I grew up in Hong Kong with the craziest sweet tooth. Food, especially dessert, was always at the epicenter of my most fulfilling life experiences – whether it was a late-night treat with my grandfather (we always had a secret stash of Cadbury Dairy Milk tucked away in his pantry cupboard), my grandmother’s caramel custard, a celebratory Toblerone with my dad, my mom’s INCREDIBLE homemade Indian sweets, or post-school ice cream and melted marshmallow treats with my sister, food always brought me tremendous joy and helped me connect more deeply in loving relationships. It was no surprise then that I grew up being a pretty big kid – I AM Monica from Friends. For those who think the Monica reference is a gross-exaggeration, I weighed in at over 200 lb as a 5’7 teenager – needless to say I definitely stood out in a place like Hong Kong where the average human was half my size!  

When I moved to Los Angeles for college I got caught up in the health and wellness wave (as one does in LA). After trying literally every single diet under the Sun (no joke – I even did keto before it was “cool” and was completely miserable, LOL) I decided it was time to finally commit to a lifestyle change that was sustainable. I started working out and actually tracking my food intake. For the first time in my life I didn’t set a timeline for change – I just trusted the process and enjoyed the incremental weight loss wins. Two years later, at 22, I lost close to 80 lb (see, this is why I’m Monica), dropped from a US size 16 to 0, and ran my first marathon. I felt so accomplished and fearless and healthy for the first time in my life, but little did I know that I had so much more to learn about how “healthy” is truly defined.

The parts of the journey that people didn’t see were all the food-related struggles that came with the successes of weight loss. In losing the weight, I also forced myself to lose the joy I had once found in food. I myself didn’t realize how restrictive I’d become – dessert was a hard no, eating out would give me anxiety, and every single granule I put in my mouth was obsessively tracked in my calorie app (no joke, I remember sprinkling garlic powder on my eggs once and promptly logging 3 calories…). I cut calories however I could – switching from nonfat milk to 35-calorie almond milk, moving to artificial sweeteners, and not adding any form of fat (peanut butter, avocados, nuts) to any meals. To the world I was an inspiration for losing and maintaining my weight; to myself I was deprived and miserable. All of this came to a startling halt when one day, at 24, I was hit in the face with an unforeseen health diagnosis, which fundamentally shifted the way I thought about food.

You grow up being told “it’s what inside that counts” and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how true this saying was. On the outside I was in phenomenal shape, but on the inside I was deteriorating. It was during this time that I committed to improving both my health and my relationship with food. I started studying nutrition and worked with a nutritionist to move to a food mentality that focused more on the quality of ingredients I was putting in my body versus the quantity. I fueled myself with real, whole foods and cut out added oils and added sugars (including monk fruit, honey, stevia, molasses…you name it). As you can imagine though, this severely limited my packaged snack options, especially sweet treats!

I remember at 1:53am one work night, I just had to have a cookie. But how on earth was I going to find a cookie without any added sugar or oil? I resorted to microwaving a 100% cacao, date-sweetened protein bar that night, but in that moment I realized I couldn’t be the only one facing this challenge. Why couldn’t something deliciously sweet also be good for you? Why couldn’t dessert be guilt-free? That was the night I decided I was going to do it myself – I was going to make a cookie that brought people both joy and nourishment. I was going to help people enjoy their food just as I’d wanted to – guilt-free.

My journey to founding NOMM was a result of a long personal journey to finding nutritional balance. Any time I wonder about the future of my start-up, any time I wonder whether I’ve created a truly lovable product, and any time I question whether I should keep going, I think back to the girl who just wanted a guilt-free cookie at 1:53am. I hope nobody has to be that girl ever again. NOMM is so much more than a cookie to meit is my story to finding my life’s purpose, all wrapped up in a delicious, guilt-free treat baked with so much love!

Thank you for letting me share my story with you. If you ever want to reach out – with questions, comments, feedback, anything – I would absolutely LOVE to hear from you: We’re all on this crazy, ever-changing, and delicious journey of finding healthy food together!

All my cookie love,

Gayatri Karandikar 

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