My Road to Wellness

If this is your first time visiting my blog, you probably have a few questions. Start here for the basics.

Staring with: Who is this lady and why is she obsessed with gut health? Why does she talk about trusting our instincts? And what does “Trust UR Gut” mean, anyway?

All good questions. Here is the short answer:

Trusting my instincts saved my life. (That story here.)

Trusting my gut saved my health. (An ongoing story that begins below…)

 

There I was, 23 years old, on my own for the first time, grieving the loss of the only family I had ever known, and physically ill from years of chronic stress. I was finally free to live my life, but I had no idea how to really live.

So I did the only thing that made me feel like myself. I cooked. Back then, I didn’t cook to get healthy. I cooked because using my hands to make a meal was something I knew how to do, something deeply instinctual, predictable and satisfying. It turned out it was easier to get through the day if I just focused on cooking us dinner each evening.

I knew that cooking was connected to my most basic instincts, and to this voice inside of me. It makes sense that my intuition lives in my stomach, not in my head, because my life has always revolved about food.

I’ve been magnetically pulled into the kitchen since I could walk. While other kids were playing with their Easy Bake Ovens, I was belly-up to the real thing trying not to burn myself. I’ve been using, abusing and loving food for as long as I can remember: making dinner as a repeated attempt to mend the deep fissures in our family, sneaking forbidden foods as a child to satiate my curiosity and deep hunger for happiness, exploring the world and other cultures through what they ate and how they cooked.

Some people call me a chef since I have made my living feeding people for nearly two decades now. But I am a non-traditional-self-starter kind of chef that doesn’t fit neatly into a box. I didn’t go to culinary school. I didn’t stage in a famous restaurant. That would have been fun but it wasn’t in the cards for me.

Instead, I’ve always just cooked. Standing on a chair at the counter, tearing wet, crisp lettuce leaves for the nightly dinner salad is my first food memory. For me, cooking didn’t come from a place of rules and recipes. It came from a place of creativity. I would mix and muddle and mash things together until they tasted good. Only years later did I learn the techniques that form the foundation of modern gastronomy and became a better cook for it. But by and large I figured things out for myself. I trusted my gut.

More recently, I turned again to this gut instinct to heal myself. In 2012 I hit a wall with my health and had to acknowledge it was time to make a change. I had severe gallbladder disease, esophageal ulcers and acid reflux so bad I could barely sleep. Oh, and I was 50+ pound overweight.

Over the next 5 years, I began making changes. I got that nasty gallbladder removed and then I went to work getting my digestion in order. I did an elimination diet, I figured out which foods made me feel awful and which helped me feel nourished. I started exercising on a regular basis, something that required me to live in my body in a way I had never been comfortable doing as a child. I lost weight, I got off acid-reflux medication, I began to feel a whole lot better.

But my healing was about more than diet and exercise. It was, and still is, about learning how to listen to myself, how to tap into my deepest instincts, how to forgive myself, and how to love my body.

Being healthy, living well, feeling deeply nourished – these are the things we all crave. I’ve learned that they do not come easily, they demand persistence and thrive in community.

Trusting your gut is a process. It’s a balancing act between the noisy messages from the outside world, and the quiet truth of our soul.

I write this blog to share my successes and failures on this journey because my soul demands I live an authentic life. I commit to vulnerability because I believe it is how we find connection and healing. When I was drowning in my darkest moments, the only thing that saved me was were small moments of connection that helped me feel less alone.

I hope my story and ongoing journey encourages you to trust your gut, to embrace your imperfections and to nourish yourself.

xoTaji

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