In my early twenties, I was a school teacher and Pilates instructor, and on top of my jobs, I was used to running five miles almost every day. But slowly, I became so exhausted that I could barely get out of bed to go to work.
I couldn’t figure out why I had no energy, but I noticed myself becoming a different person. On top of my depleted energy, I had constipation so bad that at one point, I couldn’t go for two weeks.
In 2012, when I was 25, I went to my doctor, who told me I had Hashimoto’s disease, a disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid. This led to hypothyroidism—my thyroid wasn’t producing enough thyroid hormone—and my doctor said this was the cause of my fatigue.
I began taking hormones every day to replace those that my body wasn’t producing, as well as laxatives for my constipation. Still, my energy levels didn’t change much. I was still tired all the time, and for me, the prescription medications felt more like Band-Aids than solutions.
Watch: 9 Foods That Are Naturally Gluten-Free
Even after two years of treatment, I still felt so exhausted that I had to resign from my teaching job. I knew I had to do something to bring back my energetic self.
‘I was willing to try anything.’
In 2014, I was sitting down at a wedding reception when a friend who practices functional medicine came up to me. It was a few months after I’d resigned from my job, and she could tell something was wrong. “What’s going on with you?” she asked. I told her about my autoimmune disorder and how the hormones just weren’t helping me.
“No grains, legumes, refined sugar, or dairy,” she replied. “Try it.”
This type of diet isn’t a conventional approach to hypothyroidism. (So far, evidence of a gluten-free diet improving thyroid function is mostly anecdotal, although some women do swear by it to help their symptoms).
Making such a big change probably seems drastic to some. But at that point, after years of feeling exhausted and sick, I was willing to try just about anything to get my energy back and feel better about myself.
I had always loved eating fruits, veggies, and proteins anyways. But baking—that was something I couldn’t live without. It was my love language. I baked cookies for my brother and his friends after school when we were kids, and I baked banana bread for my now-husband for our second date. We made that same banana bread for each guest at our wedding.
Watch: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Tart
I was a baker at heart, and I felt like my only choices were giving it up or baking without being able to try a single bite. So as I went into the diet, I was determined to find a way to keep baking in my life.
‘My new diet was surprisingly easy.’
It was probably less than a week into my new diet when I was craving something sweet. I knew I couldn’t keep myself from baking long, but I didn’t want to totally blow my new eating habits. So I challenged myself to bake without any of the ingredients I had eliminated from my diet.
After tons of trial-and-error, I found the five perfect ingredients that I could use to bake just about anything from cakes to cookies to brownies, and of course, banana bread:
- Almond flour
- Coconut oil
- Organic eggs
- Himalayan pink salt
- Maple syrup
I was thrilled. I could have my cake (literally!) and my new-and-improved diet, too.
When it came to my day-to-day eating, I found easy ways to replace the ingredients I had cut out:
- For breakfast, I started eating a few eggs and veggies or a cup of decaf coffee blended with coconut cream and a collagen protein supplement.
- For lunch, I’ll have what I call a “loaded salad,” which I pack with protein like chicken, eggs, or fish mixed with green veggies like kale and Brussels sprouts.
- For dinner, I’d eat more veggies, which I love to roast, and another protein. I learned to make sweet potato fries as a healthy alternative to French fries and spaghetti squash when I’m in the mood for something pasta-like. I figured out ways to make lasagna and bolognese without grains or gluten, too.
Watch: “I Follow A Hormone-Balancing Diet — Here’s What I Eat”
When I got hungry between meals (which surprisingly didn’t happen often!), I ate 100 percent cacao or dehydrated coconut pieces, which I call “coconut jerky.” (It’s really good, I promise.)
At the beginning of each week, I roasted a big batch of vegetables and sweet potatoes. That way, I knew I’d have something easy and healthy to grab when my days got busy.
‘I took my baking to a whole new level.’
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