Growing up, my mom was very good about making sure my brothers and I had a glass of milk with dinner, lots of fruits and veggies throughout the day, and a love for staying active. She supported us in any sport we wanted to play and always packed our lunches.
In high school, all of my friends were star athletes. Like, the star athletes that break school records, win state titles, and compete in national championships.
And then there was me.
I wasn't uncoordinated or overweight, but I wasn't a natural athlete either. I was, however, really good at supporting my athletic friends.
(My greatest accomplishment? Racing to multiple segments throughout the cross country course to be there just in time to cheer on my friends as they ran by. That was my Saturday workout.)
My sophomore year, I decided I was going to be an athlete. I asked my mom to buy all the foods my friends were eating, I started lifting weights after track practice, and I signed up for zero-hour running, a class where you literally showed up to the school at 6am to run 3 miles in the dark.
I was determined!
By the end of my senior year, I threw varsity javelin for the track team, lifted more than most of the girls I knew, and actually felt confident wearing skinny jeans.
I was still me, but a new-and-improved version of me. A healthier, more confident me.
After graduating high school in 2016, I left the country to serve a volunteer mission for my church in New Zealand. I fell in love with the people, the culture, and the food.
(Spoiler alert: this is where my blog name comes from! But more on that later.)
Oh the food. The Polynesians LOVE fried chicken, white rice, and soda. Like, I thought Americans loved fried food and soda, but the islanders have us beat.
As a result, I had a lot of salty, fried food. A lot of starchy carbs. A lot of inflammatory foods that, at the time, were dramatically affecting my unknown health conditions.
The only thing I knew was that I was bloated and sick to my stomach almost daily, despite my best efforts to include vegetables, water, and walking in my routine.
I returned home in August of 2018 and barely recognized myself in the mirror. I had a slight accent, I couldn't remember how to drive on the right side of the road, and I was 25 pounds heavier than when I left.
Now that I was home in my own country and back to a "normal" schedule again, I immediately resumed my old habits of going to the gym and focusing on clean, wholesome, and nourishing foods.
Over the course of the next 18 months, my bloating went away, my weight and muscle mass returned to normal, and I felt confident in my own body. In fact, I was in the best shape of my life!
Then the pandemic hit.
The place where I once thrived, the place where I found stability and joy, was indefinitely closed. I could no longer go to the gym.
Out of desperation, I picked up the one exercise I hated: running.
It was in those quiet, painful runs that I let go of all my stress and frustration. It soon became therapeutic and I fell in love with it.
But, after a few months of running every single day, I noticed I could eat more without gaining weight. In fact, I was skinnier than I'd ever been...
And so the cycle began.
What started as a healthy hobby soon became an unhealthy obsession. I was so thin I was having irregular periods, I had extremely low blood pressure, and I couldn't get pregnant.
My husband, along with my therapist, helped me see that healthy and skinny weren't always synonymous. In fact, my desires to be as skinny as possible were doing more harm than good.
I promised myself that anytime I felt hungry I would vocalize it out loud so my husband or others could hold me accountable for what I did next.
In just a few short weeks, I gained 10 pounds back and my extreme symptoms of dizziness, fatigue, and amenorrhea went away.
The next month, I got pregnant.
Thankfully, my desire to truly nourish my body the right way carried into my first pregnancy and all through the first year postpartum. I'd never been so proud of my body! My baby was beautiful and healthy and I was taking care of my body.
(During this time, I took a deep dive and learned all about how certain foods play a role in lactation and women's ability to produce milk for their babies. You can learn all about my findings here!)
Believe it or not, it was actually my journey through pregnancy, breastfeeding, and postpartum that healed me from my disordered eating and showed me what a healthy lifestyle looks like.
It isn't about restricting calories or food groups, and it certainly isn't about what you look like.
It's about how you feel and what your body is capable of. It's about finding balance between working hard and resting. It's prioritizing wholesome foods, daily movement, and restorative sleep.
In June 2022, I decided it was finally time to see a specialist about my skin and face now that I had taken control over my health. Ever since I was young, I had dry, flaky skin, especially on my scalp, and bumpy red cheeks.
After countless changes in skincare products, brands, and routines, I had seen no improvement in my dry skin or permanently red face.
My dermatologist confirmed that I had both psoriasis and rosacea, autoimmune diseases that cause chronic inflammation throughout my body that are manifest in my skin and my face.
He bleakly told me that I would be on oral and topical prescription medication for the rest of my life and proceeded to write the order right then and there.
I asked if eliminating inflammatory foods from my diet would improve my symptoms and he quickly shook his head and said "there's no conclusive evidence" that food would do anything for me.
I simply smiled and replied, "I'll start with my diet and call you if things don't work out."
In just 4 short weeks, both me and my husband noticed huge improvements in my skin, especially my face. The redness had reduced by over 50%, my face was smooth, and the rest of my skin had cleared up. We couldn't believe my suggestion worked!
While you might look at my story and think that my diet was only creating problems for my body, I see it as a tool to understanding my body and how it interacts with my life experiences.
In high school, my diet was part of my effort to achieve something I never thought I could do and it helped me understand what it meant to be "all in."
On my mission, my diet was how I connected with others and embraced the local culture. It's also how I came to understand what felt good for my body and what didn't.
After my mission, my diet gave me hope for healing and a way to measure my progress along the way.
During the pandemic, my diet was the catalyst for seeking a greater purpose beyond myself and committing to being the wife and mother my family needed me to be.
Throughout my pregnancy, my diet encouraged me to focus on creating a healthy home for my growing baby and instilled in me the eternal truth that beauty comes from within.
While exclusively breastfeeding, my diet showed me that food is fuel. I also gained an understanding of how my diet has a direct impact on my children.
After a life-altering diagnosis, my diet proved that food is medicine. It plays an integral role in our overall health and our ability to fight illness or live a long and happy life.
In all these experiences, the foods I chose to eat or not eat had a significant impact on how I looked, how I felt, and what I was capable of doing.
Furthermore, my food choices directly affected my family and my future family.
It's this realization about the power of food that has shaped my blog, Ka Pai Cooking, and the recipes I share into what it is today.
Ka Pai Cooking is my effort to help you find joy in cooking, experience healing through food, and learn basic nutritional principles in an easy way. This healthy food blog is more than just a recipe database; it's your one-stop shop for all things health, wellness, and nutrition.
Whether you suffer from an autoimmune disease, mental health issues, or just the daily dilemma of "what's for dinner," Ka Pai Cooking is here to support you through it all.
Want to chat more? I'd love to become friends! Click here to send me a message.
"Ka pai" is a phrase in the Maori language meaning "it's good," so you can be confident every recipe I share is not only good for you, but delicious and easy to make, too.
Here you'll find my best recipes that are inspired by the people, places, and cultures I love most.
Since healthy looks a bit different for everyone, I share a variety of recipes that are gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, low-carb, vegetarian, vegan, or combination of some of those.
No matter what your dietary needs are, I promise I always use clean eating ingredients and preparation methods that have been proven to improve your overall health and encourage a positive relationship with food.
I also share recipes specifically for pregnant and breastfeeding women so they can feel their best while nourishing their little ones.
I know first hand what it's like to try and get a bite in in between snuggles, tummy time, or just taking a nap. It can be stressful, especially when you're a new mama.
If that sounds like you, you need my Lactation Cookbook! It has 52 healthy lactation recipes to boost your milk supply and 10+ pages of breastfeeding tips and tricks, as well as answers to the most common questions about milk supply.
Where did the name "Ka Pai Cooking" come from? When I was 19, I moved to Hamilton, New Zealand as a full-time missionary for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I fell in love with the kind, humble people and their unique culture. I even learned some of the native language—the Maori language—and adapted many of their words, phrases, and expressions to my personal vocabulary. The Polynesians are all about food, so when I was naming my food blog, I wanted to incorporate the Maori culture somehow. "Ka pai" (pronounced kah-pie) means "it's good" in Maori; so Ka Pai Cooking literally translates to "it's good cooking!"
My greatest joy: my family! I'm an Army wife to my best friend and husband, Tyler, and a full-time mama to our sweet little boy, Hyrum. When Tyler and I aren't working, we're spending time together as a family playing sports, board games, or eating cookies.
My greatest passion: sharing my knowledge about nutrition with others, especially other mamas! I want everyone to know that eating healthy isn't hard, expensive, or gross; it's so easy, quite affordable, and incredibly delicious!
My biggest obsession: besides my baby? I'd say it's a tie between sunshine and ice cream. But I'm happiest outside in the warm weather with an ice cream cone.
My favorite recipe: definitely my White Chicken Chili, this Maple Blueberry Salmon, or any of my cookie recipes. I'm always coming up with new creations, so make sure you subscribe to my mailing list so you don't miss out on any amazing new recipes!