do the cooking—because when they open the fridge, they see nothing but healthy choices.”

Mandell often takes new clients on supermarket tours to discuss healthful options to common ingredients.

“People don’t like being told what they can’t have,” she said. “I am not about elimination, but substitution. I turn people on to new foods, healthier choices–perhaps a coconut milk yogurt so you can go dairy-free, or fermented Kombucha in the morning instead of coffee. It’s more about showing people alternatives that will make them feel better—and making it easy.”

After all, removing the obstacles to good health is just one way that Sarah serves her clients.

“Whether you want to detox, have meals prepared for a week, or learn about food, if you want to change, I can help,” she said. “I offer so many things.  I meet people where they are. I know that I have the ability and the education to help you take control of food. What you eat can be a source of healing.

“I help people get into a pattern,” she said. “We all need food. Healthy eating empowers people and shows them they can learn to do things efficiently, they can find a way that makes it easy and enjoyable. With our group this summer, everyone was in a place where they needed help. One of the ladies learned to drink water during the day, another had been going hours without eating at all. Sometimes it’s just about awareness.”

Personal Trainer Nik Obert of Snap Fitness has high praise for Sarah’s meals and expertise.

“I think what Sarah does is amazing,” Obert said. “Her food is absolutely fabulous—healthy, great energy, and great for your digestive health, which is important to all of us.

“I really can’t say enough,” Obert said. “The simplest things are the most amazing. You want to take your time because it is so good, but you also want to scarf it down.”

To reach Sarah Mandell and Flourish to Thrive, call 323-422-4817.

“There are a variety of approaches,” she said. “I can help anyone achieve their goals—just tell me what is your desire.”