TheHealthySweetPotato

About Jess

Hi, I’m Jess- the healthy sweet potato! I’m so happy you’re here visiting my blog!!  I’m a new blogger with a passion for food, all things health, fitness and fun. I started this blog to share my plant-based recipes, exercise experience and fun life stories with you. I hope you enjoy πŸ™‚

Mission Statement

This blog has been something I have been thinking about starting for such a long time. Not even kidding – I started one about 5 years ago and then quit after about 2 months because I was busy with school and other things in my life (and clearly I wasn’t ready to take on this endeavour just yet!) So I’ve obviously been thinking about this for a while, but within the last 6 months or so I’ve been really excited and I [think] am finally ready to take the deep dive! As you follow along you will notice changes to my blog including the structure, categories, content and posts as I am continually learning about how do this blog thing properly. However, my overall health philosophy should stay [relatively] the same (you know there is always new research coming out.)

Ultimately, the reason I really want to start blogging is because I know I can help people improve their health and live a more wholesome, balanced life. I plan on doing this by sharing feel-good plant based recipes, exercise advice, tips and workouts, as well as real life personal growth and motivational thoughts and some just-for-fun stories! By no means is the blog meant to be a definitive guide to your “best health ever” and I am definitely not recommending you take my advice over medical advice – see disclaimer – I am simply hoping you will find something helpful, joyful or meaningful (or all of the above) by following along! Please keep reading to learn more about my health journey and how I got to where I am today.

My Story

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My Health Journey

I’ve always had a strong passion for exercise – I can remember being super young and asking for little pink dumbbells for Christmas or trying to follow along with those awesome cable TV workouts… What I am trying to say is that exercise has always been a huge part of my life and I always knew it was my calling. But it wasn’t until recently that I started to become more interested in food; more importantly, how food can be both the most harmful and healing thing you can put into your body.

Let me tell you a little bit about my journey with food and health to where I am now. After 3 years of inconsistent severe lower abdominal pain and gastric distress after meals, meetings with countless specialists, and several unsuccessful diet modifications, I was finally diagnosed with a gluten intolerance/celiac disease in 2009. My Gastroenterologist (GI) at the time reported that my bloodwork showed I had gluten antibodies present in my blood (translation: my body was resisting/fighting gluten and I was not properly digesting it). I was very confused at the time as this was before celiac disease and the “evil gluten” phenomenon were very popular. My GI did not suggest performing an endoscopy to confirm a diagnosis but simply recommended I continue to consume gluten and use drugs to help manage my symptoms (of course…). After another 2 years of going on and off gluten and feeling absolutely terrible, I finally decided to go all-in; I gave up gluten entirely. This was honestly the hardest thing I had to do at the time, being in my last year of university and not having the best eating habits. I even cried a few times thinking that I would never be able to eat a bagel again. I eventually got over it with the help of my future husband Mike, my extremely supportive family and friends, the fact that there were more and more possible “gluten free” food choices becoming available and most importantly, I could still drink wine πŸ˜‰

Fast-forward 5 years -> I had been off gluten completely and generally felt much better. However, I was still having episodes of unexplained “gluten feeling” even after being 100% sure there was no gluten. Strange, but I didn’t put much thought into it at the time. Not to mention I was still suffering from some pretty bad GERD,  asthma, as well as some other non-food related allergies. I am not sure why I never looked into all of these things and why they were happening to me. I simply treated them with medications and never put any thought into WHY they were happening in the first place.

After getting married, my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Italy (sooo amazing!), where I tried eating gluten again just to see… and because, you know, we were in Italy! I awaited that awful feeling and… nothing. I ate it again, and again, and again (you can only imagine all the pizza and pasta I consumed – you’d be pretty impressed – just saying) and I had no “gluten feeling” at all! It was the best day of my life!! (After the wedding of course ;))

About Jess

Fast-forward to now -> I’m still eating gluten and have not had any symptoms associated with eating gluten since. After giving something so delicious up for so long and making a such a huge sacrifice I decided that I should really take my health into my own hands (because really, who cares more about my health than me??). I became really interested in the effects of food on the body as well as the ethical and environmental side of food. After doing a lot of research, I made the decision that I only wanted to consume things that would nourish and heal my body, things that were not going to harm me or the planet. That saying, “you are what you eat” really does ring true to me (I know so cliche :p). Since then I have been eating mostly a plant-based diet, full of whole foods that I enjoy and I do my best to buy locally as often as possible. I am still consuming gluten but after being gluten-free for 5 years, you’d be surprised at some of the awesome benefits I’ve received from that experience. I have really changed my lifestyle and way of eating because of it! I don’t count calories but I definitely focus on making sure I eat a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, starches and protein and supplement where necessary. 

Since I’ve changed my eating habits to focus more on healing and enjoying food, I’ve been able to listen to my body and understand it a little more. Through this journey I’ve definitely realized some pretty important things about myself. By forcing your body to consume or expend more or less calories than ideal, it really hurts it in the long run, leading to all kinds of negative reactions and outcomes. I’ve learned that some of my past habits that I believed to be “healthy” may not have been so healthy… and they may have ultimately caused a lot of the medical conditions I was experiencing and the ones I am still dealing with today.

The GREAT news is though, since I’ve acquired this new take on eating, exercising and living, I’ve been able to stop all my medications and reverse most of the conditions mentioned above! I’m so happy and excited about this that I had to share it! Living a truly healthy, wholesome life is possible and it is one of the reasons I decided to start this blog. I am determined to get there and I really, truly hope you join me πŸ™‚

My Family

I grew up in a really small town in northern Ontario, Canada called Hornepayne. If you don’t know where that is, you are not alone. I wouldn’t worry about it too much but it will always be home to me. My wonderful parents raised me there along with my brother and sister and our childhood dog. I lived in Hornepayne until I finished high school and headed off to university where I met (and instantly fell in love with ;)) my now husband Mike. I really cannot tell you in words how amazing he is. He has been there for me through thick and thin and has supported my every endeavor (including this blog!). Mike has really been my rock. He always knows how to cheer me up, make me laugh and bring me back to reality when I’m running around in a flurry of irrational thoughts (which tends to be a lot more than you might think haha). Anyway, what I am trying to say is that he has helped me become who I am today and I am not sure I would have had the courage to start this blog without him…well…I probably would have, but whatever. We got married in June 2016 and have been loving life with our only “child” Allen (the craziest, cutest, and completely unpredictable dog I’ve ever met…but we love him!). You will definitely be hearing more about Allen, so don’t worry! We currently live in a 1 bedroom apartment in Toronto but we travel A LOT back and forth to Mike’s hometown (and my parent’s new hometown) Peterborough. Right now I couldn’t be happier with my family and home but I am always excited to see where life takes us next!

My Career Path

I’ve been working in the health and fitness industry since I started my University degree in Kinesiology in 2006. I started out as a personal trainer which ultimately led me down the path of  Strength and Conditioning and Athletic Therapy. I decided to focus more on injury prevention and management and thus, I began a Masters degree in Kinesiology and Health Science along with a certificate in Athletic Therapy. Since graduating, I’ve been working as an Athletic Therapist at The Urban Athlete, a sports injuries clinic in Toronto, ON, as well as teaching Athletic Therapy and Psychology of Injuries courses part-time at York University. Most recently I’ve become a certified Pilates Instructor and have been LOVING teaching pilates classes, personal clients and friends and family members! You can check out the awesome pilates studio I teach at in Toronto, ON here –>North Movement Studio.

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Photo credit: North Movement Studio

My [Current] Career(s)

Currently I am not really sure what my exact title is…nor do I think I will ever have (or want) one. Each of my certifications helps me with my holistic approach to better health and I’m sure as I continue to grow and travel down different paths these will change but for now, here’s what I do: I’m a Certified Athletic Therapist, Registered Kinesiologist, Certified Pilates Instructor, Part-time Faculty member at a University, Wife, Dog Mom, and (so happy to say) new Blogger!

My Quirks and Interests

As you can probably tell by now, I love to eat, cook, move and be around people. However, I also love to travel, drink red wine with my mother-in-law, go on nature walks with Allen as well as walks to look at rich people’s houses, try new fitness classes and online workouts (as well as doing the same ones over again because they are soo good!). I love to be around people but I also love my alone time. I’m an early riser and my favourite time of the day is when I get to drink coffee on my couch all by myself in the morning. I eat oatmeal for breakfast almost everyday because I love it so much. I make really bad jokes and I can never re-tell a really funny story or joke that does the original any justice (which may have to do with the former). I’m a podcast junkie and I am completely OK with that. I love my friends, my family and my career (most of the time) and they all bring incredible joy to my life.

My Food/Exercise/Living Philosophy

Having such a strong passion for health and fitness it’s impossible to ignore food and nutrition. My food philosophy is to eat WHOLE foods, eat mostly plant-based, eat foods that nourish and heal your body and most important of all, eat foods that taste awesome! I absolutely love to cook and bake and I am always up for trying new recipes.

My exercise philosophy is pretty similar to my eating philosophy, except it is slightly less tasty ;).  Do GOOD things to your body and use exercise to make you and your body feel GOOD. Exercise should feel just as enjoyable as eating  – you are nourishing your body with all the things that it needs and it will thank you for it! In order to be able to participate in activities you enjoy you need to make sure you take care of yourself (your whole self) and that means doing the “ground work” to keep your body moving properly and safely, for as long as possible.

When talking about overall health, you definitely can’t ignore mental health (if you aren’t happy you probably won’t eat well or exercise well either!). Ensuring your mind is healthy and in-line with your food and exercise values is key to overall health and well-being. I am a strong believer that we should exercise our ability to be happy, live in the moment and express gratitude the same way we exercise our muscles (it’s a hard skill and needs constant work!). 

If nothing else,  just remember food, movement and happiness are nature’s best medicines!

I hope you enjoy!

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