By Christine Bren, Psy.D.
I’m often asked why I started Lavender Lane Baking Co., and it is not a simple answer. Learning about food has become one of the most important educations I could have reached for in my lifetime. I will confess, I was someone who could eat pretty much anything and nothing would bother me. Bring on the spicy and the dairy, and all was fine…I was lucky… I thought. Gluten-Free wasn’t even in my vocabulary! I dieted my way through my 20s, along with my friends, always battling with that extra weight. To me ‘diet’ was about weight while ‘nutrition’ was more about the balance of including healthy food. “Everything in moderation” was my mantra. Just have a salad once in a while, but food was to be enjoyed!
“People who love to eat are always the best people.” -- Julia Child
I learned more throughout my graduate school years and chose my focus in the practice of psychology and eating disorders. I earned my doctorate and began working with this challenging population. Examining “food behaviors” – how people approach food – was paramount in helping others to heal. I had multiple nutrition classes, which made me stop dieting and start thinking more about food as fuel. Food is very important socially and psychologically for many reasons. It is a cultural experience, whether it is yours or another. Food is familial – a part of one’s family behaviors, experiences and memories. Food is social – gathering of friends, relatives coming together for celebrations, and bonding. Food can be entertainment, and it can become a hobby or a passion. Food can even control our moods, to an extent, which is why you hear the term – “comfort food”, or “energy packed” food. The impact that food has on our mental health has been studied and researched for many years and important links are now being understood to help us choose our ‘medicine’, not pharmaceutically, but from our food choices. This was a welcome relief, for some people, because the side-effects from the certain psychopharmaceutical medicine could be problematic. So bring on the Wheaties?... uh NO.
”The people who give you their food give you their heart.” – Cesar Chavez
As I raised my twins, as many parents do, I wanted them to have healthy foods, more so even than I cared about my own nutrition. When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, it was a life changing event for all of us. Food, as we knew it, changed. (Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body mistakenly attacks and kills off Beta cells in the pancreas that the body needs to produce necessary insulin. Insulin helps the body use and store sugars from carbs in foods for energy). So sugars, carbs, glycemic index, blood sugar, insulin ratios, metabolism, food as fuel… all suddenly became vitally important to understand! It was the start of my deeper understanding of how food affects the body in staying healthy. It was no longer a curiosity, but now a very real necessity. ‘Balance’ and ‘moderation’ wasn’t enough… Life got real.
Just to add another ‘life got real moment’, my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, thus we learned about gluten and its affect, not only on her body, as a severe threat, but also as it affects gut health and our immune systems in general. Becoming gluten-free became a vital reality.
In this same time period, I was also diagnosed with four autoimmune diseases, which I currently and continuously seek to understand more fully. Similar to Type 1 Diabetes, my body attacks necessary cells when my inflammation is high. Inflammation, basically, (and it is complicated) is what kills off the cells. Keeping inflammation low in my body became vitally important. That is where - grain-free, dairy-free - became part of our mission. Grains and dairy have been known to increase inflammation in the body. (A few of our products do contain ghee, which is dairy that has the inflammatory properties clarified out of it, but it does qualify as a milk allergen.)
With any autoimmune disease, (our family owning six), the immune system is another vitally important area to understand, and not just understand, but to work on strengthening–another note for another day.
My personal approach to life’s challenges and/or disappointments is to first acknowledge the experience honestly and then be as proactive as I can be. Putting together this life-changing knowledge with my own passion for baking and desserts, and desire to still provide treats for my family and friends drove me to learn more, share more. I will continue to share what I’ve learned over the years, not because I’m any expert, but because I care to connect with others that seek knowledge, as I have.
Sometimes we learn so much from challenges in our life… From lemons, lemonade…. From health and food challenges came Lavender Lane Baking Co…
“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” – Alan D. Wolfelt
So many of us are learning daily about our own health goals, potential challenges, dietary restrictions, food sensitivities and allergies. We, at Lavender Lane Baking Co., wanted to share our treats with others that have wellness pursuits, and yet want a healthier treat that tastes like a treat, for whatever reason. - A lunchbox staple, coffee with friends, holiday gatherings, weddings and baby showers, college or military care package, parent teacher appreciation lunches, event snacks, boardroom breakfasts, birthdays, gift giving or even in just reaching for a midday or late-night treat.
Our food journey will continue… We hope you and yours enjoy our gluten-free, grain-free, treats as much as our family and friends have.