Join us on YouTube for weekly videos with health & wellness tips! You can also receive daily tips through Stepsinstilettos.com on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!
Hello world! I am Jamie Erfle, co-founder of this site, along with my cousin, Bizette. I am a mother of three young children, 2 , 4 and 6 years old and am also expecting my fourth child this September! I am trying to make their world a much better and safer place by avoiding chemicals as much as possible, by feeding them a plant-strong diet, and by doing our part to help the environment. After completing my Certification in Plant-Based Nutrition at Cornell University, I now follow a plant-based diet focused on preventing disease and maximizing health. The side-effects of this diet are clear skin, strong hair and nails, increased energy, and a healthy weight! Many people are unaware of the dangerous chemicals contained in regular food and everyday products. This is both unfortunate and scary since many of these chemicals are thought to play a role in the development of cancers as well as other chronic diseases. My goal is to help other women learn how to protect and improve their health by making smart choices.
How did I discover a plant-based lifestyle? I first decided to become a vegetarian at the age of fifteen and I really started thinking about where my food came from and what I was eating. I was in high school biology class and our assignment was to disect different types of insects and animals. Looking at the insides of animals got me thinking about what exactly I was eating. The thought made me nauseaus and I came home to declare to my parents that I was going to become a vegetarian. Of course, they were shocked, as no one we knew ate this way. They had no idea what to feed me and I mostly ate cereal, as I also didn’t really know what to eat. I took a multivitamin every day because I was convinced by others that I couldn’t possible be getting adequate nutrition as a vegetarian. However, this transition for me personally, aside from being controversial, was relatively easy because I didn’t change the way I ate, I really just cut out all forms of meat and replaced them with dairy and cheese versions. I remained vegetarian through college and began discovering the new tofu based meat substitutes that were more actively coming on the market. However, like many Americans, I still had no clue about nutrition and what vitamins and minerals my body needed to thrive. I was really just trying to eat as “normally” as possible while still holding onto my new values.
It wasn’t until age 28 that I discovered and opened myself up to the vegan and plant-based worlds. I was stuck in the airport at work and my boss at the time actually recommended that I read “Skinny Bitch,” a new and controversial book that had just come out. I immediately went into the airport bookstore and bought the book. Do you ever believe that certain moments happen for a reason? As I get older, I believe in this more and more. I read almost half of the book before I arrived home that night, addicted to the pages and hungry for more information! What this book opened my eyes to was the fact that dairy cows are subjected to huge amounts of pain and suffering and that by consuming milk and dairy, I was still contributing to animal creutly. What’s more is that I learned that animals products were actually bad for us, a completely new idea to me, and that much more nutrition could be obtained from plant-based foods. This revelation sent me on my path to reading more books about plant-based nutrition from authors like Dr. Barnard, Christina Pirello, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Alicia Silverstone, Dr. Fuhrman, and more! This paradigm shift in thinking was fascinating to me and so different from anything I was taught growing up. I even took classes through Cornell University in their Plant-Based Nutrition Program as part of their Certificate program. The classes and lecturers in that program are amazing and were able to give me detailed answers to everything I ever wanted to know, such as links to animal protein and diseases like cancer, how different vitamins and nutrients act in our bodies and why plant-based eating is the healthiest diet. By surrounding myself with information and different support groups through the classes and online community, it gave me the confidence to stick with the diet and the information I needed to continue on my path of healthy living. I love life and I want to enjoy it as much as I am able. To me, that doesn’t necessarily mean trying to outlive everyone, it means living the days that I have with as much energy to do the things I want to do and to experience life without being sick, stuck on medications, or in the hospital for treatments.
Eating plant-strong has changed my life for the better! As a child and young adult, I suffered from relatively severe allergies and asthma. I was in the hospital at least once a year for breathing treatments, had to carry an inhaler everywhere with me, and was dependent on taking allergy pills for most days of the year. Being sick as a young child made me believe that I would be dependant on medicine for the rest of my life. When I cut out meat products at the age of fifteen, I noticed a slight improvement in my asthma and allergies. I was able to play outside and run without always having an asthma attack. I see the correlation now, but as a young adult, everyone just told me I was “growing out of my asthma” and that’s what I believed. However, as soon as I cut out dairy products, my asthma completely disappeared and my allergies are greatly reduced! I currently don’t even own an inhaler! It is so freeing being able to even say that, as I never thought it would be a possibility for me. Asthma attacks and weazing are a distant memory of my past and something I don’t see myself having to deal with again. These days, I feel energetic, vibrant and healthy and can be as active as I want! It’s truly amazing! I have taken control of my health simply by the foods that I choose to put into my mouth everyday!
My name is Bizette Gailewicz, my cousin Jamie I get asked a lot about how we eat, what alternative practitioner we are seeing and what books we are reading among many other things wellness. We are both moms that want to lead a loving, healthy, stylish lifestyle and decided the best way to answer everyones questions and to keep everyone up to date on our most recent happenings was to start a blog. We feel that even stylish stiletto wearing mammas can be among the vegan, gluten free and homeopaths of the world too. This blog is about taking the first steps towards greater wellness, even better if those steps are in stilettos.
My path to wellness started about 9 years ago. I am from outside of Philadelphia but living in Beachwood, Ohio at the time which is a suburb of Cleveland. Many may be thinking how did that happen- it was about a boy! A boy I ended up marrying so it wasn’t so bad and now we are back in Philly. During my stay in Ohio I woke up one morning with a red blotch on my arm. I didn’t think much of it since I have a history of sensitive skin and went about my day, week, month really. I also started to experience intense shoulder pain to the point where it was difficult to make the bed in the morning. My first thought was that the pain was a occupational hazard from my newly landed dream job of being a pharmaceutical rep. I did have a large bag of samples and a lap top to carry as I pounded the pavement. It just so happened that I was a pharmaceutical rep that called on dermatologists, so when I noticed my new blotch wasn’t so new anymore I decided to have it checked out. After acquiring a substantial collection of steroid creams a skin biopsy was performed.
The call came in early friday evening. It was my dermatologist calling with the biopsy results. The results stated that I either had a drug reaction or lupus. I didn’t really hear the drug reaction part after I heard the word lupus. Actually, I don’t remember hearing much else after he said that. For much of my life I was a hypercondriac so this was my biggest fear realized. I called my mom right away crying, so scared, thinking I was going to die (because I was so rational at the time), thinking the worst and really knowing very little about lupus except it could attack major organs- scary! I was sent to what seems like now to be the first of a thousand visits to the lab and my first rheumatologist appointment. He felt the bloodwork was inconclusive and I should check back in a few months but he reassured me that I would be just fine.
After doctor hoping for over a year and seeing some of the best in their field from The Cleveland Clinic to Johns Hopkins and some in New York and Philadelphia the diagnosis was lupus. At first the thought was maybe lyme disease and then a general connective tissue disease but the week of my wedding the diagnosis came in with all the other guests joining us to celebrate our special day. I have to say this was not one of my brightest decisions to see a doctor for results the week of my wedding. He went on to tell me that I should stay out of the sun and I shouldn’t drink alcohol. Well, we had a honeymoon planned to Rivera Maya, Mexico at a beautiful all inclusive resort. Needless to say I sat under the umbrella the whole time, freezing with a virgin drink next to me. Yes, I will say again not the brightest idea to see this doctor the week of my wedding. I will happily announce that since this time we have been to Mexico twice as well as Greece and Aruba and many more sunny destinations and I laid my bikini body in full sun- no problems to report! ( I am jumping ahead) .
After finally settling in on a rheumatologist at The Cleveland Clinic I started my blood work routine every 3 months. I had been put on strong medications which have a laundry list of side effects. Every 3 months I would wait for my phone call to see how I was doing. It’s really silly because I’m with myself all day, everyday you would think I would know how I was doing and not need lab reports to tell me. But, this is what you do when you are diagnosed with lupus- I guess. I decided this was not for me.
I was young, a newlywed and not about to be a victim. I didn’t see myself doing this lab work routine for the rest of my life. Everyone is different, for me this wasn’t working. What kind of life is that just waiting every 3 months for results and taking these awful medications that can cause problems themselves. I decided I wanted to take back control and started my journey, my walk to wellness. I have met amazing people along the way and I have created an amazing team to support me. There have been bumps in the road but my family has given me great strength in their love and support and I was given the best gift of all, my baby boy Jacob. Jacob inspires me everyday with his tremendous spirit and beautiful energy. I have learned so much over these 9 years but even more in the last 5 from this little boy. Please join me on my journey. I will catch you up first on where I have been and take you with me on my steps ahead.