Jo Whitton, Quirky Cooking

"I love helping families reduce the food stress, guiding them towards simple diet and lifestyle changes that will heal and nourish, one small step at a time."

Jo Whitton

My Story

My mum taught me to cook from a young age, using basic ingredients, and cooking ‘from scratch’. We gathered food from the markets, our backyard garden, and from local producers, and cooked mostly with what was in season and locally grown. We still used some refined ingredients and sugars in our homemade baking (and ate way too much of them!) but I learnt a lot about cooking with whole foods, and am thankful for all mum taught me in my early years. 

When I grew up and started my own family, I worked hard to cook healthy, delicious meals – although I didn’t quite understand at first that healthy eating is more than just ‘homemade’. I ground my own grains, baked my own breads, cakes and biscuits, cooked with fresh veggies, and tried to avoid junk food – but my cooking still included plenty of sugar and refined oils and flours, and I didn’t realise this was damaging our health. 

Despite my best efforts at healthy eating, I always seemed to be fighting exhaustion, headaches, food reactions, recurring colds, tummy upsets, skin issues and low weight problems. My kids had similar health issues, and my last two babies struggled with breastfeeding and cried constantly. I eventually decided it was food intolerances that were the problem.

 

Jo Whitton, mum and kids - Quirky Cooking
Me with my baby brother, two sisters and Mum

My first attempt to ‘fix’ things was to cut out the foods that didn’t agree with us. We got rid of dairy, wheat, sugar, and refined foods as much as possible. This seemed to help, and we saw improvements in our health. After eating this way for a couple of years I wanted to share what I was learning and connect with others on the same journey, so I decided to start a blog. I googled madly, worked out how to start, and Quirky Cooking was born on 26 December 2008. Before I knew it, it had grown into a ‘go-to’ site for allergy friendly, healthy recipes, tips and meal plans.

At first it was more of a hobby than anything, and a way to connect with other people on a health journey like me. But soon my readers began asking for a cookbook, and to cut a long story short, in May 2014 I released my first cookbook, Quirky Cooking. It quickly became a bestseller. However, in July that year we had a major setback with my son Isaac’s health.

Isaac Whitton, Quirky Cooking
Isaac & me

He was diagnosed with severe OCD and anxiety, and he began to really struggle just to cope with everyday life. Within weeks (at thirteen years old) he had so many fears and phobias that he couldn’t do his schoolwork, and I had to spoon feed him and dress him. (You can read his story here.) After much research I realised the importance of healing the gut as opposed to just avoiding problematic foods, so we began the GAPS diet. Within a couple of weeks we saw improvements. Within a month or two he was back doing his schoolwork (we homeschool), and he had a job at the local supermarket. Within six months he was speaking to large crowds about how to heal from anxiety and OCD. Within less than a year he was off all medication. He’s now 21 years old – he graduated from high school, works full time in an IT job he loves, lives in his own home with a friend and cooks healthy meals and eats well… and he has never had to go back on medication.

What made the difference for Isaac? For many years we had been “treading water”, avoiding foods that made us feel bad so that we didn’t have food reactions, but without actually working on the root cause of our food reactions – poor gut health. And eventually Isaac’s ‘bucket’ overflowed! Once we started to work purposefully on improving his gut health by focusing on nutrient dense, healing foods and reducing the toxins in his environment, we saw gigantic changes in his health. And I healed more in those two years than in the fifteen years of working on my health before that!

Jo Whitton, Before & After
Photos taken one year apart - March 2015 & March 2016 (after almost 2 years on GAPS)

What I learnt during this difficult period of life has completely changed the way I view food. After a couple of years of working through the GAPS diet, we transitioned to a traditional whole foods diet, focused on natural foods that have stood the test of time and are perfectly suited to building up and nourishing the human body.

How did our society stray so far away from these foods that have always been the mainstay of life and health? How did we decide that we knew better than nature and could concoct ‘foods’ in a laboratory that would perfectly nourish us long term? It seems crazy to me now, and I’m so glad we found our way back to eating the foods that our bodies were designed to eat. When people want to argue with me about how human beings should eat, promoting diets that are not based on our biology and history of optimal nourishment, I just say… “the proof is in the pudding!” In other words, look at the results of this way of eating in our family, and in thousands of other families who have healed from chronic illnesses. You can’t argue with the results!!

In 2017 Fouad Kassab (food writer and whole food chef) and I wrote a cookbook together to show the way our families ate to heal, and how healing food changed our lives… You can find our Life-Changing Food Cookbook here. This book also became a bestseller while still in the presale stage.

In January 2022 I released my Simple, Healing Food cookbook – a deeper dive into eating for healing, and in particular for gut health. This book has already been a huge help to so many families who were feeling overwhelmed by trying to eat well and cope with health issues.

Simple, Healing Food, by Quirky Cooking

Quirky Cooking, meanwhile, has grown up!

Quirky Cooking is now much more than just a recipe website – it’s a vibrant, supportive community where you can find the resources you need to improve your health, and a friendly group of like-minded people to keep you company on your health journey. 

Listen in to my Quirky Cooking Chats (podcasts and YouTube videos), join in conversations on the Quirky Cooking Facebook, and Instagram pages as well as in the Quirky Cooking Chat Group, the Quirky GAPS group (for those working through the GAPS protocol) and the Telegram chat group. If you need coaching and support on your gut-healing journey, join myself and Elyse Comerford in The Gut Health Formula program. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need help planning healthy meals for the week, subscribe to my newsletter and receive weekly meal plans with links to recipes in your inbox. And there’s also my awesome Online Store which stocks my favourite healthy cooking and healthy lifestyle ‘must-haves’, including cookware, ingredients, cookbooks, kitchenware, and more.

I also run cooking workshops, gut health retreats, seminars, and classes around Australia and overseas, so keep an eye on your emails for updates!

Thank you for stopping by, and if I can be of any help on your journey to good health, please let me know! (You can contact me here.)

Jo x