Who else is ready to make 2019 the year we feel and LIVE our absolute best? I have a whole new reason this year – and for the rest of my life. It’s taken me days to write, and get the courage to share, this bit of information, but here it goes….

In just about a month I’m having a kidney removed so that someone very close to me, who was born with a genetic kidney disease, can finally experience life with a healthy kidney. I can’t even express in words how grateful I am to give this gift.

For those that don’t know me yet, I’m Chef Kirsten Sandoval, and I’m the founder of Mesa de Vida. I’m a private/personal chef to professional athletes, and I specialize in working with doctors and trainers to develop personalized eating and nutrition programs to optimize the athlete’s health, healing- and this is where I come in- make it easy and delicious for them to incorporate into their busy lives. I actually developed Mesa de  Vida globally inspired healthy cooking and seasoning sauces in the kitchens of my clients, and I’m so excited that, through these little jars full of goodness, I can sort of be the sous chef in your kitchens, all across the globe now! (Seriously a dream come true for me.)

Some of you may know that I actually lost over 100 pounds several years ago, and it was by accident. It happened when I finally stopped dieting. Watching my 2 year old daughter play on the floor one day, as I sat on the couch too sick and tired to even get down and play with her, I decided to make a change right then and there.

At 25 years old I had dangerously high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and was pre-diabetic. For so many years I started diet after diet, only focusing on my weight. Dieting made me miserable, disappointed in myself, begin to develop unhealthy obsessions with numbers and counting calories/grams/points, etc. I had spent years damaging my gut health, hormones, metabolism, and long-term health by eating foods/sticking to food programs/calorie goals that I’d been told (and even was taught during my nutrition programs) are healthy. Years damaging my joints, spine, and long-term skeletal health by doing exercises and programs that were focused on a short-term physical appearance goal.

I set out to create a healthy new family legacy that day, for my daughter. I didn’t want her to always see her mom on a diet and hating herself. I didn’t want her to struggle with food addiction or diet-related health issues like I was.

I stopped focusing on deprivation or losing ANYTHING. I wanted to GAIN health, and GAIN control over food, not the other way around. I decided to love myself as I was, I didn’t care if I ever lost another pound. I know health doesn’t have a weight, and if I was doing unhealthy things to lose weight, how was I any healthier just because the scale showed I weighed less?

I instead began focusing on giving my body what it needed. I began to be intentional and enjoy every single bite I took. I was grateful to be able to give my body what made me feel great. I began exercising with the goal of supporting this “shell”, this “vehicle” that carries my heart and my soul. I want to care for this body that gives hugs, comforts my children, walks side by side with my husband, takes me on adventures, and I want to be strong enough to be able to swing my great grandchildren around some day.

Over the last few years my body has been changing, and I’m okay with that. I’m 40 now, and there has been a shift. I’m recommitted to my health, now more than ever, and I am so appreciative that I’m healthy enough to give this gift of a healthy kidney.

After working through hormonal changes earlier this year, as well as some back issues, I’ve had to yet again figure out what works best for ME. I also am a staunch advocate for my kids, and helping them build awareness for figuring this out for themselves, too. They both have a genetic condition that will require them to have their colons out between 18-22 years old, among other challenges they’ll face, and I want to help them to figure out what is best for THEM.

My recommitment to my health starts with a focus on helping my body to heal as it should. I want to take care of my body (and that soon-to-be-solo kidney) so it carries me through a long and vibrant life. I want to feel control over the food choices I make, not for the food to control me. I want to feel AMAZING now, and for the rest of my years. I want to create and enjoy more memories in the kitchen and around the table with family, friends, and the gift of beautiful, tasty, real food that has the power to nourish our body, build community, and to share heritage and culture.

This has brought me to the decision to participate in a Whole30 round this January. I already enjoy a mostly sugar, grain, and gluten free eating style, as I’ve found, after eliminating them for quite some time, then reintroducing them and experiencing a myriad of negative effects on my body. I have found that is what makes ME feel the best. (It also is proving to make me the healthiest I’ve ever been, judging by the myriad of vials of blood and extensive ultrasounds and CT scans I’ve had analyzed over the last several months.) I’m looking forward to seeing how I feel after eliminating dairy, and especially alcohol. Yes, I realize that is restriction, but I also want to know how my body reacts to these things, it isn’t because I think dairy or alcohol are bad, per se.  They are just things that I feel may not work well with MY body, and I’m going to let my body tell me what it thinks. It is only for 30 days, and by making that commitment to myself it helps keep me focused. I’m also looking forward to participating in the group support and resources the Whole30 company and community provide.

Since I’m being completely vulnerable in sharing this information, and will be sharing more of my journey going forward, I’ll go ahead and share this, too: For me the big step is going to be getting control over alcohol. I love wine (and champagne…ohhh champagne) but I am becoming aware of the headache I always have the next day, having to fight the urge to have just one more glass, the temptation to open a bottle when I’ve had a rough day, etc. etc. I have a strong family history of alcoholism as well, and my kids have seen too many negative examples of alcohol abuse. Wanting to be a positive role model for my kids has been, and always will be, my driving motivation in life.

Even though I’m a huge fan of the Whole30 program (and the people behind it – I am so honored that we are one of their Whole30 Approved brands), I know that it is not the perfect fit for everyone. I’ve worked for clients that are their absolute healthiest with vegan/fat free/Paleo/DASH/AIP protocol/lifestyles and a myriad of others.  What is important that they’ve found what works for THEM. I think what is important is finding what is best for YOU.

My style of cooking on a day-to-day basis for my family is to make food that is vibrant, packed with flavor, delicious, satisfying…and simple. Amazing food and healthy living doesn’t have to be complicated. Whether you’re on a Whole30 journey as well, vegan or vegetarian, or just simply want to know that the foods you eat are 100% real food goodness, our cooking and seasoning sauces are here for you!

We are here to help, too. Beginning this month, we will begin bringing you more resources to help you live your healthiest, most delicious life ever!  I’m going to be sharing more of my own personal journey, and definitely more about this living kidney donor journey, before/during and after. (We also have some super exciting announcements and offerings coming your way soon, I don’t want you to miss a thing!)

If you’re interested in this make sure you sign up for our email updates, and join our social media community (Instagram, Facebook, YouTubeTwitter and Pinterest), where a lot of the fun is going to be happening!

Do you have any specific requests, resources you think I can help with, or any other feedback? Please shoot me an email anytime, I’d love to know how I can help YOU!


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