"Being a military spouse -- especially when you have no firsthand knowledge of what the life is like -- is life changing," said Jennifer Robins, owner of Predominantly Paleo -- a blog that shares recipes made from whole foods.
Military spouses everywhere know what she means.
Robins discovered that the Standard American Diet was not working for her shortly after giving birth to her second child in less than 12 months.
"My husband was deploying, and I was sleep-deprived, but it was more than that," she said. "I was diagnosed with thyroid disease and wanted to avoid lifelong medication, so I removed gluten and dairy from my diet."
It worked for a while. But then came the third baby and some relaxed food standards. And a permanent change of station (PCS). Then, Robins underwent a long and arduous medical journey that landed her back at her diet. She decided that more than gluten and dairy had to go. She had to eat real food to rebuild her immune system from the ground up.
Navigating Milspouse Life While Paleo
Living a predominantly paleo and real food lifestyle is challenging enough in today's fast-food and protein bar world. But when you add in some of the unique challenges of military spouse life, it can seem overwhelming.
Robins does a lot of research before every PCS, but with a slightly different focus.
"I stock up on the foods that are safest for me before we leave to live in the hotel or hit the road," she said. "I always look at grocery stores where we're moving to, to see what I'll have access to. I research prior to our trip to find restaurants that will work for my dietary needs. And I often keep my Instant Pot out of household goods so I can easily cook a meal in it."
She also creates her own recipes to take to social functions that have food. "I will develop recipes based on social situations because I know there's a good chance I'll show up, and there won't be food I can eat," she said.
Over the years, she has also met more people who share her dietary restraints or who have enough overlap that they can also eat what she brings. She enjoys blogging about the recipes she creates to accommodate her needs that others will also enjoy, without feeling like they are missing out.
Building a Business on Bread
Robins' blogging and food journey started as something just for her. She blogged privately for about a year before she started seeing her recipes on Pinterest. "When I saw them being pinned, I thought that maybe it was something that could be valuable to others," she said.
A few months later, when deciding whether she should return to graduate school for another master's degree while writing a book, blogging and raising three kids, Robins decided to focus on the book instead. She's now the author of five books, one of which holds her favorite recipe.
"The bagels from 'The New Yiddish Kitchen' are my favorite because they were the impetus behind a lot of things," she said. The bagels, a collaboration with co-author Simone Miller, were quite a feat.
"We wanted to do the impossible, which was to create a paleo-compliant bagel but wasn't just a roll with a hole. We were so committed to the birth of that, that we locked ourselves in our kitchen experimenting with bagels for weeks. When it finally happened, I felt like it was such a breakthrough moment," Robins said.
And from that recipe, she started the Legit Bread Company, where those following the paleo lifestyle or who suffer from other allergies can find legit bread in mix form. Currently, the company offers five mixes that include bagel, sandwich bread and pancake mix.
What's next for Robins, Predominantly Paleo and the Legit Bread Company? No, not another book. But other things are on the goal sheet for this year. One is to launch three to five new mixes at Legit Bread and to partner with other real food bloggers to bring some of their recipes to mix form.
Robins admits that sometimes she doesn't have a true balance. Between being a mother, military spouse, blogger, author and business owner, sometimes not everything can take priority. Sometimes, something gets temporarily placed on the backburner so her focus can be on something else.
"I value all of those components so much, that I'm willing to take on too much if it means I can have all of the rewards that those bring," she said.
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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.