I recently updated my ‘About Me!’ page after four years. You can only imagine it was a bit outdated — ooops at me! The photo was a solo shot of me smiling in front of a ferris wheel that my sister took at a festival. Yeeeeah, I don’t like riding ferris wheels and it didn’t align with the content on this space.
I looked through our wedding photos that were taken last month for a more recent shot. I got to the ones we took in front of the ice cream truck and an epiphany occurred as I was writing the copy to relate back to the picture.
After a journey of severe weight loss, health in the gutter and restoring myself one ice cream cone at a time, my perspective on food and wellness has dramatically shifted. So that’s what I write about, friends!
Ice cream cones have been the common thread from the very beginning of my health story. I know that sounds superficial. But from the time I got sick as a senior in high school (seven years ago) to now as a wife who loves to host friends for meals that end in shared pints, ice cream has been a go-to. Let’s explain in as few words as possible because this could easily become a book. 🙂
I was born with a blood disease that impacts the shape of my red blood cells and therefore, its function. My RBCs have a shorter life span than yours (unless you have Hereditary Spherocytosis too hehe) so I was always sleepy as a kiddo but nobody knew why. This disease doesn’t run in my family so I was never screened for it. That’s until my heart was failing on my 8th birthday party because my body couldn’t keep up with the production of my RBCs anymore. Thankfully, my mom got me to the hospital in time for a few blood transfusions and I survived that crazay period.
While I’ve been functioning well since then, the diagnosis came with some lasting implications. I was anemic, got gallstones at the age of nine, had my gallbladder removed and then was told I would probably have spleen issues around puberty. The pain they spoke of arrived at age 17 in the fall-spring of my senior year. And I completely lost my appetite. I wasn’t eating much because pain in my abdomen didn’t make me want to, I was tired beyond belief and I was constantly cold because all my insulation was gone. I still remember having a hard time falling asleep because my bones were sticking out of my hips and back so I couldn’t get comfortable laying down.
Around Easter as a HS senior, I got a partial splenectomy in attempts that they could alleviate the issues while saving the function of my spleen. That recovery was BAD. I left the hospital totally emaciated, weak and in ample pain. After a few weeks at home, I could only attend half days of my final weeks of high school. If you went to my high school, you know those stairs are a WORKOUT so the nurse gave me an elevator pass for the remainder of the year.
I knew I needed to gain weight before starting college in the fall and I wanted to. But I also wanted to choose options that I actually enjoyed rather than shoving meal replacement shakes down my throat that I despised. This scenario proved to be prettay difficult because I prefer to eat whole foods and my favorite food group is vegetables. So putting on the weight for optimal health was sloooow. I prepared AND loved peanut butter oat pancakes, veggie & hummus snack plates and quinoa stir fry. The number on the scale didn’t increase much with those food choices.
When I would attend my post-op checkups, the doctors would bring up their concerns about my size. They would keep on giving my mom coupons for Ensure while I explained how I was eating meals and snacks that I thoroughly enjoyed and I wasn’t skimping on portion sizes. They continued to challenge me to eat more so I thought, “what’s one thing I can do each day to keep this process rolling while not feeling like I am uncomfortably stuffing my face for the sake of pleasing others?” Ice cream cones. I LOVE ice cream and specifically when it’s out of a cone in the summer.
I began adding in one ice cream cone a day for the entire summer going into my freshman year of college. With that and my summer job at a pool’s snack bar (hello to an access of french fries all day long), the number on the scale slowly increased. However, I was still below where I had been before my spleen problems so my mom gave me a number I needed to hit in order to go to college.
Those ice cream cones got bigger and I still had a small amount to gain the week leading up to my dorm move-in date. I polished off a full pint the night before we packed up the car with all my belongings. Ice cream DID.THE.TRICK. I kept the cone party going at the dining hall. The days they had cinnamon in the freezer?? You could find me scooping that up.
Entering college, I found nutrition to be semi-confusing with so many conflicting viewpoints. This was when “wellness” was on the rise and influencers had begun monetizing their blogs that talked about every superfood under the sun. Luckily, I was reading blogs by intuitive eating dietitians in my free time because my interest in nutrition persisted. I looked up to these credible sources to learn ways to take care of my body better. They wrote about being in tune to what your body is asking for while having the knowledge to give it what it needs regardless of appetite. After a year of eating on a schedule to keep the weight restorative food flowing in, this was new to me.
Unfortunately, the spleen pain paid me another visit near the middle of my freshman year. Over Thanksgiving break, I went under again to have it totally removed. I felt pretty lost with my fluctuating health status and the way I was supposed to take care of my body. I was playing college tennis at the time, filled up on nutrient-dense foods and drifted away from my daily commitment to ice cream because it didn’t always sound appealing. Welp, I became weaker and the athletic department had me meet with a dietitian. She had me incorporate the ice cream cones again and add in a balanced snack before bed. Shore thang!
Around this time, I fell in love with Jesus and laid my messy health at his feet. I also found like-minded gal pals and quit tennis to slow my schedule down/allocate my time elsewhere. I started an infatuation with Trader Joe’s because I moved into an apartment and FINALLY began to cook for myself year-round. That was one exciting day because being creative in the kitchen is my fave hobby. 🙂 Physical signs of health were making an appearance, I created this blog, my social life was buzzing as I became the girl on campus that everyone knew and my commitment to academics brought neat travel opportunities my way (hello there, cast of Modern Family!).
My favorite part to look back on? I can clearly see how God connected the dots in my food-focused story. Junior year, I interned at a nationally-recognized eating disorder treatment center on the marketing side. This opportunity basically fell into my lap when I had applied for a nonprofit fellowship program and this placement was the only one of the ten that my degree aligned with. There, I got to see the life-changing work dietitians and clinicians were doing to help people’s relationship with food. I also gained a deeper understanding of the how’s and why’s to take care of myself better when it comes to balanced meals. I promise you that I haven’t eaten the same since I became an employee there! On my last day, we celebrated with ice cream. 🙂
Next up, I was introduced to the Community Manager of Yelp in my city and he was looking for a marketing intern that my skills were a fit for. I submitted one unique cover letter and boom – I became his sidekick that got to celebrate the amazing foodie businesses in Columbus. Annnd I got to bring my friends along for the ride where I formed a new definition of health. Was ice cream a part of our Yelp adventures? You betcha. During this year, I also volunteered at a food education nonprofit where I helped with cooking classes for low-income individuals.
Oh and during that mix, I had set myself up to become a dietitian. The plan was to graduate with my PR degree, take pre-reqs for grad school while living at home and then get a master’s in dietetics at a school that had already verbally accepted me when they saw my transcript and learned about my professional and volunteer experiences. However, that path didn’t continue on because God let me know LOUD AND CLEAR that I am not a chemistry girl. Knocking out those pre-reqs became a nightmare and a half. I accepted that this long haul wasn’t for me, got back up and got my first full-time job….
at a PR firm that specializes in restaurants, food and beverages. Can we talk about how this foodie life kept following me in the best way ever?! I stayed there for 1.5 years until transitioning into a role with my family a few months ago. BUT, that wasn’t before we started working with a leader in the ice cream industry. Sampling a never before tasted flavor two seats down from the woman who built this empire was like, “God, you are bringing EVERYTHING full circle.”
In my personal life, I brought pints of black raspberry chip over to my current husband’s house when I met his parents. I put an ice cream subscription box on our wedding registry because talka ’bout a perfect gift that keeps on giving! I asked a vintage ice cream truck to be at the cocktail hour of our wedding and they told me no. That’s until my mom called and made it possible (bless her!!). Evan and I had a few cones on our honeymoon. And I text friends on a weekly basis to come on over so we can eat a meal together that ends in a cone or scoop on top of peach crisp. This peach crisp recipe got raving reviews from our friends by the way hahah.
And here we are seven years of ice cream later. I am passionate about gathering around the kitchen table to take care of my body the way my Creator intended AND develop deeper relationships with those he calls me to love better. I’ve never been healthier or stronger physically, spiritually or mentally and I owe that to all the peaks and valleys I have experienced since being cooped up in the hospital on Easter at the beginning of my health journey.
As I say in my updated About Me!’ page:
We all gotta eat so let’s do it in a manner that allows us to become who God is calling us to be!