How I Became a Healthnut Foodie:
aka... the journey before the blog
At the age of four, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and swelling of the joints. I spent my childhood in chronic pain. I had to push myself to accomplish things that were pain-free and easy for my friends. At the age of 24, I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondyliltis. Ankylosing Spondylitis is an annoying disease that cause the individual vertebrae of the spine to fuse. Eventually, I lost the ability to look up, and the majority of the range of motion necessary to turn from side to side. My sacroiliac (hip) joints are also completely fused. I grew up as a dancer and worked in restaurants. Imagine my frustration when I became unable to walk (or even tie my shoelaces) without a great deal of pain and effort. I vowed to find a way to slow the progression of this debilitating disease.
The same year that I was diagnosed with A.S., I had the privilege of marrying my best friend. Fertility issues are common in people with autoimmune disease. We knew that we eventually wanted a family so, even as newlyweds, we never bothered with birth control. We spent two years attempting all of the “affordable” fertility treatments before deciding to take it to the next level (IVF). More than one specialist turned us away, advising us to start looking into adoption. (When looking at my ovaries, it appeared that I had never in my lifetime ovulated. Fortunately, there were eggs in there, they had just never come out. My hormone levels were also completely out of whack. This was not a good combination).
I was an active, thin girl in my mid-20’s. Outwardly, I appeared completely healthy. Why was my body failing me at such a young age? I believed I had to be doing something wrong. I began to explore the world of holistic and alternative medicine. I found many amazing books and websites that explained how certain herbs and spices had, since ancient time, been used medicinally to cure disease and other ailments. I was intrigued and studied further. As I studied, I read testimonies of people who had greatly reduced the effects of chronic disease by nothing more than altering their diet. I also read stories of infertile women that now have babies. I realized my supposedly healthy diet was full of toxic chemicals, pesticides, and preservatives. I was shocked! My diet was based on whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and fruits and vegetables. Then, I started reading labels. Granola bars made with trans fat, tomato sauce sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, canned soup laced with MSG, BPA, and preservatives. Even worse? Foods that were advertised as “healthy” frozen dinners were loaded with all of the above. I continued reading and realized that unless I wanted to spend a ton of money, my options were pretty limited. I decided I would just have to start cooking from scratch. The only (very large) problem? I didn’t even know how to fry an egg (I’m serious). I started reading recipes and got very discouraged. I found things that looked healthy and delicious, but most of the recipes were written for people who were at least somewhat comfortable with the whole cooking thing. “Brown chicken breast until opaque throughout” isn’t exactly helpful to a novice.
The food I ate was mostly boring and bland, but the more diligent I was about avoiding the crap, the better my body felt and moved. My husband has a culinary degree and spent years turning me into the foodie I am today. He introduced me to a wide variety of cuisine, and encouraged me to explore the world of cooking. We spent our dating years dining at some the nation’s most celebrated restaurants, even honeymooning in Napa Valley. With his help, the help of the Food Network, and lots of studying, I began to learn how to cook. I also learned how to use herbs and spices to give interesting and exotic flavors to a dish without adding fat and calories. As I did this, I realized my body was in even less pain than when I just avoided certain ingredients. Our ancestors were right, herbs and spices really are medicinal!
So, you ask, did it work?
I am now the mother of two amazing miracles. We were blessed with our first daughter after undergoing a converted IVF cycle that our reproductive endocrinologist almost abandoned. Since we had put so much time and money into the procedure, she agreed to switch it to an IUI, but we were told not to get our hopes up. It was a success, and Annie Grace was born in January 2008. Talk about love at first sight! By the grace of God, and the commitment I had made to my health, I was able to, not only get pregnant, but carry a healthy, beautiful baby to term.
I vowed to raise Annie on healthy, healing, organic foods. I truly believe this will make her a smarter, healthier, more beautiful person. I lovingly made her baby food from fresh, organic produce. She loved the flavor combinations I invented, which motivated me even more. I kept studying natural health, refocusing a lot of my time and effort on how to properly feed babies and children. I found many studies suggesting that the food we feed our babies during the first two years of life can give their bodies the foundation they need to fight off disease in the future, even if they default to poorer choices later on. As my knowledge grew, so did my commitment to our family’s health. As Annie became active, I became even more diligent about the choices I was making for myself. The more I focused on organic, whole foods and eliminated contaminants, the more my symptoms improved. It was crucial to me that I get my body into the best condition possible. I didn’t want Annie to grow up thinking her mother was too disabled to play with her.
As Annie grew, I prayed that God would provide her a sibling, either naturally or through adoption. I prayed that the commitment I have made to my health would be rewarded. Imagine our surprise and delight when, one week before Annie’s first birthday, I discovered that I was pregnant! I did it! I’d triumphed over infertility! Elliana (Ellie) Faith joined our family in August 2009. Our family now feels complete and I am so thankful for the way we have been blessed.
Besides overcoming fertility issues, my body now functions better, and is in less pain, than ever before. It’s not perfect, but I have come a long way. By choosing live, healing, whole foods over dead, processed, and genetically modified junk, I have been able to dramatically lower the amount of prescribed drugs I have to take. Eventually, I hope to be completely drug free. I am now able to enjoy activities that I thought were forever off limits. Most importantly, I am now a mommy that can keep up with a toddler while carrying a baby. Because of the changes I’ve made, I am healing my body from a disease that should be only getting worse. Above all, I was able to bring two healthy girls into the world after being told I had no hope.
Sharing what I’ve learned with the world…
Food is both a medicine and a gift. Since the creation of life, food has been celebrated throughout the world. It also meets one of our most basic needs. Without food, life cannot be sustained. The combination of celebration and sustainability is what I want as the foundation of Healthnut Foodie. I want to create fun, delicious foods that use only the purest, wholesome ingredients. I believe foods are seasonal for a reason, and I want to use what’s in season when practical. I want to explore other cultures and cuisines, learning why different parts of the world eat the way they do. I’ve realized that the earth has already provided us with everything we need to survive and flourish, now we just need to figure out how to bring it all together.
Along the way, I’ve realized that I am passionate about more than just my family’s health. I want to help improve the health of others by sharing what I am learning in simple, easily explained ways. Our children have to grow up in this world. Creating fresh, made from scratch foods is one simple way we can help reduce their exposure to dangerous chemicals and preservatives. It is a small change that, when done in numbers, can make a huge difference. I want to do my part by teaching people how to cook in a way that is simple to understand. I believe that one of the biggest problems with the way most tasty recipes are written is that they are written by chefs who already know how to do the basic things like brown chicken or roast vegetables. I would get so frustrated when a recipe would say something like, “brown chicken until opaque throughout”. If Darren wouldn’t have been my companion to guide me along the way, I probably would have given up.
I vow to always explain my recipes in a way that even the most novice chef can understand. I vow to use only the purest, highest quality ingredients. I vow to only offer you recipes, tips and techniques that I truly believe to be the best advice available. Baby food, toddler food, healthy food, tasty food.
So, join me! This journey is going to be fun. We can share recipes, voice our opinions, and dream up ways to make this a better world for our kids and ourselves.
I’ve spent thousands of hours researching recipes, holistic healing, and how to do this or that or the other. I now hope to make life easier for others by sharing what I’ve learned (and am still learning). I feel I am just now getting to a point where I can properly write or tweak a recipe. Healthnut Foodie is going to be a compilation of tips on how to make your meals healthier or easier to prepare. It will introduce new recipes, products, or ingredients that will expand your knowledge while incorporating healthy, healing herbs and spices, fruits, vegetables, healthy meat and fish, and whole grains. It will not, however; compensate on flavor. Treats are a part of life, and part of the reason food is a celebration. Treats made from whole ingredients can easily be included in a healthy diet. I believe (almost) all things in moderation and when only butter will do, butter it is (but real butter, not some nasty hydrogenated spread).
I hope that you will support me as I begin my goal of restoring the made from scratch, home cooked dinner. I want this to be a community effort so any questions, thoughts, critiques, or compliments are always welcome. I love hearing and learning from my readers, so please, let your voice be heard!
Let the journey begin!
From our family to yours, happy eating!
~ Katie Newell