My goal is simple: to inspire you to live your best day ever! I truly believe that our lifestyle can either positively or negatively affect our health and happiness. For me, health and happiness start in the kitchen, and that’s why I created The Whole Living Kitchen. Throughout my life, I have had a deep passion for food, nutrition and health. And even when suffering from anorexia and other health conditions for many years, I always believed that you can change your life from within your kitchen.
It has taken me many years to get to where I am today, to be able to say that I love myself unconditionally and that I am happy. I will always be grateful for all the experiences I have been through. Some of these experiences I’m excited to share with you—including my story of how I recovered from my eating disorder, my journey back to health, and how I discovered my passion, which led me to becoming an entrepreneur and starting The Whole Living Kitchen and my own food business, The Healthy Crunch Company. Food is pleasure, and should make you feel good inside and out. I created this blog to share my story, my journey through life and to inspire those who want to get the most out of life. I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be or want to be. Instead of perfection, my goal is to feel good and to be happy with all the things I do in life. Throughout my health journey, I have learned that attaining good health and self-confidence is not about how much food you eat or what foods you eat, but about finding your true happiness and accepting yourself as you are.
Throughout The Whole Living Kitchen you will find recipes that will excite you, as well as articles about food, nutrition, health, lifestyle and so much more that will inspire you to lead a healthier and happier life.
I grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I was a very happy child, always eager to play with other children and good at making the best of any situation. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and my parents often worked late during the week and on weekends so they could get their business off the ground. My parents tried to make healthy choices and prepared family meals from scratch, but I often found myself eating junk food as I got older. I loved all food growing up—I loved reading about food, watching food shows, and preparing food. I loved to “play around” in the kitchen, creating my own unique recipes.
I started to put weight on as a child when I was around seven years old. By the time I was 13 years old, my weight had almost reached 200 lbs. I was overweight, but never thought it was an issue until I reached middle school. That’s when I started to get bullied because of my weight. I became very self-conscious of how much I weighed, but I didn’t know what to do about it. I was not an active child; I preferred sitting at home and watching TV instead of playing outside or participating in a sports team.
Everything changed one morning when I was 13 years old. I woke up early on a Saturday and something inside of me had clicked. I asked my mother to go swimming, and she said, “You want to go swimming?” This out-of-the-blue request was coming from a very overweight and inactive child. She took me to the local swimming pool that morning, but it was closed for renovations. I was determined to do some type of activity that day, so I decided to go for a run. It was more like a walk/run, but my mother came with me, as she was impressed that I wanted to be active.
From that day on, I was determined to lose weight and be healthy. I joined the gym at the local YMCA near my house and, although I had no experience working out, I just made sure to go there every day and move my body. I started to read health magazines and watch food programs that showed how to create healthy meals. Within one year from the date I started my weight loss journey, I ran my first marathon. It was probably not the best thing for a 13-year-old to do, but I simply loved running. As the weight came off, I would go for longer and longer runs, enjoying the freedom and the fresh air. That first marathon was definitely an accomplishment that I am still very proud of. I did not train for it, but it was my determination and strong mind that got me through the race. After my first marathon, I was hooked, and continued to participate in long-distance running. I ran several other marathons and half-marathons before getting into triathlons.
My personal life suffered too—I was just too sick to go out and enjoy life. When I did go out with friends, the issue of why I never ate would inevitably come up. Everyone knew by looking at me that something was wrong, but I never wanted to address it with them. Although I was very, very skinny, I always saw myself as an overweight and heavy person, just like I was when I was a child.
Though my health was suffering, I still managed to complete my studies in nutrition. Go figure! I was obsessed with health and nutrition, so I went to school to become a Registered Dietitian. I wanted to know everything about health and nutrition, as if there was a trove of secret information about the body that only health professionals knew. I completed my Bachelors of Applied Science in Applied Human Nutrition, and attained a Master of Health Science in Nutrition Communication. From there, I went on to become a Registered Dietitian. How ironic that I wanted to help others eat better and live healthy lives, yet I could not do it for myself.
I tried to fake it when working, pretending that I did not have a health crisis and that everything was going great. But it wasn’t. Eventually, I lost my job. I was working in the field of promoting health and wellness and my superiors saw that I was seriously sick and could not function normally at work. At first, I thought my life was over. I was severely sick and had no job, but soon I realized how everything happens for a reason. From this moment of realization, I knew I had to get myself to a healthier place, both inside and out, or I would not be able to live the life I wanted.
I decided to take time away from work and friends and dedicate myself 100% to regaining my health and happiness. I was lucky enough to connect with a really amazing person, Sean Blinch. Sean was instrumental in the beginning stages of my recovering from my eating disorder. He was a personal trainer at a local gym, but not just any personal trainer—he was also a life coach. I told Sean everything about my health and didn’t hold back. Sean was into CrossFit and the paleo lifestyle, which included a nutrient-rich diet. Both were very new and unfamiliar to me. I started to work out with Sean, but soon, the time after every session would turn into talk therapy, with me crying about all the changes in my life. Sean helped me deal with both the changes I was seeing in my body and my struggle with resolving years of negative body image and eating issues. I will always be thankful to Sean for all his help throughout my recovery.
As more weight started to come off, I started to feel more self-conscious about my looks, as many young teenage girls do. I soon became obsessed with my weight. My obsession with staying slim started with skipping breakfast, but soon I was skipping lunch too, and later, dinner as well. I combined these habits with obsessive and excessive exercising, for hours each day. I kept this secret to myself, hiding the fact from my family and friends that I didn’t eat and was afraid of food.
Fast forward 15 years, and I was only 95 lbs. at the age of 28 years old. I was extremely sick, and not eating for years had left my body feeling the effects of long-term malnutrition. Yes, I did eat during those years, but if you knew me, I would only eat veggies, fish, or egg whites. I was very fearful of eating anything that I did not consider a “safe” food for me. I lived off caffeine, always needing a boost of energy without any calories. By the age of 28, my body had shut down. I was severely underweight, could not think or focus, had depression, digestive issues, constipation, insomnia, anxiety, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, hormonal issues, amenorrhea, osteopenia … the list went on and on. I could no longer work a regular job because all of my health conditions made it hard for me to live a normal life.
After training with Sean for six months, my health started to improve. I was eating again, I put on weight, my hormones started to balance out, and my mood shifted to being more positive. My body started to change dramatically, and I began to put on lots of weight. I was working with various naturopathic physicians at the time, and they put me on hormone replacement therapy to help my body rebalance itself. With all the supplements and hormones I was on, my body went from being 95 lbs. to almost 200 lbs. in just over a year. I did not know how to deal with these rapid changes as I went from being really skinny to being overweight again. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize myself—I still felt the like size 0 that I used to be, instead of the size 14 I now was. I went to see a physician and medical expert to find out what was happening to me. I was a Registered Dietitian and had also become a personal trainer, and while I was well-versed in health and nutrition, I was baffled by the changes I was seeing in my body.
I decided to move to Florida to attend a health retreat with the idea that someone there could help me get better. I checked myself into the Hippocrates Health Institution in West Palm Beach in the hopes that I would finally get healthy and happy. After a couple of weeks in the program, I believed this truly was the place where I could regain my health. So I packed up my things in Toronto and moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, just me and my pups.
After attending the program for a few months and trying every type of therapy that was offered, I finally realized that the only person that could help me was me! I withdrew from the program and decided to focus on self-love. I started to nourish my spirit, using positive affirmations, meditation, visualization, and nurturing the love I had for myself. I got to a point where I was tired of constantly trying to return to my old skinny self, and decided it was time to just accept myself as I was, with no judgement. After this taking this step toward acceptance, I felt I was ready to re-enter life. Yes, I was still overweight, but I began to love every inch of my body.
I started to focus on the positive changes in my health instead of how I looked or how much I weighed. I got my period again: check. I was able to sleep better: check. I was able to go to the washroom regularly: check. I was able to eat food without fearing it: check. I finally went out and bought new clothes in my new, larger size that actually fit me—up until then, all I wore was workout gear because I couldn’t face the idea of buying larger sizes. Ultimately, I was thankful to be happy and healthy again. The funny thing is, when I did not focus on my weight, what I was eating, or how much I was exercising, the pounds started to come off.
Julie with pups in Florida 2014 during recovery.
I started to enjoy life again. I was able to work again, and I got a job in a vegetarian restaurant, which made me very happy. I started to embrace my body, and I focused on things that made me feel happy, like cooking good and healthy food. When I focused on my happiness and doing things I loved to do, my body started to rebalance itself.
In the spring of 2014, I felt healthier and happier, so I decided to move back home to Toronto to be closer to my family. Back home, I began searching for things to do in terms of work, and realized I had always wanted to start my own food business and develop a food product that I could sell, one that was healthy, but still delicious. I always loved kale chips, but could never find a good kale chip on the market. There was always something off: they weren’t crispy and crunchy enough, had undesirable add-ins ingredients, or the flavour just wasn’t great. I started to experiment with kale chip recipes in the hopes of solving this problem and creating a chip that was healthy and stood out from the rest. Once my friends and family tasted my chips and loved them, I knew I had developed something special.
I started The Healthy Crunch Company in July 2014 because I wanted to share my creation with the world! I found a shared kitchen in the city, where food entrepreneurs similar to myself could rent by the hour. So I signed up to The Cake Collective, a shared collective kitchen, and this is where The Healthy Crunch Company started.
The first year of business was very difficult. I had no clue about how to start or run a business, and I learned things on the fly. I was a one-woman show, from buying all the ingredients, washing and preparing the product, packaging it, delivering orders, dealing with customers, booking and attending trade shows, creating marketing plans and everything else in between! For the first year-and-a-half of my business, most of my workdays were 20 hours long. Sleep was all but nonexistent, but I was passionate about creating and growing my own business, so the work wasn’t a burden—it didn’t feel like work to me. One year after I started my business, I moved into my own manufacturing facility. I hired my first full-time staff, and we expanded from there.
It’s been two-and-a-half years since I started The Healthy Crunch Company, and I could not be any happier. We have expanded the distribution of our kale chips throughout Canada, and have launched into some of the largest stores in the country, including Starbucks, Cineplex, Loblaws, Metro, Farm Boy, Whole Foods Market and many others. I have added another member to our team and we are excited to conquer our next goal: expanding our distribution throughout the United States and spreading the kale love. I have always believed that you can create anything you want in life and that you create your own happiness. I am very grateful for all the opportunities, and even the challenges, that I have experienced throughout my life because they have made me into the person I am today. Thank you for taking the time to read my story and I hope that I have helped inspire you to live your best day ever!