All About Alli
The windy road to self love...
My earliest food memory is cutting out biscuits while sitting on my great grandmother's (Birdie Mae Johnson) counter in East TX. She's the one that taught me that food is not only about nourishing your body but also about nourishing your family, your relationships and your soul. This is where my obsession / passion for food started and it has lead me from a size 4 to a size 18, from using food to cope to using food to heal, and from self hate to self love, compassion and acceptance.
I grew up a VERY picky eater. I literally only ate beige food and broccoli. I started cooking to give myself control over what was on my plate and although my parents didn’t allow ‘junk’ in the house, I developed an unhealthy relationship with food and an addiction to sugar at an early age. Since I was a string bean and a competitive swimmer I could, and did, eat anything I wanted until….I stopped swimming and started college where my bad habits caught up with me and my waistline. Everyone is familiar with the Freshman 15 but not so many of us are talented enough to pack on the Freshman 50. In just over 6 months, I went from a size 4 to a size 18 and when I got off the plane for winter break my mother didn’t even recognize me. Lucky for me, my mother was exactly who I needed her to be in that moment: Healthy, Supportive, Loving and Empowering. That winter break my life changed. We did the Atkins diet together, we worked out almost every day and by the end of those few weeks I had not only lost more than 10 lbs, I also realized that I was in control of my health and my body. However, I did not realize at that point the number one contributor to lasting wellness and transformation (the thing I chose to ignore till much much later) was my mindset.
Instead of going inward, I focused on the external. I built a life, that from the outside, was the picture of health, success, and happiness. When in reality it was quite the opposite. By my early 20s, I ended up a personal trainer in an abusive relationship with bulimia. Although that relationship only lasted a few years and I escaped mostly unscathed that eating disorder would haunt me for the next 15yrs.
I thought I became a personal trainer to help people. Looking back on it I see how I, and many other wellness professionals, choose our careers to fix others and avoid our own body image and food issues. I preached the importance of healthy choices, honesty, and asking for help all while I was living in a bubble of isolation and shame. Not one person, not my husband at the time, my family, my besties, NO ONE knew the secret that I kept. I was the vision of the Health Cheerleader while I was secretly killing myself. I cycled through times of being very healthy, I cycled through a marriage, I cycled friends and then I cycled through my training career. Sick of my life, in January of 2011, I decided that I wanted to finally focus on food full time and get out of Austin. So I packed up my car, put my business on hold, and drove to the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone, in St Helena, CA.
Although going to culinary school had been my dream and it did feel like the Hogwarts of cooking schools, the stress, time commitment and temptation of trigger foods sent me to one of the darkest times of my life. I graduated in October of 2012 and even won the an award for my mad cooking skills but instead of heading back to Texas I stayed in Northern, CA to explore a new relationship and try my hand at the chef life. In the 3 years following I worked as a personal chef, winery chef, Food Network food stylist, corporate chef, taught cooking classes, and ended up in the tech world helping food-based businesses raise funds. I did everything in my power to try to make Cali ‘work’ but from day one I never felt fully myself there. Interestingly (but not surprisingly) my mother, seeing my struggle, swept in again and changed my life once again. This time it was with a TED Talk from Brene Brown.
I believe the universe gives you tools when you are ready to use them. In 2015 I was finally ready to get over my past, get over myself, and start doing the actual work to change who and how I was being. This work allowed me to come clean and be honest for the first time ever. I looked at how and why I coped the way I did and started to get clear about the life I wanted and knew I could create. With that clarity, came a lot of hard decisions. I ended my engagement, quit my job, moved back to Austin and started a new business.
This windy ass road with all of the struggles brought me to where I am now. Because of my experience with the struggle and overcoming it, I’m able to work with clients on a deeper level than other chefs and nutritional experts. I empower clients to understand the reasons behind their food decisions and work with them to find an eating protocol that fits their lifestyle and goals. I am the anti-quick fix. Together we find long-term solutions that are centered around self love and self knowledge. I support people with things like nutritional outlines, meal planning and meal prep, cooking classes, and healthy meal delivery. Clients think they are coming to me for help with their ‘diet’ but the real work, the work my life story has allowed me to do, will always be the relationship you have with yourself.