Hi, my name is Gina Fontana, certified health coach, whole food lover, health enthusiast, and new-ish mommy. Growing up I had become accustomed to feeling like crap (for lack of a better word), and that became the norm for me. So I just thought that was the battle I was going to have to fight for the rest of my life. I suffered from extreme joint pain, migraines, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, chronic sinus infections, vomiting for no apparent reason, constantly battling what seemed to be the flu, extreme constipation, and mood swings to include anxiety and depression that I just blamed on becoming a teenager. I went to numerous doctors, who just didn’t have a clue what was going on with me. I became agitated and stopped seeking medical help because quite frankly I was frustrated! It was no fault of the doctors; they had been comprehensive and had me tested for fibromyalgia, lupus, lime disease, and arthritis- among other things with no conclusive answers.
Fast forwarding through high school and college, I find myself married and living in the big ol’ state of Texas. I had become numb to my body’s desperate cries for help because I thought I was eating healthy and was working out six days a week. Then one day my husband and I decided to engage in a 21 day fast through our church, the Daniel Fast. If you are familiar with it, you know that it is quite a commitment, eating only fruits and veggies, nuts, grains, seeds, legumes and drinking just water; but we had been growing in our faith and we thought it would be something wonderful for us to do together. Little did I know the awesomeness that would come from it!
The first week of the fast was hard, but by week two I started to notice that I was feeling awesome! I had more energy, I was going to the bathroom regularly (sorry, TMI! Haha) my joint pain was almost gone completely, and I went from a migraine a few times per week to none at all! At the completion of the fast I felt spiritually refreshed and had noticed some improvements in my health, but when I went back to pigging out on my most favorite foods like pasta, cookies- haha, and my most favorite food, pizza, I would soon regret it because my symptoms returned, except it seemed like worse than before; perhaps because I now knew what it was like to feel great, and well, normal! (Light bulb! Could all my symptoms be food related?!)
I began to experiment with my diet and I would keep food journals and take extensive notes about how certain foods would make me feel. Did I have a headache after I had cheese? Did I feel bloated after I ate bread? (Yes, was the answer to both of those by the way!), and that was when it became apparent that consuming foods containing gluten or dairy was not something my body applauded me for. After all those years of testing, I was finally started on a path of healing. I knew that I was going to have to make some serious lifestyle changes to avoid any further damage than what I had already unknowingly done to my body, and hopefully allow for self-healing- which by the way, our bodies have amazing healing powers if given the right foods. I had NO IDEA where to even start, heck- I didn’t even really know what gluten was! I was really overwhelmed and scared; I thought my days of enjoying great food were over. Luckily I had a friend who was already immersed in the gluten-free world that was willing to help me. There was something comforting about not going through this lifestyle change alone and having someone to help coach me along the way. Between my friend graciously offering to help me and lots of my own research I was feeling more confident venturing over to the gluten-free world and I haven’t looked back since!
By this point I was used to giving up some of the foods that I loved, although still very tempting and very difficult, especially at family gatherings and going out to eat with friends. Sometimes I would feel quite terrible for days after I “cheated”, sort of a food hangover. There were times I literally cried because I was so hungry and I just wanted to order a pizza so badly, but I knew I had to FULLY commit to this lifestyle change or it wasn’t going to benefit me at all. I continued to research different gluten free products and recipes, and read articles about the ongoing advancements in the gluten free lifestyle- and before I knew it, I was getting the hang of it! I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I knew that it would be something that I would grow to love, and I do now more than ever! I am not quite sure what sparked the idea of starting a food blog, but I knew that what I had been going through would have been nearly impossible if I didn’t have my friend by my side to help me. I knew that I had to give back, pay it forward, whatever you wanna call it and had to help people; and a food blog was my starting point.
I felt like I was doing great, feeling better and then one morning I woke up with a goiter. It looked like there was a golf ball in my throat, and having been to nursing school I knew this was no bueno. So I went to the doctor and they referred me to an endocrinologist. He performed an ultrasound and found a partially solid cyst that was fairly large. He decided he wanted to perform a needle biopsy and the results revealed that there were hurthle cells present, which meant there were potentially pre-cancerous cells within my thyroid. I decided to have a partial thyroidectomy to remove the left lobe of my thyroid to avoid any potential spread or it turning into full blown thyroid cancer later on. I’m actually so grateful the goiter happened because if it hadn’t it may have been discovered too late, and the only reason why I got the goiter to begin with was because a tiny little blood vessel within the cyst popped and caused the swelling. I mean, if that wasn’t a blessing from God….
A couple years went by while I regained my strength, moved back to Ohio, and got myself in a well enough place to move forward. I kept creating recipes on my then food blog- Happily Ever After Gluten, to help others but mostly to help hold myself accountable! I became so passionate about food and what we use as fuel and healing our bodies with whole foods that I enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a certified health coach. This is a one year program in which I would learn how to coach others on how to eat the right foods for their bodies. I absolutely loved this program and becoming part of this health revolution, continuing to spread the ripple of health care (not sick care). I am so grateful for IIN and this path I have been led down. Although I can’t indulge in that big cheesy pizza I still crave, it has gotten so much easier, and the benefits far outweigh the 7 minutes in pizza heaven, haha.
Healthy Little Vittles Going Forward
I decided after the completion of my health coaching program and the birth of my son that in order to be the healthiest version of ourselves we need to do more than just “give up the gluten” and eat a variety of whole foods. Here on this blog I create/find and share recipes that are naturally gluten free, dairy free, plant-based and vegan, and my son was a huge part of that decision. When I would consume meat and then nurse him I would find he would be extremely fussy and colicky. So I gave up the meat and I myself felt better too! While today we are not 100% vegan all of the time, my family and I really do consume a primarily plant-based, vegan diet. I truly believe that I would not have been able to give birth to my son and daughter because of the health state my body was in.
I want to share my story because it is not a fad diet, it’s a lifestyle. We can all benefit from eating more plants- regardless of health diagnoses. And there is NO JUDGEMENT here! We all start somewhere, it takes time, perseverance, and a lot of grace. Your mental health is almost just as important so be kind to yourself and to others on this journey. I have been blessed to generate a small amount of traffic in my small pocket of the internet, and I hope to keep sharing the message and my story so that people know they are not alone. YOU are not alone. It’s hard, but it’s one million percent worth it.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you, thank you for continuing to hold me accountable, and thank you for supporting my small business. Please contact me with any questions!
Many healthy blessings,