eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. – Made without grains, eggs, dairy or nuts (and they’re AIP!), these cookie mixes will bring you joy while supporting you in your health journey. Founded by Kerry Brown and Heather McDonough after spending time in the kitchen figuring out how to make AIP fun, eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. foods were created to bring FREEDOM & JOY back to those on healing diets.
Kerry, you’ve got to tell me – how did you come up with the name eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R.?
The name eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. came to me while I was nursing my 16-month-old in a dark closet in my New York City apartment (the closet was in fact the baby’s bedroom due to a slight lack of space in our NYC abode!). My sister Heather and I had so much that we wanted to communicate with our brand, that an acronym felt right. The letters kind of fell into place as I played with it in my head in the dark that night. I kept going back to “gangster” because when you love a meal, you might say, “Wow! That meal was gangster.” And there we had it – it said everything we were free of AND it communicated that we were a delicious cookie that even an AIPer could enjoy!
What hurdles have you faced, especially in regards to your health?
My health issues started young, but I never connected them together – lots of allergies, bloating, acne, mono, broken bones, shin splints, and stress fractures. I attributed a lot of it to the stress I put on my body as an athlete, especially when playing Division 1 Women’s Basketball in college.
At age 30, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, with an A1C of 12.5 and sugar at 513 (normal is 100). I had lost 12 pounds, had thrush in my mouth, and struggled with delirious episodes. With my diagnosis, I proceeded to take insulin injections for the next 8 years and then began using a CGM and insulin pump for better control. Around 37, my husband and I began trying to get pregnant but after 3 years and many tests and other efforts, we opted to do IVF. After two attempts, we were blessed with our strong & healthy baby girl 9 months later (now 2 years old). One year ago, I was told I had a large growth on my thyroid. They couldn’t tell if it was cancerous or not. After 22 months of breastfeeding, I quit the night of my scheduled surgery – to undergo a partial thyroidectomy.
As all this was happening, my identical twin sister began struggling with depression, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts (all out of the blue, for approximately 6 months). She discovered AIP first, because she knew something odd was happening and she wanted to try to avoid going on medication for a mental illness for the rest of her life. Within days of starting AIP, my sister’s panic attacks disappeared. The more we learned, the more we realized that that while our symptoms were different, ALL of our health story could be connected to the same root cause. That was enough for me to begin my journey of healing through AIP.
That’s a lot to handle for both of you! How are you dealing with your health issues now?
Most all of my health challenges were full of utter fear at the start. When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I did not just jump into positive action. Instead, I was sad, scared, depressed – honestly, I wanted to walk in front of a city bus. That sounded easier than giving myself 5 injections every day.
It took a ton of research, listening to other’s stories, and a whole lot of time to finally take control of my own health and overcome the emotional side of things. I’ve learned that aside from death, we humans are so capable of adapting, surviving and thriving in the midst of whatever physical challenge we have. The emotions (and the drama, whether real or in our heads!) is the tough part!
I am so grateful for the pioneers and initiators of AIP, Wahls, Keto, and Paleo – the people who are talking about food as medicine and their stories of success. Imagine if they didn’t have the courage to try something different?? I wonder how many people could heal or avoid so much sickness if we placed more of an emphasis on this in our country. I wonder if I could have been spared had I known what I know now? I’ve seen first-hand how the avoidance of certain foods can change kid’s personalities (gluten especially!), take away tremors, remove mood swings and anxiety, and lower one’s need for synthetic insulin. What else could we overcome?
How have your challenges inspired you?
My health challenges have been so tough in some ways, but these same challenges are what inspired me to collaborate with our co-founder to create our company. I get a ton of joy knowing that we have a product that so many can enjoy. I also totally LOVE getting to connect with people via social media and email to hear about their health journey and to work together to share about how one’s diet can be medicine.
What challenges or struggles do you still have?
I have hope that my Type 1 diabetes will disappear. But I’m not counting on it. I still have to wear a pump & CGM every day. It feels like I beep more than a broken refrigerator sometimes. And it’s just plain hard sometimes to stay positive and skip the pizza.
I’m a purist – I don’t take Advil or cough medicine and I had never been on any medications prior to my diabetes diagnosis. I struggle sometimes with the fact that I rely on insulin & thyroid medication to make my body work properly.
Were you into natural/health products before your health issues?
I actually grew up on a macrobiotic diet, because my father had his own health issues and discovered that way of life. I always thought he was a bit crazy, but in the end, he was likely dealing with similar issues that my sister and I have dealt with 30 years later.
I did not continue as a macrobiotic into adulthood and prior to “D-Day” (the day I was diagnosed with diabetes!), I personally ate “healthy” but totally “normal” and did not restrict myself from what I wanted. If I wanted pizza or ice cream, I had it. So it was very tough to suddenly not be able to take a bite out of something without testing my sugar, giving myself insulin and sometimes having to wait until I could eat something (if I was “allowed” to eat it at all).
Over time I realized what an odd relationship I, and almost everyone, have with food. For me, there’s a lot of emotion, comfort, freedom, happiness and fulfillment caused by eating and certain foods. But it takes its toll.
What other things have you tried to improve your health?
I love yoga, spinning, walking, long bike rides. I do some intermittent fasting and believe this has a HUGE impact on one’s health (I wish I could get myself to do it every day!). Oh! One thing I just picked up from my twin sister is the simple act of chewing food and nursing your salivary glands as you eat. I’m not sure this concept gets as much attention as it deserves! Liquifying foods has enabled my sister to add foods into her diet that she couldn’t eat before. Chewing has been shown not just to begin the digestion process, but to also cue your stomach to begin producing acids even before the food gets there. Look into it if you don’t already practice this – it could make a big difference with what you are able to tolerate!
How did you begin to make your own products? When did you start your business?
I have been in the field of consumer branding for 20 years. Most recently I owned and operated New York City’s most luxurious hotel for dogs. Before that I worked for eight years with athletic apparel powerhouse lululemon athletica, ultimately overseeing the company’s U.S. Community Marketing during a period of tremendous growth.
Heather and I (who have been friends since we were in our twenties) reconnected and began playing around with AIP recipes just this past Fall. Coincidentally, I was in the elimination phase of AIP and she was an AIP coach. She was trying to show me ways to make AIP a bit more joyful and free. As we were creating recipes, we began to see the possibilities of a business and officially launched six months later. We hashed out our Mission Statement within 10 minutes of our first “business meeting”: We create foods that bring FREEDOM and JOY back to those on healing diets.
9. What is your favorite flavor? And what is your favorite way to eat it?
I love our Oatmeal Schmoatmeal Cookie Mix with raisins or dried cranberries, pressed into a pie pan and baked into dessert bars. Okay, and I also love any of our cookie mixes baked and then frozen into ice cream sandwiches. OMG, they just make me happy!
For diabetics and others that need to watch their sugar levels, I’d suggest either lessening the amount of Maple Syrup we suggest (add more water instead) or replace with applesauce.
10. Pretend with me for a second: if I could wave a wand that would magically create a product or resource (besides a magic pill) that would help you with your challenges surrounding your health, what would it be?
Could you make a smart pancreas? 😉 It would do the thinking and know when to give me what I need based on seeing what I’m about to eat and what else might be affecting my sugar levels. I and so many others would then be free to think about others things (other than “how am I?”, “what’s my sugar?”, “what do I need?” every hour of the day!).
For now, I’ll keep working on developing more fun eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. products…there’s more to come this Fall!