Susan — Let it go. Holding on to hate or anger keeps it in your life; it punishes you, not the other person. I try to practice empathy, to envision what others are going through and recognize that we all make mistakes. It’s important to maintain boundaries, but to do so without spite. To share the famous quote, “resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Siwat — Since a majority of the issues, I faced as a child revolved around nutrition and digestion, I consider eating healthy to be very important. I cook quite a bit; I’ve been fortunate to have a Mom who is an excellent cook. Her specialty is Thai food. Over the years I’ve written down all her recipes so I have quite a bit to choose from. I really do enjoy cooking; I find it relaxing and I also like it because I know exactly what I’m putting into my food.
Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?
As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Buckwalter and Siwat Siengsanaoh, Co-Founders of Recoup Wellness Beverage.
Susan Buckwalter is co-founder of Recoup Wellness Beverage, a mission driven company committed to helping people feel better and live well. Recoup’s flagship product is a ginger-powered hydration + health drink for daily wellness and workout recovery. Susan is a former college athlete and outdoor sports enthusiast with a passion for wellness and fitness. She has a background in product innovation and brand management from Unilever, eos products, and Campbell’s. She has worked on natural products including V8 and eos organics, as well as mission-driven brands including Dove and Dove Men+Care. Susan has a BA from Gettysburg College and an MBA from Cornell University.
Siwat Siengsnaoh is co-founder of NYC startup beverage company Recoup Wellness Beverage. The origins of Recoup go all the way back to Siwat’s childhood healthcare experience. He spent the first few years of his life in the hospital and by the time he was 12 had undergone 10 major surgeries. It was his mother’s ginger-based remedies that played a big part in his recovery and the memories of these home remedies inspired him to create Recoup. Siwat also has experience starting numerous companies ranging from a t-shirt company during college, a magazine company, and a mobile social networking app. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Siwat worked at Columbia University Medical Center working with children with heart and lung disease and also spent time working at McGraw-Hill Education. Prior to starting Recoup, Siwat worked with the founding partners of a digital healthcare startup accelerator called Blueprint Health. Siwat holds a BA in Political Science from Drew University, an MS in Applied Physiology from Columbia University, and an MBA from Cornell University. Siwat currently lives in the Upper Westside of Manhattan.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Susan: I grew up in the suburbs of Massachusetts, the youngest of three kids. In many ways I had a typical 80’s childhood, riding bikes in the neighborhood and running for the ice cream truck, but there were two events that really shaped my youth and the person I would become.
When I was 11, my mom, my sister and I backpacked around Europe for four months. Armed with a Eurail pass and a “Let’s Go” guidebook, we navigated our way through 14 countries from the Netherlands to Morocco, with very few reservations. Quick reality check: this is before the internet, so we would catch a train, roll into a new town or country and walk to the places in the guidebook for accommodation. They weren’t always open. It was an adventure through and through. For two months in the South of France, I traveled by public bus to a nearby city and took classes at an all-French school (I did not speak French yet). This experience instilled in me a fearlessness, an appetite for adventure, a love of travel, and a great sense of direction. The affinity for travel brought me to do a Semester at Sea in college and work internationally as a young adult. It also ignited in me a restlessness and open-mindedness that I think is essential to being a creative, disruptive entrepreneur.
The other experience that shaped my childhood was the illness and death of my father. When I was nine, my dad became very ill and spent months in the hospital. An organ donation extended his life, but when I was 12, his health took a turn for the worse and he passed away. He was a bright, charismatic person and a very supportive parent. I like to think that some of the best parts of my personality come from my dad. He was a natural athlete and nurturing of my athleticism. I struggled for a while after he passed, rebelling a bit and dealing with the trauma, but sports remained a constant in my life. My dad instilled in me a competitiveness and focus, sports built upon that with great structure and leadership experience. Sports allowed me to stay connected to him in a way. My father’s passing also ingrained in me a deep sense of empathy. I recognize that we never truly see all the sadness or stress people carry and we should treat others with the gentleness and understanding that we seek ourselves.
Siwat: I was born in the East Village in New York City to immigrant parents who came to the United States from Thailand. Both of my parents were teachers and immigrated to pursue graduate degrees. I spent the first three years of my life in a hospital and by the time I was 12 years old, I had undergone 10 major surgeries, one of them being open heart. Once the doctors felt that I could be taken care of at home, my parents moved to New Jersey. I spent most of my childhood growing up in a town called River Vale, which is a suburb of Northern Jersey. During my childhood, my parents made it their goal to give me every opportunity to explore and try new things. During my exploration, I fell in love with soccer, and over time soccer would become the tool that allowed me to express myself freely without judgement. I ended up playing soccer in college at Drew University, a small liberal arts school. From there, I seriously considered going to medical school. When I graduated from Drew, I got a job at The Children’s Hospital of New York Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center, the same hospital where I spent the first three years of my life in. During the day I was training to be a clinical applied physiologist and worked side-by-side with doctors who cared for children with heart and lung disease. In the late afternoons/evenings I was working towards my master’s degree in applied physiology at Columbia University. While working at the hospital, I had this itch to identify problems and find solutions to them. That itch inspired me to start a magazine company, a social networking website, and a music discovery mobile app. As time progressed, I realized that my passion was to create solutions to problems regardless of the industry. Overall, I just really enjoyed the process of creating things. After a brief break, I went back to Cornell University and graduated with my MBA. From there I jumped around doing some consulting work and ended up working at a digital healthcare startup accelerator called Blueprint Health. That was an amazing and eye-opening experience: I got to see first-hand what startup founders had to go through on a daily basis. After my time at Blueprint Health, I revisited my book of ideas and the concept of Recoup stood out to me more than any of the other ideas I had written down over the years.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Susan: My grandfather started a manufacturing company when he was 18 and it is still in the family today. My sister started her business, Organizing Boston, when she was in her early 20’s and is still running it successfully 20 years later. Seeing the pride of building your own company and the advantages of doing so successfully has been inspiring. By comparison, I’m a little late to the entrepreneurship game, but creating my own company has always been a goal.
In my 20’s I pursued my passions for traveling and the outdoors, working abroad in four countries and later running an outdoor retreat center. As I began to think about next stages of my career, I wanted to challenge myself and ensure that I had a wide range of opportunities, so I went to Cornell’s Johnson School of Management for my MBA. Through my studies in business school and work experience at Campbell’s, Unilever and eos products, I realized my passion for innovation and building meaningful brands that people love. Throughout this time, the desire to build my own company was always on my mind, but it was hard to dedicate the energy. Finding a co-founder who complemented my skill set was the last little push I needed to take the leap into full time entrepreneurship.
Siwat: My parents have played a huge part in my pursuit of a career in healthcare. They always felt that based on my experience as a child (and as a patient) I would be able to connect with people who were going through health issues. They were firm believers in making sure that I had a solid foundation before jumping into something new, hence my decision to get an MBA. As for the inspiration for becoming an entrepreneur, it’s been a combination of my professional network, stories of entrepreneurs through books, and family friends who have experienced a certain level of success starting their own businesses. The origin stories of people who started things has always been something I’ve enjoyed listening to and the more I connected with people who started their own businesses, the more I gravitated towards the world of entrepreneurship.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Susan: My mom has always been extremely supportive and encouraged me to chase my passions. She never pressured me to do what everybody else was doing or to take the easy way. She has always been adventurous; she worked as an international flight attendant in the hay day of air travel, went to Woodstock with her siblings, and moved across the country at one point to live in San Francisco. From big things like taking us backpacking in Europe to small everyday decisions, my mom instilled in me a confidence and sense of adventure that has allowed me to follow my own path to success.
Siwat: There are so many people who have helped me and Recoup along the way. A great mentor and advisor to me has always been Jean-Luc Neptune, founder of Suntra Modern Recovery. Jean-Luc was my boss at Blueprint Health and while working with him, I learned so much about being a startup founder. During our spare time I would share various problems that I’ve identified along with their potential solutions. Questions arose like, “is the pain point big enough? Can the concept scale?” These were common questions he would always ask me. We would also spend a lot of time talking about the characteristics/attributes it takes to survive as a successful entrepreneur. During that time, startups were blossoming in New York City; they still are now, but it was different back then. You had all the major players with offices in NYC (well-funded startup firms with amazing offices), but you also had a ton of young startup companies forming while taking up a shared desk or a small office in a co-working space. Every coffee shop was filled with small groups of people hashing out a new idea. Jean-Luc and I believe that it takes a certain type of person to be able to create a successful startup. At a very high level, we attributed it to having a growth mindset combined with grit. These two concepts have continued to stick with me, and they play a big part in how Susan and I steer our company and execute on our mission.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Susan: I would say my most embarrassing mistake was from my first job, teaching and selling a study-skills course in private schools. I was teaching at an all-boys private high school in Australia and it was my first assignment in the country. To start off with some friendly banter, I tried to get them talking about sports, asking them “what teams do you root for?” The mix of shock and laughter immediately told me I had done something wrong. I came to learn that root is very impolite Australian slang for sex. Oh dear! That was a quick and searing lesson in grounding yourself in local culture and language before trying to do business in a new place. Lecturing to high school students is also a great training ground for pitching investors — you learn to keep your audience engaged and choose your words carefully.
Siwat: I’m not sure if this is a mistake, but it’s definitely something I laugh at every time it comes to mind. It’s also given me reassurance that I am on the right path. This story happened probably a month or two into starting Recoup. A friend of mine was interested in purchasing Recoup, but he wanted to drink a bottle before and after his workout. So, I arranged to meet him right as he was leaving his Park Avenue office to go the gym. We coordinated a time and I stood waiting for him at the front entrance of the building. All of sudden a guy in a suit walks up to me and asks me if I was from Lenwich (formerly Lenny’s Sandwich) delivering his order. I politely said, “I’m sorry, I’m not from Lenwich.” At the time I didn’t think anything of it because I was too preoccupied with getting our beverage to my friend and making the sale. Later on that evening, I thought about it some more, and I came to the conclusion that I’m finally at a point where what I’m doing gives me the most joy. My gauge was that my ego/pride wasn’t at all rattled; I didn’t feel offended by the suit guy’s comment and looking back at the situation, he had every right to assume that I was a delivery person. I was standing in front of the building where all of the other delivery workers were. But the guy’s comments didn’t faze me. Later on, I came to the conclusion that the universe had sent me a test. The test would act as a reality check to make sure that I was on the right path. I’ve always known that going down this path would be a humbling experience, and there have been many experiences that put you in your place should you ever decide to get a big head. But when you acknowledge these unique experiences and treat them as reality checks and continue to move forward — they actually help you stay focused on the task at hand. Why? Because it’s rewarding to believe that your actions bring value to others and realizing that process itself is an enjoyable journey.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Susan: Growing up near Concord, MA I always knew a bit about Walden pond, Henry David Thoreau, and the transcendentalist movement, but it wasn’t until high school that I read Thoreau’s Walden. The appreciation of nature, the celebration of independence, and the concept of living deliberately resonated with me during that formative age. In my twenties, I spent four years running an outdoor retreat center in the Berkshire Mountains, living in a small cabin beside a mountain lake, an experience that was romanticized in part due to reading Walden. I went for morning runs on the Appalachian trail, ice-skated in the waning light of sunset and wrote at least three pages of my great American novel (never got much further than that). It wasn’t quite the stoic existence of Thoreau but living for four years with no cell service or WiFi in your cabin in the woods is pretty close for someone in my generation. A quote from Thoreau in Walden, “and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” has also been influential on my willingness to take risks, travel far, and to push outside my comfort zone every day.
Siwat: There are so many! Over the past four years I’ve made it a goal to read a book every month. Last year, due to the pandemic, I spent more time reading than usual. I am absolutely addicted to Audible; I think it’s fantastic. These are four books have made a significant impact on me:
- Jonathan Haidt — The Happiness Hypothesis — Jonathan Haidt believes that a great deal of our happiness stems from our social relationships so it’s in our best interest to understand them and work to improve them whenever possible. Another one of his topics that I have a ton of appreciation for is that we draw much more happiness working towards a goal rather than achieving it. In other words, “when you are working on something make sure you are enjoying the process.”
- Angela Duckworth — Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance — Angela Duckworth believes that grit (a combination of passion and perseverance) plays an important role in success. She breaks grit down into four components: Interest, Practice, Purpose, and Hope.
- Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright — Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization — This is phenomenal for anyone trying to motivate and lead high performing teams.
- Carlo Ancelotti — Quiet Leadership: Winning Hearts, Minds and Matches — I’ve always admired Carlo Ancelotti’s management style. Everywhere he goes people have nothing but great things to say about him. Some soccer players cry when he leaves, some protest and beg him to stay, others say that he’s the only boss they can truly call their friend as well. I’m amazed at how someone can have that kind of effect on managing and motivating some of the best soccer players in the world. His ability to stay focused, calm, and rational during high pressure moments is remarkable.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Susan: To quote another famous New England author, the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” has always resonated with me. The final lines of the poem are, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” I’ve always felt empowered to follow my own path. It has led me on a non-traditional career journey and given me the experience needed to become co-founder of Recoup. Following my own path means dedicating my life to the things I’m passionate about and can have a positive impact on the world, including Recoup’s mission to help people feel better and live well.
Siwat: Again, there are so many, but this one has always been top-of-mind for me:
“We do our best when our destinations are beyond the “measurement,” when our reach continually exceeds our grasp, when we have immortal finish lines. When we do this, the race is never over. The journey has no port. The adventure never ends because we are always on our way. Take the lid off the man-made roofs we put on ourselves and always play like an underdog.”
– Greenlight by Matthew McConaughey
This quote is extremely powerful because I believe that as long as you continue to enjoy the path that you’re on in your career, then you aren’t as concerned about the awards or accolades. The awards and accolades are great, and they provide reassurance that your work is making an impact, but that shouldn’t be the driving factor. Finally, the concept of playing like an underdog is self-explanatory, and it’s such a wonderful piece of advice.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Susan: Recoup is a brand dedicated to helping people feel better and live well. We recently launched our first line of products, an all-natural, ginger-powered beverage for post-workout recovery and daily wellness. We developed Recoup as a better-for-you alternative to sugary sports drinks; one that goes beyond hydration and offers health benefits. Every bottle has the dose of organic ginger that has been clinically proven to promote muscle recovery after a workout, aid digestion, and boost immunity. We want to revolutionize the sports drinks industry with an all-natural, clean label product that uses plant-based ingredients to deliver real benefits.
The sports drink industry is dominated by artificial products full of dye and processed sugar. (The average leading sports drink has 140% of a woman’s daily allowance of sugar). Recoup presents a healthy option that aligns with wellness goals, not derails them. Recoup is all-natural, non-GMO, gluten-free, and has no processed sugar or stevia. My personal favorite is the Watermelon + Blood Orange + Ginger, but Pineapple + Coconut + Ginger is a close second. I’m proud that we have developed something that is not only healthy, but absolutely delicious. As a company, we strive to educate and empower people to make healthy choices and give them the tools they need to reach their wellness goals. That means thoughtful content, expert advice, and delicious natural products that help people be their best selves.
Siwat: Recoup is the most exciting project that I’m working on right now. Susan and I are laser focused on growing our brand and developing a community through our mission to help people feel better and live well. I know firsthand the restorative powers of ginger, since they were part of my own health and recovery journey. We created Recoup to be able to share the goodness of ginger with a broader audience and give wellness-minded people a healthy option to promote recovery and boost resilience.
Recoup’s internship program is something that we are very proud of as well. The internship program is broken down into two parts:
1. Project based
2. Professional growth
Susan and I looked back on the internship programs we participated in throughout our professional careers and the ones that stood out to us provided us with knowledge and awareness regarding professional growth while at the same time providing us with industry specific knowledge as well (which is the project the interns are currently working on with either Susan or I). Within the professional growth portion of our internship program, we introduce our interns to concepts like growth mindset and grit on a weekly basis. We assign our interns to read research papers, watch TED talks, and listen to podcasts on various personal growth topics. They are responsible for providing us with a summary of what they’ve learned as well as how they may consider using the concept to further their professional development.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Find a happy place. Have a place that brings you peace and go there, physically and mentally. My happy place is YMCA Camp Hi-Rock, a summer camp and retreats center in the Berkshires. I went there as a camper and worked there as an adult before business school, and now I serve on its board of directors. Visiting several times a year helps me focus on what is important and meaningful. Taking a walk in the woods grounds me, and catching up with old friends reminds me of who I want to be. At Hi-Rock, I feel like the best version of myself and I am motivated to make sure I am that person, even as I head back to my everyday life. When I can’t visit, staying connected through friends, flipping through pictures, or sketching a watercolor of the lake brings me back to the values and ideals I set there.
- Move your body. The connection between physical and mental health is real. When you exercise, stress-reducing endorphins are released. Running or HIIT interval training for a half hour or more can give you a traditional “runner’s high” but recent studies show even 15 minutes of exercise a few times a week can raise endorphin levels. Next time you feel “stuck” or unmotivated, commit to a 20-minute workout and see if you can change your mindset.
- Let it go. Holding on to hate or anger keeps it in your life; it punishes you, not the other person. I try to practice empathy, to envision what others are going through and recognize that we all make mistakes. It’s important to maintain boundaries, but to do so without spite. To share the famous quote, “resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Siwat: I’ve made it part of my new year’s resolution to make sure I express gratitude every day. It’s not that I am not a thankful person, I believe that I am. I am thankful for so many things, but my own awareness of gratitude usually occurs when good things happen, or when the occasion/event exceeds my expectations. I don’t believe it should be this way. Being thankful when situations/events go your way or being offered a platform to share your unique story is definitely something to be thankful for, but I don’t believe it’s enough. I feel like I should express gratitude every day because there is so much that I should be thankful for. As a result, I’ve chosen to make gratitude a “good habit” one that I incorporate into my daily life. Since the beginning of the year, as soon as I wake up the first thing I do is recite the five things that I am grateful for in my life. I do it while I am laying down in bed. I’ve set my alarm clock to remind me about this specific task and to help make this part of my everyday morning routine.
The second habit is to take mid-day walks. I usually use the time to clear my head while also mentally preparing to take on the second part of my day. This ritual goes all the way back to my time working at the hospital. I used to take walks with a colleague to an area in the hospital where you could look out and see an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline (looking downtown). On a clear summer day, you could see all the way down to the Freedom Tower. The walk was always a great way for me to take a step back from the long morning meetings or paperwork that I was focused on during the first half of my day. It allowed me to reset and prepare to take on the second half of my day.
The third habit is meditation. I like to meditate for 15 minutes after my workday is done. I do this because it allows me to close out my workday with the right frame of mind. Once I’m done mediating, I’m a lot more clear headed and I’m able to weed through a lot of the noise and clutter that came through during the day. It allows me to refine my to-do list for the next day, prioritizing the important stuff.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
Susan: I often use a simple breathing exercise at night to calm my mind and go to sleep: count five breaths in and count five breaths out. Having to count disrupts whatever narrative might have been playing in my head and allows me to focus on my breathing and relax.
My favorite form of meditative activity is kitesurfing. For me there is nothing more cleansing than spending time in the ocean. Kiteboarding takes a balance of intense focus and flow state. Your body and mind are in sync and every micro-adjustment impacts your experience. Another thing I love about surfing and kitesurfing is that you have a literal change in perspective. Being out on the water, looking back on land and your everyday life causes you to see things differently and opens up a channel for creative thought. It connects me to the Earth and the Ocean, enabling me to think about the big picture. If you can’t jump into the ocean every day, a simple practice you can do is to change your perspective. That can mean walking to a new spot in a park, checking out a rooftop, or taking a new route to work.
Siwat: I have a hard time sitting down on a floor with my legs crossed so I usually end up sitting in a chair with my hand on my lap or I lean up against a wall with my legs pointed straight. When I was a teenager, I visited a Buddhist monk in Thailand and he gave me some advice on how to meditate; it’s pretty much what many of us have heard before, which is to try and pinpoint your breathing to the tip of your nose. He also gave me a phrase to repeat while breathing in and out through my nose. The phrase translates to “joy comes from within.”
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Take the work out of workouts. Many people fall out of a workout routine because it feels like work. Finding activities you enjoy that help you stay fit is the easiest way to integrate physical activity into your lifestyle. When I have access to water, I surf, kiteboard, and paddleboard, even in the winter (with the proper gear). When I’m landlocked, I love to play tennis, soccer, and do dance workouts. These activities are something I look forward to, making it easy to stay active. A few tips for others: gamify your workout by trying to beat your old time, tracking progress and setting goals. Find instructors online or in-person who motivate you. Make your walk or run more fun by choosing a great playlist or downloading a mystery audiobook that you can only listen to when working out. I did that in quarantine and would find myself running extra laps through the neighborhood just to hear what happens next.
- Strength training does wonders. Strengthening your body prevents injury and helps you stay in shape.Muscles burn more calories than fat when at rest, so the benefits of a strength-training workout lasts long after you’re finished.Body-weight exercises like push-ups and squats are an easy way to build muscle. Get in the habit of doing a quick series every morning, or when you need a break from the computer. Integrating small amounts of strength training and building stamina can help you stay on track and focused on your fitness goals.
- Build fitness into your social life. In NYC especially, it can seem that social life revolves around eating and drinking. The pandemic has shifted that to some degree, but that pattern is likely to return. Get your friends on board to integrate fitness into your social time. That can mean catching up at a barre class, taking a walk instead of grabbing a drink, or trading a boozy brunch for a morning hike. Friends and loved ones can act as accountability partners and you can find activities you enjoy together. Social clubs and sports teams are also a great way to expand your network.
Siwat: Prior to the pandemic I regularly played pick up soccer/futsal at my gym or with friends in a recreational league, but I’ve since refrained from participating in those types of activities. I now find my myself going on hikes; Darlington Park has been my go-to in 2020. I also bought a jump rope during the pandemic. There are some great HIIT jump rope workouts out there. And finally stretching; over the years stretching has become very important to me. It’s helped me with my flexibility and it’s also helped to alleviate some of the lower back pain that I experienced from playing soccer for many years.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
Susan: I have a few principles that help keep me on track with healthy eating. I have a huge sweet tooth and it took me a while to figure out how to balance my cravings with my fitness and health goals.
- A healthy diet doesn’t mean dieting. Find healthy food that you enjoy. Healthy food should not be something you eat to survive while you wait for an unhealthy treat. Use spices and good-for-you ingredients to add flavor and variety. Fuel your body with a mix of protein, carbs, and fiber to leave you feeling satisfied and energized. I think the biggest mistakes people make are trying to be too restrictive and chasing diet trends that are not sustainable.
- Balance One of our main values at Recoup is balance. Our products are all natural, with nothing artificial and no processed sugar. We believe that dyes and processed sugar don’t belong in your sports drinks. But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy a sprinkled donut once in a while. The majority of what you eat should be healthy foods that nourish your body, and treats should be enjoyed without guilt. If I have a few indulgent days I follow with a few more intensive workouts.
- Listen to your body: I also think many of us don’t take the time to listen to our bodies. We cover up fatigue with caffeine, we eat until we are uncomfortably full, or we medicate our aching backs instead of strengthening our core muscles. The more you listen to your body, the more likely you are to take the actions that will support your health.
One trick I use before giving in to a craving is to pay attention to what I really want. When you get the urge to snack ask yourself what you really feel and try to choose a healthy way to satisfy the urge:
- Am I stressed and want to crunch on something? (choose celery over chips)
- Am I just thirsty? (drink a full glass of water)
- Am I procrastinating? (take a quick walk and reset)
- Am I actually hungry? (eat a healthy snack with protein and carbs)
Siwat: Since a majority of the issues, I faced as a child revolved around nutrition and digestion, I consider eating healthy to be very important. I cook quite a bit; I’ve been fortunate to have a Mom who is an excellent cook. Her specialty is Thai food. Over the years I’ve written down all her recipes so I have quite a bit to choose from. I really do enjoy cooking; I find it relaxing and I also like it because I know exactly what I’m putting into my food.
I believe that accessibility and cost are two major roadblocks that prevent people from eating healthy. I’m fortunate because living in NYC gives me a wide variety of healthy options as well as various cuisines. And while some of the healthier options are pricier, there are healthy options that can fit into all types of budgets. However, if you live outside of major cities your options become limited and sometimes the healthier options aren’t as accessible. Since so many of us are limited on time it’s much easier to choose the faster, unhealthier options.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Build Your Toolkit. Develop your own personal toolkit to combat unhealthy responses. Understand your usual emotional pitfalls (negative self-talk, insecurity, quick to anger, etc.). Build a toolkit of actions you can take when you start to fall into a negative pattern. Self-awareness is key to identifying issues but developing your toolkit will help to break negative cycles or steer you out of unhelpful behaviors.
- Be Thankful. Start and end your day reflecting on the things for which you are grateful.
- Practice Empathy. Instead of trying to solve or change, spend time each day focusing on the emotional experience on others. I find this can help you be more forgiving, open-minded, and accepting of perceived weakness in others and yourself.
- I’ve been told that I smile a lot and it’s something that I’ve always done even as a kid. I sometimes do it without even realizing it. When I was a kid, I had my two front teeth removed a month before school pictures. I told my parents that for the school picture this year I wasn’t going to smile because the photo would capture the huge gap left by my two missing front teeth. Well, when the day came for school pictures, I couldn’t help myself I had to smile and sure enough there is a photo of me smiling with a noticeable gap where my two front teeth should’ve been.
- Secondly, saying thank you whenever I can has always been helpful to me. It allows me to express gratitude to people that have help me out regardless of how big or small their help has been. By saying thank you, I’m acknowledging their help and hopefully they will appreciate my acknowledgment.
- Lastly, I make sure to laugh out loud as often as possible. I follow a handful of comedians on Instagram and Tik Tok; those two platforms ensure that I laugh out loud at least once every day.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
Susan: I actually just wrote a blog article on Recoupwellness.com about this! I have always been a big advocate of the “believe it and become it” approach to confidence and happiness. Smiling to yourself before you get on a hard phone call or walk into a room for a big pitch can set you up for success. When we smile, a few things happen: According to studies, smiling (even a forced smile) releases endorphins. Endorphins act as natural painkillers within the body and can reduce stress and leave you feeling euphoric.
Seeing someone else smile also triggers mirror neurons in your own brain, causing you to smile. That triggered smile has the same positive impact as if you saw something funny or heartwarming. So, smiling not only gives you an emotional boost, it can also have a positive impact on those around you.
Siwat: As I’ve mentioned before I tend to smile quite a bit. I am a huge supporter of the power of smiling. There is a TED Talk by Ron Gutman called the “Hidden Power of Smiling.” In the talk, he mentioned so many different studies that have been done on smiling. “Smiling is evolutionarily contagious” and in the talk, Ron Gutman states that “Darwin believed that the act of smiling itself actually makes us feel better, rather than smiling being merely a result of feeling good.” I truly believe that smiling is contagious, and it allows us a non-verbal way to connect with people — by offering a genuine smile, you’ve instantly portrayed yourself as non-threatening.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Susan: To me spirituality is about feeling deep connection. Feeling a connection to the Earth, to a higher power or to humanity in general can be spiritual experiences. Three habits that I practice:
- Spend time in nature and engage all your senses. Really stop to take in everything from the springiness of the forest floor to the smell of pine and moss. If this doesn’t come naturally, turn your attention to each sense, one at a time. Ask yourself “what do I smell/see/feel?” Before business school, I ran an outdoor retreat center in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. Being in the wilderness and having limited distractions trained me to notice all the details. Tuning in to nature can be a great way to tune out of the stress of modern life.
- Create spaces in your home for meditation and inspiration. You don’t need to have a huge home to create pockets or places for spiritual connection. It could be a meditation stool, a sculpture that you use to ground yourself, or a space where you can create art. In my cozy Upper West Side Manhattan apartment, I don’t have a ton of free space, but I have an area for yoga, an art wall, and a few pieces that connect me to a sense of peace.
- Connect with others. At Recoup, connection (to the Earth, to ourselves, and to each other) is one of our core values, and it guides much of what we do and believe. I think it is a deeply engrained need in humans to connect to each other and we sometimes let life, work, and daily distractions keep us from maintaining important friendships.
Siwat: Three habits that I believe can help optimize your spiritual wellness are:
- Meditation — allows you to be focused/present in the moment.
- Self-reflection — allows you to evaluate what aspects of yourself you that needs to improve, what aspects can stay the same, and what aspects to dial back on.
- Staying in process (enjoy what you’re doing — everything else is just noise).
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
Susan: I think there is a part of the human spirit that effortlessly connects to beauty in nature. There is a rare stillness that comes from being alone in nature, and with that stillness there is peace. We spend most of our modern lives with our bodies and our minds on high alert, waiting for the ding of a notification, navigating traffic, mindlessly swiping for stimulation. To be out in nature and to truly rest our mind from the intensity of modern existence creates a sense of space in the soul. It makes room for something greater and gives us a chance to connect our attention to the world beyond our daily lives.
Siwat: I always mention this to Susan because she truly loves being outdoors and surrounded by nature. I enjoy it, but I feel as though I need to spend even more time with nature. I enjoy spending time outdoors usually at local parks or recreation fields, but I acknowledge that I need to spend more time in a natural environment. I have been able to do more of it this year due to the pandemic. Being in nature allows me to recognize the pace of life, it reveals important concepts like patience. It also lets me know how small I am in the grand scheme of things. Being in nature allows me to appreciate the natural progression of things reminding me that we, as humans, are connected to each other and our surroundings. I believe there is balance and harmony that exist between human beings and nature and we have to be careful not to abuse it or take advantage of it.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Susan: I’ve mentioned a few times the power of connection and I believe there is a movement underway in which people are connecting more deeply with themselves and their bodies. Recoup’s mission to help people feel better and live well is a part and perhaps a small catalyst in this movement. At Recoup, we see three layers of connection as integrated and deeply important. Connection to self, to others, and to the Earth. I hope that people can balance those and draw those connections even deeper. When we listen to our bodies, we make better choices and lead healthier, happier lives. When we vividly see our connection to the Earth, we take action and we make changes that benefit the planet. When we empathize and connect with others, we feed our own souls and make the world around us a brighter place.
Siwat: I truly believe that Recoup’s mission could inspire a movement:
To provide people with healthy ways to improve their daily wellness and get to their best selves.
Feel better, live well
When I sat down with Susan to refine Recoup’s mission, we wanted to develop a community that could help turn our mission into a movement putting emphasis on taking time out through the day and checking in with yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. If you feel as though you’re a little off kilter, Recoup wants to help you get you back to your best self so you can put your best foot forward no matter what is in store for you (whether that’s a big meeting, your afternoon workout, or even if you just need a mental reset to prepare you for the rest of your day).
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Susan: When I was writing the brand tone of voice for Recoup, I was trying to think of a celebrity that we would aspire to be like. Kate Hudson kept coming to mind. She balances life as a successful entrepreneur, awesome mom, strategic investor, fitness icon, and fun, approachable person. She has launched incredibly successful companies and captivated audiences with warmth and positive energy. She recently launched a better-for-you craft vodka brand called King St. Recoup also happens to make an amazing, healthy cocktail mixer, so maybe we can get together and mix up some drinks!
Siwat: I’ve always been a big admirer of Matthew McConaughey. Although I don’t know him personally, Mr. McConaughey, upon listening to him speak and reading this book Greenlight (twice now), I believe we share a similar belief, or as he would call it “a truth.” That truth being, “That the universe is conspiring to make me happy.” I have a lot of admiration for how he views life. From what I’ve read, his outlook on life, how he chooses to hold himself accountable for his actions, and his ongoing quest to understand who he is as a person, is exemplary. His ability to check-in within himself and self-correct when necessary is something that we all should strive to do. He values and appreciates life’s journey, understanding that we’ll make mistakes, we’ll learn from them, and once we identify what brings us joy, we should take that up-hill journey. As we maneuver our way through our own personal journey, we should enjoy the process and all the adventures that we experience. Without being too bold, I believe that many of the beliefs and truths Mr. McConaughey values are in line with Recoup’s mission of providing ways for people to improve daily wellness and get them back to their best self. Since Mr. McConaughey is an adventure seeker and prefers being outdoors in nature rather than having breakfast or lunch, it would be wonderful to connect with him on a walk or hike. Plus, I would honestly like to know if he and his wife Camila are ginger fans. ϑ
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Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.