My name is Cecilie. I’m 44 years, married to my teenage-boyfriend and have a grown-up son. We live on the West-Coast of Norway, the next biggest city in Norway, Bergen.
I used to be an award-winning nailtech (won the English championship!), but became ill 7-8 years ago and had to close my company. I was diagnosed with a rare, chronic connective tissue illness called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and my health condition went downhill very fast. After three years I had no company and was on disability benefit. My IBS was also worse than ever. Not a great situation!
Because my IBS was increasingly bad, I had to start the low FODMAP-diet. I’m not a “diet-woman” so starting the low FODMAP-diet was my very last hope. Luckily the diet worked very well as soon as I discovered that I can’t have corn-flour (even though it is low FODMAP, *my* stomach couldn’t tolerate it). I started a Norwegian low FODMAP-blog to track my own recipes and to keep a diary of my progress. The blog became popular and after only six months I had a contract with Aschehoug publishing, one of Norway’s biggest and oldest publishers. Eleven months after I had started my blog, my first low FODMAP-cookbook was published in Norway. It became a bestseller after only 3 weeks and it’s still selling very well here. I have now published one low FODMAP-book every year since the first book and in between I was headhunted by another publisher AND got a publisher in the US and in the UK!
I also give talks; as a patient at different Norwegian hospitals, and for other entrepreneurs and companies who want to learn about the low FODMAP-diet or how to live with chronic illnesses.
I’m still chronically ill and I have to plan my days. I can’t have too much activity on one day, but writing/being self-employed is something that suits my condition very well as I can work from wherever I am and when I feel up to it.
How long have you suffered with IBS? Did you get diagnosed as soon as symptoms began?
I think I have had IBS as long as I can remember, but I got the diagnosis 10-12 years ago.
What different methods have you tried in order to manage your IBS?
Nothing. I was told there was nothing to do other than to learn to live with it.
How has your life changed as a result of living with IBS?
Before I started the low FODMAP-diet, I had to plan everything and I was always afraid that I suddenly might need the toilet. At the worst, I didn’t leave my home! After I found the low FODMAP-diet, my IBS and life changed in so many ways. The best thing is that whereas before it was my stomach that controlled me. Now it’s me who is in control. If I know I’m going for a meeting, traveling etc… I’m strictly low FODMAP. If I know I’m going to stay at home, I can give some “slack”.
Finding the low FODMAP-diet also made me to an international author and speaker. Besides the IBS and EDS, I have suffered with anxiety. I have worked with it for many years, but never got through the barriers to giving talks to an audience. Before my first talk I was crying and shivering and thought I couldn’t do it. Everybody who knows how it feels to have a panic attack knows how overwhelming it is. However I DID my first talk and I have now done over hundred!
Giving talks, speaking to patients, helping, motivating and finally breaking taboos, have given me so much. Knowing that my work helps others feels like a gift.
How long have you followed the Low FODMAP Diet for? Have you made successful reintroductions?
I started the diet 4 years ago. The first two years I had problems with reintroduction and I had the feeling I got ill no matter what I ate. Two years ago I started to reintroduce with very small amounts and I started to push myself a little bit. Although I did get sick, I continued to reintroduce, in smaller amounts. Now, I have found that I can eat most FODMAPs in small quantities and not every day, but not at all lactose. I get extremely sick if I eat lactose, so I stay away. So reintroduction took a while, but I did it, in the end!
You have a new Low FODMAP cookbook coming out – can you tell us a bit about it? Also, when and where is it available for our readers to purchase?
When I started my blog it was difficult to find recipes of ordinary food. Most recipes I found were super-healthy, with ingredients I had never heard of. What I really missed was everyday food, sauces and comfort-food. I had no intention of being super-healthy as I have always had a philosophy that you can be healthy by eating a varied diet and not too much. It’s unhealthy to eat cake every day, but it’s not unhealthy if you eat cake once in a while! After this book was released in Norway, I spoke to a dietitian. She loved the book and I was surprised because it’s not a strictly health-book. She then told me that’s why she loved it and said: “You can never underestimate the value of eating delicious food!”
The Calm Belly Cookbook: Delicious Food for Sensitive Stomachs by Cecilie Hauge Ågotnes is published on 1 February at £14.99 hardback, Modern Books and can be ordered from Amazon here.
What would be the most key tip you would give someone who is just starting the Low FODMAP Diet?
Have a look at the “YES-food”; the list is longer than you think! And don’t lose your head. It’s understandable that when you have to follow a strict diet, you want all the answers in print. It’s confusing and easy to stop thinking. However sometimes the answers are just common sense. Somebody once asked me, quite upset: “I can’t tolerate cucumber, what do I do then?” and I answered: “Well, why don’t you just avoid eating cucumber?” and we both laughed. The answers are sometimes that easy.
We are very excited about the launch of Cecilie’s new cookbook! The Calm Belly Cookbook: Delicious Food for Sensitive Stomachs by Cecilie Hauge Ågotnes is published on 1 February 2018 at £14.99 hardback, and can be ordered from Amazon here.
Cecilie Hauge Ågotnes can be found at:
We hope you enjoyed reading our interview with Cecilie. Keep an eye out on our blog and social for our next interviews.
Interviewed by Bay Burdett, Founder & CEO of Bay’s Kitchen.
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