Eat Drink Shrink Story Part: I
Hello, my name is Gabrielle..
and this is my story
In 2015 I planned to share more than just recipes of vegan amazingness and product reviews via Eat Drink Shrink, but as the spring semester unfolded and with the passing of my father, I just needed to decompress, regroup, and take everything one day at a time.
It will be a year since his passing in just a few short weeks, so I felt it was time, .. and here we go.
I firmly believe that in order to fully utilize our experience, we have to give it away. Even if it makes us vulnerable or leaves room for judgment, giving our experience away also leaves room to educate, inspire, and hopefully aid in others recognizing the parallels within their own story and perhaps find more clarity.
Since you can’t summarize your entire life in a single post, I developed a section called “EDS Life” and will continue to update it regularly to disclose my life so that I can share pieces of it with you. The good, the bad, and even the unpleasant.I hope through sharing it offers more authenticity and helps you better gauge who the person is behind Eat Drink Shrink.
They say to be a good writer, you have to write what you know..
I know if it wasn’t for my story, I wouldn’t be here telling it to you.
What’s a funny paradox is that, I’m actually a very private person, but at the same time one who loves to educate and inform. As you would imagine my blogging journey has been quite interesting to say the least and that well.. I’ve never told my story.
My childhood Ch. 1:
I’m originally from Marietta, Georgia and come from a large family of five. That number still scares me, especially since this is the chapter of my life where planning for a family comes into play. My mother was somewhat of a hippie around the time she was pregnant with me (Think ultra vegan & bringing your own food wherever you go), So you could say that I’ve been programmed to be all about plant based foods.
As a Southern native my mother sometimes made your typical southern foods, with lots of salt and butter. (she wasn’t a good cook, sorry mom lol) Vegetables were sometimes offered, but were always overcooked and ultimately lacking any essential nutrients. The handful of times that food was prepared, like most children I didn’t want to eat it and would literally hide it in the drawers at the kitchen table to only be discovered years later.. lol (true story)
My story takes a turn however when my parents separated when I was 8 and my mother was left to pick up the pieces and make ends meet financially. My fathers departure didn’t happen overnight, but it was slow and painful, until he finally left this earth last year.
Divulging this loss will forever remain difficult, but in order to let it go, to overcome, I have to share it..
Coming from an upper middle class family that never experienced financial struggles and living a somewhat privileged life, when we were struck with financial hardships our lives eventually became unrecognizable.
When one thinks of malnourishment we typically envision a child in poverty or those in third world countries, but did you know that hunger has no face? Hunger exists right outside your front door. Hunger can be camouflaged behind a nice home or clean clothes. Hunger has no color, it doesn’t discriminate, and carries a heavy stigma that today still pervades our culture.
Many who know me have no idea
that I was once the face of hunger...
With my mother taking on the responsibility of providing for us, we struggled to make ends meet immediately. We never had heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer, our hot water and electricity were turned off at times, we were lucky to have microwave meals and ramen noodles, and my siblings and I ultimately lived in fear that one day we would lose our home. Like many who experience financial hardships for the first time, we never sought out government funded programs or food banks, we just survived.
In the nice suburbs of Georgia, this picture seems foreign and hard to comprehend, but it happens every day.
School lunches were always provided for free throughout elementary to high school due to our finances. I can still recall one of my earliest memories in 4th grade when a student asked “why I got free lunches” and the teacher responded in front of the entire class that it was because “we were poor”.
My relationship with food evolved to become one that wasn’t stable. As early as 8 years old I carried this fear that I didn’t know when or where my next meal was coming from and began to over eat whenever I had access to food. As a child I would stay over at friends houses til late in the evening on school nights just so that I could experience a real meal at the dinner table. I’ll never forget parents asking, “Don’t you need to go home?”.
Studies today show that a child receiving inadequate intake will have a reduction in proper growth and bone development, but also be unable to focus in school and less likely to obtain a college education.
This assertion is valid, and it’s prevalent everywhere. I can remember lacking the ability to concentrate, socialize, and even becoming more introverted due to the gravity of everything and the inability to comprehend it all. Today I’m FAR from introverted, but these are the potential effects that stem from not receiving a balanced diet when it’s imperative.
As a child food is a source of security, going without at times left me feeling inadequate and I feared even interacting with classmates. Although it may be hard to comprehend now that I’ll have a master’s degree this May, I nearly didn’t pass the 5th grade due to a month of absences.
People always find it hard to discern why low income families consume highly processed foods. I know firsthand that it was all we could afford and nobody was there to cook. On a good day we were lucky to have frozen meals, corn dogs, and ramen noodles. (which will forever haunt me in my sleep lol). Luckily, by the age of 15, I got my first job and began to make my own food choices. Having faced many issues with food security, food evolved became a source of control.
This relationship with food organically develops, because at the end of the day, we can’t control what happens in our lives, especially as a child.. you feel powerless, but you can control what you put in your mouth.
As a freshman in high school I’ll never forget eating a “honey bun” from the vending machine while at the same time the button of my “Mudd dress pants” popped off lol. That was me, and that was and continues to be the source of food for many young adults when they should be priming their bodies for long term health. Looking back it probably served as a catalyst in my unhealthy relationship with food.
Knowing that I could control my own weight gave me a sense of pride and was at times, my only source of happiness in a world of chaos. While my friends were applying to colleges senior year, I felt trapped, broken, and can even recall a “home ec” professor telling me that I would never amount to anything like the rest of my family. I was at my lowest weight of barely 89lbs.
After taking an elective psychology course at NYU focusing on eating disorders I identified a lot of parallels in my own experience with limiting my food intake. Our relationship with food develops as young children, and it can have positive or devastating effects on our health throughout life.
Today I advocate for plant based foods for the environment and animal welfare, but at the end of the day the true underlying message is balance, listening to your body, and having a healthy relationship with food.
Through my struggles I took less interest in my studies for a multitude of reasons. I graduated high school, but lacked the finances and the supportive network to even pursue college. Although I’ve come so far, I think its important to emphasize that I had no help in navigating my dreams and that it all manifested itself from the advice of one person. .
It takes but only once voice to shape someones entire life.
Remember to be that voice for someone.
No matter what life tries to tell you, believe in yourself, your self worth, and what you have to offer this world.
As the first child out of an entire family, I graduated high school and enrolled in college at 23. After just one semester, I sold everything I owned and moved back to New York City where I had lived prior. My objective to returning was not only to enjoy the pure essence of this wonderful city, but to find my calling and the path God had chosen for me. Everyone has their reasons for falling in love with New York City, but for myself it’s the one place that makes me feel alive.
I faced many adversities before arriving where I am today, but what helped me to preserver was never giving up hope and believing in what I feel I was called to do.
I received upwards of 25k worth of scholarships and grants to attend the prestigious nutrition program at NYU, was accepted into a nutrition graduate program at Brooklyn College, all while simultaneously branding Eat Drink Shrink to share my journey with you as I pursue a career as a registered dietitian.
We are all products of our environment, but we can take our struggles, our story, and utilize it to manifest our calling, and inspire others to find theirs.
Today I am nothing but grateful for my story and the opportunity to share it with you. My father leaving will forever be an integral part of my story. Through my experience I was able to truly understand even as a child how food is the common ground, the universal experience, and the thread that binds us all together. I didn’t get to tell my father goodbye, but I know he’s looking down, ..and I know he’s proud. I love you dad.
Since 2012 I’ve worked with the Coalition for Healthy School food that aims to improve the accessibility of plant based foods in public schools throughout New York, and today I’m a Junior Council Member. Through Eat Drink Shrink I continue to work in vegan product marketing and recipe development to expose people to new products and new ways of living and experiencing plant based foods. (I’ve featured more than 2k products & hosted more than 500 giveaways)
Stay tuned for part II in my journey to wellness!
Your life is your message to the world, ..make sure its inspiring.
Looking forward to sharing more of my journey with you..