Meet the Foodadit Founder – Alanna Lawley
Alanna founded Foodadit to help people share their everyday stories about food and health. With the help of the people around her, Alanna has shifted her focus from what was a long list of allergies and sensitivities into opportunities for finding foods that give her body the chance to heal. With the growing Foodadit community she is helping people to find food that works for them.
Where did the Foodadit story begin?
Carrot cake! Which might sound a bit cryptic, but one of my best friends who had lots of allergies put posters up all around her art school asking the students to make her a cake that she could eat. At the time I thought it would be amazing if there was a website that could help, though it wasn’t until years later when I was diagnosed with allergies and intolerances myself that the idea for Foodadit began to take shape in my mind. As I searched to find new ways of getting my own health on track I became conscious of so many people with their own unique experiences that when connected could have the power to positively impact our lives.
Can you talk a bit more about your health experiences?
To be honest I’d always felt tired, even from as young as 14 and though I’ve always been a motivated person, at university my tiredness increased – I remember times where I was struggling to walk down the street or go to college. I always forced myself to go beyond my physical capacity but over time it became less and less sustainable. For a long time before any of my sensitivities had been identified, I had intuitively cut out gluten and for the most part dairy too. Though I sought medical advice, various doctors had told me it was normal for people my age to be tired and so I became more and more reluctant to ask for help.
When did you reach a turning point?
It finally hit home the day after my twenty-fifth birthday, when I couldn’t get out of bed and my Mum told me in no uncertain terms that enough was enough. She reminded me that someone my age should be living life – imploring me to pursue answers. At the time even walking up the stairs was making me dizzy and during the daytime I was slurring my speech, very shaky and struggling with my memory. Every time I got out of bed in the morning I would tell myself it was ok because I could be back in bed in a few hours time. It was really hard to describe to people what was happening to me, let alone go out and be social and so it was a very isolating time.
Eventually I found the right doctor and was finally diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, autoimmune thyroiditis as well as a range of related hormonal and digestive issues. As part of the programme for treating me I was given a long list of foods that I was either allergic or sensitive to and would need to exclude from my diet to give my body an opportunity to get stronger. Overnight, I went from having no idea as to what was wrong with me to being relieved with at least knowing there was a way forward. The thing was that I didn’t know how to deal with cutting out dairy, eggs, gluten, sugar – and the list went on and on, and so every mealtime became focused on what I couldn’t have.
Sharing food is a fundamental part of being social and I very quickly learnt how there are so many attitudes towards those who have to exclude things from their diets either by choice or necessity – there were some people who thought I was being fussy and others who made judgements about me having an eating disorder and I naturally became very sensitive to that.
How did you begin the healing process?
The biggest challenge for me was shifting my focus – instead of concentrating on what I had to exclude, I started to explore the huge variety of things that I could still have. That might sound obvious but when I was first given the list of things I couldn’t eat it was so overwhelming. I’m fortunate now as I don’t have to avoid as many foods as I once did and I feel that’s a result of researching alternatives and concentrating on eating the things that I feel are supporting me.
How do you approach your diet now?
I’ve become fascinated by being conscious of what your body is communicating – because when you start to tune into how you are feeling after you’ve eaten, when you’re getting up, if you’re tired or stressed – your body will tell you exactly what it needs.
When you start to tune into how you are feeling after you’ve eaten, when you’re getting up, if you’re tired or stressed – your body will tell you exactly what it needs.
It’s been a very long process and I have to respond to what my body tells me from day to day. Sometimes I’ve woken up and I’ve been craving buckwheat porridge and right now, for instance, it’s all about avocados!
My diet is almost entirely based on unprocessed foods – whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables and I like to use organic and local produce where possible. I always start the day with lemon water and a smoothie depending on what I have lying around. I sometimes sprout grains, like buckwheat and when I cook rice, I always add a bit of seaweed. I don’t eat meat too often – maybe once every two weeks, but only if my body is craving it. The main thing is that I usually just throw ingredients together based on how I’m feeling.
How did you bring the Foodadit team together?
In the beginning it was just me and now we have a passionate team of people all over the world, including – Berlin, London, Paris, New York and Tel Aviv. I know that I don’t have all of the answers myself and by working together we can achieve so much more. As a team we’re always at our most creative when we’re sharing food that we’ve prepared together and it’s this human connectedness that forms the foundation of Foodadit.
Varying your approach as your body changes.