How One Teen Turned 72 Food Allergies into Thousands of Fans and a Book Deal
When I was 14, after a year and a half of being incredibly sick with a mystery illness that no doctor seemed to be able to solve, I was finally diagnosed with 72 food intolerances and an autoimmune disease known as Celiac. My body can’t handle a specific type of protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Yes, that gluten. A lot of people have heard the jokes about being gluten-free, but what you might not realize is that for people like me, gluten really is the enemy. (It triggers an immune response which starts to kill off bits of my small intestine—ew, I know!)
So I stopped eating a lot of things—junk food, ice cream, pizza—and I started to feel much, much better. I taught myself how to cook using real food, started researching where the food we eat comes from, and geeked out about nutrition. Going from pretty much constant exhaustion to having boundless energy in just a few months showed me how much what you eat can affect your life. So I decided to start a blog…which I not-so-creatively called The Foodie Teen. I still remember being shocked when I checked the blog statistics page one day to see that people from all over the world were reading my recipes, sharing them, and laughing at my jokes (OK, maybe not that last one!).
As more and more people started reading the blog, I got lots of messages from teens going through similar things thanking me for helping them to show their family and friends that "healthy food" does not have to equal bland, boring, and tasteless. That’s what I love so much about blogging and the internet—it lets me talk to other people my age who care about the same things I do. As a generation, everyone thinks we’re all social media addicts who have nothing better to do than watch funny cat videos, but nobody knows better than us that this stereotypical view of today’s teenagers is totally wrong. The internet lets us express ourselves, lead conversations about issues we feel strongly about, start our own businesses and so much more.
One day last year, I got an email from an editor at Penguin Random House (who found me via Instagram) and asked if I was interested in writing a cookbook for teenagers. Um, yes! I wanted to make a book to help teens learn to cook kick-ass healthy food that you can make even when you’re dealing with school, work, a social life, and a million other things. There’s also stuff about natural skincare, stress relief and loving your body; I’m passionate about inspiring and empowering girls to reconnect with their bodies, find happiness, and discover a healthier self through food and lifestyle choices. Hopefully this book will help make that happen.
Since starting a blog, my life has changed so much for the better in a way I could never have imagined. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to connect with an incredible number of people all over the world, and I’m grateful every day for what a collection of bytes and pixels has allowed me to do and experience.
Alessandra's book The Foodie Teen comes out April 7th. Order it here, and get tons of healthy (and delicious) recipes on her blog now. We're baking those cookies as we speak.
By Alessandra Peters, 17