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It’s a “Live-It”, Not A Diet: How A Chef-Turned-Health Coach Healed Her Own Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism With Food

Hello, I’m Jen and I’ve been obsessed with food all my life. (Hi Jen…)

Are you like me?  Do you eat, sleep and dream food too?

My love affair with food began where so many others have as well—around the kitchen table.  I lucked out by having grandmothers who could really cook.  My nana’s Italian sausages—a little spicy from the seasonings and sweet from rich tomato sauce—and my grandma Ida’s comforting and nourishing chicken stew were both meals that could get me running to the table.

After graduating Valedictorian of my culinary school class (see nerd + love of food), I started my own catering company and lived, cooked and worked in Italy for a year.  Those were the good times.

Flash forward to 2006.  I was working my butt off as the catering director for the amazing non-profit, Second Helpings, when my husband and I were hit by a semi-truck.  That accident sent my life hurling, literally, and changed the course of my life forever.  The physical toll on my body as well as the stress I dealt with in the aftermath is what made me a prime candidate for autoimmune and thyroid disease.

As my body started to break down and I became allergic to all the foods I had loved and eaten before, my life of food turned sour.  I didn’t know what I could eat to feel better and I truly didn’t like any of the options.  Food became a chore, the memory of enjoying it disappeared and everything felt like a giant “NO” sign.

I felt robbed—of my career, my mobility, my joy in food and my life.

Through a long year of diving deep into these emotions and a lot of trial and error in the kitchen, I finally figured out what worked best for my body…  and then I figured out how to tweak my favorite dishes to fit my needs.  All this tinkering brought back my passion for cooking, my zest for life and my desire to share my new knowledge of how to reverse thyroid, autoimmune and inflammatory disease through food.

This is why I became a health coach and why I wrote TheRadical TLC Solution, your simple, 6-week self-care strategy to turn around autoimmune disease.

It’s a “live-it” not a diet.

The approach I embraced is a lifestyle plan, not a diet.  We all know diets don’t work—because the very idea of “going on a diet” implies that you will go off it sooner or later.  I have never dieted or counted calories and I won’t start now—and neither should you.

When you eat real food that actually nourishes your body, your brain won’t send signals that you need more food—because it doesn’t.  A nourished body isn’t hungry and doesn’t crave a thing.

The Italians don’t spend their precious moments counting calories and discussing the latest fad diet.  They eat food with gusto—they dive into the pleasure of it all.  They don’t stress about it.  Food is part of their lifestyle, a pleasure, something to be enjoyed and shared, not something to stress about. ( Oh, and P.S., stress causes weight gain, especially when you’re dealing with autoimmune disease—I go into detail on all the connections in The Radical TLC Solution home healing guide.)

A lot of the research out there supports going on a very extreme/limited diet in order to heal.  However, I’ve found that these wonderfully healing diets can not only be intimidating and overwhelming, but they are hard to do when you’re first beginning your healing journey.

So, instead of diving into the GAPS protocol or the Paleo-Autoimmune protocol, I have found with myself and my clients that we see better results when we make small dietary shifts first and as a we add more shifts, we move slowly closer to the “ideal” healing diet.  As we start to feel better and gain more energy, it’s easier to embark on these truly healing protocols—but one step at a time!

When you commit to following a meal plan that is supportive for thyroid, autoimmune or inflammatory disease, you can see results in terms of less weight and bloat within a matter of days and start to see disease reversal in a matter of weeks or months.  The timing  depends a lot on the current state of your gut.  If you’ve got a leaky gut (which likely you do if you’re dealing with autoimmunity), it may take a wee bit longer to heal.  And remember, reversing disease is a lifestyle itself — you’ve got to not only put thought into what you eat but you have to support yourself with fitness and stress relief.

I believe in understanding what our bodies need to heal, stocking our fridge with those foods and then forgetting about the “rules.”  Once you get your kitchen and your routines set up to support your healing, you can pretty much forget about your diet.  It will take care of itself.

A day on my “diet”

So, just in case you’re still wondering, here’s what a day on my healing “diet” looks like:

  • Breakfast: I keep it really simple in my house and personally eat a filling bowl of pho and two Brazil nuts every morning.  I’ll eat eggs or a gluten free version of a traditional breakfast on the weekends on occasion.  The pho just feels so good in my belly and it’s rich in minerals and anti-inflammatory spices.
  • Lunch: For lunches and dinners an ideal meal would consist of two cooked veggies, a salad with some good-fat toppings like avocado, and a high-quality protein.  The easiest way to get that?  Make enough dinner so you have leftovers for lunch!  I’m always eating leftovers or a giant salad for lunch.
  • Snack: When I feel hungry between meals, I usually grab a piece of fresh fruit or some olives, nuts and veggie sticks.
  • Dinner: My most creative meal of the day!  I don’t let my health hold me back.  I love to cook up dinners like chicken picatta, BBQ short ribs, or butter chicken for dinner—and make sure there’s enough to enjoy tomorrow.

Does that sound doable?  I always encourage my clients not to focus on what they can’t have, but on all the amazing things they can have.  I know you can take on this lifestyle change and heal your body, because I’ve seen so many of my friends and clients do it for themselves.

And if this Italy-loving, Midwestern chef can do it—so can you!


About the Author
Jen Wittman, CHHC, AADP is a Holistic Health Expert & Coach, specializing in thyroid and autoimmune disorders.  She provides one-of-a-kind, long-lasting health overhauls through Thyroid Loving Care.  She is author of Radical TLC SolutionThe Super-Mom’s Guide to Managing Thyroid Disease, and The Partner’s Guide to Thyroid & Autoimmune Disease.  She is also host of and Thyroid Radio.  Jen has degrees in culinary arts, psychology, transformational coaching, nutrition, and Italian.  She’s worked with everyone – from Emmy-award winning celebrities to CEOs of the home (aka “Moms”).  Jen spent a year honing her cooking skills in Italy and is passionate about food, family, friends, laughter and helping people live the life of their dreams.

This blog post was originally published by, written by Jen Wittman, and first published on Aug 16, 2014.

This post contains the opinions of the author. Autoimmune Association is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances. Autoimmune Association does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website. Your use of the website is subject to our Privacy Policy.

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