Hi friends! My name is Kristina Risola and I’m the owner and founder of Food and Sunshine. Originally from NY and raised in sunny Florida, I live with my husband Gary, our dog Stanley, and our cat colony in the Tampa Bay area.
I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation in Mental Health Counseling from the University of South Florida. I also completed the Wellcoaches Core Coach Training program and am currently pursuing certification. By day I am a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, assisting individuals with chronic health conditions and disabilities achieve their personal and career goals. By night I’m building off my mental health & rehabilitation background and living my passion as a Health & Wellness Coach. My practice specializes in helping women with autoimmune disease heal, love, and thrive through a paleo & mindfulness based lifestyle. I’m a life long learner and completely geek out when it comes to all stuff brain, psychology, health, and food. The power we have to use our mind as a tool for optimal living is both empowering and fascinating.
I love to cook, develop recipes, and share love through food. When I’m not at the office, immersed in research, or in the kitchen, I can usually be found at the hockey rink. I’m a complete hockey junkie, playing since I was a kid. Through hockey I’ve been able to travel, develop incredible friendships, and learn a lot about discipline and teamwork. I’m a diehard Tampa Bay Lightning fan, as evidenced by the lack of content on this blog during the 2015 playoff run. That loss still hurts.
My mission here at Food and Sunshine is to connect to and help others on this incredible journey towards a happy, healthy, and holistic lifestyle. Through my education & experience I have a unique view of the mind-body connection, valuing the importance of nourishing ourselves with food for both the body and soul. I encourage a positive mental approach focused on solutions, strength building, and resiliency. You will find tons of healthy gluten-free & paleo recipes, information on mental & physical health, autoimmune disease, and approachable ways to living a real food & balanced lifestyle.
My Paleo & Personal Health Journey
I’ve always been in love with food, but we’ve definitely had some ups and down. I suffered with severe stomach issues from a very young age. On my 18th birthday I had gallbladder surgery and my stomach problems got even worse. I had a bathroom exit plan every where I went (I know all the best bathrooms in NYC if you ever need a hookup). Fifteen minutes into a meal I was running to a bathroom, so I went back to my GI doctor. He told me I must be in the 5% of people with chronic diarrhea after gall bladder surgery and sent me on my way. At the same time I started experiencing a variety of other symptoms, but none of the doctors I saw could ever explain them. I eventually gave up, accepted my symptoms as status quo, and focused on college & graduate school.
In May 2011 I married the love of my life. It was a magical day, but I cringe just thinking about the pictures. I finished school in December 2012 and remember flipping through my graduation and wedding pictures, shaking my head, disgusted on where I let myself get to. I was over 200 lbs on a 5’4’’ frame. I don’t actually know how much I weighed because after the wedding I refused to get on a scale. Worse than the weight, I felt awful. My joints ached, I had constant hives, I was so tired I could barely function, and my stomach just kept getting worse. Something had to change. I grabbed a box, walked into our kitchen, and emptied the cabinets, fridge, and freezer of everything processed. There wasn’t much left – we ate a lot of processed junk. It took a bit of time getting used to, but I started by focusing on the perimeter of the grocery store & sourcing local and environmentally friendly food. This change in eating gave me an awareness of my body that I never had before. I began noticing the connection between my symptoms and what I was fueling myself with. With a good friends help, I eventually linked my major symptoms to gluten and was diagnosed with Celiac disease. I immediately embraced a gluten-free life, happy to finally have an answer to the years of chronic symptoms. The improvement was night and day, making it easy for me to stick to the diet. The diagnosis actually recharged my love of cooking and opened me up to a world of food like I had never experienced, food as medicine.
I came to the paleo & primal lifestyle a bit backwards. This new awareness of the food body connection led me to really pay attention to what I was putting in my body. I was focusing on real food, but still eating some gluten-free replacements & grains. I referenced paleo bloggers for gluten-free recipes but that is where it stopped. I tinkered with various diets but still had a lot of symptoms, even being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue syndrome. I was introduced to JJ Virgin by a doctor that I used to work for. This was a game changer for me. Using her elimination diet I was able to identify food intolerances and I naturally worked my way to a paleo template. In the process I lost nearly 60lbs and for the first time in my life a doctor told me NOT to lose any more weight.
Paleo just worked for me. I felt great. I had energy like I hadn’t had in years and felt stronger and stronger. I even ran my first 5k mud race (and I don’t run!). Unfortunately I was so rejuvenated by how good I felt that I didn’t listen to my body when it was telling me to slow down. I overworked myself. I was under a lot of stress at the time and not handling it well. I had just taken a promotion at work, our dog died, I was doing heavy workouts 6-7 days a week, I wasn’t prioritizing sleep, and I literally ran myself right into the ground. I ignored a hip injury until the point that my hip buckled and I face planted into a big pile of reality check. That hip injury led to serious knee injury and I was out of hockey and normal workouts for close to 6 months. I miraculously managed to avoid 2 surgeries, but treatments wrecked my immune system and things got progressively worse. My fatigue was unbearable and I woke up everyday wondering how much longer I could keep working. Some days I couldn’t even find the energy to remember how to brush my teeth, let alone do it. I was having significant anxiety, something I never experienced before. Even my body felt different than any flare I’d had before so off to my doctors I went. My rheumatologist said it was my fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome and they had nothing left to offer me unless I was willing to take amphetamines, which I absolutely was not going to do. I wasn’t satisfied, I was listening to my body again and knew that this was beyond a stress related flareup. I knew that if I wanted to live my life I needed to take charge, gave up on insurance, and sought out treatment from an integrative medical doctor. She uncovered was a second autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and together we started exploring some root causes like food intolerances, EBV, and Candida. Developing a second autoimmune condition after working so hard to heal the first one was quite the shock. It forced me to slow down and really appreciate the experience of life, focusing on both the dietary and mental changes I needed to make for long term change. I like to call these the food and the sunshine.
I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org!