CEO by day, mother by night: That’s how Maria Rodale, the CEO and Chairman of publishing powerhouse Rodale, Inc., likes to describe herself. But for as impressive as her resume is, Maria Rodale is refreshingly down-to-earth. Which doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering she grew up on a farm—the first organic farm in the country, to be exact.
In the 1930s, Maria’s grandfather, J.I. Rodale, spearheaded the organic agriculture movement, launching Organic Farming and Gardening Magazine in 1942. Maria was indoctrinated with the ethos of holistic living from a young age, and these teachings would later inform not only her personal life, but also her professional career. Following in her grandfather’s footsteps, Maria led Rodale, Inc.’s Organic Living division, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of Organic Gardening and oversaw all of Rodale’s gardening books. Today, her latest venture is Rodale’s, a specialty e-commerce site with a focus on healthy, responsibly sourced products for a happy life.
We recently had the chance to speak with this inspiring wonder-woman and chat about her thoughts on motherhood, staying sane in the midst of a hectic schedule, and why being a size 2 isn’t on her to-do list.
Spry Living: In today’s world, there is so much pressure to do it all—to be an amazing mother, a loving wife, and a powerful career woman, all while exercising and maintaining a size-2 figure. In your everyday life, do you struggle at all to find balance, or has time management always come easily to you?
Maria: Well, let’s get things straight from the beginning: I am not perfect and I don’t try to be! I am CEO of Rodale Inc., a happily divorced mother of three, and being a size two isn’t on my to-do list (and never will be). We all struggle to find balance, and to beat the feelings inside telling us that there is a perfect way to manage it all- don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy! But the challenges, successes and failures are what make life rich and interesting.
Some big things I do are:
1. Prioritize and triage. What’s most important? What’s the most fun?
2. Think backwards. If you died tomorrow, or next year, or even in 100 years, what would you really want to do today and tomorrow? Don’t wait.
3. Know when to put yourself on top of your list. That means scheduling in down time, vacations, massages, exercise and eating healthy nourishing food.
4. Be loving. To everyone around you and to yourself, too. Love makes everything easier.
5. Plan and make lists and be organized.
A lot of women complain that they don’t have time to work out. How do you squeeze exercise into a busy schedule?
See #3 above. I have to schedule it and preferably have someone make me do it. I’m not a natural athlete so it’s an effort for me, and I don’t really care for competitive physical pursuits. I love to walk to get somewhere. I enjoy a long relaxed yoga class in a one-on-one setting so I don’t have to worry about what anyone else is doing or how I compare (“Comparison is the thief of joy”!) The thing I’ve learned from reading all of our research is that every bit counts—taking the steps, working at a standing desk, going for a leisurely bike ride. The important thing is to just get out and do it and have fun doing it.
What is your health philosophy?
My health philosophy, developed from growing up “in the business” is rather unusual:
1. Health in and of itself is not an end—you can be perfectly “healthy” and still be a miserable person living a miserable life. Or you can do all the “right” things and still get sick or have health issues. True, deep health comes from living a life of meaning and purpose and making a positive contribution to the world and people around you. And being grateful for every precious minute.
2. Regarding food—eat as closely to nature as possible. Eat food that is organic, in season, and when possible, local. Find food that is humanely grown and raised with love. That means cooking! Lots of simple, easy cooking. For me, cooking is a time to relax, explore, and spend time with my family. And the recipes that are successes wind up on my blog, Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen.
3. Exercise is essential, but doesn’t have to be crazy. You just have to move, stretch and be grounded in your body. Your body is your home, your temple and your connection to the universe, so treat it well and with love.
Do you have any stress management tips or tricks?
Many of my stress management practices are meant to help me be present in the present. These are practices and moments of mindfulness that help me stay centered so that I can be good to myself, and to others. They also help in times when things start to feel overwhelming.
I meditate. I listen to music A LOT. I remind myself to breathe. Forgive others. Forgive myself. Laugh A LOT. And always remember the world will not end if I don’t get something done.
How did your experience growing up on an organic farm inform your view of healthy eating?
I learned from an early age that real, organic food is delicious! Better than anything else! I also realize people have a lot of misconceptions about organic. For example, I am not a vegetarian and never was and probably never will be. Organic healthy eating is also not about any fads, it’s about great good food in moderation. That means butter, bacon, salt and dessert…IN MODERATION!
What’s your favorite weeknight healthy meal?
It frequently changes depending on my mood and the time of year- I love to experiment in the kitchen with what is fresh and in season. Tonight it was lentil soup and a salad (family favorite!). My kids love to have salmon, too, and I’ll do a salad and mashed potatoes. Roast chicken is always a hit (with gravy). And we eat lots of raw veggies and raw fruit too, mainly because we all prefer it raw and it’s much easier and faster to prepare! I’ll often cut up a cucumber and red pepper and cauliflower and put it out on the counter while I’m cooking and by the time dinner is served, the veggies are gone.
Do you have any advice to other women who are struggling to “do it all?”
Whose rules are you living by? Who says you need to do it all? Do what makes you feel happy and brings meaning to your life! Don’t waste time on stupid stuff. Have fun!
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? If so, would you mind sharing what they are?
I am an obsessive resolution maker, but they are deeply personal and probably wouldn’t make a lot of sense to anyone else if I showed you my list. But the general theme for me this year is that I am ready to create more joy in my life and have more fun. Mind you, I already have heaps of fun, but I’ve found that the older I get, the more things fall off my list that don’t really matter. I am also going to work on compiling all of my blog recipes into a cookbook for 2016!
What advice would you have to your younger self?
Your gut was right all along. Believe in yourself! And oh, by the way, you are beautiful.