She still stuck with the consulting job for a while, because she says she was raised not to quit. And she was raised a competitor. As a top-tier debater in high school, Hari was a state champion. Even as her grades suffered from her devotion to the debate team, she was still recruited to colleges because of her skill. "It was actually the funnest time of my life, until now," she recalls.
"What made you excel?"
"I love competition," she said. I laughed. She didn't. "I love competition. I love competition of ideas. There's something really gratifying about convincing someone of something. It's probably born into me. And there are so many parallels between what I was doing back then, and what I'm doing now. In that it's competition, and being the underdog, and convincing people that they need to think about healthier eating, drop the processed food, this food is killing you."
She started putting those ideas in writing in 2011. Not wanting to mix her Internet identity with her day job as a consultant, she initially went only by the name The Food Babe. For the first year and half of her blog's existence—which today features an actual photo of Hari examining a nutrition label with a magnifying glass (as does the cover of her book)—the top of the page was illustrated with cartoon characters. One was a woman lifting weights in a bikini. "It was a cartoon, though," Hari said. "It wasn't graphic. But, it was a babe."
Sexuality is an element of health, I said.
"Well, I'm just saying it wasn't, like, graphic."
Her personal brand is always family-friendly, in the traditional sense. She says the "babe" branding—an interesting approach in a scientific arena notoriously dismissive of female voices—was never her idea. When she asked her tech-savvy husband to procure a domain name for her blog, as she recalls, EatHealthierForever.com was taken. So he suggested FoodBabe.com, which was somehow available for $10.
"At first I was like, I'm not calling myself 'The Food Babe,' that's ridiculous," Hari said. "But then I thought, well, why don't I teach everyone to become a food babe?"
In its early days, FoodBabe.com was essentially Hari's aspirational lifestyle blog, divided into three categories. In one, she wrote about workouts. In another she wrote about food. And in the third she recounted her travels. She is, she admits, obsessed with travel.
"I didn't start the blog to take on the industry," Hari said. "I had no idea that this would start to happen. I had no idea that a blog post, something I wrote, would change a company. But when that started to happen, that's when I knew I had to quit my job, that I had this gift that I need to share with the world."
Feeling that she owed it to herself, to her mother-in-law who had recently died from cancer, and to her father who had recently been diagnosed with cancer, to spread her message of health through natural food, she gave up television for Lent (she's not Catholic, but, still) and found time to start blogging after work.