Life lessons: Take a breath

Every Wall is a Door | Essay on Recipe Renovator

Take a big, deep breath, all the way down into your belly. Hold it… now let it out with a sigh.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

I have made a decision, which feels like a big deep breath. I am taking a vacation from blogging for three months. No posts and very little social media. I’ll be back on May Day, May 1, with a renewed sense of purpose.

Why? A few reasons. I have been blogging non-stop here as the Recipe Renovator for 3-1/2 years, and before that for 4-1/2 years on my museum blog. That’s eight years of blogging.

Blogging is awesome, and brings me much joy. And it also feels like a bottomless pit… no matter how often you post, there’s always more content you need to produce. I have lost a bit of the joy and sense of why I am doing it, and that’s not okay.

For those of you who are just meeting me and those who have been reading all along, I am all about joy. I don’t make money at this blog, you’ll notice that there aren’t a bunch of ads… I started the blog as a way to serve others who had to make the same (big, hard) dietary changes I did… along the way, I’ve met incredible people, attended some great events, rediscovered my love for photography, and learned a whole bunch of new skills.

Up until three weeks ago, I followed a gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, plant-based diet, all for health reasons. I learned how to bake again, how to make awesome substitutes for meat-ish products, and how to create amazing flavors. I knew exactly which (few) processed foods I could eat, what to order at restaurants, how to travel.

And then three weeks ago, I was given a new health opportunity.

I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease. I have had three bouts of very scary and debilitating vertigo, where the room is spinning, it makes me insanely nauseous, and I can’t do anything at all.

Meniere’s Disease is chronic, with little known about it, few Western treatment options, and wildly different experiences for patients. Some people get worse, some get better. Your body holds onto sodium and the chambers in your ear swell, causing the vertigo.

So on top of my gluten-free, no-refined-sugar, plant-based eating plan… take out all the salt. Yikes.

I confess, this one has really thrown me for a loop. I had been told years ago by a doctor that I could eat as much salt as I wanted, because I have very low blood pressure and am super healthy. I have no idea if that advice might have contributed to this condition, but I have to take the low-sodium thing very seriously.

And that means looking at everything I’m cooking and eating in a new light while I try and figure this out. My beloved Bragg’s, my beautiful smoked salt from Hawai’i, Udi’s Bread, Daiya cheese, canned vegetarian chili, Indian food, Thai food, Mexican food… all the foods that had made my life easier and tasty… out.

After a week of wrapping my head around it, and then two days of crying and feeling sorry for myself… I know that there is no one on earth better equipped to deal with this than me. And no one who will end up creating yummier, healthier, low-sodium recipes than me. I am also now following the low-tyramine migraine diet, which is even more of an adjustment: fresh food only, no nuts or seeds, and many more restrictions.

And there have to be tons of people who will benefit from that.

When I come back in May, expect to find the same creative new recipes with a low-sodium, low-tyramine, anti-inflammatory twist. Of course, you’ll be able to add salt to your liking if you don’t need to worry about sodium.

I’ll also be going through my archives (slowly) and reformulating some of my old favorites with low-sodium and low-tyramine information. I’ll be sharing tips about how I approached this change, what I learn about sodium, and the sodium-potassium balance, and anything else I find useful.

Thanks for all your support and love… see you in May! Follow me on Instagram or Facebook if you want to stay in touch.

Update: February 26, 2014. I am under treatment from a great neurologist who specializes in migraines and Meniere’s, as well as an excellent acupuncturist. My MRI showed no tumor, but a small area of inflammation in my right ear, consistent with either a viral infection or Meniere’s/migraine/variant. I will continue to research and follow the best of Western and alternative medicine until I find what works for me.


  1. says


    I’m shocked to hear about your diagnosis, but I love the essay you’ve written about it — especially your realization that you are the right person to handle it and to help others. Beautiful writing!

  2. says

    Thank you for sharing your life with us yet again. I’m sorry to hear about the nausea and vertigo, and the sense of the unknown which can sometimes be daunting, but mostly I’m left with your amazingly positive outlook on this “new health opportunity.” I am proud of you and admire your approach, even with some tears of frustration along the way. I also know you will find creative new ways to keep yourself healthy, and look forward to hearing what you learn. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do for you. xo

  3. says

    So sorry to hear this. Meniere’s disease can be very debilitating. One of my best friends has it – she can’t flight so has to take long road trips and suffers a bundle during episodes.

    Hoping you can find good ways to cope and get better with time. Thank you for sharing and creating awareness. Hugs

  4. says

    Wow, it seems that so many of us are acquiring new health conditions that are affecting the pleasure of the palate, but I know you will come out of this on top again and offer us some amazing new morsels. I have had to give up many, many things I love because my body won’t tolerate them anymore, and instead of wanting to cry when I see everyone else eating what I want to eat, I try to count my blessings instead. You definitely deserve this blog sabbatical, so try to get a little R&R in!

  5. says


    So sorry to hear about your health struggles, but glad you are taking care of yourself. I understand what you’re going through as a fellow blogger. I reformulated my blog to be entirely gluten-free after my own health struggles. And many people don’t understand how much work we put into every single post. Enjoy your blogcation—and find your joy again!

    Domestic Divas Blog

  6. sharon says

    Stephanie, I am sorry to hear about your latest health challenge. During your time away from blogging I do hope you feel better and that the time helps you repair what is ailing you. I am confident that you will face this challenge honestly, bravely and boldly, as you have other challenges along your journey in life. You have a way of taking the challenging things and giving them such an uplifting spin. I will be thinking of you and praying for your good health!
    Love to you – Sharon

  7. says

    When my son was diagnosed (in utero, with spina bifida), finally knowing the reason behind the abnormal ultrasounds was such a relief. Yes, he still had a birth defect, but I had a name and a jumping off point for researching treatments and finding support groups.
    I am glad you have a name, which is an excellent place to start, as well as a planned break to focus on yourself and not stress about posting.
    I wish you well.

  8. says

    Gosh, I am so sorry to hear of your stumbling block here… but I know you will be back with bells-on good as ever! Take care of yourself, get healthy and we will look forward to your return! XO

  9. says

    Dear Stephanie, I’m sorry to hear about your health news. You are so wise to take the time off to focus on you and your health. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and look forward to your return.

  10. says

    You are very brave to accept this new life challenge, and to seek out new purpose in life. Your purpose goes along with my theme for the year 2014, Purpose & Pizzazz. How appropriate. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Can’t wait to read from you in 3 months!!

  11. says

    So sorry to hear about everything you’ve been going through. Sending you prayers! Have a wonderful 3 month vacation. :)

  12. says

    Stephanie, We’ll keep you in our thoughts while you’re away. Hope that this becomes a time of renewal for you and that you find paths to good health and a comfortable way to eat and blog in the future.

  13. says

    So sorry to hear about the diagnosis. But at least you know what’s causing the issues! Given how you’ve so enthusiastically taken on other dietary challenges, I’m sure you’ll come up with plenty of new, delicious recipes for your new diet. See you in May :)!

  14. says

    I wish you loads of health, nourishment and relaxation during your blog break. It sounds like you’re taking the best approach and caring for yourself in the way that you need to right now. And, as you said, you’ve already got all the tools to deal with this unexpected challenge. Your recipes are fantastic and I can’t wait to see what emerges from your new eating style. Sending virtual hugs your way!

  15. says

    Hi Stephanie,
    Sorry to hear of your diagnosis but you are so right – taking a break to wrap your head around the low-salt twist and just to have time to heal and have space – the best thing for you! I look forward to seeing you on May 1st!

  16. Kathy says

    Sending you hugs and good wishes. I deal with many of the same symptoms the vertigo is terrible, I too have low blood pressure and low body tempt (96.3) is my normal. Many Doc’s say it’s Thyroid related others say my magnesium levels and Vit D3 are too low? I did all the medications nothing is well tolerated by me, so I go without I have a bunch of autoimmune diseases it’s stinks my diet is all messed up too. I use Pink Himalayan sea salt and I do well with it .Make sure you are well hydrated too. Just wanted you to say you are not alone, but I am so sorry for all that you are going through. Big hugs and prayers for better days.

  17. says

    I’m very sorry to hear this, Stephanie. I know Meniere’s disease can feel debilitating at times (I know someone else who has it). I hope you find what works well for you. I read that in 6 out of 10 people it goes away on it’s own so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you! Your community is here for you if and when you need anything. Sending much love your way.

  18. says

    I am so sorry you have this new health issue to overcome! Please do take that time to take care of yourself and do what’s best for you. I had vertigo a year ago right around Christmas and it was *horrible*–and took a long time to heal from. I can’t imagine having a condition that makes that a more regular occurrence. Rest up and feel better! I hope you find relief in your treatments and overhauling your diet.

  19. says

    Though I’m sorry to hear abut your diagnosis, I hope that it helps you find your way to a healthier life. Good luck with the break. We all need it! And (though I’m sure you already know it) be sure to check out Jess over at Sodium Girl’s blog. She has great tips on eating well on a low sodium no sodium diet.

  20. says

    Nothing but good thoughts are being sent your way! Take care of yourself, and I can’t wait to hear from you again soon!!

  21. says

    So sorry to hear about your diagnosis Stephanie but I have utter faith in your ability to rise above this and I doubt there’s anyone better equipped in the kitchen to create yummy, healthy meals that fit with your new diet :)
    Have a good break- you definitely deserve it!

  22. says

    Oh, Stepahie! You are truly an inspiration. The statement, “There is no one better equipped to handle this” had my heart in my throat, and I’m so inspired by you. We have recently adopted a plant based diet (nearly fully vegan) and I’m aware of how hard it is to change things. We are getting there, learning new things every day. While our decision is a choice, not medical reason, it still brings consternation and challenge. I’m eager to see your new recipes! Wishing you the best, I hope you are feeling better and I know you will make this an inspiration to so many. XOXO

  23. says

    Oh no, I am so sorry to hear this. But, as you said, if anyone is equipped to deal with this it is YOU! So there is a silver lining. I know this journey will have a lot of positives, but I totally empathize with the ‘giving up’ side of things. It is never fun. Feel better. My two words of advice: lemon juice. Enjoy the ride, Stephanie
    (and also your blogging vacation!)

  24. Arlene says

    Wishing you well on this journey to find the a fix or craft new dishes to suit your diet. Keeping your in my prayers.

  25. says

    as we have already talked about, I think this break will be so good for you in so many ways, probably more than you even know now!

    and I know we will keep in touch during this time, but ENJOY, my friend. xo

  26. Bonnie K. says

    Take care! Sorry to learn of your recent diagnosis–best wishes on finding the best cure for this. Look forward to your return and reading about your experience.

  27. says

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this. :( I know how hard a sudden diet change can be. Take all the time you need and if you ever need an ear to bend or a shoulder to virtually get it all out on; I’m here. Thinking of you my friend.

  28. says

    It will be three years next Tuesday that Larry had his heart attack and I became a woman on a mission to reduce salt in our diet. The biggest change we made was to forego restaurant-eating. That made a huge difference! I still cook with salt, albeit less, and our health reflects it. Finishing with large grain sea salt adds a nice flair and flavor – but you know all this! Let’s work together on this – XO Liz

  29. Jennifer Caballero says

    Stephanie we will miss your well-conceived and vetted content for the next few months, but I am glad to hear you are focusing first on your new normal. I have little doubt you’ll be a font of great info soon enough…just like you found Bragg’s and Udi’s you will assuredly source even better (and less sodium-packed) options for kitchen use. Sorry you had those frightening episodes and stay vigilant with what your body is telling you. Take care!

  30. says

    I don’t believe I have ever commented on your posts although I follow you here and on FB. I love all that you cook and your blogging style is one I emulate. Please take a break for yourself and I will look forward to your May Day post! No one ever wants to hear about how they “know” how you feel and of course I do not – but my father-in-law was diagnosed with the exact same thing around 35 years ago and he has led a good healthy life since with help from with my mother-in-law with a low sodium, vegetarian (he eats eggs and dairy) all these years. I wish the same good fortune for you! Kelli Davidson

  31. says

    Stephanie, sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I know you will meet this challenge head on and overcome it! Enjoy your blogging break! Sending positive thoughts your way. Hugs!!

  32. says

    Stephanie — I’m so sorry to hear about this, but I love your attitude about looking at it as a new opportunity to learn more and create in a new way. You’re right, no one better able to do it than you! I send a big hug to you, and look forward to hearing more from you in May. Until then, I hope you feel well and can relax . . . if even just a little. :-) xoxo Valentina

  33. says

    Stephanie I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis. We’ve never met – but know each other through Liz (the Chef) and I feel like I know you. You’re approaching this with a great attitude, which is important in anything. If you want to just blog about your frustrations with this new learning opportunity, we’re all here. Meanwhile I have no doubt you’ll conquer this like you have so many other things in life.

  34. says

    A former boss of mine, Dr. Lloyd B. Minor, who is now the Dean of Stanford School of Medicine, is well known for helping people with Ménière’s disease. I would suggest reaching out to him if you would like an expert opinion. He is very passionate on the subject. Best of luck and wishing you well!

  35. says

    Please, please before you take the Meniere’s diagnosis as gold, please see a neurologist who specializes in migraines!!!!! I was diagnosed as well with M, and it wasn’t that! There is an actual form of migraines called vertigo migraines. I was lucky to be seen while having one – and many MRI’s later I got my right diagnose. Maybe it isn’t for you, but please, at least ask. Turned out they run in my family, mine were fueled by hormones, out of control BP and artificial coloring/flavors/preservatives. I quit drinking as well.

    Knock on wood, after some very scary bouts (like yours to a T) I haven’t had a bout in 6 or 7 years.

    It really can control your life and make you so scared – hugs to you!!!!

  36. Nancy Rose Eisman says

    All the best during your sabbatical. We’ll miss your creativity and wisdom but will look forward to new guidance from you in the future. Take care!

  37. says

    Bravo to you for taking the blogging vacation! I’ve been taking an unintended one lately and just feel darn guilty about it…Your plan is far better. :)

    As for Meniere’s – at least now you know ! And you’re absolutely right, nobody is better equipped to navigate this than you. Sending big, salt-free hugs your way! xo!

  38. says

    All the best to you in this new health journey. I am on one myself with hypoglycemia, probably due to a pancreatic tumor, but we will find out later this week. I get the crying your eyes out thing, holding onto hope is crucial, as well as having the wisdom to take a break from even the things you love. I do hope you find all the answers you seek and pray your time away bring great refreshing. :)

  39. Karen D says

    Sorry to hear of your diagnosis, and I will miss reading your posts. Wishing you well on your new journey, and looking forward to your ‘return’.