*The following is my personal health story and is not to be taken as medical advice nor to be used as any form of medical treatment for personal use.*
Like many of you, I lived a seemingly normal life as a child eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) just like all my friends did. I grew up in a small town, went to school and ate the typical cafeteria lunches, enjoyed junk food, ate processed food every single day, and I was taken to the doctor when I got sick because that’s what you were supposed to do. If I was sick, I was given typical prescription medications just like everyone else was.
Needless to say, I developed serious health issues as a child. It started when I was a baby and suffered from colic, which I now know from my education experience is a sign of imbalanced gut bacteria. I also developed several autoimmune disease symptoms and systemic candida overgrowth in my early adolescence years, although no one knew it at the time or even knew what those health issues were.
As many people can probably recall, back in the 1990’s no one knew much about autoimmune diseases, gut health, or systemic candida. This was unfortunate because it caused me (and many others) to live with horrific health issues and clear warning signs until I was 20 years old. The foods I grew up eating (fried food, fast food, and tons of refined sugar) were clearly taking their toll on me while I just thought I was eating “normal” as it was called back then.
Taking a step back, my largest health issue became noticeable when I was just a teenager. I developed epilepsy starting at age 14 “out of nowhere” along with intense acne, waves of disordered eating, and mild depression that I tried to hide from everyone. I had always felt at odds with (and in) my body, but it wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that the symptoms became strong enough for me to know that deep down inside, something was wrong.
Like any other teenager, I was taken to the doctor and was immediately put on medication for birth control for acne and hormonal imbalances, two different seizure medications, and was given three different types of anti-depressants over the course of just 4 years. Despite all this, I managed to be a straight A student and lived a seemingly normal life to others.
I was what others called “the pretty girl” in high school. I played volleyball, was a cheerleader, always on the honor roll, and had great friends, but I always had low self-esteem and never really felt like I belonged even though I couldn’t understand why. I dismissed it as just “being me” even though I can’t really ever say I felt healthy or vibrant at any point in my life as a young woman.
After being on medication nearly my entire teenage life, I finally had a breakdown due to immense depression during the first year of college due to severe grief from a variety of losses in my personal life, including my family splitting up, friends moving away, losing other people that were extremely important to me, trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life, and attempting to cope with the loss of most all security as I knew it.
Within one year, the medication, diet I was eating, and depression had taken a severe toll on me, my health, and sadly, my relationship with food and my body. At this point, I developed many unhealthy eating habits and disordered views on my body and my health.
And although I felt alone and confused, this was the turning point for me on my road to a better life as I began learning to finally love food, health, and myself again. I decided once and for all that it was up to me to take care of myself and that no one could help me do it but me.
My Introduction to Holistic Health
So at just 20 years old, I started a journey I knew nothing about: natural health and healing. Although I’d been a straight-A student all my life, I had to start relying on a whole new type of knowledge I’d never embraced: intuition and self-motivation.
I let go of everything I’d ever known regarding food and diets. I dove head first into a new life and started studying natural health. I even joined a gym, began reading health and nutrition books, and I started feeding myself real food for the first time in my life even though I didn’t even know how to cook!
No one around me could relate; I started my healthy living journey all on my own. I think this period of my life was exactly what inspired me to do what I do today because it taught me to have a relationship with food in a healthy way again without depending on others to feed me, cook for me, or tell me what to eat. I never really shared much of this with my family, I just started cooking my own foods and learning as much as I could. It was during this time I realized that my passion for food and health was born.
My Healing Protocol
After months of research, I chose to pursue a holistic health approach to overcome my seizure disorder and depression based on many studies I found through organizations like John Hopkins Medical University.
The premise of the diet was to eat a diet rich in fresh foods, moderate amounts of healthy proteins, smaller amounts of healthy fats, and most importantly, to eliminate any added sugar and all sources of refined grains (such as cookies, white flour, etc.) since this would balance neurotransmitter activity and improve blood sugar levels that influenced epilepsy. This approach is commonly used to treat seizures and other neurological disorders, (which I had suffered from since I was a small child despite always being incredibly smart in school), but no doctor had certainly ever told me about it.
Coming from the south without much education on health, I was incredibly skeptical. But I was also tired of being sick and feeling miserable all the time. I hated being on medication and felt like I had no other choice. I knew something was wrong and quickly learned I was the only one who could change it.
So I did.
For the first time in my life, I learned to love vegetables and realized food could taste good even if it wasn’t fried or filled with sugar and white flour. I started cooking my own food, learning about food, and shopping for food by reading ingredient lists and labels. I focused on what healthy foods I could eat when I shopped for food versus thinking about all the foods I wasn’t eating anymore. This helped me stay positive, inspired, and over time my love for health and nutrition grew tremendously.
As I began to eat healthier and become more in tune with my body, the foods that I had been addicted to for years suddenly seemed like garbage that I no longer to depend on. I slowly started teaching myself how to use real, whole foods to prepare my meals with even though every single thing I made was simple and quick to make.
Hard? Yes? Worth It? Completely!
Within two weeks of the new way of eating, I was free of seizures without taking any medication. Even though it was hard for me to give up sugar (something I thought I could never do), I pushed through into one month of living without sugar and fast food and just kept at it. At the same time, I naturally graduated towards a meat-free, vegetarian diet rich in whole foods.
Almost in awe, this only inspired me to keep going. Within two months, I threw away my medication and never looked back. I was free of sugar cravings, brain fog, candida outbreaks, acne, and chronic dieting through lack of calories.
I have been 100% free of medication since 2004, and I choose to eat a healthy, plant-based diet today because it makes me feel my best and because I truly LOVE wholesome, plant-based food.
Later, I became aware of veganism and the benefits of a cruelty-free, whole foods plant-based diet. So for years, I experimented with both vegan and vegetarian diets. Finally, I realized that a 100% plant-based (vegan) diet rich in whole foods was the best choice for me, my health, and for my ethical values regarding animals and the environment. Not to mention my skin has never looked better and my body has never felt more healthy.
I have a healthier relationship with food and my body more now than I ever have, and by taking care of myself and eating intuitively, I maintain a wonderful balance between healthy eating and balanced eating while still adhering to my personal health needs.
And by sharing my personal story, love for food, and some of my favorite healthy recipes and nutrition tips here, it’s my hope that I can share that with others.
My mission is to inspire others to embrace easy, creative, delicious, and healthy recipes that will help them fall in love with healthy living and great food!
Healthy eating can taste delicious and make you feel great too! It’s all about nourishing your mind, body, and learning to see how powerful food can be in changing your life.
Thanks for joining me! You can also learn more me and The Soulful Spoon here!