I met Jennifer when she came to a Holistic Moms meeting I organized with Stacy Toth of Paleo Parents as our speaker. I’ve been following Jennifer’s work since, and occasionally running into her at the community center where our kids take gymnastics. She’s been a great source of support for me, from cheering on my writing to sharing her health journey, which happens to have a lot of overlaps with mine.
Even though Jennifer has a lot on her plate, professionally and in terms of managing her health, she is super generous with her time when fans (including yours truly) ask to pick her brain on supplements and protocols.
I’m thrilled to have a Q&A with Jennifer over on Mindful Healthy Life; it covers parenting and book-writing in addition to offering some insights on her newest publication, which I just got in my hands yesterday and have loved paging through! Be sure to go read that Q&A and enter the giveaway for Jennifer’s new book by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, September 1.
We did our Mindful Healthy Life Q&A over email before I had read the book, but then I found myself wanting to ask a few more behind-the-scenes questions. She was prepping to take her kids on a last-minute surprise beach trip but was kind enough to answer all my nosy questions! I was relieved to see her Facebook post that she and her family made it to the beach and had a great time.
Here is a look behind the scenes of Predominantly Paleo.
Jessica: Okay, so one thing I’ve wondered is about the support you get at home for your health journey and for your profession.
First, how did your husband show up for you when you were sickest?
Jennifer: It’s funny, sometimes he was working really hard to do things like take the kids so I could rest, but my “support language” was that I needed more empathy and things done for me (personally). We had to figure out what was the most important together because sometimes I felt like he wasn’t overly concerned, when really he was trying to be the most useful!
Jessica: How did you manage your illness with three little kids?
Jennifer: It was awful actually. My youngest was only 6 months old and so naturally she was helpless. My older two were 3 and 4 so they were still very dependent as well. I tried to do things that were low key and leave the more exciting stuff for father/kiddo time.
Jessica: How has your husband embraced the lifestyle that is now your livelihood and your passion? Does he cook with your recipes?
Jennifer:At first he saw it as a fun hobby (like I did). I don’t think he took it seriously and mostly worried about me overextending myself – which I have a tendency to do. As it started to grow I think he realized that this is for real and there’s no turning back! He is very excited about the Instant Pot and I’ve been teaching him to use it. He has very simple taste in food so the IP is perfect for a protein, veggie, and rice or stew.
Jessica: And more broadly, how has it affected your marriage and home life for you to become such a widely popular blogger and author of so many books in such a short period of time?
Jennifer: I don’t think we think of me as being that popular or well known. It’s more like he has his job/career, I have mine, and we try to meet in the middle on the other stuff. He has started doing laundry since I have much less time than I used to for housekeeping and I am still the primary caregiver for the kids. But on the weekends he is fully prepared to take over when needed as long as we discuss my needs in advance. Our marriage ebbs and flows like anyone’s with highs and lows. We have to keep assessing each other’s needs as my business morphs and he continues his active duty Air Force career.
Jessica: Thank you for your candor on all those personal questions!
Now onto cooking/homemaking/parenting…
I kind of cringed when you said you really do just make one meal for the whole family because I have been so bad about that lately. My son (age 10) will eat almost anything, but my daughter (age 6) is much more interested in carbs and reluctant to eat all but a few favorite veggies, and she just won’t eat any stews or mixed stuff. I was that way as a kid, and I remember all too vividly how awful I felt the few times I was forced to eat something I didn’t like.
It’s been over a year that I’ve been doing the Autoimmune Paleo protocol (AIP), so that means no nuts or eggs for me, which was a big deal since I used to bake a lot with eggs and almond flour. I also can’t have nightshades (which means no tomato, among other things), and I can’t tolerate much in the way of onions or garlic or even tons of coconut because of the sulfur content. Oh, and I also am still avoiding olive, turkey and pumpkin, which showed up on a delayed allergy panel.
On top of that, we’ve discovered that my son has a bunch of IgG (delayed) food reactions in addition to a few IgE (immediate) reactions and also the celiac gene. We are trying homeopathic serums, which means that each week he has to avoid 12 foods on one day and 12 foods the next. This will go on for nine weeks at least.
I feel like it’s a struggle just to get through each day and not make someone sick! I don’t want to force my family to eat as restrictively as I do. There are sometimes when I simply can’t do the same thing – like I can’t use coconut or bacon fat for my son, and I can’t use olive or butter or even ghee for me. And my husband can’t do avocado! Yes, there is palm oil and duck fat, but, still, it’s a challenge!
So finally to my question: Is it okay to think of my many-dishes approach as okay for now until maybe some of us are less reactive? That is, to say each person has different needs? Or do you really think the whole family needs to embrace one set of rules even if that makes the choices pretty narrow and cuts out a lot of favorites just because Mom or someone else can’t eat them?
Jennifer: I think every family is different and when there are food allergies at play that’s a whole ‘nother issue. My family does not have major food intolerances other than gluten and dairy so what I make is generally well-received. I’ve never forced the kids to eat something they really couldn’t stand but they also know that it’s the only option. For example, my son hates mayo. Immensely. So if I make slaw to go on a taco with my tortilla recipe, I will give him spinach leaves to put on his instead of slaw. But I won’t make another meal altogether. I just honor that he has a major aversion to mayonnaise (and cheese).
Jessica: There’s also how sad it makes me when my daughter really wants me to try something that she enjoys, and I have to say no. It’s especially heartbreaking if she helped make the GF pancakes or cupcakes and wants me to try them. I hope she’s learning that this is a way I take care of myself and not making up a story about me depriving myself of joy. Did you ever worry about that or feel bad about abstaining from something that was perfectly fine for everyone else but not for you? How do you deal with that feeling of being the sick one, the high-maintenance one who can’t enjoy regular stuff, even when it’s nutrient-dense?
Jennifer: I don’t really worry to much about others’ perceptions I guess, but most of the opinions have come from adults who are being judgy and don’t understand. I just do not feel bothered by what others think because I know I HAVE to avoid gluten and there’s no way around it.
However, if it were a situation with my children, I’m sure it would be a little sad. That’s where education comes in so that they can see all the GOOD things you are doing for yourself and why it’s so important to take care of yourself!
Jessica: I know. I do want to make that clear, but sometimes it feels like even all that isn’t quite enough, so I worry about my modeling falling flat!
That leads me to my final question: What do you call on when the going gets tough? How do you stay positive? Am I right that taking pride in personal appearance is one thing that helps? I could stand to work on that and have it work on me LOL!
Jennifer: Everyday I wake up, even at my VERY VERY worst, I put on makeup, get dressed and pull my hair back (notice I didn’t say brush it haha). I never want to look sick even when I am. This is the opposite of what people say when they are offended by others saying “but you don’t look sick” – but for me, personally, I don’t WANT to look sick! I want to always look healthy so that when I see myself in the mirror, a healthy person is smiling back at me (even when I’m not).
I have low points too, hopeless days and all that ugly stuff. I just tell myself that the worst part will pass and I will get back to my “baseline” where I am now functional even if not optimal. I keep inspiring journals that say “Big Things Are Going To Happen” and things like that so I can find something positive to focus on. That and Netflix, that always helps!!!
Jessica: Thank you! (she said, wearing yoga pants LOL)
Is there any other advice you would like to offer would-be health enthusiasts, writers or creatives?
Jennifer: I don’t know if I am a great person to offer advice but I would say if you have a dream, and something you are good at, you should pursue it 100%. I did not know I had a gift or something that could help others until I took the leap and just offered bits of myself to people.
It turns out there are a lot of people looking for answers and YOU might be the one to offer them hope. Without hope we have nothing so for me I knew it was something I had to chase after. Luckily there are people who are listening and finding tools to get better!
Huge thanks to Jennifer for taking the time to respond to my many questions! Be sure to head over to Mindful Healthy Life to read more and enter the giveaway for a signed copy of Jennifer’s brand-new book!
And if you want to meet her in person, come to the Arlington/Alexandria chapter of Holistic Moms Network on October 20 to hear her speak!
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