“The world is not going to stop spinning if you just take a day off social media!” with Luisa Ruocco and Candice Georgiadis

The world is not going to stop spinning if you just take a day off social media! This is such a fast-moving industry that even going offline for the duration of a spinning class seems like an eternity! When I first started having some attention on my page and started seeing results from my efforts, instead of celebrating with some much deserved time off, I went into panic-mode driven by the mentality of having to “strike the iron while it’s hot”. As you grow in your career and settle into a new role, you realize that actually putting your phone away for half a day while you read a book is crucial to your well-being and actually makes you more productive in the long-run, and also that your followers probably won’t even notice you’re gone!

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luisa Ruocco, a social media food and travel influencer with a huge Instagram following on her page @luisainsta #TheHungryTraveller.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you so much for having me, this is a huge honor! I actually never set out to become an influencer, to be honest I think like for most people I always looked at lifestyle bloggers in awe from afar — there are a few accounts I have been following since I was at university and I had always been jealous of their lifestyle: traveling the world and living out these incredible experiences rather than being chained to a desk nine to five, and that always appealed to me but seemed like such a remote possibility that I never considered it as a realistic career choice. Unfortunately, I have also always been very insecure about my writing skills because at school I was constantly told that essay writing was my weakest point, so I never felt confident enough to write a blog, or even a journal — even though I always had a lot to say!

I did however always know in my heart that I would end up working with food because that has always been my biggest passion in life; from the age of four my favourite playtime was helping out in the kitchen, and by the age of six I was already making my own pizza dough, so there had to be a career in there somewhere! Growing up my academic abilities overshadowed my culinary hobbies and I ended up studying economics at the University of St Andrews instead of pursuing my hidden dream of studying at Le Cordon Bleu. Baking and hosting dinner parties at any chance I had got me through the tough maths-heavy curriculum and when I returned to my home town of London I quickly found a job in financial headhunting.

The job allowed me to pursue some of my wilder foodie ambitions such as dining in many of the world’s Michelin starred restaurants and being able to provide the catering for charity events that my friends were hosting, but ultimately I felt that it was keeping me from my two main life pursuits: traveling the world and having a significant positive impact on society. So I decided to quit and take a sabbatical so that I could travel around America and eat at all these restaurants I’d been making a list of over the years during escapism-driven Instagram searches which are what kept me sane at my desk job. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, but I ended up gaining 40lbs on that trip!

My friends kept calling and texting me to ask what I was up to, so I decided to start making more of a conscious effort to post on my Instagram feed about what I was seeing and what I was eating, but it turns out they were not the only ones interested in my adventures and my page started gaining more and more attention until the point where the reality that I might be able to turn my passion into an actual job started sinking in…and the rest is history!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

Well *hahaha* I guess it’s something that happened to me on a recent trip to Jordan. A local Sheikh who is apparently also a huge foodie and had been following my page for a while got wind of the fact that I was visiting the country and invited me and my friends over for lunch at his house in the middle of the Arabian desert! It was the most surreal experience, and the best part was that he had told us he would arrange transportation to pick us up and take us over to his house on the day, but none of us had understood that he meant he would send CAMELS! So of course I was dressed completely inappropriately for that camel ride, I think I was wearing some form of ball gown as you do when you’re going to a Sheikh’s house, and as we were riding through Petra the crowds of tourists just stopped in their tracks and started taking photos and videos of us — it was a real “pinch me” moment!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Can you believe I gave a brand free publicity?! Honestly looking back on it I feel so stupid, but when I was first starting out I was approached by a very well-known restaurant chain who asked me if I could post about a special promotion they had on. I was so flattered that they had picked out my little profile with about ten thousand followers at the time that I didn’t even think to ask for compensation! I think that this is a trap many influencers fall into in the early stages of their career when you don’t yet fully understand the worth of the service you are providing to a brand, but when you later find out how much other influencers were paid for that same campaign you’ll feel pretty dumb! I will definitely not be making that mistake again.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

All of my work is based around food, whether that be eating out in restaurants or sharing recipes to make at home, so I thought that it would be amazing to be able to leverage my influence to really spread the word about our current food waste issue and what efforts we can make as a society to cut down on this. In terms of environmental impact, I think so much awareness has recently been raised on how best to dispose of our waste: recycling where possible and even composting, but so little is said about actually cutting the problem at the root, which is to reduce waste altogether! Of course this is true for anything from buying items with less packaging to reduce plastic waste to not shopping for a new wardrobe every season, but eating everything that’s on our plate and using everything we have in our kitchen particularly resonates with my followers, so I decided to focus on that specifically.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

There was actually one of my followers in particular who reached out to me to say that he completely turned his life around and was now trying to live a waste free life! When you are highly informed on a topic, it’s easy to lose track of what level of knowledge the average person has on the issue. My grandparents spent some of their defining years living in post-WWII Italy where resources were scarce and every penny mattered, so because they lived with us when I was a child I was raised to always be very conscious of my consumption and waste, and I naively always assumed that this was the case for most people. So when I started making noise on my social media accounts about ending food waste, my goal was to reiterate how important this social and environmental cause is, I figured that although everyone had certainly heard and read about this particular topic, it wouldn’t hurt for them to hear it just one more time just on the off-chance that my chiming in would be the tipping point for even just one person to take action. I never imagined that there were people out there that I would be educating from the very roots! This gentleman messaged me just after my interview with The UK Newspaper came out where I discussed the issue around food waste to let me know that he had read it and that I had opened his eyes to a topic he hadn’t previously given much thought to. It really touched my heart that I was able to raise awareness around the global environmental crisis for him and I really hope that he is now using his new-found knowledge to make positive eco-changes in his own life as well as educating others on the topic.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

Well, once you get into the food industry you start seeing things that as a consumer you are completely unaware of. As an individual you are only really aware of the waste that is produced from leftovers from your own table, whether that’s from not finishing your meal in a restaurant or letting ingredients rot in your fridge at home because of bad planning — but once you start getting deep into the industry as a whole you start seeing just how much waste there is at every level, and you start calculating in your head how that all adds up…it can get pretty overwhelming!

I specifically remember walking through the kitchen of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy and the chef explaining to me how he had made a parmesan broth that he used to cook risotto and how he had then discarded the boiled pieces of cheese and thinking “surely that was unnecessary — could they not have been used for a different dish?!” but that’s just not how chefs are trained to think, particularly in high-end kitchens that are not making an effort to cut costs.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Definitely! One of the best quotes on climate change that I ever read was “We don’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly!”. Food waste is one of those issues where everyone can really do their bit and make a tremendous difference. Every little helps, from taking home everything you don’t finish in a restaurant to putting pressure on establishments to use up if not give away every last bit of food, it really does all add up. And also when it comes to throwing away food at home — really plan your shopping, use up everything in your refrigerator, and if you know you won’t have the chance to eat something before it goes off, either freeze it or give it away!

In terms of macro-impact, I would love to see new legislations put in place banning supermarkets from throwing away perfectly good food — France is actually one of the best countries when it comes to leading the food waste agenda, and their government has already put these maneuvers into action with great results. Unfortunately I think we are still a while away from seeing these changes in the US and my native UK, but all we can do is keep pushing!

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

It’s definitely a cause I bring to people’s attention as much as possible — whether that be in conversation with friends, when talking to chefs for work, or in the press. I’m really hoping that there is a ripple effect in place where the more we talk about it, the more it will casually get brought up in conversation to the point of eventually becoming a household topic.

When it comes to using your platform for social good, I would say that for maximum impact you need to find a cause that is both personal to you, but also relevant to your follower base. For example there are many other issues close to my heart which I support privately through hosting and attending fundraisers, such as cancer research and the refugee crisis in the Middle East, but those might not be strictly within the sphere of interest of many of my foodie Instagram followers so I try not to spam them too much with those. You really need to pick your battles!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1.The world is not going to stop spinning if you just take a day off social media!

This is such a fast-moving industry that even going offline for the duration of a spinning class seems like an eternity! When I first started having some attention on my page and started seeing results from my efforts, instead of celebrating with some much deserved time off, I went into panic-mode driven by the mentality of having to “strike the iron while it’s hot”. As you grow in your career and settle into a new role, you realize that actually putting your phone away for half a day while you read a book is crucial to your well-being and actually makes you more productive in the long-run, and also that your followers probably won’t even notice you’re gone!

2. You have more power than you think!

When it comes to having a voice and influencing people’s decisions I used to really underestimate how much impact I could have.

3. It’s okay to have flaws. And it’s okay to show them too!

For me this mainly relates to body image: I used to crop and filter the living soul out of any picture I was in, and you wouldn’t believe the amount of photos capturing great memories that I discarded simply because I had a blemish or was laughing so hard that I had a double (okay, triple) chin in them. As I grow older I’m becoming more comfortable in your own skin and showing my face and body from all angles because — well, because that’s what it looks like!

4. You are under no obligation to keep negative people in your life, no matter how long you’ve known them!

They say that you see who your real friends are in your moment of need, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true; people like an underdog and being a shoulder to cry on makes some people feel better about themselves, almost like being charitable. I actually think that you get to see who your true friends are when you have something to celebrate — they will be those people in the front row cheering you on and just as happy for you as they would be for themselves, with no trace of envy. Success makes some people uncomfortable and they may try to bring you down as a result. It’s okay to amicably part ways with anyone who makes you feel anything less than wonderful about your achievements, but remember to also show them compassion — after all anyone who isn’t happy for you probably isn’t too happy for themselves either.

5. Done is better than perfect!

This one particularly resonates with me and is a mantra I have to repeat to myself daily! I am both a perfectionist and a procrastinator, which if you think about it is a lethal combination when it comes to actually getting anything finished. I often need to force myself to send out an article or email knowing in my head that I could have tweaked it just a bit more, but in the end the person on the receiving end really won’t know the difference.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I definitely think that we need to overall be more conscious of our consumption! Besides the issue of food waste, which we have already discussed at length, we need to look at the fact that there is a lot of capitalism-driven mindless consumption happening. We constantly feel the need to keep up with trends relating to having the latest gadgets and wearing clothes which are “in fashion” but as a society we have been trained to not give much consideration to what happens to these items once they are discarded. Most of these items are forgotten about the moment they leave our home as garbage, but many of them end up in landfills where it can take hundreds of years for them to be processed. Giving your unwanted possessions away is a good start, but the overall aim should be to cut purchasing as much as possible in order to really have the biggest impact on helping the planet — if we drastically cut back on demand, retailers will eventually catch on and decrease production (I knew that economics degree would come in handy eventually!).

The ideal scenario would be to reduce consumption by only buying what you really need and always choosing the option with the least packaging; reusing and repurposing items where you can, and recycling and composting what you really can’t reuse. If we all stuck to this, we should see big changes in a short amount of time!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life starts where your comfort zone ends!”

As an ambitious person with anxiety, I constantly struggle with trying to do things that will help me grow as a person but that aren’t so out of my comfort zone that they will keep me up at night. In 2018 I organized my first solo charity event — prior to that I had always played second fiddle to somebody else which is where I am most comfortable — and I remember staying up at night thinking about all the things that could possibly go wrong, but because I had made that commitment and the invitations had already been sent, I had no choice but to push through. In the end the event was a huge success and when I was still buzzing from the excitement on the next day one of my friends who lives in New York and had to miss the event called me to congratulate me, and I vividly remember picking up the phone with her screaming at me “You see! You’re capable of amazing things if you just get out of your comfort zone!” and I have to keep reminding myself of that every day.

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 tag them. 🙂

Oh how great would it be to go out for lunch with Jonathan Cheban! I think the word “foodie” gets thrown around a lot, but Jonathan is one of the few people I can honestly say gets genuinely as excited about food as I do, and we also share the same sense of humor — I think we’d have a blast! And we would probably order the entire menu. Jonathan — if you’re reading this, hit me up!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am on Instagram under the handle @luisainsta

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Thank you, this was such a pleasure!

“The world is not going to stop spinning if you just take a day off social media!” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.