interview with jennifer fugo + a giveaway!by caroline
It’s not every day that I meet someone who closely shares in my vision and mission to help people discover the healthy lifestyle that works best for them. But when I met Jennifer Fugo (founder of Gluten Free School), I knew she was one of those people –– my healthy gluten-free soul sister so to speak! Like me, Jennifer believes in the idea that a healthy gluten-free lifestyle is not only attainable, but can indeed be beautiful and delicious.
Lucky for all of us, Jen is sharing the lessons she’s learned during her personal journey to health –– as well as her years spent helping countless clients –– in her new book The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank. Throughout the book, Jennifer shows her readers that they can not only lead a healthy gluten-free lifestyle, but a budget-friendly one. Packed with shopping tips, food preparation ideas, information about essential kitchen tools and delicious gluten-free recipes (creamy asparagus soup, spicy sweet potato wedges, quick apple crisp and plenty more), this book is a must-have on your gluten-free shelf. Read more about Jennifer below, PLUS enter to win your very own digital copy of the book!
→ When/why did you first embark on your gluten-free journey?
I was diagnosed in early 2008 after a nutritionist was suspicious that I may have gluten sensitivity. We did bloodwork to confirm antibodies to gluten, casein and eggs. It was both a happy and scary moment to get this news. Happy because I finally had an answer and the possibility of feeling better felt real. But it was also scary because I am from a traditional Italian family and I felt like I had to give up my entire diet.
But because I had been feeling sick for months with out an answer (all my bloodwork looked normal through my physician’s office), I was willing to plow forward. Getting rid of the chronic headaches, low immunity, constant diarrhea, gas and bloating and incredible fatigue was life-changing!
→ What was life like prior to your diagnosis? Initially I assumed that I had stomach issues and that they were normal. I’d get really sick in the middle of meals and have to run several times to the bathroom. Sometimes I’d just try to “deal with it” and pretend I was fine, but that would only work for so long. I also had headaches all the time and popped Tylenol for over 10 years assuming that they too were normal. The real kicker was when I could no longer wake up after sleeping 9, 10 or even 11 hours and when I did, I felt like I’d been drugged. I was totally exhausted.
→ What changed for you once you cut gluten from your diet?
Everything! I literally look like a totally different person now from when I began my gluten-free diet. People who had not seen me in a year were shocked at how different I looked even only having been gluten-free for 4 months. The inflammation just melted away from my body which allowed me to finally sleep (and wake up) like a normal person again, lose nearly 20 lbs of inflammation weight, stop getting sick every 6 weeks and no longer get headaches.
→ Tell us about your new book, The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank.
I was inspired to write the book because the most common complaint I hear from people is that the gluten-free diet is expensive which for some is a barrier for them to stay gluten-free. It further feels challenging to eat healthy because that too can also increase costs.
Back in 2009 (a year after I went gluten-free), I was diagnosed with Candida and Adrenal Fatigue so continuing to eat whatever I wanted (think a lot of gluten-free desserts and pasta), I had to change my diet to eat better quality, less refined, healthy foods. Suddenly my husband was laid off from his job and we lost two-thirds of our household income and eating organic gluten-free foods became nearly impossible. In order to continue eating well within my much smaller means, I got savvy about prices, shopping at the local grocery stores, food preparation and storage. I came to realize how much money I was literally throwing away in the trash in the form of unused and uneaten food.
I found shortcuts to getting food on the table quickly and how I could easily stock my kitchen so that a wrench in my weekly schedule that would keep me from cooking wouldn’t mean I’d forego eating safe, gluten-free food. I began sharing these tricks and tips with clients and they were amazed by how “smart” and easy they were and I’d get feedback that they’d noticed a significant savings on their grocery bills despite eating real, healthy, home-cooked gluten-free food. In turn, they were less stressed about food and cooking and ultimately felt better overall.
To be able to share this information with more people, I decided to compile it in a book so that others, no matter their means, could shop, save and cook less while eating real food.
→ What has been the most impactful part of the journey for you?
The concept of tenacity. I had to be so completely committed to the journey of being gluten-free and improving my health that I couldn’t allow something like money deter my progress. I was determined to find a way to do it and even though I’m not in the same boat now as we were before, I still use the strategies in the book because I really dislike wasting resources like money, food and time.
→ What’s one misguided notion about a gluten-free lifestyle that you hear far too often? What’s your rebuttal?
I’ve heard many people say that it’s just too difficult to cook tasty gluten-free food and that their family members won’t eat what they cook. Frankly, they’re right. The traditional gluten-free food that’s in many cookbooks and posted on blogs contain way too many weird and often expensive ingredients attempting to replicate old gluten-filled favorites. Often, those recipes fail to deceive a person whose palette is expecting something that’s simply not there.
What I constantly tell clients is to focus on eating and cooking healthy foods that HAPPEN to be gluten-free. That way, the dish isn’t missing what it didn’t have in the first place. Your family will enjoy the tastes of what’s in front of them rather than saying “This bread just isn’t the same.” I host dinner parties and have even catered non-gluten-free friends’ birthday parties and no one ever notices that the gluten was missing from most or all of what’s served. Instead, I’m asked for recipes and complimented on how delicious everything is with few leftovers to spare at the end.
The recipes in The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper are based on simple clean ingredients that happen to be gluten-free and are easy to make. It is my intention to simplify the process of living gluten-free so that it’s doable, wallet-friendly and delicious!
→ What’s up next?
Building a bigger platform for gluten sensitive women to get the information and help they need to change their diets and lives. Advocacy is a huge part of my life right now and after talking to so many people who are struggling out there, women want to feel heard. Our needs are different than those who aren’t sensitive to gluten and we need to resources and tools to address our own unique needs. Autoimmune problems are rampant for women and sadly can be either the final straw or what happens when the connections with gluten are ignored or brushed aside. I know what it’s like to be the patient in the chair who’s not being listened to. I know how it feels to be in these women’s shoes, getting sicker without any reasonable answers as to why.
I’ll soon be relaunching my Gluten-Free 101 course for women who want to become a gluten-free expert in their own life. It provides women with the tools and skills they need to make sure they stay safe from gluten (and all the places it hides), but also how to deal with the practical and emotional components that surface when making this transition. The women who’ve gone through it in the past have been amazed to learn that they were still getting glutened even though they’d been gluten-free for years!
There will definitely be more books in my future as well as hosting more podcasts (with awesome guests) that connect gluten-free women with topics most important to their health and well-being. I have many speaking opportunities all through the Eastern half of the US this year (http://www.glutenfreeschool.com/events) and even more in the works for next year sharing stages with some of the most recognized thought-leaders in the gluten-free community.
→ Famous last words.
Take care of yourself and make YOU a priority. It’s one of the most brushed aside ideas, but when you’re gluten sensitive or celiac, you’ve truly got to take care of you. As women, we often worry about everyone else, but part of the healing process comes from adding yourself onto the top of your daily priority list. Otherwise, it’s easy to cheat or not stay the course or follow through with actions that will improve your life.
Want to win a digital copy of Jennifer’s new book, The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank?! Jennifer’s giving away three digital copies to three LUCKY winners! You can do any or all of the following to enter. The more you do, the more chances you have to win:
1. Comment below and tell me why you want your very own copy (use Facebook or regular comments sections).
2. Tweet the following (click here to tweet):
Hey @SincerelyCSK and @gfreeschool, I want to eat delicious #glutenfree food and save money too! » http://bit.ly/1gODvab #giveaway
3. Post about it on Facebook, and then link back in the comments below.
4. Instagram the photo below! Make sure to tag Jen (@gfreeschool) and me (@thesincerelylife), so we can see your entry! (e.g. I entered to win @gfreeschool’s Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper book over @thesincerelylife’s site and you should too! #gf #glutenfree #giveaway)
5. Blog about the giveaway and/or why you would like to learn how to save money on your gluten-free lifestyle, and then link back in the comments below.
Giveaway officially ends on March 26th at midnight (ET). Winner announced on March 27th. THIS CONTEST HAS NOW ENDED. Winners are:
- Denise Nunez
- Jen Clark
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so you can claim your digital copy of The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank!
Gotta have your own copy right now, right now?!
Go ahead and purchase the paperback version of The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank here!