Meet the Fit Cooking Chemist

Hello! Welcome to The Fit Cooking Chemist blog! I am so glad you are here. My name is Elizabeth, and I am a middle school science teacher, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, health coach, cooking enthusiast, and autoimmune disease warrior. I am also currently attending the Maryland University of Integrative Health as a Masters student in the Masters of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Health department.

Please read my story below and use the buttons on the top right to navigate my site!

First things first… I am 26 years old and live in Morgantown, WV. I have a wonderful husband, Steven, and an amazing family who lives in MD. I currently teach in a nearby middle school and am the science teacher for grades 6-8. The Fit Cooking Chemist is my creative outlet and I look forward to seeing how it grows! Now for a bit more of my back story!

When I was 9 years old, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) in my right knee. What followed was 2 years of excruciating pain, loss of mobility, inability to dance (which is my favorite thing ever!), and riding around the supermarket in one of the motorized carts because I could not walk the whole store. I was on a daily prescription to help the pain, which helped some….

When I was 11 I was able to go into remission for the JRA, but then something new came up… Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis!I honestly do not remember how we ended up figuring out I had this, but when we did I was told I would be on Synthroid my whole life and my thyroid was continue to die, resulting in continually higher doses of the medicine. Definitely not a great thing to hear!

Throughout the years I had always experienced horrible stomach problems. Stomach cramping, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, etc. I had no idea this was not normal, so I just accepted it and went with it! When I was 15 my mom found out she has celiac disease. She had experienced many unpleasant symptoms and eventually was diagnosed with the celiac disease.

When she was diagnosed with celiac disease, we started doing more research to see if that could be the source of my stomach problems. After a few blood tests, I had an answer. Positive for celiac disease. Cue distraught feelings and thoughts such as “what does this mean?” “what will I eat?” “no more oatmeal?????” (oatmeal was my favorite food. No joke. I still miss it to this day).

After the diagnosis, I went gluten free. This was made easier because my mom was now gluten free too and she did most of the cooking so I was along for the ride! I was “traditional gluten free” for maybe 4-5 months, but I was still having terrible problems. Yes, it can take a long time to heal, but I was still getting sick. Cue more research and discovering the paleo diet!

This discovery was life changing! When I cut out the dairy, grains (bye oatmeal…), soy, and processed food, my symptoms basically vanished. It was absolutely amazing. I felt stronger, leaner, and overall healthier. My body was healing after 15 years of eating poisonous gluten and wrecking my gut health.

I was paleo through the rest of high school and all through college (where I majored in Chemsitry, hence the chemist part of “The Fit Cooking Chemist”). I made great strides with my health, although I still had some IBS-D (Irritable Bowel Syndrome-Diarrhea) symptoms and could not figure out why. When I moved out to West Virginia for graduate school, my eating habits took a 180. I was learning how to cook for 2, one of which was not paleo. And slowly but surely everything I had removed (except for gluten) came back into my diet.

I did not notice the effects immediately. In fact, it took a good 2 years for me to notice symptoms. Except this time, the symptoms were more than stomach problems. What I felt was PAIN. The pain was all throughout my body, particularly in my joints. The joints most effected were my knees, hips, elbows, shoulders, and hands. Many days I was in such pain and did not want to move because of it. But I seemed to forget all about paleo in the midst of graduate school then starting my first year of teaching. Another symptom was weight gain. I gained a significant amount of weight in a short period of time, which is a clear indicator something is up.

I went to the doctor and my thyroid, which had been stable for about 13 years, was showing very high TSH levels. We proceeded to adjust my dose and see how that went. No weight change, no change in pain symptom, no nothing at all.

Cue COVID-19. Stress levels increased due to the complete change I had to make as a science teacher, even more poor eating habits because I was purchasing/eating food that could keep in case of total lockdown that would prevent grocery shopping, less activity, etc. It was a mess, I was a mess, everything was a mess….

In June 2020, I was visiting my parents, and something life changing happened. I could barely walk up the stairs because of the pain in my legs. It was excruciating and incredibly scary. It was then that I decided to make a change. A change in my eating habits, a change in my stress management, and a change in my physical activity (more on that later). I decided to go back to the paleo way of eating.

I was mad at myself for letting it all go and going back to a traditional diet and going off of paleo. But this was a pivotal moment in my life. As soon as I got back home from that trip, I told my Fiance, Steven, “okay, I’m going back to Paleo!” So I did 😀

I was successful on paleo, but a lot of damage had been done over the past 3.5 years of not eating paleo. Some of my pain had decreased, but it was still ever present. I lost a little weight, but not much. My moods improved, but I still had a long way to go. I knew I needed more.

So I started doing more research and came across the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP), which was developed by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (thepaleomom.com). I read everything I could, looked at success stories, and was determined to start. But I knew I needed to do some prep. So I found recipes upon recipes to work with so that I would not become discouraged or bored with the foods that were “on plan.”

I started AIP in the beginning of August 2020. Within 5 days my pain disappeared, I was sleeping better, my anxiety was decreased, my stomach problems decreased, and I had a lot more energy. I felt like a new woman!!!!!! Not only did I have those successes, but I found something that gives me joy and excitement… cooking!

On AIP, you are basically committing to cooking EVERYTHING from scratch. Gone are the days of packaged convenience foods (because they have many non-compliant ingredients). Before AIP, I liked cooking, but never dedicated time to it. As soon as I went AIP, I knew that I was going to have to become more comfortable in the kitchen if this was going to be a meaningful shift in eating patterns.

I bought many cookbooks. And by many, I mean a ton (my goal is to have as many cookbooks as Michelle Tam of nomnompaleo.com). And I started cooking. I learned everything I could about the techniques of cooking, proper tools, ingredients, storage, etc. And I watched all the cooking and baking youtube videos I could 🙂

I really developed a love for cooking and wanted to be able to share my experiences with others. That is why I created The Fit Cooking Chemist. I want to be able to help others in their journey with autoimmune diseases and share how to make healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle attainable.

Now you may be wondering where the “Fit” part of “The Fit Cooking Chemist” comes into play. Here goes!

I started dance when I was 3 years old and continued with it all through high school (except for the two years of JRA when I was unable to). When I was in my high school ballet class, my instructor told me I need to work on my core strength to help my balance. I had no idea what that meant so I had to research it LOL. And when I did, it opened a whole world of fitness for me.

I started looking into crossfit, because at that time if you were on the paleo diet, you did cross fit. I wouldn’t consider what exercise I was doing on my own to be “crossfit” but I learned the basics of lunges, squats, curls, etc. and how to work with dumbbells and bodyweight training. I did even more research because I was getting hooked on this “exercise” thing, and I found P90X. Like paleo was the beginning of a new chapter in my nutrition life, P90X was a new chapter in my fitness life.

Tony Horton inspired me to want to be a fitness instructor. At that point, I had no idea that could be an actual job, but I thought it looked amazing to be able to lead people through a workout and make those awesome connections with people. This desire to do something with fitness stayed with me all through college, but in graduate school, I finally decided to do something about it.

So I became a NASM certified personal trainer! I started working as a trainer at the West Virginia University Student Recreation Center and it was great fun. But I knew that I was missing some puzzle piece. That missing puzzle piece was group fitness.

I became a Beachbody PiYo instructor and instantly knew that I was meant to do this. It was so much fun because the energy of the participants was high, it used my dance brain to learn choreography, kept me in shape, and many other positives. Over the next 1-2 years I became certified in several other group fitness formats.

At the peak of my group fitness teaching, I was teaching 3-4 classes a week. After about 9 months of this, my body was in great shape, but the high intensity nature of the classes was becoming too much while trying to be a full time science teacher (I was student teaching at this time). I decided to take a step back when I started my first science teaching position because I knew it would be too much for my body. And I am very thankful for that decision because as much as I love group fitness, I believe having that full of a load contributed to my thyroid being out of whack and the consequent revival of autoimmune symptoms.

I still exercise on my own, but with the knowledge I gained throughout AIP I can see now how much the exercise effects my recovery and day to day symptoms. So I have to be extremely careful and mindful of how much I do.

However, I am looking begin teaching virtual group fitness classes and virtual personal training sessions. This will be in addition to everything I hope to offer related to cooking and AIP/Paleo resources.

In Fall 2021, I started a brand new and exciting adventure: pursuing my Masters of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Health through the Maryland University of Integrative Health! This will be a 3-4 year long journey, but my ultimate goal is to become a Certified Nutrition Specialist, which will allow me to provide individualized meal plans for people. This will allow me to serve the population of autoimmune diseases sufferers more thoroughly and effectively. It will be a long, difficult journey, but I am so excited to be chasing this dream!

Thank you so much for being here and I look forward to the wonderful journey ahead!