Freedom Friday: Valerie Grogan of Cocos Paleo Kitchen

Welcome to another Freedom Friday Interview! To read more about Freedom Friday Interviews, please click here

Valerie is a real life friend of mine! Although we first met on social media, I had the pleasure of meeting her around this time last year when I spent some time in California where she lives. She’s such an amazing woman and I wanted her to share her story of freedom with us!


1. I am so happy to have you on as a Freedom Friday guest! Give us a little background about yourself before we dive into the juiciness of freedom and how it applies to you and your life!

I am married to my best friend, have 3 grown children AND 1 grand daughter! We live in Southern California. I’m a para-educator (work with a special needs child along side a teacher to modify work to fit his needs) by day and in the kitchen cooking/baking, blogging by night. I love to run, do crossfit and hang with my family. Since my kids are grown, it’s mostly my hubby and I venturing out when we have days off — & we love to hike, go biking/rollerblade on the strand and karaoke (yep, I said that) or just snuggle up and watch Netflix.

2. What does “freedom” mean to you?

I’d have to say, #1- letting go of restrictions and #2 – loving yourself enough to let go of those restrictions. I’d switch the order and say ‘love’ first but I think sometimes you need to take the first step and soon, loving yourself comes into play. It worked that way for me anyway. Once restrictions were gone and I learned to love myself — truly love AND accept me, I experienced freedom.

3. Share about the time in your life when you lacked freedom. What was your struggle?

Unfortunately, I was in a very bad marriage at one time. I married at 19 (I know…what!?!) and honestly wasn’t ready. I had already saw signs of a temper in my boyfriend but “I was going to change him~” Well, we all know that doesn’t work. That said, I married him and it became very abusive from the get-go. Being the Christian I was, I couldn’t ‘divorce’ so I stuck by him and hoped we could work through this <major> problem. While I struggled with control in my relationship, I soon became very controlling of my food! Very controlling. It wasn’t even about how thin I wanted to be. It was more about control. I also felt that way about how I kept my house… ALWAYS had to be squeaky clean! But food is where I felt the most controlling because I would limit food to the point of barely getting in 200 calories per day. I started with a morning ritual of telling myself what I could and couldn’t eat that day and I stuck to it! No matter what, that food list didn’t change because I was in control of it! Even if my mom or a friend asked me out to eat, I would lie and tell them I had already eaten so I didn’t stray from my list. Clearly this turned into an eating disorder —- and even bulimia at one point because IF I veered off, I shamed myself for eating something that wasn’t on the “list of the day” and I made myself get rid of it. I’m not at all proud of this but it is was kept me from FREEDOM for many years. It then became about my body because I didn’t mind looking emaciated. I look back at pictures and think, ‘OMG. I looked so sick.’ I remember my mom telling me I looked too thin and it didn’t look healthy but I actually liked the way I looked. In retrospect, I think the way I looked was more of a symbol – it proved that my controlling of my food, was working! (FYI: I did eventually leave that marriage)

4. What was your turning point? When did you realize that you needed to embrace freedom?

In all honesty (though I didn’t feel I had an eating disorder anymore), my turning point was a little over 4 years ago. I started peri-menopause and my mind shifted in an instant. I started wondering how my body was going to support all the upcoming changes. I felt I had ruined so much by the way I ate for sooo many years and I quickly shifted gears. As I said, the actual “eating disorder” was a thing of the past BUT I still lived with the intention of being thin — so ate accordingly. I ate non-fat, low-fat, vegetarian, all carbs (pretzel & popcorn diet!), no carbs….etc and so on. I tried pretty much everything to keep my physique slim. I never for a second, wondered if I was healthy…..after all, the scale and clothing size was allI worried about. So though I didn’t physically make a “list”, I had that thought in my head on a daily basis of what I was eating by whatever diet I followed. That said, when I hit peri-menopause, I started thinking health and what food can do to help fuel my body properly to protect aging bones and hormone changes. With that, I made efforts to eat real food at every meal. It took me a good month to be ‘ok’ with not limiting my portions & being ‘ok’ with eating fat (avocados & nuts). I started feeling good and had soo much energy. I suddenly found freedom to embrace food as a fuel source. I mean, of course we need to enjoy our food and it’s always nice to socialize with food but that is where freedom came into play — I loved myself enough to treat my body the way it should be treated. I basically started eating foods that had purpose but didn’t limit those foods. I listened to my body and that was huge for me. I didn’t make a list about what I could/couldn’t eat for the day so switching gears on things like, not eating the meat I had thawing out and instead, grabbing food with friends was totally ‘ok’ AND welcomed! Food didn’t control what my day was going to be like. It didn’t dictate my life anymore.

5. How do you allow freedom into your life on a daily basis?

When you’re eating real food, there’s no need to make a list ….you just eat what your body craves. It is VERY freeing to eat intuitively. I do eat a from a paleo template and find that it works best for me. I’ve never felt so good in my life OR looked so good. (Go figure!) I do prep – which can seem a little controlling BUT with my busy week of work, working out and making sure my hubby (my current hubby of 20 years!) and I have lots of fun times when we’re together, I like having a couple/few proteins prepped ahead, maybe a stew or chili going in the crockpot and a few veggies at least diced up and ready to go for a busy weeknight. My freedom comes from knowing that I can enjoy these meals without limits and if we decide to grab food out, I’m so ‘ok’ with saving my prepped food for another night! I also should add that though I still like a clean house, I’m not obsessed and the balance of keeping it clean but not obsessing is so freeing and so far from where I used to be! Another freeing area for me is to listen to my body when it comes to working out. If I’m not up for a workout/run, I skip it. Now that may not sound that hard for many of you reading this but trust me when I say, I used to workout 7 days a week and if I ever had to miss a workout, I would beat myself up for it! It was so not a healthy attitude but it was another controlling aspect of my life. And I learned a valuable lesson in that, taking those rest days can do wonders for your body, especially if you work out with weights (I do CrossFit) so listening to my body and taking a mandatory rest day is actually just as freeing as not controlling my food.

6. I believe our journey towards freedom never truly ends, it just continues to progress to more and more freedom. How have you challenged yourself recently to embrace more freedom into your life?

I definitely believe that once I freed myself with the controlling of my food, then cleanliness of my house….then workouts, I found that freedom became so natural with pretty much every other aspect in my life. I do have to talk myself into not throwing a load of laundry in before I leave the house because that would then mean, I’d have to somehow find my way home before I really needed to be so that I could toss it all in the dryer. And I say ‘talk myself into’ because the type A in me, wants to get that laundry done ….but the “free me”, says that it can wait. So I guess that would be a challenge that I face but more often than not, freedom wins! 🙂

7. What is one golden nugget of wisdom you can provide to those who are currently struggling with embracing freedom today?

Though I made peace with food and started thinking of my health and fueling properly (#foodwithapurpose), I truly believe that I didn’t become the healthiest version of myself until I loved ‘me’ and embraced the freedom. Freedom from food and anything else that was controlling me and letting go of that, was a clear expression of learning to love myself. I’m assuming people reading this are wanting to be the healthiest YOU that you can be or you wouldn’t be on this site. So for me, it wasn’t about eating healthy foods or making sure I got my heart pumping a few times per week, I had to really be free from what was constricting me. I controlled and restricted because I didn’t love myself enough to know that I should be respected as a human being/wife and certainly not enough to nourish myself properly. I learned to love myself. I know that sounds so cliché but that is really the root behind it all – for me. I had to realize that I had love myself and be content with me and everything fell into place when I “gave in” to that. I would imagine we all have our own definition of freedom and we all have things in our lives that determine how much freedom we’ll experience but for me, in the end, it was about loving & respecting myself enough to let go of all things that made me unhealthy. So I guess the little nugget is basically …..allow yourself to love YOU enough to let go of things in your life that are keeping you from being the best version of yourself that you can and should be!

8. And before we say good bye, how can we stay connect with you over social media?

You can find me at: @cocos_paleo_kitchen (instagram)
Cocos Paleo Kitchen (facebook)
CookinCoco (twitter)

1 comment on “Freedom Friday: Valerie Grogan of Cocos Paleo Kitchen

  1. beautiful, heartfelt story. A lot of us type As desire that control but really coming to terms with loving ourselves a little bit more is always the best answer. self love=freedom…love it!

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