Many people with asthma don’t know why they developed the disease. But chef Debbie Lee can pinpoint exactly how she developed the condition: She lived in an apartment complex near people who were making the drug meth — although Lee didn’t know it at the time.
Lee, who has written the popular cookbook Seoultown Kitchen and appeared on the TV show “Food Network Star,” tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she was living in what she thought was a nice apartment complex in West Hollywood when she was in her 30s.
A friend, who was an undercover narcotics agent for the FBI, came to visit her and pointed out a weird smell. “He asked me if I had been smelling what I thought was somebody in our building just took out bad fish,” she says. “He said ‘No, that’s ether you’re smelling. Somebody’s making drugs here in your building.”
“The aftereffects from breathing that for just one month didn’t hit my body until about five or six months later,” Lee says. It came to a head while she was traveling to New York — Lee says she noticed she was having trouble breathing. “I just thought I was really congested,” she says. “I had no idea that my lung was in the process of collapsing.”
Lee visited a doctor, who diagnosed her with chronic asthma due to exposure to the toxic chemicals her neighbors were cooking. “It ended up becoming a lifetime situation,” Lee says.
The chef shares that as her TV career evolved, she also started gaining weight — and that made her asthma worse. “I was challenged in having multiple asthma attacks constantly,” she says.
Eventually, Lee decided to make a change for her health. She read a book by Cate Shanahan, MD, that talked about “toxic oils” and how they can affect your health, including your breathing.
“Probably the first thing I took out of my diet was the toxic oils,” Lee says. That meant cutting out vegetable oil and substituting in healthier oils, like avocado and olive oils. “I was able to do more things like go hiking and running, and not have to take a break,” she says. “That was important.”
In 2015, Lee started a business called Mind Body Fork, which is a sustainable meal delivery service in California. “It was my selfish ode to a healthy lifestyle and to share it,” she says.
Lee adds: “It’s my life on a plate, truly. It’s my health, my journey with wellness, and my way to find a balance of still celebrating food but also taking care of me and my body.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: