When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When life gives you a pesky, complicated, hard to pronounce health diagnoses, and doctors don’t have the answers, you take your health into your own hands. You do your own research. You experiment. Often starting with changes in what you eat. At least that’s what these bloggers did.
What these Wonder Women have learned is how to overcome their health adversities, not just with medicine alone, but by altering what they eat. They discovered that food can be one of the best medicines and that even with a limited diet, what you eat and how you prepare it doesn’t mean you have to go without flavor. Their patience and creativity has been challenged, but they’ve learned to improvise, adapt, and most importantly, get healthy. Their resilience has clearly paid off—just take a look at their blogs.
Amy Valpone of The Healthy Apple
FOLLOWS A GLUTEN FREE DIET FOR CELIACS
Trying to figure out what you’re going to make for dinner would be a daunting challenge when you can’t eat dairy, gluten, sugar or soy. Most people would stare blankly into the recesses of their sparse fridge and feel helpless, uninspired and, well…hungry. Not Amie Valpone.
For years the petite and vivacious blonde had endured a series of frustrating and mysterious ailments, and seen numerous doctors and experts, only to be left scratching her head with unanswered questions. Ultimately she was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, heavy metal accumulation (the inability to absorb nutrients, resulting in the re-absorption of toxins) and IGA deficiency (the inability to produce immunoglobulin—necessary for the defense against unhealthy bacteria and infection, in the digestive and respiratory systems).
As overwhelming as this sounds, Amie did not interpret those findings as a life sentence. She’s required to follow a more limited diet than before, but the girl is fiercely resilient. She began inventing healthy, creative recipes for herself and others. “I want to help those who are stuck and still feeling so sick and helpless like I was only a few years ago. 3 years ago I was given 24 hours to live, and on morphine. Crazy, right?”
Amie refused to abandon her love of cooking and to let her diagnoses define her. Her blog, The Healthy Apple was born out of her desire to chronicle her journey and the drastic diet change she was forced to make. Her “no mountain too high” attitude is reflected in her writing, her photography, and in the colorful meals she dreams up, like her Cheesy Cumin Quinoa Bites, Lemon Coconut Eggplant Fries, and Berry n’ Basil Crumble.
Read Amie’s full health story here.
Your unwavering enthusiasm and positive outlook is amazing after all you’ve been through. What helps you stay motivated, and what inspires you?
Thank you so much! I love life; I always have but there was a period of my life where I was in chronic pain every day- c diff colitis, leaky gut, candida, myositis, bone marrow biopsies, weeks at cancer hospitals, CT Scans, MRI’s, you name it…I had it and it was a rough time- I was on disability for over a year and I felt so alone and lost—I was working with the best doctors in the country but no one was helping me.
My blog kept me going; my readers kept me going and I knew there was an answer to all my pain. I’m a fighter and I don’t give up. I was driven by the passion to help others in my situation—when you are 25 years old on steroids, painkillers, morphine, water pills and much more…you wake up wondering WHY is this happening to me…then I rephrased it and said, ‘Hey Amie…this is happening FOR you..not TO you.
And from that moment on- I knew it was my life purpose and mission to help others who felt helpless and were broke from Western medicine doctors, drugs and tests leaving them with NO answers- only tears and pain’.
What does clean eating mean to you?
Eating whole foods—no processed foods. One ingredient organic foods: organic chicken, turkey, eggs and fruits and veggies along with healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds…fiber from real food like fruits and veggies and not from ‘fake foods’ that come from a box and promise fiber in every spoonful.
Your medical conditions have required you to follow a pretty strict and limited diet. What was the most difficult food for you to give up? And what food did you unexpectedly discover you love?
I LOVE everything I eat. I am SO limited and I honestly love what I make everyday. I think the hardest part was giving up some of the processed foods I loved–even though they probably aren’t processed in anyone else’s mind…my body just can’t digest them and I swell up and get SO sick.
How has your health improved due to the changes in your diet?
I pretty much went from a hospital bed on morphine only a few years ago, to being able to run my own successful business and help others in need. I’d say I did a 360; my doctors were blown away. So was I…but I knew I could do it. I never believed I had leukemia or any of the other crazy things the Western medicine doctors told me. I just kept trying and kept researching, and kept pushing for answers until I found them all.
Amie’s Favorite Recipes
Read more about Amie and her recipes on her blog.
Lisa Thiele of With Style and Grace
FOLLOWS A GLUTEN-FREE DIET
Lisa is no stranger to FoodieCrush fans. She contributed a brunch entertaining story in the first issue of FoodieCrush magazine (see it here) and I worked with her on the release of her e-cookbook Living Gluten-Free with Style and Grace. She’s a young mother, wife, devout family gal and carries a full-time job all while keeping up with her popular gluten-free blog. Lisa has a knack for making things look easy and elegant in her life and style, but that wasn’t always the case.
Following a serious health scare in her early 20’s that landed her in and out of hospitals, test after test and multiple misdiagnosis ranging from a heart attack, to Multiple Sclerosis to finally discovering her intestines were damaged, the concluding diagnosis led her to remove all gluten from her diet, to live and eat as if she had celiacs.
Making this change in her diet to improve her quality of life led her to creating her food blog, and where she originally posted fashion and food that contained gluten, she realized the importance her gluten-free lifestyle meant to her, and quickly made a name for herself inspiring others to do the same.
What was your reaction when you were told you had to say goodbye to gluten, and what was that process first like, as you were transitioning into a new diet?
I think I may have been a unique case, but I was actually relieved. I had been incredibly sick, losing a ton of weight, in and out of the hospital for 2+ months and when doctor’s we’re testing me for a type of cancer – the best news they could have given me was that they recommended I go gluten-free. After a few months of acupuncture (3x/week) and a diet change, I slowly started to regain my strength and eventually put the weight back on. I haven’t had a symptom or problem since so when I have hard days and want that piece of bread or pasta dish on the menu, I’m so grateful for my health, it’s all worth it.
Read Lisa’s full health story here.
Has your diet changed much since becoming a mom, and will your children eat gluten?
My diet hasn’t changed a whole lot. I’m still very much gluten-free, but my child, not so much. I tried. Then once he started daycare, they feed him all kinds of foods and I become much more relaxed about it all.
There’s a lot of different gluten-free flour combinations and substitutes out there. What are your preferred gluten-free baking staples?
Man, before when I wasn’t working for a large company, while also trying to run a blog business, raising a family and now pregnant again, I always made my own flour combinations and would change them as I’d test out new recipes. Now life’s just crazy and don’t always have the time or the energy so I don’t hesitate to reach for a pre-packaged gluten-free flour. My favorite is Cup4Cup, but it can be a little pricey and not as convenient to pick up, so my backup is King Arthur or Pamela’s gluten-free mix.
What has been your biggest inspiration for cooking, baking, and blogging, and what tips do you have for others who are struggling with celiac’s?
My biggest inspiration is hands down my mom. She was a beautiful cook, always accommodating to people’s needs and would welcome anyone in for dinner. My mom loved my blog and would actually go through more of my business cards than I would. I called her my mom-ager. I also find when I get overwhelmed or I’m not organized with my meal planning, I want the foods that aren’t good for me. That said, I try and use Sunday as my meal prep/planning day for the week. I find that helps a lot, especially being a working mom.
Lisa’s Favorite Recipes
Read more about Lisa and her recipes on her blog.
Jessica Goldman Foung of Sodium Free Girl
FOLLOWS A DIET THAT IS LOW SODIUM
10 years ago when Jessica Goldman Foung was in college, she found herself battling Lupus during her junior year of school. (You may remember Jessica from our interview with her last year, shortly after she published her first cookbook, Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook.) As if the usual stresses of being a college student weren’t enough, the autoimmune disease waged an ugly war against Jessica’s brain and kidneys, causing kidney failure, which forced her to undergo dialysis, chemo, and be on the list for a kidney transplant.
That was seven years ago. In order to manage her kidney disease, Jessica found out she had to eliminate salt from her diet, and closely monitor her sodium intake. But she took it all in stride. “Can you imagine a world where a doctor told you that, to feel better, all you needed to do was EAT?! Doesn’t that sound like a dream come true? Well, that’s exactly what a low-sodium diet means to me.”
Jessica taught herself how to cook after getting inspired by Julie and Julia and the documentary Food, Inc., and found herself starting a food blog to share her journey and hopefully help others going through similar trials. And voila, Sodium Girl was started in “In dealing with and accepting the realities of an unpredictable condition like Lupus and kidney-disease, cooking let me play a role in my healthcare, literally putting control into my kitchen and my two hands.”
You started your blog after being diagnosed with Lupus, and now you’re a full-time food writer. How did you fall into food writing, and how has blogging helped you deal with your diagnosis?
I was a junior in college at the time of my Lupus and kidney failure diagnosis. And when I was finally released from the hospital after my initial three month stay, strong enough to be on my own two feet again, I stepped into a new life. One that required me to think about everything — school, career, food, even dating — differently. But it took me a while to realize just how to balance it all.
To stay alive and strong, I needed to put my health first. But to stay happy, I also wanted a fulfilling career. Food answered both requirements. My kidney disease required me to be on a low-sodium diet which meant cutting out processed foods and enjoying the process of making food. A tall task for someone who barely knew how to make a taco. But as I made cooking the a priority, a passion, and a profession, I found a balance in my new life with Lupus.
Do you ever miss salt? How long would you say it took you to adjust your diet?
Honestly, I never thought twice about adjusting my diet. Of course, I would not be anywhere without Western medicine and I still take over 20 medications a day that keep me ticking. But I think it’s incredible that we can improve our health with a plate of food and not just pills. And I’m now ten years in, off of dialysis and off of the transplant list.
What ingredient or spice is your favorite salt substitute?
Oh goodness, I think I have a new spice crush every few months. At first, smoked paprika blew my mind. I used it on everything. Cumin came next. Recently, whole coriander stole my heart. And as of a few weeks ago, whole caraway seeds are my new BFFs. There is a literally a whole world of spices to explore beyond salt. I’m a decade in and I’m still trying new things.
Did your doctor advise you to omit sodium from your diet, or was that something you decided to try on your own? How did it affect your body?
This is a timely question for me. First I want to say I’m not a nutritionist, a dietitian, nor a doctor. I was told to go on a low-sodium diet and handed the DASH guide when I was first diagnosed. And while I met with a dietitian once or twice, I found that a lot of the information out there was either very general (and did not relate to my sodium needs) or was quite negative (focusing on what I could not do, rather than what I could do).
So I did a lot of the exploration and education myself and I found what worked for me. But everybody is different and moreover, bodies change overtime. I say this with extra emphasis as I recently found out that, after a decade, I may need to adjust my salt-free diet to help my body stay strong.
Jessica’s Favorite Recipes
Read more about Jessica and her recipes on her blog.
Carolyn Ketchum of All Day I Dream About Food
FOLLOWS A DIET THAT’S LOW CARB, & GLUTEN-FREE FOR DIABETES
Carolyn Ketchum, a mom to three little ones, a blogger, writer and recipe developer was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during her third pregnancy. Her blog—All Day I Dream About Food – was started shortly thereafter. Originally just a casual hobby, it quickly evolved into a passionate outlet, and eventually a full-time job.
An avid cook and baker for many years, Carolyn suddenly had to monitor her carb intake and adjust the way she cooked and baked. During the process she realized she was able to adapt many of the high-carb or sugar dishes she loved, without sacrificing flavor. “I was experimenting and creating recipes not just for fun but for my health; blogging kept me on track. I have a sweet tooth, so it’s my goal to recreate many of my favourites in a low carb, gluten-free form.”
As a testimony to her affection for sweets, Carolyn’s blog is certainly more dessert-driven (helloooo salted dark chocolate candy bar tart!), but it also includes recipes from all parts of the eating and drinking spectrum, like thai fish cakes with spicy mayo, caramelized brussel sprouts and twice-baked spaghetti squash, and “honest mojitos.”
You have a very full life and live daily with a challenging disease. What is it like living with diabetes?
I feel very fortunate that I can control my diabetes entirely through diet and exercise. I don’t face half the challenges of people who have to constantly monitor their blood sugar and inject insulin. So really, my life is much as it was before, with an added layer of consideration about my food choices and how it might affect my glucose levels. I scrutinize nutritional labels a lot more carefully now!
How has your body changed since you’ve transitioned into a low-carb, gluten-free diet?
I was always quite slender but going low carb and gluten-free, plus becoming a runner, has made me incredibly lean and strong. I put on muscle really easily now and I don’t feel as sluggish and tired overall. I think low carb diets are still viewed with some suspicion but cutting out grains and sugars could help a lot of people with their weight and many other health issues.
Have your family’s eating habits changed along with yours?
Yes, for the most part. It’s tough because our schools are nut-free and so much of what I bake is made with almond flour. But the amount of grains and sugar my family now consumes is greatly reduced and we try to be mindful not only of what we eat, but where it comes from. We try to purchase organic and local as much as possible, and we try to source grass-fed and pasture-raised meats. I know all of this makes a huge difference in my family’s health, and even my littlest and pickiest child likes most of the foods I make.
What advice could you offer for others who are looking to change their diet in this way?
I always say that the key to sticking to a low carb or gluten-free diet is like the Boy Scouts’ famous motto. You need to “Be Prepared”. It’s those moments when you are caught off guard, without any of your own homemade snacks or goodies, that you are most likely to give way to temptation. But if you can surround yourself with low carb, gluten free treats that taste as good as the carb-laden versions, you won’t be so quick to give in.
And contrary to popular belief low carb is not just meat, cheese and eggs. There is an amazing variety of food available to you and even cakes, cookies and muffins are not off limits. You just need to rethink how they are made and what they are made with. Believe me, I’ve staked my reputation on making low carb treats that taste as good as their carb-laden counterparts.
Carolyn’s Favorite Recipes
Read more about Carolyn and her recipes on her blog.
Thanks for learning more about these food bloggers who are sharing their own experiences in hopes to inspire others who face similar challenges in the kitchen.
Written by contributor Hayley Teater.
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