Twenty-two year-olds Kate Glavan and Emma Roepke met through Instagram in 2018. With a promise of free shampoo, they attended an influencer event together and quickly realized they were a lot alike. They were both introverts. They were both recovering from eating disorders. They both found the pressures of having a glimmering NYC social life annoying.
At the end of 2020, Kate and Emma decided to start a project as they neared the end of university. This project turned into the What the F*ck is Sea Moss? podcast. They take topics that are casually posted about online and dive deeper. Some episodes include: food and climate change, eating disorder recovery and why the current state of wellness is fucked. No matter the topic, the main focus is always on community care rather than the self.
No Kill Mag/Maria – Why did you decide to create the podcast?
Kate Glavan: I’d always listen to podcasts and there really weren’t many funny health and wellness ones. They’re all very high scientific, medical podcasts. You’re listening to doctors or a scientific report. The podcast came out of a conversation Emma and I had while walking around NYC. I think if we didn’t start the podcast, our mental health would have spiraled. We were hitting breaking points with food, body image and confidence. Having the podcast has been a great outlet.
Emma Roepke: Kate and I have always talked about doing a podcast, but never actually believed in ourselves to actually do it. We were both about to graduate and really did not know what our future was going to be. Starting the podcast solidified having us be proud of some work and have structure. Then once the pandemic hit, there was an interest in wellness among a younger audience. I think Kate and I kinda realized we should make these conversations accessible and adjustable to a younger audience.
Sadly, the root of our friendship was that we both had eating disorders. Eating disorders are an extremely lonely thing, but so common. It was kind of about making a community and making people feel more comfortable.
KG: I think scrolling on Instagram and seeing all these bullshit health claims and wellness trends –people promoting stuff without actually doing the research. I think that’s the driving force of why Emma and I want to do the podcast as well. Everyone is a “professional.” Everyone’s an influencer. Everyone is giving advice on shit that they’re not qualified to do.
Where did the name come from?
ER: We spent a few days trying to figure out what to call the podcast. We kept circling back to What the Fuck is Sea Moss? It’s catchy and sea moss is slowly having a moment.
KG: I think the second episode, which is the supplement check. I said, “I’m sure you guys are at the supplement store and you’re like what the fuck is sea moss?” I remember saying that and making that the episode title. We wanted to make something that was funny.
Since starting this project, has your meaning of wellness changed?
ER: Somewhat. I have definitely learned to listen to myself. How I approach it and my habits have definitely changed.
KG: Emma and I have come around a corner with our own personal health and wellness. I never felt like I deserved to go buy an expensive olive oil or supplement. That’s rhetoric that comes from an eating disorder that still kind of lives with you. We want to be good examples. It’s an accountability structure that has worked seamlessly. We are both very empowered to live these healthy lives.
ER: I used to look at everything through a vegan lens. I went vegan when I was 15 or 16. I’ve just recently started incorporating salmon and eggs into my diet. I have a broader perspective on everything.
What has been your favorite episode, and why?
ER: The food and climate change episode I’m really proud of. In the sense of how much work we put into it. I think it just turned out really well.
KG: My favorite one is episode seven, which is called “Wellness is Fucked.” That’s when we rebranded the podcast. That’s really when Emma and I looked at each other and were like “yeah, that’s what we need to talk about.” It was too broad at one point. We didn’t feel like we had a voice at all. That episode is my favorite because it was us seeing a bigger vision for this.
What are some topics you plan on talking about? Are there any you’ve been afraid of talking about?
KG: We want to talk about women’s hormones because that is a very applicable topic to a lot of our listeners. It’s a personal struggle we both had and we want to have an entire conversation dedicated to it. I personally want to do one on the history of regulations. How did regulations start? What are some ways the government can make it easier for consumers? We want to do one talking about diet trends and diet myths.
ER: We have a long list of shows that we want to do. Maybe some mental health topics.I don’t think there’s anything that we necessarily shied away from. I think we’re pretty open to doing whatever. There’s nothing we’ve been too nervous to go into.
KG: Something I personally want to shy away from is ways that I would be replicating harm, with white people just talking about something. In the food and climate change episode, we did a lot of research on how structural racism affects the food system. I don’t ever want to pitch an episode where we assume our listenership has a certain amount of access or money to spend on products. We don’t advise people to go buy something. That’s more of a conscious conversation we’re always having.
You share resources to go along with each episode, but is there anywhere else people can go?
KG: We have a few health favorites. One of them is Mark Hyman. He’s really well known for being a holistic nutritionist. He integrates both eastern and western medicine. It’s interesting how he talks about the government when he talks about food, climate change, the food system and dietary choices. His podcast and website is a really great resource.
ER: I also listen to the Mind, Body, Green podcast. I think they have decent articles on their website from time to time.
Besides podcasting, is there anything else the two of you do together?
KG: It’s honestly taking a long walk and ranting.
ER: We don’t hang out that much. When we do, it’s just us walking, getting coffee or spiraling together. We like to walk the bridge when it’s warm out or Citi Bike. We’ll sometimes attempt to bake and it goes poorly.
KG: We’re only 22 and really new to this space. It’s kind of difficult to imagine building something related to the podcast that’s bigger than the podcast. We want to make this wellness place fun and need to get there somehow.
ER: We have conversations a lot about how we can scale it. We created another account called Sea Moss Life, which is where we post visual content. We’ve been posting infographics to supplement the podcast because we were getting questions about transcription. This is helping to make everything more accessible. We want the podcast to one day be an extension of Sea Moss Life. We have a lot of dreams, hopes and visions for how we’ll learn and grow.