The Chef Behind Sharing Every Bite
Hi, I’m Maddie (You might also know me as Britt).
I wasn’t always a gluten-free and vegan food blogger, but some health struggles in 2012 re-routed the course of my life. They were a blessing in disguise because here I am now—the creator, chef, photographer, food stylist, and healthy lifestyle champion of this blog, Sharing Every Bite (figuring things out as I go since 2014).
No matter what happens, you gotta roll with the punches. When life hands you lemons, squeeze ’em over your Buddha bowl to make it taste even better.
My story is filled with ridiculous puns, a love for fragrant spices, lots ‘o’ food allergies, and me, seriously geeking out over how beautiful and tasty gluten-free and vegan food can be. (I’ll go bananas with you over the mesmerizing growth patterns in a freshly-sliced cabbage or the tie-dye colors in Rainier cherries any day.)
I mean, look at this mango. Look at this beautiful mango!
The road has been a bit rough sometimes (as you’ll learn below), but I’m grateful for every moment. It’s led me to a life where I spend most of my time doing things I love: traveling, writing, spending time with my boyfriend, Jordan (and our sidekick husky, Laska), and getting up close and personal with healthy food. It’s beautiful. Colorful. Delicious. And it’s just waiting to be crafted into new, sensational combinations.
Where did I come from, where did I go?
Where did she come from, now you’re gonna know!
When I first started “adulting,” I was faced with some frightful health issues that, let’s just say, were quite unfortunate for a 20-something-year-old. I quickly went from being an energetic, active, happy camper to constantly battling fatigue, depression, brain fog, and weight gain (among many other symptoms.)
Hello, Food Allergies
The glutens. Oh, the glutens.
One of my first defenses was cutting gluten out of my diet. After doing so, it was apparent almost instantly that gluten was causing me digestive issues and contributing to my fatigue. I personally just went cold, gluten-free turkey because I’ve always been an all-in, or none-in kinda gal. People frequently ask if I miss it and, to be honest, not really. I feel way better without it.
A year later, I started having earth-shattering migraines. I tried everything short of wizardry to get rid of them, but it wasn’t until I read “The Virgin Diet” by JJ Virgin that relief was on the horizon.
I followed her suggestion to temporarily remove the 7 most common allergy-causing foods (gluten, sugar, peanuts, eggs, dairy, corn, and soy) from my diet. After a few weeks, I accidentally ate something with eggs and peanuts. Boom. Migraine. They were part of the problem. Soon after, I reintroduced dairy and soy, and they went on the list, too.
Simon Says, Go Vegan!
At that point, I decided to try going vegan. It felt amazing. My body processed food more seamlessly than it had in a long time and my energy increased yet again.
I believe everyone should listen to their body and eat what feels right. If gouda vibes with you, go for it! If gluten doesn’t bother you, power to ya! What I can say with certainty, however, is that eating a plant-based, low-sugar diet with minimal processed food is going to be the best thing for every body.
Why Sharing Every Bite Came Into Existence
Still, once I finally cut all animal products out of my diet (in addition to not eating gluten anymore), I felt pretty discouraged. So much of the food I had once eaten was completely off the table now. What was I supposed to eat? I threw a small pity party, but no one brought a gluten-free and vegan cake, so I made a decision:
Instead of moping about all the food I couldn’t eat, I would create gluten-free and vegan recipes I’d love.
Starting January 1st, 2014 my goal was to write two original recipes per week for a year. After 52 weeks, I’d have 104 recipes and a wholly original cookbook. Not only would I have created a “recipe bank” of food I enjoyed, but I could share it with others who deal with similar restrictions.
Here, try a bite!
As I perfected each recipe, I’d share it with family and friends for feedback. The responses were wildly and unexpectedly positive. To my surprise, I had people begging for these recipes about 4 months into the year. It was clear they needed to be shared with the world before I could even have the cookbook published.
When Dietary Changes Weren’t Enough
Despite these efforts, I wasn’t really getting better. Therefore, I spent nine months filled with dozens of appointments and a slew of blood/physical tests to discover the culprit; I was suffering from severe Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).
A good portion of the population deals with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, which is also referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Adrenal Exhaustion.
In a nutshell, AFS is the result of extreme, prolonged stress that eventually causes the adrenal glands to crap out. After a while, they just can’t produce the proper hormones and neurotransmitters to combat the overabundance of stress in whatever way it’s manifesting (in my case, the rigorous Graphic Design program at ASU).
Turns out your adrenal glands are responsible for a ton of things, including mood, memory, immune system, metabolism, digestion, sleep, energy levels, and more. I was nearing “danger zone” on the AFS severity scale. My doctor said she’d never seen adrenal levels so low.
(See my adrenal hormone and neurotransmitter profile below. The red column shows the target area for all these levels.)
After almost a year of wild goose hunting, I was happy to know the beast I was dealing with and fight it. Although it wasn’t ideal, I ended up needing two years of medical leave mid-degree to get my health in order.
Food Allergies, Back With a Vengeance
While in gluten-free and vegan AFS recovery mode, I developed even more issues with food.
The reactions presented themselves as cystic acne-type hives all over my face. (I’ll spare you the pictures.) It took two igG blood tests and a scratch test to discover my body reacts to peas, onions, and sesame seeds. (You’d be surprised how difficult it is to eat out or find sauces, dips, and pre-made food when you have to avoid these three things.)
Again, I removed more food from my diet. *insert eye roll here*
Fast-Forward: 2017 & My Grand Mistake
You might not notice much on the blog between 2015-2017. That’s because I had to finish my degree at ASU and tend to new health issues (i.e., not AFS related). Almost every vegetable, fruit, nut, grain, or edible substance causes a reaction these days: digestive distress, weight gain, extreme eczema on my hands, acne, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety and depression, sleep disturbances…the list goes on.
What the heck, right? That’s what I’m sayin’! (Keep reading to learn why.)
Hindsight is 20-20, as the saying goes. But boy, oh boy, do I wish I had “future vision” back in 2014 when the only non-vegan food I continued to eat was fish. You’re probably thinking, “So… you aren’t actually vegan then?” Well, I almost had to leave fish in my diet because the more sensitive I became to food, the fewer calories and vegan protein I could eat.
Heavy Metal Poisoning
Obviously, there was no way for me to know this, but eating salmon, ahi tuna, and mahi-mahi may have been the biggest mistake of my life. Unbeknownst to me, I was accumulating a dangerous amount of mercury in my body.
It’s hard to know whether mercury toxicity was/is the cause of every food allergy or health issue since 2012; however, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Oh Yeah? Challenge Accepted.
It’s been a pretty wild couple of years dealing with my body’s health roller coaster and food allergies. But I’m not backing down that easily. If I was able to teach myself how to cook and create gluten-free and vegan recipes, take professional-looking pictures with a DSLR camera and macro lens, and overcome Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome in the past.—well, bring it on!
Mercury poisoning is just another speed bump on this journey.
I plan on leveraging my experiences to help others who deal with food allergies, heavy metal poisoning, and chronic health issues.
Finding health and balance through a healthy lifestyle is no easy feat, but we can figure it out together. Let’s do this!
If you’d like to work with me, share your story, or ask questions, I’d love to chat with you. Contact me anytime.