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Interview with Dédé Wilson, co-founder of FODMAP Everyday

Dédé Wilson from FODMAP Everyday®

I am so excited to share my interview with Dédé Wilson, the co-founder of FODMAP Everyday, with you.  Enjoy!!

Dédé, one of the best things about being a part of this expansive social media world we are currently in, is meeting people like you!  I laughed out loud the first time I read your story on FODMAP Everyday as it’s almost identical to mine.  I too, after years of struggling, finally saw a doctor who told me he didn’t allow his patients to be diagnosed with IBS.  I also walked away with a piece of paper with the acronym “FODMAP” written on it.  Who knew the power of those 6 letters (acronym for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) that would soon change both of our lives for the better?

I know a great deal of people are just like us who also have suffered for years in silence.  It’s easy to feel isolated when you are forced to miss social events or leave early because of your stomach.  It took me finally feeling better and seeing results from going on the FODMAP diet to fully understand how much my gut had taken over my life.  Did you feel the same way?  What do you say to people who have trouble believing that this holistic approach works?

Well, I don’t know about holistic, since this diet is very much within the scientific mainstream with clinically proven results and also it is specifically addressing the physical via a food-based diet. I do think that as a patient one has to take care of themselves in whatever ways work. I have found that integrating activities like Pilates and regular boot-camp workouts into my week keeps my mental stress at bay and also supports my body. Emotionally, I have the most sympathetic and loving husband who eats all of my low FODMAP food with gusto! Whatever I need in terms of food in the house is okay with him.

I certainly did feel isolated before the diet. I can think of so many parties where I had to turn to my husband and tell him we had to leave because my pain and bloat had been triggered. This might not sound bad to those who haven’t experienced this, but it was debilitating. And my need to leave would only be after I had made an attempt to relieve the pain by writhing around on the floor in a bathroom! Yes, I am not ashamed to admit that. Before the diet, we all used whatever creative ways we could come up with to alleviate the pain – and it wasn’t always pretty. The isolation came from not knowing any other way. In many ways we were suffering in silence (except for maybe our immediate family members). We didn’t know there was anything else we could be doing. Thank goodness for this diet! I would think gastroenterologists are similarly thrilled that they now have an actionable plan and resources like ours for their patients.

After 25 years of struggling without resolve, what convinced you to trust the process and stick with it?

I had hit bottom. I was in the hospital in so much pain that I was making deals with God and asking to die – I’m not kidding. I was telling my husband I loved him and…well, as you can imagine he wasn’t too thrilled with my line of thinking! What convinced me was a simple introduction to the diet by the doctor who happened to be on-call. He told me about the diet – this was after I was stabilized – and he suggested that I look into it when I got home. I had nothing to lose. I never wanted to be in that much agony again, so it was an easy decision in some ways. After a battery of tests (endoscopy, ERCP, MRI, cat scan and numerous ultrasounds and blood samples) and five days in the hospital the doctors had nothing to offer me but the diet. Good thing it works, huh? LOL

Your food industry experience is so impressive!  I could talk to you for hours about meeting The View ladies, Dr. Oz and the TODAY Show hosts but I’ll do that offline! I think it’s safe to say you put your toes if not entire body into almost all aspects of the food industry all the while fighting your own digestive battle. How were you able to be so involved with all facets of food while dealing with this secret pain?

It wasn’t easy. I would make sure that I ate really, really cleanly when I knew something important was coming up. For me, that meant eating foods that seemed to work well with my digestive system. Of course, IBS symptoms would sometimes crop up anyway and I would have to leave an event or at the very least, make sure to wear a roomy dress so that I could hide the 6-months-pregnant-looking bloat! I didn’t wear a pair of jeans for almost 3 decades because I couldn’t stand tight binding around my belly.

 In terms of recipes testing, I would taste test because I had to, but as minimally as possible. When I was diagnosed with IBS in 1990, it was suggested that I go gluten-free and dairy-free after those elimination diets seemed to help. So I was often developing recipes that I wasn’t about to eat, anyway. I would taste, but I was never sitting down to a piece of cake or a plate of dairy-laden anything. It was not ideal, for sure. And I used soymilk for decades as my replacement of choice and little did I know then that it was contributing to my regular but erratic bouts of IBS! Now I use lactose-free milk in my black tea every morning and all is well.

As a recipe developer, what was your initial reaction to seeing onions and garlic on the high FODMAP list?  I have people all the time say to me “I can’t omit garlic and onion when I cook.”  What has been your favorite substitute or tip for people?

I could see options right away. My brain goes to YES rather than NO. I could see what was possible, and at the same time I knew that most folks would see what they had to give up. This was one of the light-bulb moments where I realized that I could help people navigate the diet in a positive, food-forward way. In terms of substitutions, once you learn that the fructans in garlic and onions are not oil soluble and that you can have garlic or onion-infused oils, that is a huge help, knowing that you won’t have to give up those flavors. Also, I have made friends with low FODMAP leek greens and scallion greens and use them all the time! And we can all use chives, too for onion-y flavor. One of my most favorite tricks is to start with some oil in a pan, put a nice juicy onion in there and sauté it around – then remove ALL the onion pieces prior to adding anything else. At that point you can brown your meat for short ribs, pot roast or brisket or brown chicken, tofu or what have you. I know this diet seems confusing at first, but there are a myriad of ways to be creative and eat very well, which is the foundation upon which we founded FODMAP Everyday®. We are about giving you the tools you need in your everyday life and helping you learn to thrive on the low FODMAP diet. You and I are embodiments of what is possible!

I really believe a positive attitude makes an even bigger impact on beginning anything new. I love this quote from the book: “You’ll have the most success with the diet if you try to focus on allowable foods rather than grieve the loss of your favorites.” What FODMAP food have you been able to integrate back into your diet that has been the most exciting?

For me, after the Challenge Phase, I discovered that I am one of the lucky ones and I can eat a little bit of everything. For me it is about portion control – and not stacking up meals in one day that contain high(er) FODMAP foods. And then, also, I have learned how my body reacts to different FODMAPs. For instance, lactose makes me bloat, but it doesn’t produce pain. So I can decide to eat dairy and lactose containing foods if I am willing to look “heavy” and bloaty. I also know that if I go lactose-free for a few days that I can get rid of the bloat. It’s all a matter of learning about your own body! Garlic and onions do still continue to be the most problematic for me, I would say.

I love the concept in your book, The Low-FODMAP Diet Step by Step, of having a chapter on one pot, one-dish meals.  A general misconception with this diet is that the recipes must be difficult and cumbersome to work.

Yes! That was the thought behind developing that chapter. As FODMAP educators we have to make this diet as accessible as possible. You are brilliant at that as well, Mollie! If you can’t – or think you can’t – follow the diet, then you won’t get anywhere! And you will be missing out! You and I know that a pain-free life might be around the corner for IBS sufferers! I think for a lot of people there is that initial mental and emotional response of “I can’t do this”, or “How am I going to do this?” We want to show you how – and make it easy. One-dish meals are one great way.

This cookbook is FULL of delicious recipes.  There are so many I want to try but I think I’ll start with what is your absolute favorite?!  I know it’s probably impossible to answer with just one so feel free to give a couple options.

Oh man. I don’t know! I am going to cheat and pick one savory and one sweet. I love the Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps because they are quick and easy enough to make on a weeknight, fun to eat, filled with protein and crunchy vegetables and the kind of restaurant food you might think you have to give up, but don’t! Then for sweets, I’d have to go with the Strawberry Shortcake. It is such a beloved dessert and mine tastes no different from the classic. Crumbly, rich biscuit, softly whipped cream and juicy strawberries. Did you know that strawberries have no detectable FODMAPs in them? We can eat them more liberally than many other fruit, so take advantage!

How is this book different than the 16 plus books you have written in the past?

I have never had a co-author and I have also never had to work within a medically restricted diet. I love a challenge and this certainly provided an opportunity! As soon as I saw how I could create recipes within the restrictions, I knew I wanted to write a book. I also knew that I wanted to co-author with a RDN. Kate Scarlata has been working with the diet for years and I reached out to her cold, introduced myself and pitched her the idea of writing a book together. We hit it off, whipped up the book proposal in record time and here we are 2 1/2 years later with our creation! We hope it will help many IBS sufferers by showing them how doable this diet can be, with truly amazing results in many instances. Statistically about 75% of IBS sufferers will be able to alleviate their symptoms with this diet. I was even able to go off the PPI acid reducer I had been taking for years. So certainly one big difference with this book is that there is a sincere intention that we will change people’s lives and hopefully be able to help them become healthy and pain-free. That’s a steep hope for a cookbook, but this book is so much more. Kate is one of the most respected RDNs in the field and her knowledge, coupled with my recipes, is a pretty nice package if I say so myself.

Just for fun, if you could have any guest dead or alive to cook with, who would it be?

Well, I didn’t get to cook with Julia Child, but I got to dine with her a few times, so that was pretty close. I think I will go with Alice Waters. The first time I ate at Chez Panisse was a turning point in my understanding and appreciation of food preparation and presentation. The meals are a set number of courses and to this day, it is the only restaurant meal I have ever had where after eating each course, I didn’t come away feeling overstuffed. The food was very simply prepared. The portions were modest. It was about orchestrating a complete experience where the diner would be able to truly appreciate each dish, the individual ingredients and the experience as a whole. It was extraordinary. And yet it was presented as ordinary – in the sense that the food wasn’t fussy. The food was prepared with attention to the inherent qualities of each ingredient so that each could be appreciated most fully. Damn, I am getting nostalgic for a dinner there now! By the way, no one has ever asked me this question and it was fun to answer! Thank you.

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