I had the honour of interviewing Emma Hatcher aka ‘She Can’t Eat What?!’, who started the FODMAP diet around 8 years ago. Emma realised that there was a massive lack of information on the FODMAP diet and recipes to live by, which I think all of us Fodmappers have experienced since starting the diet. Emma is a blogger and has written her own cookbook, ‘The Fodmap Friendly Kitchen’ (approved by the Fodmap Friendly Food Programme). I hope you find the below interview useful, as I have certainly learnt a thing or two.
So Emma, why did you start the Low FODMAP diet?
I’ve had a sensitive gut for as long as I can remember. Around the age of 14, my symptoms started to get really bad however and on one bad day I remember coming home from a friend’s house and being doubled over in pain at my front door. It was agony and I knew something had to change. After a couple of doctors appointments, it was confirmed that I had the lovely diagnosis of ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome’. I spent years cutting out various different food groups from my diet as suggested by my doctor – gluten and dairy for example. Each time symptoms would subside for a short time, before quickly coming back. When my dietician at the age of 21 suggested following a Low FODMAP Diet, it was a light-bulb moment. The diet didn’t only decrease my symptoms, but completely changed my life. That was four years ago and I haven’t looked back since!
How did you find the elimination stage?
Actually OK – I think as soon as you start feeling better and seeing results (especially after experiencing so much trouble for so long) it makes all the effort worthwhile.
I find the reintroduction of foods the most difficult, how have you found this process? Do you have any tips for my readers?
My advice would be: Stick with it, it will be worth it in the end! It’s not a fun process, working out your personal tolerances, but when you do identify one, or two, or three, it’s the best moment. From experience, I’d also say try not to be too hard on yourself. Tolerance levels can fluctuate day to day – if you’re ever unsure, or just feeling crap, you can go back to foods you know are safe, and give your gut a rest for a few days, before trying again.
What have you reintroduced?
I went through the process of reintroduction and found that I could tolerate small amounts of many things that would have set my symptoms off before – tomatoes, avocados and a small mouthful of baked beans, which I always struggled with before! Wheat, garlic and onion are my key triggers. High levels of fructose too.
Where is your favourite place to eat out on a Low FODMAP diet?
I love seasonal dishes, small plates, seafood and Italian, so anywhere they serve versions of those that I can eat, I’m there! Recently I went back to Cotto – a small family run Italian place by Waterloo that does gluten free dishes – and as before, it was fantastic. I always think you get to know very quickly which restaurants cook their food from scratch and those that have everything pre-prepared! I’m always so grateful when the manager of a place takes the time to come over, talk through the menu and explain what dishes they can amend for you.
What is your favourite Low FODMAP dish?
Oh that’s tough! At the moment I’m loving the griddle pan waffle with orange and rhubarb compote from my cookbook – a great way to enjoy the sherbety pink stalks around at the moment.
Which is your favourite Low FODMAP snack?
I love having homemade ‘flapjacks’ to hand – made with oats, banana, maple syrup and whatever nuts and seeds I’ve got to use up in the cupboard. You can just throw all of the ingredients together in a bowl and bake for 10-15 minutes. I love oatcakes too, and bananas and peanut butter.
Did you find the low fodmap diet affected other areas of your life (apart from in the food department)? Do you think it affected your mental health?
I certainly didn’t realise how much my day to day life was affected until I started to feel better. From my physical health to my mental health, there’s been a huge amount of change for the better. For me, knowing why my gut felt like it did after certain foods was empowering. I had more of an understanding and some level of control back, which was brilliant.
Where do you go for fodmap support?
I’m very lucky that I have a great boyfriend, friends and family that have been incredibly supportive throughout this whole sha-bang! Facebook groups are brilliant too, as is the lovely community on Instagram and Twitter.
I love that you created a low fodmap cooking book for us fodmappers – how did you go about creating tasty recipes for us? Everyone I know always questions how I make dishes that are low fodmap and tasty.
Thank you so much! I couldn’t have done it without the support of the community. I have to say with a lot of long days and late nights, trial and error! I always knew that dishes could be tasty without FODMAPs and that those of us who needed low FODMAP food deserved dishes that tasted as good as anything else out there! It was just working out how to make them simple and accessible, so that readers didn’t feel like they had to buy 101 ingredients, just to get flavour.
Do you have a Full time job as well as running your blog? If you do, when do you get time to blog?
I work half the week in a social media role for a big food market and then freelance for the other half. I can’t lie, it’s often tough to fit everything in! But seeing pictures of people enjoying my dishes on Instagram and receiving emails full of love and thanks makes it all worthwhile. I always thought – if just one person reads my book and finds it helpful on their own gut health/food journey, then I’ve done my job.
Thank you Emma for taking the time to be interviewed by me, I know you have given me such a positive attitude towards the FODMAP diet, and your cookbook is a massive jump in the right direction for all of us suffering with IBS. I look forward to seeing your blog grow in the future.