*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.
When my Health Story Really Began:
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, the way 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.
After months of research, in 2005, 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. I actually came across these articles on accident, but after looking into the research I was convinced. At the time, it was known as Atkins for Seizures, however, I didn’t eat a ton of meat, butter, and cheese like the Atkins diet calls for.
The premise of the diet was to eat a fairly lower carb diet rich in fresh foods like vegetables, low-sugar fruits (avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers), and greens, along with moderate amounts of healthy proteins (fish, lean chicken and turkey, eggs and egg whites) and healthy fats in small amounts (mainly coming from fish or monounsaturated sources such as almonds and cashews). Most importantly, the diet eliminated all sources of grains, all added sugar, and anything made with them (such as cookies, bread, crackers, white flour, etc.). The theory of this way of eating would balance neurotransmitter activity and improve blood sugar levels that influenced epilepsy and is very similar to a ketogenic diet but less strict. It is very similar to a Paleo diet but much lower in starchy carbohydrates and fruit.
A lower-carb approach to eating that restricts starches and sugars 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). No doctor told me about any dietary theories, though. By the grace of God, I happened to come across this research in college while looking for answers beyond prescriptions and doctor’s appointments.
Coming from the south without much education on health, I was incredibly skeptical. But I was also sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time! I felt miserable from the time I got up to the time I went to bed. I was starving my body because I had no idea what to eat and hated being on medication.
I knew something was wrong and it had to change. I quickly learned I was the only one who could change it.
So I did.
And the Healing Began:
The month I came across the research and made the decision to do this, back in 2004, I knew I had to 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.
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 as amazed at how excited I got over shopping for groceries by focusing on what I could have and by teaching myself to read labels. My diet was based on whole foods, and previously all I knew how to eat was food in packages or from a drive-thru.
I learned to educate myself on what sugar looked like on a label, how to look at ingredient lists on food and know what those words meant and if it came from sugar or a refined grain.
I also made sure to focus 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. And it wasn’t easy. I was a former sugar and bread FIEND before that.
But, 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 a month of the new way of eating, I was free of seizures without taking any medication! I was shocked and as hard as it was for me, I knew I had to keep going. 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. My depression slowly let up. My acne started going away. The extra 30 pounds I put on during my period of depression slowly started to melt away over the course of a year. I felt strong. I loved working out. I felt alive for the first time in years.
That was 12 years ago.
And by the grace of God, I have been 100% free of medication and seizures since 2004. The human body CAN heal itself when it is given the right nourishment!
My journey with health inspired me to get my degree in nutrition and dietetics so that I could not only learn more about nutrition but also help others too. That is what inspired me to create a blog and start sharing my recipes with others.
Although my first blog is no longer on the web due to personal reasons, this blog is how I have continued my journey in sharing recipes that are sugar-free and free of processed foods including refined flours, all refined and added sugars, and most importantly, recipes made and inspired by truly healthy ingredients.
But my story really doesn’t end there. I ate a lower carb, mostly pescatarian/Paleo style diet for almost a decade before changing anything. I felt so good, why would I? However, things started to change for me, slowly. Especially ethically speaking. I also noticed that my hormones needed something different than what I had been giving them as I entered my 30’s.
My Introduction Into Plant-Based Living and Where I’m at Today:
I became aware of veganism in 2007 and was almost exclusively pescatarian by this point. Then, I discovered the benefits of a cruelty-free, whole foods plant-based diet around the year 2012. So for years, I experimented with both vegan and vegetarian diets in all kinds of different ways. However, I quickly found my body doesn’t digest most any plant proteins sources very well (beans and legumes, excessive nuts and seeds, too many grains).
I have always had digestive ups and downs, which have been escalated by several life changes that led to chronic stress I encountered in my late 20’s including the death of my father. Because of this, my gut health has been the biggest health concern for me the last 5 years. I have to be very careful about what I eat and how I take care of myself with food. It’s the critical factor in how I feel every single day, and I know that at any moment if I don’t take care of myself, my health conditions I suffered from as a child could instantly return.
So today, I eat a plant-rich diet free of sugar, dairy, all refined grains, red meat, and gluten. I also found that an oil-free diet really improved my insulin levels as well as my digestive system. I still don’t eat processed foods of any kind, but I do love that I can enjoy healthy carbohydrate sources such as sweet potatoes, fresh fruit, and some whole grains like oatmeal that I didn’t eat for years. I found that the addition of these foods really improved my hormones as I entered my 30’s, along with my blood sugar levels.
For all these reasons, a diet rich in plant foods works well for me, but I don’t believe in diets or labels. I do believe in eating real food, sourcing only the best ingredients possible (organic, wild-caught or grass-fed if eating animals), and I believe in listening to your body while still making conscious decisions for both your health and other living beings. The most important thing is to eat real food above all else. That one action alone can do wonders for the human body.
How My Story Relates to My Recipes:
The recipes on this blog are all free of added sugar, are plant-based, oil-free, dairy-free, and free of any refined grains. Almost all of them are also gluten-free. I want to inspire people to just eat more plants in creative and fun ways. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring! Although I do like to keep my recipes simple, because I don’t have time to stand around the kitchen all day for each meal, and I’m betting most of you don’t either.
I believe there’s a form of healthy eating that works for everyone, and it’s my goal to share a variety of healthy recipes that work for me and my body through this blog.
I also share natural living tips, nutrition information that I learned while getting my degree in nutrition and dietetics, and positive thoughts on healthy eating, body image, and plant-based living.
Thanks for joining me! You can also learn more me and The Soulful Spoon here, and if you have any questions or a request for a post, don’t hesitate to reach out!