My Story: Life & Health

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Picture: Chantal Secours from Fresh is Real

PAST ME – Life

I’ve always been very active, interested in many sports and everything artsy. In high school, I was on the track and volleyball team, and because I was a super creative kid, I signed up for as many art classes as I could along the way.

Studied Graphic Design at a French Canadian college in Ottawa, Canada. Worked in printing, communications, and marketing for about 13 years. Took a career break to focus on my little family.

As an adult, sports were still a big part of my life. I was training at the gym at least four days per week, playing volleyball (indoor and beach), ultimate frisbee and hockey, I enjoyed running, and competitive dragon boat racing became my favourite way to stay in shape. Such a great time in my life with so many beautiful memories!

PAST ME – Health

I would like to think that I was pretty healthy growing up, but I did always have a lot of little ongoing discomforts. My mom says I complained a lot! Thinking back, these were some of my common symptoms: extreme fatigue, major bloating, sore belly, irritability, able, acne, abnormal periods, constipation, diarrhea, leg cramping, numb/tingling hands, headaches, foggy brain, etc.

I believe that being physically active for so many years is what kept me going and gave me the strength and energy to focus on my day-to-day tasks.

I used to eat everything in sight. Whether healthy or not, you name it; I gobbled it up. I ate pizza, poutine (fries with gravy and cheese), Caesar salads (the calorie-loaded ones), candies, ice cream, chips, nachos, bread, and much more. I believed that because I exercised a lot, I could enjoy all those comfort foods without feeling guilty.

Please note that my parents did not feed me this way. Once I had a job, and spending money is when I indulged in all those not-so-healthy things.

Once in a while, I would give up some problematic foods because of excessive bloating and other unpleasant symptoms. At the time, I didn’t understand enough about inflammation, leaky gut, food sensitivities and other symptoms, to pinpoint the root cause of my health issues. When I reached my mid-thirties, I started recognizing patterns in my daily ailments. That’s when I started keeping track of what I was eating and how I was feeling.


I’m a busy mom, sharing my energy with my kids and husband. Very often you will find me in the kitchen cooking or prepping for the next meal. It is the one place where I can be myself and feel relaxed. I’ll share a secret with you; I genuinely dislike doing dishes! But, if I remind myself that I am lucky to have food to put in those dishes, then it makes doing them a little bit easier.

I still freelance as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator and love everything about children’s books. This blog, along with my future ideas, keep me challenged and on my toes.

I am a Culinary Nutrition Expert (CNE) who graduated with honours from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.


In September 2015, I wasn’t doing so well. My body was failing me. I was feeling very anxious all the time and my ability to practice any sport was almost impossible. I raced my last few Dragon Boat races that month feeling defeated. My arms were numb and weak, and I didn’t feel strong anymore. Every task seemed so challenging; I couldn’t think straight; I had such a hard time concentrating and working.

My priority was always taking care of my kids and husband and didn’t usually focus on myself. Then the worst happened, my mom got sick with Recurrent Ovarian Cancer. I was so worried. That situation sent me and my body into a state of shock. I lost 10 lbs, couldn’t seem to keep anything down. My mom passed away in May 2017. I miss her so much, she was my best friend.

As for my health, that’s when I said enough is enough and sought the help of various health care professionals. To my surprise, not much made a difference. I felt so discouraged. I was eating cleaner and healthier than ever before, but still, things didn’t feel right. I can no longer tolerate gluten, eggs, dairy, meat, most nuts, most legumes and avoid refined sugar. My body loves vegetables! I enjoy coffee, but I know it’s best for me to reduce my consumption!

I was tested for many different things, treated for Candida, SIBO, leaky gut and sent to the hospital for a potential Appendicitis (my appendix was not the issue), and tested positive on the Celiac Genetic test (did both the saliva and blood test). I can’t test for Celiac Disease itself because I haven’t eaten gluten since 2015.

After multiple tests, together with my GI, I decided that getting glutened for over 30 days, while consuming four slices of bread per day is not worth the debilitating side effects. Maybe one day there will be better testing available; at this moment, I choose to feel my best and avoid gluten.

In late 2019, I started taking natural medication for hypothyroidism. I am still actively researching other possible causes for my symptoms.

The year 2020 has been dang hard! My body is tired and my nerves are fragile, my ND has been helpful but I just wish I had more energy! How are you feeling?

As for exercise, I try to be active as much as I can, but moving around the house is not enough for me. I encourage myself to go out for 20 to 50-minute walks as often as I can, use a foam roller to stretch and massage my aches and pains, and try to incorporate more activities when I can.


I will be recognized as a leader in the plant-based and allergen-friendly field, sharing my knowledge to inspire others to eat fresh and healthy ingredients while living with allergies or sensitivities.

I will use my skills and knowledge to help promote allergen-friendly cooking, living, and events.

I will have one (or more) printed books, smaller free online downloads, workshops, and future events catering to an allergen-friendly crowd.

Printable Guides:

Visit each post to get the download link or if you sign up for Fresh is Real’s newsletter, you’ll automatically get both.

FUTURE ME – Health

I will feel great, have lots of energy and will be back to my normal competitive self. I will run a 5K (or more) and participate in other physical activities with my kids, husband, and friends. I will not let the possibility of having Celiac Disease (or other) affect my life.

I will stay positive and take a break when I feel it is needed. I might have a coffee (as a treat) once in a while but not every day (still working on this one).

Chantal Secours from Fresh is Real and son Pierce Liu after running a 5K in Alexandria, ON. September 2019.

My son (age 10) and I did run a 5K in September 2019. I was so proud of him!

What Are Your Health Challenges?

How did you find Fresh is Real? Please say hi and let me know in the comments how your health has gotten you to the point of improving your food choices or changing how you cook, bake and eat.

Thank you for visiting Fresh is Real!


  1. Hi Chantal,
    I recently came across your website when looking up bread recipes for my daughter. She is almost 9 and has multiple severe food allergies (wheat, eggs, sesame and peanuts). Ella had her first allergic reaction when she was 14 months old, it landed her an epipen and ambulance ride. We had been buying store bought bread for her but the one bread she could eat (that didn’t contain eggs) now contains sesame. Lately, I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen trying to make bread with not much luck. I found your easy to follow easy sour dough starter. My first starter is currently bubbling up in the kitchen now. I’m looking forward to trying this out for her, in hopes of making much more. Thank you for sharing your story and for creating recipes for those with food allergies and sensitivities! Blessings ❤️

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    • Hi Sara! I’m so happy that you’ve found my recipes! I’m sorry that your daughter has experienced such severe allergy reactions. Not easy for us mamma’s with allergy kids! She’s fortunate to have you learn and bake for her! Please let me know if you ever find a recipe that you would like to try and need some more guidance on substitutions. Thank you for sharing your story and leaving a comment!

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  2. Melody Rush

    I have never met anyone who had the same food sensitivities as me, especially not being able to eat most legumes. Chickpeas and lentils are about the only ones that do not bother me – thus far. Thank you for sharing your story and what you are learning and doing for your health.

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  3. Melody Rush

    Hello Chantal! I am so glad to have come across your site. My health history is very similar to yours. There are some more concerns that I do not often share as I am sure you have as well. Thank you for compiling your information, I feel some hope now. I look forward to your newsletters, book, videos, etc. Take care. ~Melody

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    • Hi Melody! Thank you so much for taking the time to say hi! It means a lot to me! I’ve kept so much about what I go through for too long! And, you’re right, many of my most troublesome symptoms I often keep to myself. The thing is, why do we do that? It’s not normal to feel this way 🙁 Have you seen my new videos on YouTube? It took me a lot of courage, but I finally decided to share a little more about my health story on a new personal channel. You can search Chantal Secours or follow this link:

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  4. Lisa Rennison

    Hi Chantal, I am already a mimber of you facebook group but have just found your story and wanted to write something. Firstly, I have to tell you that you are an inspiration and I applaud you for telling your story.
    Like you I had niggles as a child and in my teenage years I would occasionally spend 24hrs throwing up. We never found out what caused those episodes. My adult problems are allergies and intolerances; enough to make me start eating meat after 27 years as a vegetarian. Can’t say I really like it much! Last summer I suddenly developed stomach pain that was different to anything I had experienced before and it was constant. My doctor was totally unhelpful and made me feel like I was wasting her time. It took another 7 weeks before I rang back and spoke to another doctor who has been great. I went GF as a tester and have not gone back. On boxing day I had a mild case of anaphalaxis with lactose free cheese and since then I have identified so many food allergies that my count is now 37. With the removal of so many foods I have found myself eating too many carbs and completely obsessing with food. I can’t eat eggs, dairy (too scared to try), soya, wheat and a whole selection of fruit and veg. This is why I have found your website so helpful and even though I am struggling with my GF bread making, your recipes are much more filling than the packet mixes. Thank you for putting all of the work in and helping so many people.

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    • Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for taking the time to write! I really appreciate it! I’m sorry that you, too, are experiencing health issues. It can be so consuming even when we try not to let it take over our lives. I’ve recently found out even more that will surprise you once I share. I’ve been struggling with sharing more of my story, but I will soon. I might even create a video… I have so much to share, and I’m almost ready to do it!

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  5. Thank you for these great recipes Chantal! I just started playing with GF sourdough this year and I love it. I’ve made your buckwheat loaf several times and it’s the best. I just made the cinnamon rolls last night and I was so happy because it’s hard to find GF recipes without gums and all that. I actually subbed buckwheat for sorghum and oat for millet (I read those are goitrogens and as I have a thyroid problem too, Grave’s, I’m careful with those), used almond milk instead of hemp (apparently almond is too but I had it on hand) and I found it worked really well and they were still nice and chewy the next day. So a big thank you from your neighbour to the east, I’m just in Montreal 🙂 I’ll be baking more of your goodies soon!

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  6. Dagmar Burrer

    Hi I am 60 years old and for the last 10 years I am battling gut problems.Very intolerant to gluten, have not been tested for celiac because I do not want to go through the extra pain of eating gluten. Doctors turned me inside out and labeled me with IBS D. Being German I do miss decent bread. So hunting for GF sour dough I found you. Very excited and can’t wait to start.
    Greetings from North Carolina

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    • Thank you, Dagmar, for saying hi! And yes, the journey to figuring out what is the root cause of our digestive issues can be exhausting as it seems to be a never-ending battle. Did you ever consider getting tested to see if you have the celiac genes? It wouldn’t necessarily tell you if you do have celiac disease, but if you don’t have one or both genes, then at least you could rule out the possibility. I took the test twice, and I do have the genes, so does one of my boys.

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      • Dagmar Burrer

        Don’t have the gene and several colonoscopies showed no signs of damage. . Mystery all around. Now I will get on top of it with eating right!!!

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  7. Found you looking for a gluten free sour dough starter. I have failed at others. You seem more relaxed about the process than others I’ve seen. I need relaxed!!!! Look forward to trying yours. I have gluten intolerance and the celiac gene. Tests not conclusive. But I certainly know when I get glutened. Was diagnosed about 10 hrs ago in my 50s. I love to cook and miss decent bread. My good friend who is celiac has started baking sourdough so I wanted to give it a go.
    Looking forward to reading your blog and trying more plant based recipes.

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    • Hi Andrea! I’m so happy that you’ve found my blog! I understand what you mean about getting glutened! Not fun at all! Yes, when baking we need a relaxed approach or else it wouldn’t be fun. Once you get the hang of it the process can be very meditative! Once you start, let me know if you have any questions! You can join the GF Vegan Baking Facebook group by Fresh is Real, it’s a great place to ask questions with others trying the same recipes:

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  8. Hi Chantal! I was diagnosed with Celiac in 2009 and have been looking for a good gluten free AND plant based bread recipe for so long! I have a very similar health story, so I feel for you! The problem is, so many are very complicated and I lose focus. I’m so excited to have come across your site. Thank you for sharing! I love your videos. You are lovely.

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    • Brie, thank you for saying hi! At times, going through issues like these can be so frustrating, overwhelming, scary, etc. What makes it all the better for me is getting to know others, people like yourself, that understand exactly how I (we) feel. I’m so happy that you found my blog, hope you come back often!

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    • I’m on day 6. A little frothy but not really bubbles and no growth at all. Any suggestions? Also what do you store your bread in once made?

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      • Hi Brie! Next time you feed it, remove a little more from your jar, up to half and give it another good feeding. Add just enough water to stir (like a pancake batter). Maybe your starter is too thin. Let me know how it goes. As for bread storage, I keep mine on the counter for 1 to 2 days, wrapped in a clean towel. After that, I slice the leftovers and keep it in the fridge for a few extra days or in the freezer for a few months.

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  9. Kamalakannan Elangovan

    You are inspiring for the gluten free society and i want to say you are truly doing a great job with your videos and blog posts. Kudos from India

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  10. Dear Chantal
    I am keen to try your bread recipe but cannot find the baking powder I’m the uk. What options do I have and how can I make it?
    Many thanks

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Make sure the ingredients you purchase are prepared in a facility free from the top allergens YOU AVOID. Gluten-free products should be certified GF and clearly labelled. Consult your medical professional with your dietary questions.

Even certified gluten-free ingredients such as GF oats, corn, seeds, etc., can create health problems for individuals following a GF diet. Always consult a medical professional if unsure about ingredients for your needs.