A Return to Sweetness

gluten-free, vegan, allergy-friendly, candida diet cookies on rickiheller.com

[Chocolate Cinnamon Sandwich Cookies. Aw, so sweet!]

It’s now been over ten years since I began this latest round of the ACD. For the past 10 years, I’ve lived 100% compliant with the candida diet, eating neither sugar (nor any other high-glycemic sweeteners), nor gluten, moldy foods, coffee, dairy, or any other “taboo” foods.

To be honest, these days, I no longer even think about my food as “different,” and never worry about what I can or can’t eat. But it wasn’t always that way.

It took a series of realizations, ups and downs, and small, incremental changes in my thinking to get me here.

In today’s post, I’m sharing what led to my first, and probably most important shift that influenced my success on the diet: the realization (at five months in) that these were not going to be quick or temporary changes, and that I’d best accept the fact that I’d be eating this way for a while.

Where I Started

At the time (back in 2009), embracing this new way of eating represented a major shift in the way I looked at the diet and anti-candida lifestyle; before that, I still believed I’d eventually return to my “regular” diet of homemade brownies, chocolate chip cookies, sugar donuts, Betty Crocker frosting (straight from the can), Diet Pepsi and BBQ potato chips, once my candida had cleared.

I also spent an inordinate amount of time bemoaning the fact that, from what I could tell, many people could be free of excess yeast in as little as 6 months, while mine had previously required a full 2 years (and this time round, even longer).

Was I just lucky that way? Or perhaps it was connected to those childhood PB and chocolate milk breakfasts, teenaged May West (kind of like a chocolate-covered Twinkie) and coffee-with-Coffee Mate breakfasts, 20s-era birthday cake and oatmeal cookie breakfasts, and 30s-decade Weight Watchers mousse and Diet Pepsi breakfasts? Maybe those really weren’t all that healthy, after all?

Seriously, I suspect I couldn’t have done worse had I walked into a pesticide factory and started downing beakers of random chemicals.  When it comes to eating foods that nourish and strengthen my body, it seems I still hadn’t quite learned my lesson.

While I was able, eventually, to reintroduce gluten and sweeteners to my diet after the first program (and my naturopath assured me that would happen again, even this time), I think I secretly understood that eventually, as with any addict reintroduced to a source of the addiction, I would begin to abuse the privilege.

So, when I went off the diet the first time, rather than enjoy an abundance of fresh-fruit based desserts or an occasional (ie, less often than 5 times a day) sweet indulgence, I went the whole tofu and chowed down on a daily injection of chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate.

gluten-free, sugar-free, anti-candida chocolate recipe on rickiheller.com


[That’s more like it! ACD-friendly, homemade Superfood Chocolate. ]

Have you ever heard of an alcoholic who can stop at just one drink? I was like the Denis Leary character, Tommy Gavin, from the old TV series Rescue Me. Even as he was sucked deeper and deeper into the well of his own addiction, he’d insist through the haze of inebriation, “Ahhhmnn handle urt. Mrr cn stop any time.”

My (Reluctant) Conclusion

So, after much self-reflection and the unwelcome conclusion that I, too, was an addict–with sugar my drug of choice–I finally decided to just accept my own shortcomings as well as the situation at the time and commit fully to this way of life.

I determined that I would embrace everything to do with living while following the diet, limitations and all (and, back in 2009, there were many more limitations, without most of the ACD-friendly foods you can buy today).

I can recall vowing to myself, “If I have to stay on it for a year, so be it.  If I have to stay on it for life, well–I won’t be happy, but I can live with it.”

No, it wasn’t easy, but it was also very clear to me that I wasn’t living too well without it, either. Given that choice, I preferred to see my health continue to improve rather than eat chocolate every day.

A New Approach

Instead, I approached the diet as another culinary challenge for the recipe developer in me: I set out to begin creating delicious gluten-free, often grain-free, stevia-sweetened desserts for a while. Later, once yacon, monk fruit and sugar alcohols were introduced to the mix, I incorporated those as well.

Candida diet, vegan, gluten-free Lemon Cream Tart on rickiheller.com

[Grain-free Lemon Cream Tarts are perfectly delicious and satisfying!]

As I mused about the situation, I was reminded of two experts whom I admire and respect, albeit from two completely divergent fields.

The first is Geneen Roth, acclaimed author of When Food is Love and Women, Food and God.  At one point, when she was a regular columnist for Good Housekeeping magazine, I came across an article Roth had written called “Reality Bites.” She wrote about how she’d recently been diagnosed with allergies to both milk and chocolate–two of her very favorite foods.

At first, Roth rebelled against the diagnosis, thinking, “I refuse to give up the foods I love.”  Eventually, she came round to the reality of the situation, stating, “It’s hard enough to have. . . allergies. But when you can’t stop thinking about how much you hate the fact that you have to spend your time doing what you need to do, you double the difficulty.”

Well, I reasoned, I had quite enough difficulties in all the other areas of my life at the time, thank you very much; I’d decided not to convert eating into yet another hardship as well.

The second expert I thought about was Jon Kabat Zinn, who penned Wherever You Go, There You Are and Full Catastrophe Living.  To Zinn, a champion of, and pioneer in, stress reduction and mindfulness meditation, living in the moment and appreciating the here and now is paramount to a happy life.

Again, I couldn’t help but think, “Look at all the other wonderful things in my life–a secure job in those crazy economic times; a (rather appealing) roof over my head; a loving HH; long-term, close friendships; and two of the most adorable canine kids I’ve ever encountered (okay, I may be a tad biased on the canine thing).


[“What do you mean, ‘a tad biased,’ Mum?  We’re crushed.”]

The point is, I decided it was time to focus on the positives in my life rather than the deficiencies.  I already knew that studies have shown it’s better for our emotional and psychological health to maintain a focus on what’s good in life rather than what you lack (such as the list of foods I had to give up).

Roth said it beautifully when she wrote, “Giving up certain foods doesn’t mean giving up what you want to feel when you eat them.  Staying away from sweets doesn’t mean that you need to deprive yourself of sweetness or comfort or joy.”

Today: A Different Kind of Sweetness

And so, over the past 10 years, I’ve worked to find all of the sources of sweetness in my life.  That meant working (and continuing to work) on self-awareness and self-love; taking dozens of programs and courses; reading countless books; and working with many talented coaches.

Through various practices in gratitude, mindfulness, movement; through experimentation, a great deal of trial and error, ups and downs, and a whole whack of missteps–I landed upon my current path.

Has it all been positive? Of course not. But I know for certain that, if not for this health condition and how it prompted me to live the anti-candida lifestyle full-on, I would never have landed upon the life and career I now have and so dearly love.

I would never have developed this site and all the 800+ anti-candida recipes on it, or published three best-selling books.

I would never have begun to teach programs or coach people one-on-one, meeting a plethora of amazing clients and colleagues, some of whom have become dear friends.

I would never have developed my small-group coaching program, RECLAIM, where I have the honor and privilege of working individually with incredible women, guiding and watching them as they learn to love their food again and blossom and grow into the very best versions of themselves.

I would never have healed my body and mind and learned to live a life that is so much more productive, gratifying and purposeful than the one I had before.

And yes, along the way, I filled it with some new and delicious foods, too–all sugar-free and naturally sweetened, of course.

So, when you’re starting to feel like this journey is too tough or you just can’t keep at it, remember that sweetness comes in many forms. One of the sweetest things of all is having your health, feeling great and being able to believe in a future that is so much more full–and fulfilling–than your past.

If you’d like to talk in person about how I can help you learn to love food and live well on your own candida diet, book a free call here.


Mum, don’t worry about not eating sugar–we do it all the time, and our food still tastes great!  Then again, we eat poo.” 

[Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]



  1. Frédérique says

    I may not be on a Candida diet, but like you I am addicted to sugar and have come to the realization that having it sometimes becomes having it all the time and that my life is better without it. Fur babies, moments with friends and family and laughs with my SO are Sweet enough! ♥️

    • I love that sentiment, Frederique! It’s so true, isn’t it? Once we realize the importance of all the things we can enjoy because of better health, sugar seems so much less alluring!

  2. Question for you, can you have yacon on phase 1?

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