DanielaExley2015

Welcome to my blog, a place where I will share healthy, gluten free, vegetarian & vegan whole food recipes, nutrition tips, lifestyle advice and inspiration, documenting my recovery from Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I’m Daniela, a mother of two, wife, photographer, nutrition student and blogger. I’m not a chef by any means, but I love preparing food and am very lucky to have my little family around me who support me and love trying out all my culinary experiments.

My journey into healthy eating and to much happier me, oddly enough began when I became very unwell 2 years ago. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in May 2013. Initially my illness was debilitating, I suffered with extreme fatigue and depression, some days I was unable to walk and the joints of my hands were so swollen that I couldn’t pick anything up. At my lowest point I remember hobbling downstairs to get some breakfast and crying into my bowl of cereals as I couldn’t chew because my jaw was locking up.

Up until that point I was a big party girl, usually the last one standing. I started drinking and smoking when I was about 15; like a lot of teenagers I wanted to fit in, to be in with the cool kids. I had a brief interlude from drinking and smoking while I was pregnant and breast feeding my 2 kids, but as soon as I could go out again I started drinking and smoking again. It became normal for me to start drinking a glass of wine around 5pm as I was putting the kids dinner on. By the end of the evening I would have finished off the bottle; this happened at least 3-4 nights per week and I didn’t really think much of it.

The year leading up to my diagnosis was a particularly stressful year in my life. I tried to combat this with an unsupervised intensive exercise regime which would see me doing 2 hour intense cardio or resistance training 4 or 5 times per week on top of drinking, smoking and a high caffeine intake. Although I prepared home cooked meals, they revolved around meat, a lot of dairy and refined grains. I also ate quite a lot of chocolate and cake as a reward for my intensive exercise! Something had to give and in the end my body couldn’t cope with the huge amounts of acidity and inflammation caused by the mental and physical stress on top of my  diet and lifestyle. Doctors don’t know what causes autoimmune diseases, but in my opinion this concoction of stresses on my body is what ultimately led to my immune system imbalance.

The doctors I saw after my diagnosis wanted me to take various highly toxic drugs to suppress the immune system and relieve the symptoms of RA. I was immediately wary of the orthodox methods of suppressing symptoms rather than dealing with the underlying cause and overnight I decided a detox programme was needed. I went on a 3 week raw food detox (Young and Raw), which saw me eliminate all grains, dairy, meat, alcohol, caffeine and any processed foods and I haven’t looked back since! I now eat a whole food, mainly plant based diet, with the occasional egg and sometimes oily fish caught by the local Hastings fishing fleet. However, alcohol, caffeine, meat, cow dairy and gluten has stayed out of my diet for good.

There were two factors which worried me the most at the time of my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis: firstly was the worry that I wouldn’t be able to be active with my kids, take them swimming, kick a ball or go out for walks, and secondly that I might not be able to carry on with my absolute passion in life – photography. The motivation was definitely there; I had to get myself better and I really didn’t believe that the orthodox treatment would be the way forward for me. Together with my mum we started researching naturopathic alternatives and as a result I decided that I wanted to understand the inner workings of the human body truly and deeply. I enrolled on at the College of Naturopathic Medicine to study Naturopathic Nutrition in 2013 and I will be a fully qualified therapist by the summer of 2016. Not only did this give me a plan B in case I had to hang up my camera forever but it’s helping me enormously being surrounded by like minded people, learning huge amounts of information and last but not least it’s given me the strength to take my health in my own hands and make serious changes.

I am still on the road to recovery, and this blog will be part of my journey. I feel very positive about what I’ve achieved so far as I don’t feel that the disease is progressing, my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are mostly under control and I’m generally pain free. I don’t take any drugs, and I feel healthier and happier than ever before. This is the reason I see my autoimmune disease as a blessing in disguise, it made me completely reassess my lifestyle and as a result I feel like me again, the child inside me has surfaced again, happy and positive. 

Often we are not aware of the choices we should be making or even the choices available for us, I know I certainly wasn’t. It took a serious illness for me to realise that there are always other choices that I can make. The big corporations have the money to advertise and push products in front of us whereas the farmer might not. I am now fully aware of my choices and mindful of what I put in my body. I no longer need to get a kick from caffeine, alcohol or cigarettes, I get plenty of kicks from being happy, healthy and enjoying being alive on this wonderful planet!