I became a Holistic Nutritionist in 2014 to help others feel better. That’s my why, here is my how.
As a kid …. I had chronic health issues with a nose that dripped, eyes that itched, lungs that felt as if an elephant sat on them, and a brain that wanted nothing to do with anything brainy. ON the other hand, I was creative, loved drawing, being with babies and in the woods with animals, and playing! Despite physical hardships I had a genuine deep down excitement to be alive.
I was very insecure about my health issues. None of my friends seemed to have the same problems and I was embarrassed by how much I blew my nose, how eating pizza ruined me for days, how a dusty house set off my asthma. I truly understand living life in an uncomfortable body.
Fun with food …. I loved to cook and when I was 12 years old some friends and I opened Fat Mama’s in my family kitchen. This was a restaurant with a healthy menu and we invited all the neighbors! My mother drove hours to source organic food for us (this was 1980 + good food hard to find). She ordered from Walnut Acres, America’s 1st organic food company, and then distributed food to the community.
She also kept a garden and chickens and her efforts to live a natural life in our modern suburban culture fueled my desire to feel better; that and my desire to get off all the medication I had been on since I was 8.
When I was 14, I created a booklet of allergen-free recipes for my mother’s Montessori school and in college, I felt at home working at one of the first Whole Foods. This is when I stopped pasteurized dairy and refined sugar and started fasting, taking wheatgrass shots, and doing colonics. This was a time of revelation. My body had the ability to self-regulate and harmonize all on its own!
Labeled, not limited …. by the time I was 20 I had accrued various health diagnoses; most stemming from taking corticosteroids to keep my lungs, nose, and eyes clear; asthma, ADHD, allergies, mast cell syndrome, MTHFR, anemia, and Sjogrens to name a few.
The search for harmony …. continued and on the day of my college graduation, I drove to California where I found a book Zen Macrobiotics which inspired me to apprentice with Cornelia Aihara; a Japanese elder who taught yin/yang principles. With her, I cooked medicinally, walked barefoot in the dew, chanted, and apply ginger compresses to people with terminal cancer, watching as water turned black from discharge.
In 1999, I started working as a Personal Therapeutic Chef preparing meals for those recovering from illness or wanting to stop serious disorders from taking root. I loved basing my cooking upon people’s unique health and dietary needs. My specialty was food that felt good in the belly, hence the name of my business, Happy Bellies.
Esalen days …. were my favorite and it was in this boisterous, loving kitchen perched on the cliffs of Big Sur that I let loose, shaved my head, and baked bread and desserts for a community of 200. I cooked with more flexibility while maintaining an inner discipline I’d come to cherish. During this time I had the pleasure of baking a cake for Joan Baez and preparing meals at Tassajara Zen Monastery.
Being pregnant …. is when I experienced a rare prenatal condition, hyperemesis gravidarum; 12 weeks with my 1st, 15 with my 2nd (my miscarriage), and a full 40 with my 3rd. I was unable to eat unless I salivated 100% and went days without craving/eating anything. I could not drink more than a teaspoon without vomiting and took drugs for chemotherapy patients. I frequented the ER for intravenous nutrition and could not lift my head without the world spinning forever after. These pregnant periods instilled great empathy for others also moving through a challenging life experience.
Witnessing a transformation …. began when my oldest started on solids and became bloated with chronic diarrhea and vomiting. At age 2, he was admitted him to intensive care for weight loss, listlessness, and dehydration where he was diagnosed with borderline Celiac disease (this was when Celiac was much less understood then it is now). I was told to avoid “too much gluten”, yet did more then that and eliminated every known top allergen. He bloomed! His transformation motivated my passion to keep exploring ways food can heal (and harm).
Dealing with yeast overgrowth …. at 34, I was rock bottom with my health challenges. I could no longer keep up with the demands of work and life as a single mother. I had let things spiral out of control in a way that needed all my attention all at once. I will forever be grateful for a Naturopath who diagnosed me with systemic yeast overgrowth.
For three years I used B.E.D. to bring my body, ultimately my life, back into balance. I have never looked back. This experience shaped my desire to extend all I learned to others in a similar boat with yeast, viral, or bacterial overgrowth and in 2011, I hung up my hat as a Personal Chef to train and become a Holistic Nutritionist.
Finding balance …. has taken me a lifetime (up to now at least!) to connect the dots between how I feel and what I eat. I also now better understand how childhood trauma and lasting triggers affect health. Meditation has been a valuable tool to my discovery in seeing the whole and I truly understand the phrase “how one breathes is the way one lives”. Food is small in comparison, yet plays an equal role in life’s picture. I enjoy helping people feel better, especially those starting from zero. I am known for my innate ability to investigate the toughest, most complex situations and enjoy diving in deep together to understand where you are and where you want to go.
Today … I am off all medication except what I need for my asthma and my belly feels great ALL the time. I feel more at peace with the likelihood that I will continue to live with discomfort as such is life. I feel much more in balance and thankful for all I learn along the way. I continue to share my learnings with others seeking support.
There is a dance only you know how to do. ~ Gabrielle Roth