When I was a kid, my mother was a nurse and she worked 12 hour shifts that were exhausting.

She worked at the beautiful campus of the Institute of Living, a very famous psychiatric hospital in a historic part of Hartford. Every other Friday, when she got paid, we would take the bus to the campus to get her check and go to the check cashing place across the street. Then, we would get to pick where to go for dinner. My FAVORITE was KFC. I loved the mashed potatoes and the chicken. The kids meal also included chocolate pudding! I mean, WHOA. I felt on top of the world on those nights when we would go to KFC with the cash in hand. My mom and I would take the bus back and later, when she had a car, we would drive home listening to our favorite music, smiling and enjoying our life.

On other nights she mostly gave me money to run across the street to the convince store and pick out whatever I wanted. **Let me clarify, I don’t blame my mom for this. This is not a story of “bad parenting” or any fault of hers. This is a story about what I grew up on and the shifts that I made in my own life based on my own health and mood.**

I mostly chose the same things, a can of SpaghettiOs and a package of donuts sticks. These were my  favorites and I could get them both for $5. I would eat the donut sticks on the walk back across the street and warm up the SpaghettiOs in the microwave. If they were out of SpaghettiOs, then I would get the little microwavable containers of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs or Spam.

This was the routine for most of my childhood, sprinkled in with fancy dinners at my grandmother’s house. Sort of the opposite cuisine as I was having at home. So, I spent the first half of my life not really trying anything new, having very little spice or flavor beyond the Standard American Diet.

Fast forward to today. Let me give you the 30 second re-cap of the evolution of a health enthusiast.

My food was so limited I had no desire to taste or eat anything green, I did not eat fruits or veggies. I was a very limited, picky eater and filled my plate with mostly meat and bread. In high school I was diagnosed with depression and when it got really bad, I actually would stop eating because I was so bored with food. I ate frozen yogurt for 6 months straight with an occasional Subway meatball 6” and some chips ALWAYS with a very large Diet Coke.

Guess what? I did not really feel better. In fact, my depression hung over my head for a few more years all the way into college.

Senior year of college I went to Israel and suddenly I had to eat tomatoes and cucumbers because sometimes it’s the only food you can ever get! I started to be more adventurous in Israel, my taste buds were expanding (maybe because of the lack of processed foods we were eating?) and my roommate, Tami and I heard of the “Atkins” diet and started playing with it. I started to feel good, lose weight and get more energy to run and swim!

When I came back, I was WAY more adventurous. One day I asked my boyfriend Mel, “Hey, let me try that Tabasco!” And then a few years after that saying, “Let’s go try Indian food!”

When I started yoga teacher training, everyone was talking about Quinoa! And I learned how to make that and then I tried Kitchari at a yoga party and loved it! I started to meet people who were graduates of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and I thought, I want to do that! I put it on my vision board, I signed up to get the info packs, I dreamed and wished that I could learn more about all this food stuff.

My pregnancy with Saylor was full of joy, delicious foods and meals and I LOVED feeding her healthy foods. I made all of her baby food, just simple veggies and fruits, was fun and easy and I learned more about feeding a healthy family. But, I was not cooking or doing that for Mel and I, I just started to develop a passion for kiddos and nutrition. The more I learned the more I saw connections to my own childhood and teen issues AND was able to put together some things I had noticed when I taught in DCPS with my students and nutrition.

AND JUST LIKE MAGIC, in 2010, a dear friend GIFTED me an enrollment to IIN’s program! I could not believe it!

I registered that day, and spent my pregnancy with Milo learning about 100 different dietary protocols, I experimented with raw, vegan and paleo and learned the history behind many of these ways of eating. I learned about bio-individuality and the ways in which we are our own unique expressions of cells! And there is not 1 way for all people. This is where I developed a curiosity for types of foods and eating and really became a flexitarian- having times where I ate less meat and when I ate more. I started to adjust my food based on my workouts and my seasons and stages of life.

I was still burning toast and pasta and because of busy times with running a studio and raising 2 babies it was hard for me to really understand having the kitchen prepped with basics of what I needed. I did not know how flavors played with one another. Honestly, I did not have the time, energy or trust in my self to develop or try recipes.

But I still had a commitment to health. To learning, to seeing how I felt. To seeing the food/mood connection and to making it as simple as possible. SLOWLY, I did whatever I could to add more greens, add more veggies, try new things and I did not make a LOT of huge changes all at once, it was slow and steady.

Two mornings last week, I woke up early to prep my veggies for the day, create some new recipes and flavors. I have started cooking with my essential oils and make Rosemary Salt (YUM) and I’m having a BLAST doing this! I put on some podcasts or music, diffuse some oils, have my coffee and roast and chop veggies, cook up some quinoa or rice and look through recipe books to get ideas.

JOY. PURE JOY. I felt it all week. The beauty and flow of creating. Of learning something new, of playing and experimenting. Mel came home last week and I was jumping up and down “TRY THIS!” For my lemon and rosemary roasted broccoli and asparagus. He said “YUM” and loved it. I was like “Mel, I can cook! I’m a good cook!”

He smiled and gave me a HUGE hug.

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