Along with sleep, nutrition is often written off as something that can — and must — be sacrificed on the way to success. Many entrepreneurs even boast about the unhealthy diets that fuel their start-ups.

“We’re easily blinded by the headlines and possibilities of ‘being our own boss,’” writes Arushi Mehta in YSF Magazine, which covers start-ups and entrepreneurship culture. “The problem is this: with all of the possibilities of success ahead, we often leave our health far behind. Many young entrepreneurs are, simply put, unhealthy.”

Kari Sulenes, who directs a program to help support founders’ well-being and reduce burnout, put it this way: “Expectations for health are so low that even when they have something like Lyme disease, they think that’s just something to push through.”

For Kara Goldin, success as a tech industry executive was fueled by Diet Coke — ten cans a day, to be exact. Drinking water felt boring to her, but her diet soda habit was contributing to serious health concerns, including weight gain, acne, and exhaustion. After a time, she left her tech job and founded Hint, Inc., a company specializing in bottled water flavored with natural fruit and no added sugar or sweetener. Part of her mission is to raise awareness about health issues including obesity and type 2 diabetes. “I’m trying to spread the word that as a society we’re in trouble,” she told the BBC. “I really believe that we can help consumers get their health back in all parts of the world.”

For Marissa Badgley, founder of Reloveution, a consultancy company striving to create more sustainable workplaces, the demands of being a founder led her to sacrifice key elements of her own health. While she felt driven to work long hours on projects she cared deeply about, her commitment came with a cost. As she told Business Insider, “I wasn’t eating well, drinking enough water, exercising more than the walk to the printer, or spending any real quality time with friends or family, all things that I consider essential to keeping myself going.” It wasn’t until an ER visit for chest pains that she realized the need to prioritize her own well-being.

Even the former first family got caught in a wave of eating for convenience while rushing from one work and family commitment to another. “I began to see the pattern we were in. With Barack gone all the time, convenience had become the single most important factor in my choices at home,” Michelle Obama wrote in Becoming. “We’d been eating out more. With less time to cook, I often picked up takeout on my way home from work. In the mornings, I packed the girls’ lunch boxes with Lunchables and Capri Suns. Weekends usually meant a trip to the McDonald’s drive-through window after ballet and before soccer. None of this, our doctor said, was out of the ordinary, or even all that terrible in isolation. Too much of it, though, was a real problem.”

When we strive so relentlessly and breathlessly after success as the world defines it, it becomes all too easy to decide that healthy eating isn’t all that important. But the science shows that poor food choices profoundly—and negatively — affect the very things that help us succeed: our mental and physical health, our concentration, our productivity, and our decision-making. When we make room for healthy eating choices, we see benefits in all parts of our lives, including work. We also experience a lot more satisfaction knowing we’re making choices that serve us instead of sabotage us.

Adapted from “Your Time to Thrive: End Burnout, Increase Well-being, and Unlock Your Full Potential with the New Science of Microsteps,” by Marina Khidekel and the editors of Thrive Global. Learn more and pre-order your copy here.


  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.