If you would have told me five years ago that I would be sharing a healthy, dairy-free, gluten-free mac and cheese recipe for a parenting website, I would have said some words to you that you can’t exactly share on a parenting website.
But you’re reading this. So it’s happening. And I couldn’t be more excited about it! Even the no cheese part.
Five years ago my life looked very different. A condition I have called endometriosis had gotten so severe that I couldn’t make it out of bed most mornings. It’s a disorder where the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows on the outside. It usually involves the ovaries, bowel, or the tissue lining your pelvis, though sometimes it can spread beyond the pelvic region. It can cause knock-you-out pain and cramping during your period. Other symptoms of mine included pain during or after sex, blood clotting, painful bowel movements or urination, fatigue and chronic pain, diarrhea and constipation, and urinary frequency, retention, or urgency. Wooh…
Because of all this, I did everything I knew to get better: countless doctor visits, surgeries, pain meds, and even therapy to deal with the depression caused from the pain. Nothing worked and I was out of options. Well, there was one final option on the table, one that I was trying to avoid — a hysterectomy.
The surgery terrified me. Having my uterus removed?! What would happen to my body? My hormones? My sex life? How long would it take for me to recover? I had a million questions and as I started to investigate, the answers made the surgery even scarier.
But something that scared me even more than the surgery was living another year with the chronic pain I was suffering from. The pain started to affect my relationships and work. I started to change from the happy person I used to be. And if this surgery meant that I could be myself again, it would be worth it. So, I made the decision to get a hysterectomy. Then an email from a friend changed everything.
My friend sent me the link to a website that outlined a diet to help with endometriosis pain. It focused on eating entirely whole, plant-based foods. Spoiler: the diet didn’t include any of my staples, like diet soda, gummy candy, frozen pizza, and that special little something made by two dudes, Ben and Jerry. The diet was all about whole foods: simply vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.
It felt impossible to do. I had done diets before and hated them. This one was the hardest I’d ever considered attempting. It’s embarrassing to admit, but somehow the surgery felt easier to do than changing my diet. But I had nothing to lose and agreed to try it for a month. But only a month.
Those first few days were brutal. I felt sad that I was missing out on my favorite foods. I felt angry as my body began to withdraw from all the sugar I used to eat. And I felt alone because no one I knew ate this way. Plus, I didn’t cook. I knew only how to make spaghetti and frozen waffles … and I couldn’t eat either one of them.
But slowly, I gained more confidence in the kitchen and began cooking. I figured out how to make all my favorite foods in a way that I could eat them (even my spaghetti and waffles). I also began to explore all the new restaurants that were down with my new lifestyle (Mexican is always a winner … hello, guacamole!).
In just a few weeks, I started to notice a difference. My pain started to fade. My eyes started to open wider. I was able to dance around my apartment again. A couple months later, my pain was gone. I kept going and going and I’ve never looked back. And I never got the hysterectomy.
Whenever anyone hears my story, the first thing they say is that they could never give up the foods they love. I get it. It’s hard to go from fast food to loving kale smoothies in a day. It just doesn’t work that way. I’ve found the best way to transition into a healthier diet is by modifying foods that you already love, since we’re much more likely to be open to eating foods that are similar to what we’re already familiar with.
This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese dish is one of my favorite examples. It’s ooey, gooey, and feels just like home. Get the recipe on Babble Food.
Note: There is no current cure for endometriosis. I am managing my pain symptoms through diet. Please consult a doctor if you believe you suffer from this condition.More On