Holistic nutritionist, plant based chef, and pharmacist and also OMS Cookbook contributor, Ashley Madden talks about her passion.
A tumultuous relationship
It’s just about that time of year… my MS anniversary. We’ve been together, officially, for nine years. Because let’s be honest, doesn’t it feel like we’re married to it sometimes?
For better or for worse we all have to live with it, ‘til death do us part! It’s been a tumultuous relationship. Sometimes I have gratitude for all the positive things MS has brought into my life and I wake up more aware of all my blessings.
Other times I curse on it, fight with it and go to bed angry and wake up defeated. I, like many of you, have ups and downs. The downs used to be so overwhelming-debilitating almost.
The tiniest symptom would send me into a two day sobbing fit.
Acceptance takes time
Even though I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nine years ago, my acceptance of the disease wouldn’t come until several years later.
It’s not a coincidence that my coming to terms with MS coincided with finding the OMS program, and at a time when it felt like all the doors were closing, OMS was the biggest and most beautiful window!
OMS brought light and hope into my life and gave me support I couldn’t find anywhere else. In the beginning when I panicked over every single tingle and fretted over every possible outcome, the OMS community was there for me.
I still panic and let my imagination run wild when I’m feeling symptomatic but I’ve learned to calm my own anxieties and take comfort in knowing there is a team there for me when I need it.
I wholeheartedly believe that anyone diagnosed with MS can fit the disease into his or her lifestyle- MS doesn’t have to flip one’s life upside down. I think that the individual can stay in the driver's seat and decide what kind of influence MS will impart on their everyday. My experience was a little different.
'MS changed my whole life. I had to take a good hard look at a lot of emotions I had been stuffing down most of my life, I realized I had anxiety issues long before MS came around and I learned that my already 'healthy' lifestyle might not have been so healthy.'
An emotional journey
MS changed my whole life. I had to take a good hard look at a lot of emotions I had been stuffing down most of my life, I realized I had anxiety issues long before MS came around and I learned that my already 'healthy' lifestyle might not have been so healthy. The personal growth and internal transformation I experienced from dealing with MS was quickly mirrored in my professional life As I became more and more fascinated by the power of a plant-based lifestyle, I dissociated more and more from my pharmacy career.
I ended up studying to become a holistic nutritionist and moved to New York City to train as a plant based chef. Today, I structure my diet and lifestyle to support my own health but I get to help others do the same.
The joys of OMS cooking
MS changed the trajectory of my life for the better, no doubt. And while I still have moments of anger and sadness, I’m learning how to live happily with MS.
Nine years in and I feel confident that we’re going to make it. It might not be an easy relationship but with understanding, acceptance and self-love I think we have a good life to look forward to.
Seeing as it is our anniversary, the timing of the arrival of the OMS Cookbook could not be any better! Opening this package and seeing the cookbook ignited so many emotions!
First, I felt gratitude. For me, the OMS Cookbook represents how united we are as a community – helping each other figure it out. It’s truly incredible that we’ve come together and made this culinary guide that is going to help thousands! Second, I felt excitement!
I cannot wait to get into these recipes and try all the deliciousness that all you OMS’ers have so kindly contributed. Third, I felt a little bit of pride. Ok a lot of pride! I’m proud to have a few of my own recipes in the cookbook but even more proud to be amongst you all. We’re doing it and living it and taking control of our health and our lives. Speaking of recipes… A few of my favorites are in here.
A personal favorite
One is the Blueberry Quinoa Muffin. This muffin is a regular in my house. We make it often and have at least half a dozen stocked in the freezer at all times. I love breakfast and I loved baked goods.
When I first started the OMS program, I relied mostly on oatmeal and smoothies. This muffin was the first recipe that infused variety back into my morning.
It’s my go-to breakfast muffin and it’s gluten free! Gluten free baked goods can often be unhealthy, usually made with refined flours and fats, but this muffin is made from whole grain quinoa flour, quinoa flakes, whole oats, unsweetened applesauce, bananas and omega rich flax seeds. The recipe notes to grease the muffin pan but this can be avoided by using a non-stick muffin tray.
Another recipe in the book that has a special place in my heart is the Broccoli and Mushroom Quiche. This was perhaps one of my first culinary experiments where I was determined to show others they didn’t need oil to create amazing meals.
Limiting oils was possibly the most challenging recipe requirement for me in the very beginning, and it still is the biggest challenge for others who try to cook for me.
This Quiche is completely oil free, dairy free and gluten free and it’s delicious. The tofu bakes into a creamy texture and the brown rice makes for a fantastic flour free crust.
This Quiche was the first of hundreds of oil free dishes I would go on to create but it’s still one of my favourites. I like to make this for brunch or for dinner, especially when we have company over.
People can’t believe there’s no eggs, cream, milk or cheese in it! I can’t wait to start trying all of the other inspiring recipes found in the OMS Cookbook. I’m so excited to have been a part of the project and to be a member of this caring and encouraging community.
About the author: In my early twenties and a few short years into my career as a clinical pharmacist, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The diagnosis ignited my interests and determination in taking responsibility for my own health. I wanted to focus on an integrated approach to wellness and I became a holistic nutritionist through the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN). During the program, and through drastically changing my own diet, I discovered a true passion for food and its relation to health. After graduating CSNN, I moved to New York City to pursue the art of health supportive cuisine and attended the Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI), the leader in health focused culinary education. Through all my training and experience I know for sure that we can support our individual wellbeing through food and satisfy our appetites without compromising taste, ease of preparation or elegance.