I hated cooking
Ok, so hate may be too strong a word, but until recently, cooking was not how I liked to spend my free time. I’d much rather be traveling the world, meeting new people, or having an adventure than standing in my kitchen, staring into my almost empty fridge, trying to figure out what to cook for dinner.
I think this stems from the fact that I have always been surrounded by incredible chefs. Both my mother and younger sister are talented, creative foodies who can make even the most paltry ingredients into a lavish meal. They loved cooking, and I didn’t have an interest. So when I was growing up and living at home, I thought, why bother?
What finally forced me into the kitchen was my gut. Gut health has been my biggest health struggle for as long as I can remember. When I was a child I had chronic strep throat, which led to years of antibiotics to fight infection. Throw in a parasite that I picked up from traveling abroad, and my gut biome was almost completely destroyed.
About 10 years ago, my symptoms became almost unbearable. I couldn’t eat anything without feeling bloated, sick, and dizzy. I’m a natural extrovert and I love bonding with friends and colleagues over a healthy meal. When that was taken away from me, I felt like I lost my identity.
I finally decided that it was time to seek out expert help. I saw a doctor who diagnosed and treated me for IBS and SIBO and put me on a low-FODMAP diet. This is a very restrictive diet, so eating out wasn’t an option. I felt that I had to overhaul my entire life overnight and learn how to cook foods that I could tolerate. This made me feel overwhelmed and anxious.
My anxiety would start in the grocery store. I would walk in thinking “ok, I’ll have chicken for dinner,” but I would get so overwhelmed with the choices that I would come home with a chicken breast and a cucumber. There is nothing wrong with a simple meal, but I could never get my food to taste good. I would end up late-night binging on whatever was in the pantry. That next day, I’d suffer from stomach pains, chronic fatigue, body aches, and major guilt.
After months of this vicious cycle, something finally clicked. I realized that I didn’t need to change everything all at once. I accepted that sustainable health was my goal, not eating the perfect diet. I didn’t need to overhaul my entire life overnight and beat myself up when I ate something that upset my stomach. I needed to make small, manageable changes, and listen to how my body responded to different foods.
Each week the changes became easier, and my gut issues slowly improved. Now, almost two years later, I can tolerate almost all foods again. Most importantly, I have my life back.
A year ago, I married the love of my life. Shortly after, we moved to Hawaii to work on a coffee farm for six months. Earlier this year, we moved abroad from our hometown of Seattle to Stockholm, Sweden. I truly believe that without professional help and the determination to heal myself slowly, I would have missed out on these incredible life-changing experiences.
Tip 1: When you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, try to be gentle with yourself.
Tip 2: Find support wherever you can and make small, manageable changes that fit your lifestyle.
Tip 3: Celebrate the small wins. You and your body deserve it.