NYMM strives to empower women in many ways through spotlighting exceptional pioneers, and a key component of feeling empowered is all about taking control of the variables in your life. You do you. Your future is in your hands. The choices are yours to make – sometimes all we need is an inspiration and a push to make that change happen.
A constant struggle I have dealt with in my life is food and the negative context I associate it with because of – and this is putting it lightly – my lack of total and utter self-control. I am a foodie. I enjoy a junk food binge on a weekend.
But there are moments when you begin to realize that we only get one shot at life and only one body to look after. Our bodies are like temples. They deserve to be treated right and with respect, inside and out.
Cristina Curp of Castaway Kitchen is doing just that. Diagnosed with Hidradenitis Suppurativa, an autoimmune disease, Cristina has had to find healthier food alternatives to manage her new reality. She does this through a more holistic approach, believing that diet can lead to healing.
A chef turned food blogger, Cristina posts a wide collection of recipes that range from comfort foods like grain-free Hawaiian pizza to baked goods such as her avocado brownies. She also creates more intricate recipes like this teriyaki meatballs noodle bowl. We featured her delicious recipe for beef and broccoli bowls with sunshine sauce with us earlier this month!
These “gateway recipes,” as Cristina calls them, might just be the solution for this picky eater!
Cristina’s cookbook, Made Whole: More Than 145 Anti-Inflammatory Keto-Paleo Recipes to Nourish You from the Inside Out, comes out July 17th and is available for pre-order now on Amazon. You won’t want to miss meeting Cristina on her book tour, so check out the newly-announced dates for that!
NYMM talked with Cristina about her experiences with using food as a way to heal your body and her journey from feeling like a failure to personal empowerment.
NYMM: How long have you been on this healing journey with the autoimmune paleo diet?
CC: It’s been about seven years since I’ve been looking at health in a more holistic approach and looked toward diet, but I wasn’t really serious about it or committed. I didn’t really know the specifics of autoimmune diseases until three years ago. I’ve had my skin condition since I was 13 that I didn’t know was an autoimmune disease, where specific foods directly affected flare-ups, and at that time I was like, “I’m ready to do this. I’m ready to get better.”
NYMM: When you first began the paleo diet, what was that like?
CC: Luckily I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with paleo. I had done it back in 2007 because a holistic doctor my family used to see in Miami kind of put me on it when I was in my 20s. Granted, in my 20s I was doing paleo but I was drinking every night and partying until, like, five in the morning, so I wasn’t really reaping the benefits.
NYMM: Were there days when you thought, “Wow, I can’t do this?”
CC: I learned really quick that I need to be all in or it’s wasn’t going to work. I always tell people, “You’re not going to figure it out right off the bat.” Everyone has different layers of healing to do. I had all the layers. I also had a worst-case scenario with autoimmunity, I was super overweight, I had hormone issues, I was just a hot mess. I had to really be like “Okay, there’s a lot of work to do here. I had 30 years of trashing my body – it’s not going to undo itself overnight.”
NYMM: Do you ever get cravings for junk food?
CC: Yeah, absolutely, but not so much as I used to. My husband would get pizza delivered to the house and I would be sniffing the Papa John’s box! Eventually, I realized there’s more of an emotional attachment to going out for pizza or beer with friends, stuff like that. I always held on to the idea that I would heal and go back to my life, but what happened is that my life changed. I had to weigh my options. What’s worth it? This emotional connection to this food? Is my vitality – my quality of life – worth giving up just to satisfy that craving? It wasn’t [worth it] for me so I gave it up, no turning back.
NYMM: Any advice for picky eaters out there who might have to consider dietary restrictions because of a condition?
CC: Baked goods are always a really good way to draw people in. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with keto/paleo treats because they can be abused. But at the same time, I think they are a really good gateway recipe to get people to at least try grain-free or low-carb. What most people end up realizing is that it tastes pretty good. And once you eliminate something, you kind of have to retrain your taste buds. You learn to appreciate different flavors, and so all of these recipes satisfy different cravings.
NYMM: How do you stay on budget when cooking healthy? In this economy, sometimes it’s hard to do!
CC: I will say that the first few months I didn’t. I spent a fortune, almost to the point of getting into some debt, because I just wasn’t used to it. We had also just moved to Hawaii at the time so the food cost was a lot higher and it was really difficult. But once I realized that it was going to be for the long haul, we [started to eat] a lot of cheap cuts of meat. I only buy organic because it’s important to me and I just get creative with affordable ingredients. Buying produce in season is always a really good way to get it for a good price. One big thing that helped with the grocery budget was the transition from paleo to more keto, especially for me. With keto, there’s such a reduction in hunger because of the high-fat diet, so I eat less now and it saves us money.
NYMM: You mentioned you had Cuban roots. Not all ethnic food is necessarily health-conscious. Was it difficult to find a balance between the guilty pleasure of ethnic food and the diet you’ve adopted now?
CC: I’m a first-generation American. My parents were born in Cuba and my whole family in Miami are immigrants. When I was growing up we’d have rice, beans, pastelitos, croquetas, and pork, and it was great. But my mother herself was never super into that. [She] was kind of like this pioneer for health in the family and trying to educate the rest of us. It wasn’t a huge thing for me to change, and I’ve been able to replicate some of these things. I was actually surprised at how many Cuban foods are actually paleo! People love plantains on paleo and we have that as a food group for Cubans. There was some overlap there, oddly enough.
NYMM: You have an upcoming book; how has that journey been? Did you ever think you’d be writing a cookbook?
CC: My love of cooking started at a very young age and I remember my mom having dabbled in writing books – she’s also an excellent writer. When I first started my blog, I thought, “I’m going to write a book proposal and I’m sending it out to everybody and I’m totally going to get a book deal.” I worked on [my book] for months and had advice from all my mom’s friends who were also writers, and I did it and I didn’t hear back from anybody. Not a soul. But you know what? Everything happens for a reason, and I feel like back then I still hadn’t found my voice. If I look back now at that proposal I’m like, “Oh my gosh, what was I even talking about?”
NYMM: Was curating a blog something you always had in mind or was it something that came to fruition after you were diagnosed with an autoimmune disease?
CC: When someone told me I should start a blog, I was like, “A what? What’s a blog? How does this work?” I had no idea. I always kid around with my peers that I’m the worst blogger ever because I’m good at creating content but there’s a lot more to blogging than creating content. There’s SEO optimization and social media strategy, and I’m still learning. It’s a bit soul crushing but it’s like the evil you have to deal with because I probably wouldn’t have gotten to do the book had I not had a platform. My goal is to get to a point where I can outsource that [technical] work to someone else so I can focus on creating content, recipes, and connecting with people because that’s where my passion lies.
NYMM: You’ve mentioned Whole30 and The Paleo Mom on your blog before. Are there any other diet programs or blogs that inspire you?
CC: I really love A Healthful Pursuit and she’s big on keto for women. Leanne Vogel talks about using carbs and that they’re not all bad and we need them sometimes to help balance out hormones. Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple, his website is an amazing resource. He wrote Reading Primal Blueprints which was a changing point for me when I realized that maybe the paleo template wasn’t ideal for me. I think the idea of the real food thing is great, but I can’t do sweet potatoes every day because it just wasn’t working for me. Robb Wolf’s Wired To Eat was also instrumental. I learned what insulin resistance was when I read that book and learned that I was insulin resistant! Apparently, 80 percent of America is – it’s like the plague of America because of the overconsumption of carbohydrates.
NYMM: What do you hope readers take away from your blog?
CC: I hope that they feel empowered that they can change their life. I felt so hopeless for most of my life living in chronic pain, struggling with my weight forever, and feeling like a failure all of the time. I don’t know how many diets I failed. It was like this cycle where I felt like I had no control, where I’d try this thing that was ultra-restrictive, it didn’t work, I’d feel like a failure and then I’d overeat. That was my life, and I when I look back now, I just have such a different relationship with food and with myself. One thing I talk about more than the recipes is the cathartic experience of the elimination diets and finding control. It’s been amazing and transformative and I want people to feel that – to feel that they can take that step. I realized a lot of the success comes more from no longer feeling like a failure. It’s about feeling empowered and feeling strong.
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