Q&A With Jessica Murnane
For those who aren’t familiar, could you tell us a little about endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder where the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows on the outside of your uterus. During your menstrual cycle, this displaced tissue thickens, breaks down, and bleeds. Because the tissue has no way to exit the body, it becomes trapped.
Symptoms may include very painful periods, pain during or after sex, painful bowel movements or urination, excessive bleeding, infertility (though many women can still have children), fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and more.
I experienced it full force. I have Stage IV endometriosis and was able to check off every single one of those symptoms above (except for infertility; I’ve never tried to get pregnant). But back then, I’d never even heard of endometriosis before. I was finally diagnosed when one of my cysts ruptured.
What were some of the challenges you faced approaching it with traditional western medicine?
To start, one in 10 women suffer from endometriosis. However, the really frustrating thing is that on average, it takes 10 years to get diagnosed! That was true in my case, and it’s unacceptable. I was diagnosed with everything from IBS to bladder issues. One doctor even told me I needed to “relax more in bed” when I told her that I had painful sex.
When I was finally diagnosed, it didn’t get better. The pain seemed to worsen every year and I became severely depressed. I ended up on painkillers, birth control, and smoked a lot of weed. Doctors gave me drugs or surgery as my only treatment options. Most days, I didn’t want to wake up in the morning. It was a very dark time for me.
How did you end up trying a plant-based diet?
It got to a point where my doctors said I had to get a hysterectomy because of my symptoms. I agreed to it. But before I got the surgery, an angel friend of mine swooped in and suggested a try a plant-based diet to manage the pain. I thought there was zero chance it’d work, but promised I would try it for three weeks.
Within weeks, my pain started to fade. Within months, I was able to exercise again and felt alive. I didn’t end up getting the surgery, and I now live an 80-percent symptom-free life! I dedicated my book to that friend—she truly saved my life.
What was the most challenging aspect of transitioning your diet?
Saying goodbye to old food traditions and adjusting to my new personal food identity. I was always the girl who’d eat whatever, the one you could go out for pizza and beer with, the one without any limitations. Now I was the one whispering a million substitutions to the waiter. I felt really embarrassed by that. I also felt that I’d never get to experience birthday cake again or all my family’s holiday food traditions. It really made me sad.
But after feeling sad and embarrassed for a while, I decided to do something about it. I couldn’t deny this diet change was working, so I started making new food traditions and adapting my old family recipes into new ones I could eat. I started looking at menus ahead of time and choosing places where I knew I could eat (while still making everyone else happy too). Most importantly, I started embracing the new me. I love her now!
What are three fridge or pantry staples you can’t live without now?
My top-ten pantry ingredients is a whole chapter in my book! Are you really gonna make me choose only three? Okay… I’ll go with nuts (you can make nut butter and nut milk with them), a crap load of greens, and a good hot sauce.
Do you have any self-care rituals you can share with us?
Whenever I feel a little brain fog or the blues coming on, I like to jump on my rebounder. I swear it’s like a shot of happiness to the brain. They can be a little pricey, but they’re worth every penny!
I also make sure to take alone time for myself at least once a week. I’m a very extroverted introvert. I love talking to people and do it a lot because of my podcast, but I have to be alone to recharge. I’ll lock the door, put my phone away, watch some Younger, and eat a big bowl of whatever sounds good. Taking time for yourself is the best self-care ritual of them all!
We love the philosophy in One Part Plant to start by incorporating one plant-based meal a day. What was the thinking behind that?
When I changed my diet, it was the one of the hardest things I’d ever done. There were times that I thought getting a hysterectomy would be easier. I’m not exaggerating. I had no idea what to cook or how to eat. I also felt like I had to be 100-percent perfect. After I got the hang of it, it was my mission to never let anyone feel the frustration, anger, or sadness I felt. One Part Plant is such a good entry point to changing your diet. It gives you room to breathe and figure out what works best for you.
If you had to recommend one recipe to start with from your cookbook, which would it be?
My creamy mushroom lasagna! I’ve gotten the most messages about this one. It’s really simple, comforting, and will totally fool your plant based-resistant friends and family.
You can find Jessica’s book and podcast on her website.