I’ve had chronic health issues since I was a kid with a drippy nose, itchy eyes, tight lungs, and fiery brain. I understand what it feels like to be uncomfortable, day and night. By 40, I was labelled with ADHD, asthma, allergies, MTHFR, mast cell syndrome, pernicious anemia, and Sjogrens; many of which stem from lifetime of corticosteroids.
My mother drove hours to source organic food (this was 1980 and good food hard to find), she also kept a garden and chickens. Her efforts to live a natural life (+ my desire to get off medication) fueled my desire to feel better. I was the middle child of a large family and busy household and rarely a moment to slow down.
I took a long while to connect the dots between how I felt and what I ate; even longer to understand how child/adult life stressors factored into overall health …. how just the way one naturally breathes can affect the whole.
When I was 12, I opened Fat Mama’s in my family kitchen; a restaurant with a healthy menu. At 14, I created allergen-free recipes for my mom’s Montessori school. In college, I worked at one of the first Whole Foods and stopped eating at my school cafeteria, started fasting, drinking wheatgrass, and doing colonics.
Yin & Yang
On the day of graduation, I drove to California where I found a book called Zen Macrobiotics. This led me to apprentice with Cornelia Aihara, a Japanese elder who taught traditional yin/yang principles. I cooked medicinally, chanted, walked barefoot in dew, and applied ginger compresses to those with terminal cancer; watching the water turn black from discharge.
In my twenties, I baked for Esalen in Big Sur; a boisterous kitchen where most anything goes. I let loose, shaved my head, and cooked with flexibility while maintaining the inner discipline I’d come to cherish. I also had the opportunity to prepare meals at Tassajara Zen Monastery.
In 2001, I became pregnant and for 12 weeks had hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). In 2006, I miscarried a baby girl after experiencing HG for 15 weeks . In 2007, I became pregnant again and experienced HG for 40 weeks. I was unable to eat unless I craved a food 100%, nor could I drink more than a teaspoon of water without vomiting. I took medication meant for those moving through chemotherapy and received intravenous nutrition. These pregnant periods instilled a wealth of empathy for others moving through challenging experiences.
When my oldest started solids, he became bloated with diarrhea/vomiting and at age 2, was admitted to intensive care for weight loss, listlessness, and dehydration. He was diagnosed with ‘borderline Celiac disease’ and I was told to avoid too much gluten. I did more than that and eliminated all the top allergens and watched him bloom! His transformation motivated me to continue exploring ways food can heal (and harm).
By 34, I was rock bottom with my health challenges and swallowed up by life as a single mother. Thankfully, a Naturopath took the time to diagnose me with systemic yeast overgrowth and for the next three years used The Body Ecology Diet (B.E.D.) to bring my body into balance. In 2011, I hung up my hat as a personal therapeutic chef to study at Bauman College where I trained as a Holistic Nutritionist to help others feel better.
There is a dance only you know how to do. ~ Gabrielle Roth