Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Healing Journey and New Found Passion

Hello! Many of you know me personally and some of you don't. Let me introduce myself, I am the creator of the'Food For Thought' blog. I have been working in the restaurant industry for the past 15 years, cooking, catering and running events and weddings in the Napa Valley wine country. My normal work schedule consisted of 10-14 hour days running around working 'full throttle', forgetting more times then not to drink or eat regularly. This was my life, it was fast, exciting and adrenaline charged! One day I woke up and noticed I wasn't feeling well and I really hadn't for some time. I was in indescribable debilitating lower back pain, I wasn't digesting well and I had NO energy no matter what I did. I was living off of salads and coffee and couldn't figure out why I had gained nearly 30 pounds! I was always tired, I couldn't think clearly, I was accumulating new food allergies by the week and I was spending more days on the couch sick then at work. I hit rock bottom when I, a self proclaimed workaholic, had to call into work "sick indefinitely". Life comes into focus when you become that sick. The counltess doctors appointments that I went to left me nothing more then frustrated and broke. At one point in a incredibly defeated low, I claimed no other explanation then either: 1. I had some misdiagnosed form of cancer or 2. I was allergic to life in general. I do have a flare for the drama, but I knew deep down inside that something SERIOUSLY was wrong with me. It was NOT okay to be 28 years old and feel so terrible every day of my life.

In the Spring of 2010, I met with a long time friend of mine who was studying to become a nutritional therapist. We met for a 4 hour long cup of tea, discussing all things food and nutrition. She mentioned to me that day that she thought that I should remove the two most common stressors to a body, which she identified as sugar and gluten. She encouraged me to eliminate both of these out of my diet for two months just to see if I felt any different. Our conversation got me thinking, but for me to actually follow through with this elimination diet took a lot of commitment and three months. Two weeks into my gluten detox I removed all sugar from my diet. The first month was beyond rough. I was horrified of cooking, eating, or navigating a grocery store with my newfound gluten free diet. My diet consisted of a pretty narrow field of eating only: keifer, fruit, vegetables and meat. I went through a pretty heavy depression trying to reconfigure my identity as a "food lovin chef/foodie" to " a gluten & sugar free moodie". For the next four months I ate a clean lifestyle. No gluten. No Sugar. No grains. I was surprised by my new appetite for meat(?!) which I found to be an incredibly interesting development because I had danced with years of being a pseudo-vegetarian and vegan in my early 20's. I also had a ravenous appetite for leafy greens, brussel sprouts, asparagus, broccoli- I really couldn't eat enough. I was shocked that my cravings for sugar disappeared ENTIRELY. I had mental clarity, I was digesting better, I was not in any pain for the first time in two years(hooray!)- but I was EXHAUSTED!!!

I had barely enough energy to work 6 hour days for the first 4 months of my sugar and gluten detox.I would come home barely able to blink or put one foot in front of the other. I would fall into bed and sleep 14- 16 hours straight and get up and go to work the next day. I was diagnosed with CELIAC DISEASE in September of 2010, after countless frustrating doctors visits. This was a pivotal life change moment, finally an ANSWER!! I was feeling better, but I still wasn't feeling great. I was still exhausted and beyond discouraged with my new gluten free life/identity. I was put on an 'adrenal fatigue diet' by the same friend who encouraged me about the gluten and sugar, to also cut CAFFINE out of my life. You have got to be KIDDING me!!You can take my chocolate, my bread and my pasta, but for the LOVE, leave me my latte!

EVERYTHING that I loved, knew, and cherished was now eliminated from my diet. I will be honest, I had many self defeated days just letting the maginitude of the reality of my new lifestyle soak in. This was my identity, my passion and my livelihood-it was a lot to take. I used to be this carefree, try anything food lover, and now suddenly I was a high maitenence, specific, food recluse. Going out to eat was nearly impossible, and often times more stress then I could manage. Here, I the one who loved to eat, explore and try the newest restaurants had become isolated to eating at home in fear of a dishonest chef or a slacking waiter. Suddenly all of this mattered. I had a hard enough time feeding myself, let alone navigating a menu, trusting a chef, or instructing others how to feed me. It was all A LOT to handle. But with each day that passes, the more I learn it has all gotten easier. I did have days that I would let myself eat whatever I wanted including sugar and gluten just to see if just maybe all of this was in my head? This played out time and time again resulting in next three days on the couch in pain, cursing gluten, lesson learned. I can be incredibly stubborn it turns out.;)I had to realize that this was a HEALING JOURNEY and a NEW LIFESTYLE rather then just a temporary diet.

In September, I started cooking at a private high school. I believe greatly in the cause to nourish and educate our children because ultimately they are our future. At school we cook from scratch, with local and organic. The kids grow a garden for their science class so we use fresh herbs, kale, fava beans and whatever random food is growing in our daily lunch menus. It is absolutely fantastic and rewarding! In the beginning of the school year I was still dealing with bouts of extreme exhaustion as well as an onset of newfound allergies(this time accompanied with hives and rashes). It seemed like EVERYTHING I tasted or touched created a reaction in my body. I was less then humored. I had given up SO MUCH to heal and now it seemed like my career as a chef was coming to the end. How can I cook the beautiful food that I love if it is literally making me sick?! I spent many frustrated days on the couch trying to figure out the answer to this very question. I wanted food to remain BEAUTIFUL but at this point in my life I was taking a great risk of being sick or breaking out in an allergic reaction with every bite. The more I learned about gluten and adrenal fatigue the more I learned about the disbyosis of our guts, and just how much that has to do with your overall health. I read Natasha Campbell McBride's, Gut and Psycology Syndrome, and I had an ' AH HA! moment'. Here I was a 28 year old, who ate healthy, and was extremly active and I was in the middle of a debilitating health crisis. If I could get to this point, to be beyond frustrated by Western medicine, how many MORE people are there in this world who need someone like I so desperatly needed my nutritional therarapist friend ?!

With that epiphany moment, I joined the Nutritional Therapy Association in January of this year and I have been blown away with all of the amazing, life changing and powerful information that I have been learning. My class is made up 15 AMAZING individuals all from different backgrounds in fitness, business and nutrition. Tosca Reno, the 'Clean Living' rockstar is one of my classmates! I still cook at the private high school up the street where coincidentlally enough Michael Pollan's (of the Omnivour's Dilemna) son attends. It turns out that I have more passion about this new holistic healing lifestyle then I have ever had about anything in my life. As the months go on, and my health is increasingly better, I have more and more energy, more thought clarity and a distant recollection of my former sick self. I rejoice in my renewed life, my restored health ( and continuing to get better with every day that passes) and new found passion. I cannot wait to spread the word and to help others who are dealing with unexplainable heath issues and dietary frustrations. My head is humming with all of this inspiration and news that I want to share with the world! I want to inspire people to cook well and educate others to really nourish their bodies with GOOD food! Its been a long road but well worth it!



  1. What a journey! Glad to hear you are on the right path for you now and are experiencing greater health, as well as relief I am sure!

  2. I was diagnosed in December 2008....we have much in common...not something I would ever want to relive or choose for someone else to go through. Love your page on facebook and I've just put your blog in my reader. Jaie <3