This book is the culmination of a ten-year journey, an exploration that not so coincidentally took place between my fortieth and fiftieth birthdays. Over the last decade I’ve made a conscious effort to take control of my health because it had finally become impossible to ignore the fact that the choices (or lack thereof) I’d been making for the past twenty years just weren’t working for me anymore.
A lot of factors brought me to this point. My forties were an incredible career-building period: I
opened three restaurants and launched a website and e-commerce business, all while shooting multiple cooking shows in LA, NYC, and Italy and raising a daughter as a single mom. It seemed the harder I worked, the more opportunities I was offered, and I didn’t want to let any of them slip away. But each new obligation meant I was spread a little thinner—always on a plane, in a car, grabbing what food and rest I could when I could. I was chronically sleep deprived, and a couple of minutes on a hotel treadmill were as close as I came to an exercise routine. Some days I barely ate enough to keep me going. I was finally attaining the kind of success I’d never even dreamed of, but a lot of the time I was too depleted to enjoy it.
And let’s not forget, as a woman, knocking on the door of fifty brings its own special challenges. Along with the wisdom of experience and a newfound confidence come the joys of a slower metabolism, hormonal fluctuations, and a host of physical changes, from loss of muscle mass to deepening crows’ feet and wrinkles. And it’s not only those of us who spend many of our days with a camera pointed in our direction who struggle with these changes; everyone wants to look and feel their best.
Tricks that had always helped me cope under pressure and compensate for too much travel, interrupted sleep, irregular and sometimes unhealthy meals—usually sugar in some form—now just made me feel more exhausted. Stress was omnipresent. My digestion became so sluggish and unpredictable that some days I could barely function. On top of that, my immunity was shot; I found myself getting sick constantly, and I couldn’t bounce back the way I did when I was younger. I just felt like I had nothing left in the tank. I realized that if I didn’t prioritize my health above the hundred other things vying for my attention, I would only continue to feel worse, not better.
So, I made changes to the way I eat—big ones. I learned to really listen to my gut and, more importantly, to respect what it was telling me instead of ignoring it or trying to figure out a workaround that would let me eat the way I always had. I came up with a program that gave my digestive system a chance to recover and heal (more on that on page 57), and an approach to eating that let my body work a little less hard at processing what I ate so it could spend more of its resources on keeping me healthy and active.
I’m not a doctor, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but one thing I know for sure is that I feel better today than I did at thirty-five. I wasn’t far into this journey before it became crystal clear to me that it all starts with food. Once I rethought the way I ate and how my body processes the fuel I feed it, it was easier to fit restorative practices like meditation, consistent exercise, and better sleep into my life. The funny thing was, far from making my days feel even more overscheduled, these self-care efforts actually created more room and freedom in my life—because I felt good so much more of the time, I had more productive hours in a day.
None of this transformation would have been possible without true and lasting changes to what I eat and how I think about food. In this book I share the recipes and philosophy that I followed—and continue to practice—to reset my digestive health, restore my gut’s ability to work at peak capacity, and keep my immune system strong. My approach minimizes foods known to cause inflammation and nurtures the delicate ecosystem of the gut rather than stressing it out with toxins and irritants. And while this is not a weight- loss plan, I wouldn’t be surprised if prioritizing some of these gut-friendly foods for a few weeks—or longer, if you like the way they make you feel—results in a corresponding de
-emphasis on the foods that make you feel clogged up, bogged down, and heavy (spoiler: many of them are high in fat, carbs, and calories!). If you eat well most of the time, you may also find that when you do stray (it happens to the best of us), recovery will become more intuitive and less depleting.
Most of us will live to a ripe old age these days; the question is, what quality of life will you enjoy along the way? Wherever you are on this journey, you face a crossroads every time you put dinner on the table, or choose to flip through your phone rather than do a few minutes of yoga or meditation. I’m here to be your guide, your rooting section, and your translator as you learn to listen to your gut and use that feedback to chart your own path to wellness. I’m not gonna lie; it’s not easy to change the way you think about food, but I’m better for it every day, and you will be too. In the chapters that follow you’ll find a wealth of flavorful and uncomplicated recipes that will help reset your gut, twenty-one days of meal plans to help you make eating smarter a habit rather than a “diet,” and all the lessons I’ve learned about what makes me feel stronger, healthier, and well fed, in both senses of the word. Buon appetito—and buona salute!
Copyright © 2021 by Giada De Laurentiis. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.