Often I have been asked what led me onto my realfood journey and the path of creating and sharing my love for ‘real food’ and healthy living. The answer is not a simple one. There was no single ‘light bulb’ moment in time that I can pinpoint that sparked my passion. It was more like a series of lights being switched on, paving the way towards living a cleaner, healthier existence.
A series of events which paved my path towards whole food living and mindfulness.
My journey started over 15 years ago when I was advised by a Naturopath that my body was having difficulty processing wheat (in the copious amounts I was eating), resulting in poor absorption of nutrients, chronic iron deficiency, multiple and severe cases of gastro and just being downright skinny. So, after my initial scepticism that my body couldn’t cope without pizza, pasta and delicious soft white bread and a few false starts, I embarked on eating a ‘wheat free’ diet, which at the time meant a ‘fun free’ diet! There certainly were not the copious options of GF products we see on the supermarket shelves today to choose between.
Back then if you wanted GF bread, you had to search high and low to find the one brand the supermarkets stocked, make sure it was still in date (and not mouldy) before purchasing and then when you got it home it required much lathering of peanut butter or jam to override the dryness of the bread itself. And God forbid you wanted to make a sandwich with it, once you took a bite of the GF sandwich you were committed until the end….there was no putting the sandwich down to take a drink, otherwise the sandwich would no longer resemble a sandwich, and simply could not be retrieved from the trillion and one crumbs now on the plate. And all that effort for the super expensive $9 per loaf.
So needless to say, I soon tired of the not so joyous GF options available for bread, pasta and biscuits, instead replacing my traditional lunches and treats with other options such as salads, vegie bowls and fresh fruit. And so I lived, quiet happily for the next 10 or so years, with the ‘wheat monster’ inside rearing its ugly jealous head only on a handful of occasions where the desire for deliciously soft bread or pasta was too much to bear.
Then the ‘second light’ was switched on along my journey. I decided to go back to uni after completing a Bachelor of Health Science in my early twenties, with the view to obtaining further post graduate qualifications in nutrition and dietetics. This decision was made as more of a career opportunity to complement my profession as an Exercise Physiologist, but soon sparked a genuine interest in learning more about the types of ‘fuel’ I was feeding my body and the amazing and potentially devastating effect certain ‘fuels’ can have on the human body. I guess you could say I was hooked at that point.
Despite my passion being ignited, my focus soon shifted when my husband and I decided to start a family. We tried, and tried, and tried to no avail before obtaining intervention from a local fertility specialist. Among other things, the fertility specialist put my inability to conceive down to my low weight and sent me to a dietician to gain advice on how I could increase my weight to prepare me for motherhood. This consultation saw another ‘light’ switch on. The dietician I consulted taught me about the concept of ‘good fats’ and ‘fertility stimulating foods’ which could assist regulate hormone levels. Intrigued much? Certainly was. I started to read (a lot) about how the foods I was consuming could influence everything from my moods, energy levels, anxiety, tolerances, immunity, libido and wellbeing in general.
After 18 months of trying, Chris and I finally welcomed out first son into the world. James. Talk about a crash course in parenting. I had no idea what had hit me. Trying to work out how to raise this little fella and stop him from crying incessantly kept me well busy for the first 12 months, navigated through sleep deprived eyes and mind and a lot of support and assistance from family and more than one (ok, three) extended residential stays at Tresillian Family Care. It was during one of these stays that one of the nurses picked up that James was not responding well to the recommended parenting cues (um, already knew that!) and she subsequently referred us to a sleep paediatrician.
Long side story cut short, James was later diagnosed with silent reflux (not so silent!) and chronic obstructive sleep apnoea and he was medicated with a series of drugs to assist him overcome the symptoms. Despite having every hope in the world that these medications would help, I noticed that they actually seemed to make his daytime behaviour worse. He became hyperactive, irrational and more inconsolable than before. Turns out the poor little guy was reacting to the benzonates in the medicines, pointed out to me by the paediatric dietician we were referred to by the local health nurse. Fourth light switch flicked on. What else was in the foods and drinks I was giving my little man on a daily basis that could be fuelling his behaviour? Turns out, heaps. I owe a lot to the dieticians at the local hospital. They took a lot of time and effort to work out what James’ system was reacting to and helping me fine tune his ‘fuel sources’. I couldn’t believe how many products I was giving to him that actually had numbers to describe the ingredients rather than names. I became a product label investigator. My grocery shopping went from being a 20 minute run through to a marathon effort. Even the simplest of things such as dried fruit, pureed fruit cups, kids yoghurt and ham had numbers to describe their ingredients.
As part of my realfood journey, I started to create my own creative dessert and snack options for James. I threw out our pre-packaged supplies and filled the freezer with new treats from recipes I had received from the dietician and found on line using organic products free of additives and preservatives. Wow….what a difference. James was a new little man. His ‘melt downs’ started to become fewer and further between. He became brighter and happier and more interactive during the day. And so our family became a happier unit. All because of better food choices.
And so my passion for creating healthy whole food meals and snacks began. My desire to find locally produced, organic whole foods led me to a little local food co-operative in Thirroul ‘Flametree Co-op’ earlier this year. I fell in love with the co-op as soon as I entered the doors and smelt the wonderful aromas of the fresh produce and spices. A wondrous haven filled to the brim with organic whole foods, run entirely by like-minded people with a shared passion. I’d found my calling. So I signed up to be a volunteer on the spot. Not one for doing things by half, I went from committing two hours of my time to cover my annual membership fee, to running a local market stall for the co-op featuring some little creative gems from my vault of recipes I had developed for my boys. On request, I started to hand out my recipes so customers / members could re-create the treats at home for their families using products from the co-op.
Which leads me here to sharing my realfood journey with you. Due to an overwhelming response to my recipes for the co-op members and the interest from the local community in obtaining more simple and nutritious recipes and living well tips I have succumbed to pressure and have now committed to uploading my recipes and tips here to allow others to dabble in creative healthy whole food treats for themselves, friends and family. I am in the process of putting together a few books so hang tight for those coming out over the coming months and I also run local community workshops to teach people how easy it is to transition to wholefood living, take a look at our Workshops section of the website for more information of these.
Nowadays, life is busier than ever. I now have two boys, keeping me on my toes, and along with a successful business, I continue to volunteer my time at the local food co-op, sharing my passion and enthusiasm for organic, real foods. I continue to read (a lot) and spend a vast amount of time creating (still having some epic failures along the way) and most importantly, sharing my little creations with anyone who is interested in listening.
So long story, interesting journey, happy destination.