1. You’re already hosting your super successful One Part Podcast, you’ve completed your first cookbook and are constantly creating inspiring content on your One Part Plant platform. Why was creating this new website, Know Your Endo, so important for you?
After I wrote my cookbook last year I was shocked by how many messages I received from women saying my cookbook helped diagnose them or that it was the first time they felt understood. Let’s remember, this was a cookbook – a cookbook that had one page about endo that I snuck in! It was incredible that the book was helping people, but it felt wrong that it took a book about gluten-free cookies for women to finally be heard and to get a diagnosis.
I knew I had to create more education and awareness around this condition, so I got to work and Know Your Endo was born.
2. One in ten women suffers from endometriosis, meaning that it is a very common, chronic disorder. Why do you think that there is so much confusion and a general lack of understanding around this condition?
It’s not being talked about enough. We’re taught what to look for when it comes to breast health and we learn about STDs as early as high school, but there aren’t conversations happening around endometriosis and its symptoms. Not knowing the symptoms makes it that much harder for girls and women to connect the dots and get a diagnosis.
So many of endo symptoms (GI issues, fatigue, urinary issues) aren’t things you’d bring up to your gynecologist because they’re not considered “period symptoms”. I think this is a big reason why it takes an average of ten years and eight doctors for women to be diagnosed. Yes, TEN YEARS.
And don’t get me started on women’s pain not being taken seriously enough. You don’t know how many stories I’ve heard from women that suffered from endo for decades before getting a diagnosis, that were told “it’s just a period” or “it’s all in your head” or “there’s nothing wrong with you”.
3. How did being diagnosed with an “incurable” health disorder affect you emotionally? And, how has that informed your mission to connect with others?
Before I found tools to manage my endo, I was severely depressed and felt completely hopeless. It really started to damage my self-worth, and most days, I didn’t want to wake up in the morning.
I hid this really well. I went to work. I somehow pushed through it all and tried not to complain. I also didn’t know anyone else dealing with this condition, so I felt really alone in it all. That feeling of loneliness is a common thread I hear from a lot of people with endo.
I really want to connect with women and girls who are struggling. But it’s super important to do that in a positive and proactive way. We already know there’s no cure. We know how damaging it can be. But what CAN we do about it? How can we create tools to manage it? How can we better educate our friends and family to support us? Those are the conversations I want to have.
4. You’ve had multiple surgeries to try to alleviate your endometriosis symptoms and you describe your “old” life as being in severe pain most days, depressed and you were ready to undergo a hysterectomy at age 33. But, that all changed when a friend recommended changing your diet. Why did that approach both annoy and appeal to you?
It annoyed me because I didn’t even know how to cook rice and I for sure didn’t think that I liked vegetables! And if this diet thing worked so well, why didn’t my doctor tell me about it? I had zero faith in it working, but I also had nothing to lose, so I gave it shot…and the dang thing worked.
But it’s important to say it wasn’t just a diet change. Changing my diet was the catalyst to overhauling my entire life. It started with food. And my new diet enabled me to exercise again. Exercise helped with my depression from the chronic pain. And not feeling depressed meant that I was able to truly connect with my friends and family again. It opened my mind to new experiences, and even a career change. But yes, it all started with good food!
5. There is no cure for the condition, but you describe significant improvement after making dietary and lifestyle changes. How quickly did your endometriosis symptoms improve after switching to a plant-based, whole foods approach?
It happened so fast for my body! But prior to changing diet, my main food groups were frozen waffles and candy, so that might have contributed to how quickly it worked for me.
The physical effects happened so fast, but emotionally, changing my diet was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was pissed off that I had to cook and eat “healthy” and felt like an outsider with my family and friends because of my new diet.
But I couldn’t deny that it was working and it became clear that my health and happiness were more important than my beloved gummy bears. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and to figure out a way to make this new way of eating a part of my life and to enjoy it. I taught myself to cook, learned how to make plant-based cookies (that were better than the real thing), and never looked back. But it took me time to get here and I’m still a little surprised every day by how far I’ve come!
6. We love your down-to-earth approach. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about creating lasting, healthy change in your life?
I think the thing that finally clicked for me was figuring out the tools in my life that were non-negotiable and being cool with not being perfect with the rest.
For example, good food is my number one non-negotiable. I put this above everything else. I make sure I’m eating whole food, plant-based meals every single day. That might mean some extra work if I’m traveling or even that I have to bring my own food to holiday gatherings and parties. But I know that if I don’t prioritize it, I’ll be right back to where I started and I never want to feel that way again. I no longer look at food as something that will make me skinny or fat. I look at it as medicine…medicine that I’ll take for the rest of my life.
But then there’s meditation and going to that super hard pilates class that I love/hate. If I’m traveling or if it’s a busy week, I might not fit it in…and I’m ok with that now. I don’t beat myself up, because I know that I have these tools in my back pocket and can pull them back out when I need to.
7. What do you hope to achieve with Know Your Endo?
So much! My biggest goal is to get that ten-year diagnosis average down to a single digit. One of the ways we’re doing that is by working with the Endometriosis Foundation of America to speak to girls in high school about endo symptoms. I want the next generation of women to know that sometimes it’s not “just a period” and to give them the language, confidence, and tools to speak up.
Jessica Murnane is the creator of the One Part Plant movement & author of the One Part Cookbook (an initiative to get everyone on this planet to start eating one plant-based meal each day), host of the One Part Podcast with over 1 million downloads, and founder of Know Your Endo: knowyourendo.com. Jessica lives in South Carolina with her husband and little boy, Sid, and lots of palm trees. To find out more about Jessica, her podcast or her cookbook, check out JessicaMurnane.com