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My Journey to the Kitchen

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

Hi everyone, thanks so much for being here! My name is Tanya Slehria, I’m currently a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill and a major foodie. Back in the summer of 2019, I developed chronic health issues that prompted an unexpected lifestyle change. I experienced daily severe, unexplained pain that changed my overall perspective on both mental and physical health.

Initially, my symptoms were difficult to process. I experienced extreme fatigue, shooting pains and sometimes even the inability to get out of bed. You might be wondering why I’m describing my health history with you, well that’s because this pain inevitably led me to my biggest passion: cooking. What I was (and still am) facing, are severe gut issues -- specifically a mix of IBS and some other mystery illnesses that are still undiagnosed. While gut issues are common worldwide, treatment and pain management for poor digestion are still not well understood. After countless visits to the doctor, a Gastrointestinal professional, and even a holistic practice, I still didn’t know how to deal with it. Instead of developing constructive solutions, I constantly blamed myself and my body’s inability to heal. The gut/brain connection is also SO real, I was more anxious than ever before as the constant search with no answers took a real toll on my mental health. Finally, I stopped questioning, “Why me?” By taking action to manage and control my own health, my situation began to turn around. Through extensive research, I discovered that certain foods and wellness practices can reverse chronic pain symptoms.

The pain and discomfort that I despise sparked my biggest joy: creating in the kitchen! Since developing gut issues, I have educated myself on nutritional practices that can help reverse some of my worst symptoms. I even entered the social media space and created a food and wellness Instagram page, @tanya_tastes. The skills I have formed in preparing food to nourish my body have been life changing. Since 2019, I have transitioned to a fully plant-based lifestyle that not only helps manage my pain but is also the single best way to reduce my carbon footprint on this planet. I absolutely love the community I’ve built through Instagram, I’ve virtually met so many like-minded foodies and been able to swap recipes and ideas. The most rewarding part is the messages I receive, “I can’t wait to see another Tanya Taste post!” or seeing photos of others recreating my dishes. It genuinely brings me so much joy.

However, this isn’t a fairy tale ending. While I absolutely love cooking, baking and creating recipes - my life is still majorly impacted by health issues. I also have Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disorder that causes hypothyroidism, which essentially means that my body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones. Tack this on to my already whack stomach issues...ouch. I can say with certainty that this journey has upped my resilience. I’d be lying if I said these problems don’t get in the way sometimes, I most certainly have my days where I feel as if the world is ending. However, my fairy tale within all this mess is discovering my passion. I always felt pretty passion-less prior to all this and now, my brand is part being a “foodie.” I’m the first person to turn to when looking for restaurants on a trip, I can whip up freshly baked dessert for all seven of my housemates in under 30 minutes and I am lucky enough to make exciting and delicious vegan meals every day.

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