Restrictions to recovery: a dietary miracle

Junior Kayla Mele overcomes extreme dietary restrictions and shares her passion for blogging.


Natalie Lockard/THE CHIMES

Jackie Grade, Writer


During the process of discovering that she had Celiac disease, Mele blogged regularly on her Tumblr about exercise and food regimens specific to her diet, fashion tips and eventually her joy and reliance on God. | Natalie Lockard/THE CHIMES


A slow darkness set into Kayla Joy Mele’s life as her dietary restrictions, medications and anxiety gradually piled up before her until she could no longer bear the weight of these limitations.

Mele, a junior journalism major, discovered she had Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease involving a severe allergy to gluten, almost three and a half years ago. Since she suffered with symptoms such as massive stomach aches, major mood swings and constant tiredness, Mele’s parents pushed her to get a doctor’s opinion.

In the process of figuring out what exactly was wrong with her, she had her appendix removed, stomach scraped for samples and veins constantly harassed with needles.

“They were like, ‘Wow, you have one of the worst cases we [have] ever seen.’ And I went to Stanford which is one of the nicer hospitals, so I was like, ‘Man, severe cases usually come to you. If I’m bad, I don’t even want to know what it looks like down there,’” Mele said.

A dietary change of plans

Becoming a Celiac was the first step into Mele’s spiraling path into darkness. At first, she said that she did not look at it as burdensome, but as a simple adjustment to her diet. Mele loved to peruse her pantry looking for new recipe ideas to make. But as her meal choices began to dwindle after studying more about what kind of foods contained this infamous new enemy, cooking started to lose its flavor and appeal. She acquired the habit of checking the food labels of everything she consumed because she did not want the stomach aches to start again.

Mele soon discovered that she had to look out for the less obvious culprits as well. Caramel coloring in things like balsamic vinegar or soda, coffee beans roasted in certain flavors, lipstick brands and more gave her troubles.

A budding blog

Mele decided to add a fitness routine on top of her food limitations as well. Since eating healthy was starting to make her feel better physically, she felt working out would help improve her well being too. In order to keep a record of her workouts and track her improvement, she began a small Tumblr account.

“Even though I felt sick, the rest of my body was a fighter,” Mele said.

Despite the foods that Mele had taken out of her diet, her stomach aches and fatigue continued. Her doctor then advised her to take out dairy, soy and beans as well.

As her food options decreased, her anxiety started to grow. She said that her Tumblr became a means of getting her thoughts out of her head as she “journaled them into the universe.”

“My grandma thought it was weird … but people started following me. It was bizarre,” Mele said.

Before her fall 2012 semester, Mele’s stomach aches persisted, her skin appeared scaly and she doubted that she was doing anything right. Her 12 doctors suggested that she take 50 pills daily and two medicinal liquids as well as apply two topical lotions. Additionally, they recommended that she remove peanuts, seeds, mushrooms, eggs, rice and all grains from her diet. The restrictions continued to grow along with the amount of anxiety, depression and hopelessness. She felt as though no one could understand what she was going through and even her own body was against her.

“I had about 10 foods I could eat. I think I had chicken for almost every meal,” Mele said.

Time out and time off

Feeling desperate and isolated, Mele took her fall semester off and temporarily moved to Texas seeking the comfort of her sister.

While in Texas, Mele joined her sister’s church. Going against her usual diet-dictating decisions, she decided to participate in the church’s three day fast. She had become so obsessed with her health that she decided it would be a good idea to detach herself from the toxicity of this food-driven mindset.

“My sickness became my identity. I became obsessed with what was in the food I didn’t make,” Mele said.

During the three days she fasted, Mele rediscovered her passion for reading the Bible and realized how much she had neglected God’s presence and power. The third day of the fast, the church gathered together to end with communion. Mele had not participated in communion for three years, but felt a strong desire to fully partake as a way for her to prove to herself that she was trusting afresh in the Lord’s provision.

Prior to Mele’s fasting experience, her excessive medications and dietary restrictions had such a dark hold on her and she had seen no positive change since she had begun. Upon this realization, she completely stopped taking her pills and started adding all of the restricted foods back into her diet — besides gluten and dairy, the food groups that she knew affected her the most.

“I had become so scared of them. I still had depression and anxiety issues, but they slowly started going away,” Mele said.

A reason to live and a reason to blog

After a couple of weeks, Mele regained her joy for cooking. She rediscovered the fun she used to have in exploring her kitchen and creating new recipes with the different ingredients she found on the shelves.

With Mele’s eyes centered back on the Lord for her satisfaction and ultimate joy, she said that her health improved and the suppressing darkness around her lifted. She received messages on her blog from readers who had followed her since the beginning asking how she had changed because they saw a turnaround in her writing.

“My blog turned into somewhat of a mission. So I started a legitimate blog:,” Mele said.

She added her recipes, fitness plans and fashion ideas onto the blog and intertwined her faith throughout it all. Mele now has over 4,000 followers from countries as far as England, New Zealand and Australia.

She coined the name “Kayla’s Joy” in order to keep the blog open ended and have the ability to post whatever she feels passionate about. Mele said that she hopes her blog inspires people to enhance their meals or make something completely new on their own.

“I use my passion for food and fitness to pull people out of their own darkness. I can relate. I can help,” Mele said.

In the process of feeling fenced in by the walls she had set up against herself, her diet, her mood and those around her, Mele said her time in Texas helped her tear down the walls and begin rebuilding her physical and mental health with Christ at the core. Mele said she was not only healed of her medical health problems but from the scars, lies and negativity that had loomed above and defined her for so long.

“You don’t know how to escape. It’s not until God comes in and gets rid of the devil’s grip,” Mele said.

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