Food is my life!
I grew up in a family that loved to eat, cook together, and share meals (all still true). We would talk about what we should cook at the next meal while sitting around the table eating the current meal together.
I loved baking and art as a kid. My sisters, friends, and I made all sorts of creations for various occasions with mixed success. Towards the end of high school, I considered going into a baking and pastry program, but decided I enjoyed those activities more as hobbies. I always had an interest in nutrition, but thought studying in that field would limit me to calculating calories and nutrients in order to create meal plans for hospitals, healthcare facilities, or schools. None of that interested me, so I hung up my apron and took a different path.
I studied Interior Architecture and Design in college with a minor in Business. I loved the design field (still do), and the whole world of possibilities each new design challenge presented. I was fortunate to study with some brilliant professors. They taught us to expand our creative thinking with an unyielding quest for knowledge always asking, “Why?” “How?” and “What other possibilities might exist?”
When I was 27, my husband and I read Eating Animals by Jonathon Saffron Foer. It was truly eye opening. I became obsessed with wondering where my food came from, what part was I playing in a system I do not support, and what options do we have?
We asked a lot of questions when dining out or visiting family. (We were those people.) Eating chicken, particularly, became a moral issue and we dabbled with vegetarianism for a while. It worked really well for my husband, not so much for me. But we did learn a lot of new, delicious vegetarian recipes and curry-based dishes we had not previously tried.
My youngest sister, seven years my junior, was diagnosed with celiac disease around that same time. She had struggled for ten years, bouncing from one misdiagnosis to another, because she did not fit any of the “classic” symptoms (most celiacs don’t). It was the first time that I or anyone else in my family truly began to consider the full effect that food has on our lives.
In 2010, we moved to Canberra, Australia with my husband’s job. It was a three-year gig and we made use of every vacation day each of our jobs allowed to travel across that amazing country with a couple popovers to New Zealand as well. I cannot say enough good things about the country, people, food and wine!
By then, we were doing most of our cooking at home and mostly cooking from scratch (really not as hard as it sounds). When we did eat out, we noticed how much higher quality the food seemed than in the US. Fresh, unprocessed, seasonal, and local were more often standards rather than exceptions. Our overall health, weight, and energy levels improved tremendously.
Don’t get me wrong, my diet was far from ideal. I was still eating a ton of sugar, refined wheat, and sugar-sweetened beverages and had no idea the impact they were having on my body. I had not yet learned that just because a symptom is common does not make it normal.
During our last year in Australia, our first child was born! Despite an excessively long labor, she was healthy, happy, perfect (said every mother ever). She was never sick… until we moved back to the US when she was 9.5 months. Then the continuous cycle started - colds, stomach bugs, severe gastroenteritis (rotavirus once despite being vaccinated and norovirus twice), food sensitivities, and constant unyielding diarrhea.
The frustrating thing was, no one in the conventional medical community was concerned. Not any of the pediatricians or pediatric gastroenterologist, because she didn’t have true allergies, anaphylactic level reactions, or failure to thrive.
I felt our standard of care had set its bar too low. After six months of going in circles with my daughter’s health and dealing with countless doctors implying that I was being an obsessive, overly worried first-time mother, I had had enough.
Finally, I discovered an amazing holistic pediatrician who finally listened, really listened, to my concerns, ran some tests, and confirmed that yes, something was not right. That “not right” was intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut syndrome), a number of food sensitivities, and candida overgrowth. Given our family history, the underlying cause for all was likely celiac disease, but unfortunately she was too young and with likely too little damage sustained (that’s good, right?) for the test to be accurate.
Meanwhile, my youngest sister (the celiac) decided to do her first Whole30. Despite being gluten free for over four years at that point, she felt like she’d hit a plateau in terms of health improvements and was desperately searching for reasons she still didn’t feel that well generally.
The rest of the family decided to join her both as support and because we were curious about what health improvements this personal experiment might yield for each of us. It was another huge learning opportunity - new recipes, new food theories, and exposure to updated and more accurate nutrition science. The Whole30 diet helped each of us identify foods we had previously been regularly consuming that were negatively impacting our bodies and our lives.
Based on the advice from our holistic pediatrician, my research into each of her ailments, and my newfound knowledge from my Whole30 experience we began a one-year gut healing regimen. Long story short, it worked!
I still love the world of design but, after learning so much and working so hard to help heal my daughter, I realized my current passion laid elsewhere. My experiences and education as a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach have opened up a whole new world for me and I couldn’t be happier.
I look forward to partnering with you and guiding you through your own transformation to increased health and happiness in all areas of your life.
Your partner in health
Laurel at Layered Living