I first met Ali Bonar on an Ancient Nutrition retreat in Seaside, Florida.
She came to dinner with barely any makeup, huge smile on her face. Bubbly. Fun. Super comfortable in her skin. Those kind of vibes. I instantly liked her. (You’ll love her IG– such great stories.)
Ali a sensational conversationalist (as you will see in this article below.) She’s well researched, thoughtful, intuitive and so down to earth. Relatable. (See her blog here.)
She’s also the Co-Founder of KWEEN FOODS and blog- a company that is all about freeing yourself from food struggles, leaping out of your body image issues and just LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE. Her first product has been a huge success (you’ve most likely seen other wellness bloggers tout this product) It’s GRANOLA BUTTER. A nut-free spread that goes EASY on the digestive tract (not all nut butters do.) Not only is it nut-free, it’s so so SO damn delicious. Each serving has 4g of fiber (sweet!), low sugar (3 grams although it tastes like 20- it’s that good), and it has incredibly simple ingredients. It’s also a great way to get in your Omega 3s and 6s- as it has FLAX in it. Fantastic product- she makes one with collagen in it too! Yusssss I love my collagen.
Ali has accomplished a lot. She is also LOVED on her blog and Instagram. She is very vocal about her past eating disorder and WHY this is important is because she’s showing us that you can be vulnerable in a way that’s not drowning. In a way that actually propels you forward while helping others.
So many women have struggled with food, had eating disorders (myself included), had severe body image issues. So many of us deal with this. So FEW of us are open about it. And perhaps… being open about it can be a way to heal. And help others.
THIS CONVERSATION WAS SO INSPIRING By the end of it, I was just like… damn, girl. You are the very definition of owning it. And after that thought, I just wanted to own it myself. Whatever “it” was for me. I hope this conversation/interview does that for you. Definitely worth following Ali on Instagram as I promise you, she is a breath of fresh air. Insightful and funny at the same time. Oh… and the CEO of a bomb ass food company. Just proof that you can go through dark periods in life and still accomplish big dreams.
Katey: So Ali. You’re talented. Smart as hell. You’re a CEO of a granola butter company. A blogger of badassery and women living up to their full potential. You’re a creator of some wicked good recipes.
And yet. One of your biggest struggles in life has been with food and your body. I wanted to have you on here because 1. I think it’s important to show that people CAN eventually use their darkness for something great later on and 2. It’s so important to be open with people about our struggles. Mental health. You’re incredibly open. Most of us are not. First- tell us some major accomplishments (mentally, etc) about where you are at today before we talk about what your struggle looked like.
Ali: Katey! You’re da real kween and thank you so much for having me. The biggest accomplishment for me, as simple as it sounds, has been feeling my feelings — even the uncomfortable ones. I used to numb out in so many ways: food, alcohol, boys (oops), netflix, etc. Through a lot of self-work and therapy, I have learned that “negative” feelings (anxiety, fear, stress, sadness) are just as important as positive ones, and deserve a seat at the table, too. Plus — without our negative feelings, the positive ones wouldn’t feel as awesome.
Katey: I think a lot of people are afraid to really spend time with those negative feelings. So they numb them. I know how much I can relate.
So you’re doing well now. Thriving! As we see on social media, you still have dark days and tough moments but where you are at today verses a few years ago is incredible. Tell us about the lows and how serious it got. So we have some context
Ali: Totally. My drug of choice was definitely food. It served many different purposes in my life: a false sense of control, a distraction from “dealing with life,” and a method of self-soothing in times of darkness. As much as I loved food, and the crutch it provided, it didn’t love me back. I was exhausted. Tired of the food rules I had trapped myself with, tired of the headspace that it constantly occupied.
Many people talk about having a breaking point. Mine wasn’t necessarily one moment, but rather a cumulation of a series of events leading up to one epiphany: “I can’t continue to live like this.”
I remember so many nights out to dinner with girlfriends, desperately trying to stay present in the conversation — but my mind kept drifting back to food. What should I order? I really want the tacos. But carbs! Too many carbs. I should get the salad. That probably has the least amount of calories. Yes, the salad sounds good. After dinner ended, I’d return home to an empty house and a dark kitchen. I spotted some chocolate chip cookies that my roommate had made just hours before. I’ll just have one bite. I had a salad tonight! I was good. I deserve it. Moments later, the entire plate of cookies was gone.
My eating was animalistic, rushed; it was as if I had blacked out and lost completely control of my body. This wasn’t a girl who was enjoying her chocolate chip cookie after a fun night out with friends. This was a girl using food as a band-aid, using food as a way to fill a gaping void. My stomach was stuffed to the brim and bulging. I rushed to the bathroom and tried to make myself throw up, but couldn’t. You’re such a failure. You can’t even make yourself throw it up!
I sat on the bathroom floor, sobbing. My brain was a jumble of so many thoughts: What’s wrong with me? Why am I like this? Why can’t I control myself around food? And most importantly: Will this be forever?
Katey: We often don’t stop to realize how much of a trap food can be. How debilitating those controlling thoughts can be. It quite literally steals your joy in the moment.
So to elaborate more on what you’ve just told me- your problems were binging and starving. Both at the same time? Bulimia, Anorexia- do you ever use these words to describe this or was it something different? I know these struggles look different for everyone. And also- did people around you ever notice your preoccupation with food? Or was it something you were good at keeping hidden?
Ali: I never resonated with bulimia or anorexia, because at the time I believed that those terms were reserved for women who were 80 pounds and requiring hospitalization. I was thin, but at a healthy weight. I didn’t think my problem was “bad enough.” And from the outside, it wasn’t. I seemingly had it all together (I attended a good college, had a ton of friends and was extremely outgoing and social). But on the inside, I was crumbling.
I now realize that everyone’s eating disorder looks different, and the labels bulimia, anorexia and orthorexia cannot adequately capture the complexity of most people’s issues with food. I will usually refer to it as “disordered eating” rather than a label.
About a year ago, I finally came out to my friends and family about my issues with food. And as the millennial I am, I did it over Instagram stories. That’s right. Broadcasting my deepest, darkest secret to 20,000 random followers on the internet was much less terrifying than having to face my friends and family — the people who knew me best — and tell them I was struggling.
Much to my surprise, many of my friends had no idea. A few could sense something, but to be completely honest, I was really good at covering it up (which added to my internal shame). Most of my recovery was just in the cleansing nature and wave of relief from telling someone.
Katey: God. Do I relate to opening up to strangers being easier than opening up to people who know you in real life. THAT has always been a struggle for me personally and I’m sure a lot of women.
So tell us- is this something you routinely check in with about to your friends or family? And with your boyfriend- was it hard to first tell him? Purely girl talk- I’m dating someone new and it’s gotten serious as time goes on and there are still some things that I just can’t bring myself to talk to about him yet. There are things I don’t talk to anyone about and sometimes I wonder if I’d be healthier, more “free” mentally if I did. I guess I’m asking- how and when do you think it’s something that needs to be talked about? And if it’s not currently something you’re in the thick of, but have struggled greatly with it before, do you think it’s important that your real life people know? Is it ever better to keep it to yourself? I find I default to “they don’t need to know” but maybe that’s because I’m scared of their reaction or being held accountable. Give us a thought stream on this!
Ali: I think it comes down to “is it more destructive to keep this thought to myself?” For example: I was so nervous to tell Eric (my boyfriend) about my eating issues. We had been dating for 3 years at this point — why was it so hard to share such a big part of my life with him?! I was terrified what he’d think of me, especially since he was “a typical boy” (he’s an extremely normal eater, and I didn’t think he’d be able to understand or relate to anything I was going through).
I realized that after 3 years of being together, I knew pretty much everything about him. But I felt as though I was hiding a huge secret from him — and it tore me up inside. And once I told him, I realized that most of the anxiety and angst came from the decision itself. Once I made up my mind about telling him, I felt an odd sense of calm and wave of relief wash over me.
Lastly, I realized that if the roles were reversed and Eric, my parents, or one of my close friends opened up to me about struggling with something like this, I would never judge them. I would be incredibly supportive and love them, no matter what. That helped give me the confidence to open up and talk about it with them. And if someone doesn’t support you or love you because of your flaws — do you really want them in your life anyways?
Katey: SO TRUE. Just spittin’ truth Ali. I love it.
So tell us- how often do you talk about it now with your boyfriend or friends? Is it something that perhaps will always be beneficial to your mental state to check in with now and then? It seems like you’ve really become such an open book and you also provide this hope for people that yes it gets better. Yes life becomes more enjoyable.
Answer us that and then also tell us how sharing your journey with others has given you purpose? How it has helped shape you creatively and even career wise? How is your struggle now a silver lining?
Ali: It’s important to have a continuous, open dialogue with family and friends about it — especially because progress is not linear. You’ll have lots of little victories, but also lots of bumps. Another outlet (journaling, social media) is great for day-to-day thoughts, but you really need to dig into the juicy stuff with those who care about you most. This is definitely something I struggle with now. I find myself thinking “Are they sick of me talking about this? Am I being annoying? Do they even care?” And the answer is yes they absolutely care, and no you’re not being annoying.
To give a more tangible, real-life example: I recently posted about my bloating-induced anxiety on my IG stories. I had been bloated the past few days and really beating myself up about it. I posted on my stories and had a wave of messages from women who could relate, which was really nice! But it was a band-aid, a quick dopamine hit — it didn’t get to the root of it. My mom saw my story about 10 minutes later and immediately called me. “What’s going on? Talk to me.” It was as if the floodgates opened and we talked for over an hour. I felt my anxiety, guilt and shame evaporate.
That’s not to say that there’s no power in a community on social media — there absolutely is! Now that I am beginning to heal my relationship with food, it doesn’t fascinate me anymore. I’m not fixated on it. (I always use the metaphor of the bad boy who never wanted anything to do with you & treated you like shit, so you were obsessed with him. Until one day, he likes you back. He’s a nice, stable guy. And suddenly all the mystery and preoccupation with him is gone.)
I’m beginning to shift my posts towards more body-love and acceptance, because I have noticed a silent epidemic in our society (especially with women). It’s something that almost everyone struggles with, yet no one will talk about. Which is all the more reason to lean into it and expose it for the world to see. We’re all normal, because we’re all not normal. Just realizing that you’re not alone can be life-changing for some people.
Katey: So beautifully put, Ali! I’m so thankful for women like you who are open about struggles so that maybe others don’t have to suffer in silence. Or feel alone. Thank you for all that you’re doing.
As we close, what can Violets expect if they follow you? Tell us about the things you share and the type of value you like to bring to your community on a day to day. Smoothies with hair (they’ll get it if they follow you on IG ;))… GRANOLA BUTTER LOVE… Body image tips. Where can they find you? Are you more website based or IG based? Give us the deets. You’re a breath of fresh air woman.
Ali: Thank you so much for creating the space for this!
People can expect a blend of real-ass talk about body love/mental health/emotions/life, and the lighter side of things: recipes, skincare, fashion. I try to balance both, because let’s be honest, the heavy stuff gets, well, heavy after a while. 🙂
If you’re more of an IG gal, follow me on @avokween and @kweenandco (our granola butter brand page). For more in-depth pieces, check out my blog.
I respond to all DMs, so if you ever need a friend to talk to — please feel free to send me a message. My community is the reason I continue to post, so I love hearing from you.