I was delivered by C-section. My mother said I was a very colicky baby. As a child, I was chronically ill with tonsillitis, ear infections, intestinal distress, and constipation. I craved sugar and, even as a child, alcohol. At the age of 9 on a family trip to Spain, my aunt attempted to ease my intestinal cramps and bloating with a tight girdle and a hot water bottle. A mere 20 years later, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) but offered no treatment. The cause was unknown, at least by my doctor. The girdle was an epic fail and as useless as my doctors.
Plagued by chronic tonsillitis and on antibiotics more often than not, at the age of 26, I finally found a doctor willing to remove them. Up until then, every doctor who treated me refused to remove my tonsils as it was thought that they served a purpose — although they had no idea what it was. No consideration was given to determining a root cause of the chronic infections. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have had the tonsillectomy.
I’m 53 and have been working on healing myself for the better part of a decade. Admittedly, in frustration, I often gave up reverting to my old ways. The alcohol cravings I experienced in childhood persisted throughout my life. I drank. I smoked. I engaged in a variety of unhealthy activities. My weight has gone up and down, but mostly up. The periods of “normal” weight were usually maintained with a combination of starvation, fad diets and questionable substances. In the long run, they were unsustainable.
My years as a party girl masked a secret unknown to most but those very close to me. I suffered from severe and debilitating anxiety and depression. Unwilling to accept my illness and in denial most of the time, I self-medicated with alcohol and food. I convinced myself that “I wasn’t that person” and by sheer will and determination, I persevered. It was excruciating.
For 25 years, I worked insanely long hours in the corporate world, an environment not suited for someone with my challenges. I drank coffee all day, alcohol all night, and barely slept. Between the corporate madness and my inherent anxiety, I was consumed by the overwhelming stress. Left untreated for years, the anxiety turned into severe depression. I eventually sought treatment in my mid-30s. The next 15 years were spent on various and ever-changing cocktails of anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotics, antidepressants and sleeping pills.
Sugar and carb cravings along with epic episodes of hypoglycemia — I would swallow packets of white sugar to prevent fainting — became increasingly regular occurrences. By the time I reached my early 40s, I was in a high-stress corporate job, that brought me to a dreadful place. The next several years were hell. My diagnosis changed regularly but my doctors eventually settled on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder.
During this time, I began caring for my elderly parents. My husband and I sold our apartment and moved into a rental unit in their house. It was during this time that my real recovery began although I didn’t realize it at the time. My dad, nearly a total shut-in with the exception of doctors visits, was on 14 prescription medications and obsessed with his health. And my mother was obsessed with him. Longevity runs in my family and I felt this was a window into my future. I was already in bad shape from the psychotropic medications and the ongoing IBS issues. I should note that all sorts of joint issues materialized over the years but that’s a whole other post.
The foreshadowing of my future coupled with my desire to take control of my life lead me to enroll in a chef’s training program at a health supportive culinary school in NYC called the Natural Gourmet Institute. I always loved to cook and firmly believed there was a better way to regain and maintain health, and it wasn’t a life of pharmaceuticals. This experience paved the way for me in understanding the healing power of foods but I needed to learn more. I enrolled in a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition program.
With each course of study, the mysteries of my poor mental and physical health began to reveal themselves. I don’t minimize the role nurturing played in my psychiatric illness, but other major contributing factors to my digestive, stress, anxiety, and weight issues became apparent — antibiotic use, substance abuse, poor nutrition, diet soda, and an overload of environmental toxins from personal care items to cleaning supplies and beyond.
With each course of study, I learned something new and made changes to my life. While there were improvements with each revelation, my problems didn’t magically resolve. I would become frustrated and fall off the wagon finding myself eventually again in a state of disrepair. Regaining my resolve, I would start again. And I would notice the improvements.
It remains an ongoing process and I continue to learn. And as I do, my resolve and persistence grow stronger. Every new day is a better day. A lifetime of damage is not repaired overnight. It took a long time to come to this realization.
As I continue to heal myself, I want to share the knowledge and information I’ve acquired, and I continue to learn. This is the purpose of this website.
I’m not here to preach a particular diet or lifestyle choice. My goal is to share recipes, nutrition information, cooking tips and techniques, products I like (including kitchen utensils, food items, books, etc.) and you can do with that as you chose with the information and content I post.
I don’t believe there is any one “right” way of eating. We are all different. Having information is critical to determining what is best for each individual. I’m not dispensing medical advice. I like it, I post it. I take pretty pictures. What you do with it is up to you.
Tess is a graduate of the Chef’s Training program at Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. She holds a B.A. in Economics from New York University and a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition from Hawthorn University.