In episode 294, Megan talks with Gregory Halpen about going through cancer and a pandemic helped him find really find a passion in blogging and dig into exploring his creative sides and building a skillset.
We cover information about how you can turn lemons into productive and fulfilling ventures, why being authentic is more important than sticking to the path you started with and keep chiseling away at your goals.
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Bio Gregory is the recipe creator, cook, photographer and writer behind Eating After Chemo. In 2016, Gregory was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, achieved 4 years of remission, and today he is working on healing a recent cancer development called Nodular Lymphocyte-Predominant Hodgkin Lymphoma. Gregory started the blog Eating After Chemo as a way to better understand how food affects our body’s ability to heal after chemotherapy treatments have ended. Gregory holds an Associates in Science Degree in psychology and Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology as well as an Empowerment Coach certification from Coach Training Alliance.
- Your blogging might go through a journey and evolution as you do in life, embrace it.
- Stay open to change and the journey.
- Our eating habits can be part of the journey of what’s going on inside. Getting therapy to help with what you’re going through can be invaluable.
- Remember you’re a human and your audience wants you to be human too.
- Your hard work as a food blogger will pay off. Keep chiseling away at the work but don’t focus on a mythological number.
- Enjoy the food blogging journey. You chose it, so have fun with it.
- If you have an area of food blogging you enjoy but need to improve, just keep practicing. Use free resources until you find someone that can help you hone your skills in a way that makes sene to your learning style.
- Always be practicing your photography as its a key element to food blogging. Go out and shoot photos of non food items and get familiar with lighting, composition and have fun with it as you learn.
- Remember that all of your experiences definitely shape and influence your decisions to where you’re at now. You needed to go through things to get where you are.
Joanie Simon – photography courses
Click for full script.
Gregory Halpin: Hi, this is Gregory Halpin from Craving The Yum and you’re listening to Eat Blog Talk podcast.
Sponsor: Hey, awesome food bloggers. Before we dig into this episode, I have a really quick favor to ask you. Go to your favorite podcast player. Go to Eat Blog Talk, scroll down to the bottom where you see the ratings and review section. Leave Eat Blog Talk a five star rating if you love this podcast. Leave a great review. This will only benefit this podcast. It adds value and I so very much appreciate your efforts with this. Thank you so much for doing this. Okay. Now onto the episode.
Megan Porta: Hello, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, the podcast for food bloggers, looking for the value and confidence that will move the needle forward in your business. This episode is sponsored by RankIQ. I am your host, Megan Porta. Today Gregory Halpin and I are going to have a conversation about how he went from cancer to food blogging. Gregory is the recipe creator, cook, photographer and writer behind Craving The Yum. In 2016, Gregory was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, achieved four years of remission and today he is working on healing a recent cancer development called nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. Did I say that all right, Gregory?
Gregory Halpin: I have to write it down all the time.
Megan Porta: That was a mouthful. It’s slightly miraculous that I got through that. Gregory, you started the blog eating after chemo as a way to better understand how food affects our body’s ability to heal after chemotherapy treatments have ended. Gregory holds an associates in science degree in psychology and bachelor’s of arts degree in psychology as well as an empowerment coach certification from coach training Alliance. So grateful to have you on the show, Gregory. Thank you so much for being here. We want to hear what your fun fact is before we dig into the episode.
Gregory Halpin: Yeah. Hi Megan. Thank you so much for having me on the show. I’m very excited. I think a fun fact that I would love to share is that I’m a professional singer as well.
Megan Porta: That’s amazing.
Gregory Halpin: Yes. I know. I know some people are like what? I never knew that. So yeah I, yeah. I pursued musical theater for a long time. So I do that still, but just solo work.
Megan Porta: Where do you sing professionally?
Gregory Halpin: Now in New York City, that’s where I’m living now. Now that the pandemic is, I don’t know what it’s doing, but it’s..
Megan Porta: It’s doing something.
Gregory Halpin: Like it’s slowing down or something. So now it’s easier to get out there. So I’m basically in the city.
Megan Porta: So cool. I am a horrible singer. So please don’t ask me to sing with you ever. I will embarrass myself.
Gregory Halpin: No duet?
Megan Porta: No duet today. Maybe another time. I’m really excited to hear your story. I know you have an up and down story, right? Like you’ve been through a lot and it has tied into food blogging because cancer and chemo affects your hunger. I’m really curious to hear how that has all played into blogging. So would you mind just telling us about eating before chemo and your cancer diagnosis and then going into having cancer and going through chemo and how all of that played out.
Gregory Halpin: Sure, absolutely. Yeah. So back in 2016, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Prior to being diagnosed with cancer, I always had some sort of thing with eating, not eating healthy, just back and forth. So it wasn’t until I went through chemotherapy that I started to take a closer look at my eating habits. It’s funny because of the food blogging. I started out with Craving The Yum, doing different things, and a lot of sweets. Then I moved to eating after chemo because I thought, you know what? I went through this really hard thing. So I think I need to focus and I want to help people learn how to eat healthier and understand what it means to eat while you’re going through chemo. Then it turns out after that, I just said, man, I don’t want to do that because the cancer resurfaced into a different one. I was like, you know what? I just want to put all of this heaviness, all of this seriousness that has to do with chemotherapy behind me. I just want to do something fun, something really cool and really exciting, but something fun. Like I say, light and airy, like my photography. I just want it to be just mellow.
Megan Porta: Yeah. So you took something, this is a very complicated situation, right? So I can imagine you’re needing some levity and to make it light. So were you a food blogger before your cancer diagnosis?
Gregory Halpin: I wasn’t. I was actually on my way towards becoming a psychotherapist. I was very much into psychology and social psychology. So a mixture or combination of cancer and then the pandemic just nudged me to it. Something spoke inside, telling me you don’t want to do that. You want to do something that is yours and something that’s very creative. So that’s when I started to explore food blogging.
Megan Porta: Interesting. So two perceived negative things, cancer and a massive pandemic, nudged you into food blogging. I don’t know anyone who has that story. That’s such a cool story.
Gregory Halpin: Thanks. Yeah, I just, I didn’t expect it. I saw other food bloggers. I followed their blog and their writings and their recipes and photography. I’m like that’s so cool. I think I want to try that. So I’m sure many people who start out have their iPhone and they take a photograph of something. My first thing was rice cakes and guacamole. Put some pepper flakes sprinkled around.
Megan Porta: Sounds amazing.
Gregory Halpin: It was really good. I took it with my iPhone and I’m like, wow, this looks really good. I’m really good. Then I look today. I’m like, oh my God, what was I thinking?
Megan Porta: Isn’t that funny how your vision is skewed? I remember taking, actually strangely, guacamole was one of my first ever food photos that I took. At the time I was like, dang, I’m good. This looks really delicious. You should see these photos. They are awful. It looks like vomit. It is awful. I have no idea what I was looking at then.
Gregory Halpin: Everything is blue, like the white balance. What’s going on here?
Megan Porta: Yeah, exactly. So you started experimenting. You just decided that this was an avenue you wanted to explore. So was this a way for you to talk about healthy eating? What did you start talking about and how has your topic journey evolved?
Gregory Halpin: I would say when they started eating after chemo, like I said, I thought that I wanted to help people and that I had something to say. But through therapy and through a lot of healing I did that for about a year. I realized that was just something that I needed to work through some emotional stuff around cancer. Through that process, I learned more about healthy eating and I learned more about my body. That’s where that came from. Then when I let that go, I came back to Craving the Yum, just like when I originally started with.
Megan Porta: So now what is your focus on Craving the Yum? Is it the same or has it evolved a little bit?
Gregory Halpin: Oh, it’s definitely evolved. It’s Desserts. It’s all cookies, cakes and bars.
Megan Porta: Yes. Very much evolution there.
Gregory Halpin: Totally. At the beginning I was like, I’m going to be healthy. I’m going to do healthy bars. I’m going to do alternative, almond flour and all of this stuff. I’m like, no way. I did it for a minute and it just wasn’t fun. I needed to just go all out and bring in the butter and bring in the heavy cream and just do it up.
Megan Porta: That’s something to give a little focus to, because you can start out as a food blogger thinking that you’re going to follow one path and then you get veered off that path by something different because it’s more fun or something, whatever the reason. What do you think about that? If food bloggers are listening and they’ve really decided on a niche, but then maybe a year down the road, they decide that it’s not working for them anymore. It’s totally okay to change gears. What do you think about that?
Gregory Halpin: I think that is great to be able to stay open, to change. Someone recently sent me a message. A fellow food blogger sent me a message asking me what I did when I changed my focus. What did I do? Did it affect Google analytics? Did it, was it hard? I love that someone can be open-minded enough to do that because things are going to change. I know some people may know exactly what they’re going to do, and then they do that. But I think for the most part, I think it’s definitely an evolution.
Megan Porta: I love that perspective. I think that’s so fresh and unique because you hear it all the time. When you start something, you’ve just got to hone in and keep getting deeper and that you’re starting over if you change. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true because part of it is being insincere too. If you’re feeling something else, you should go where the authenticity is.
Gregory Halpin: Yeah. Especially, once you really get into it. The inner workings of food blogging and what it really takes, then you realize this definitely does require hard work and long hours and a lot of sacrifice. It’s not something that you can throw together and then all of a sudden you’re successful. Some people do it as a hobby, but if you want to really make it into a business you really have to do a lot. Which I love. When you get serious, then you realize, wow, this is a lot of work.
Megan Porta: Yeah, it is. It’s no joke. How did your rebrand go? So just coming up with a new name and new everything, was that a pain or was it seamless?
Gregory Halpin: I had Craving the Yum at the beginning and then changed to Eating After Chemo. So it felt natural just to go back to that. The rebranding, it was pretty easy. I love marketing and I love telling a story. So I’m really good at enticing people and teasing things out. But for the most part, it was easy. I didn’t have one at the beginning, so I didn’t have a lot of followers. I didn’t have a lot of that. So it didn’t affect the analytics and stuff.
Megan Porta: That’s good. So going back to the topic of our conversation, I’m really curious about how it was for you personally, like how you viewed food and how you dealt with food going through chemotherapy. I can’t imagine how that must’ve been. I would love to hear your perspective on that.
Gregory Halpin: I think about that sometimes still. I think about hearing about people who are diagnosed and they have to go through chemotherapy, radiation. Then you hear people saying I’m going to eat healthy. Then they eat healthy throughout the whole process of chemotherapy. But that really wasn’t my story because I really ate poorly during chemotherapy. Stouffer lasagna was my best friend. Like the large one. So it was a mixed bag. I tried to eat healthy, but when you’re doing chemo, you lose a lot of taste and you have a lot of metallic taste in your mouth. So you have to eat what you can. So the junkier food just works.
Megan Porta: I suppose everyone’s different, right? I’m sure, like you said, some people go way to the extreme of being healthy and probably some the other way. You don’t know, unless you’re in it and you find yourself navigating through it.
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Gregory Halpin: Exactly. I wasn’t really knowledgeable about that, about eating healthy. All the things you should eat and do during chemotherapy. I think some people might go into it, doing research and doing some footwork, but I didn’t. I kinda was just thrown into chemo. So it was on this ride. I didn’t know which way to turn. So just doughnuts, cupcakes and Stouffers lasagna.
Megan Porta: Sounds delicious.
Gregory Halpin: I’m not pushing that or advocating for that. Hey, if it works right, exactly.
Megan Porta: Because you do have to get those calories in, right? You have to eat.
Gregory Halpin: Absolutely. Yes.
Megan Porta: After chemo. You do have a new diagnosis, but I’m assuming you’re not doing chemo now, is that correct? Or are you?
Gregory Halpin: I’m not. It’s a form of cancer where the prognosis is much better and it’s about waiting and treating it with radiation. So it’s definitely better.
Megan Porta: So how did your eating evolve after you were done with chemo? Did it change?
Gregory Halpin: After chemo? I think because I was very traumatized by the chemo that it still went deeper into the poor quality food. Then I needed to go through that in order to get to the point of saying okay, I really need to start treating my body better. So it was basically a process. It’s definitely not perfect and I make mistakes all the time with eating. I think what I learned from that whole experience was that I’m trying and that each time I try and learn a little bit more. It gets easier.
Megan Porta: Yeah. That’s a good lesson. So on a life scale, how has going through this made you a more well-rounded blogger, do you think?
Gregory Halpin: That’s interesting. A lot of things come to mind and I think one of the deepest things that surfaces for me is being able to bring more humanity to what I’m doing. By way of how I’m telling the story through photography and writing. When you post the recipe and you do write somewhat of a story in there, I just get to add myself in there. I get to share my humor. I get to share my heart. So I guess I bring a lot of humanity to it.
Megan Porta: So what would you say to other bloggers? Because I believe when you go through something like that, what you’ve been through, that you have a deeper perspective on everything. I feel like, life, whatever it is, you’ve got a deeper perspective. Now that you have this other perspective, what would you say to bloggers as far as what’s important, what’s not? Anything that you have to share, any encouragement.
Gregory Halpin: Yes, absolutely. I noticed some food bloggers, they get frustrated with not seeing the numbers that’s kinda mythological. That’s put out there in the world thinking that, okay, this is going to happen. But I just want to encourage them to just stay with it and just chisel away at it just a little bit at a time, because it will pay off, especially the deeper you go into it and the more focused you get on your theme and your message. It will pay off, for sure.
Megan Porta: So not giving up and following your heart, like you mentioned that I think that’s a really good little nugget too. Anything else? Any other encouragement?
Gregory Halpin: Not to take criticism and if you’re out there and blogging groups and you’re in the culture of it. Just trying not to take it too seriously. I would say just have fun.
Megan Porta: Great advice. Anything else? I want to hear? If you have anything else to share about your journey or how food has played a role in this whole, like starting a blog or any other bits that you have to share with food bloggers?
Gregory Halpin: Bloggers photography comes up for me because I’m a creative person and I have different creative outlets, but photography really wasn’t one of them. I’m just astounded by how much I do not want to make it all about me, even though it is, but I am just astounded by how much I’ve grown in terms of the quality of my photographs now. It just took making a commitment to learning and knowing that, Hey, it might take a year and a half. It may take a year before you finally understand what composition is, what white balance is and food styling. Yeah, that comes up for me because I think it’s important for food bloggers to be able to present good photographs.
Megan Porta: Where do you suggest people start with that? Just doing a lot of practice or do you have resources for people?
Gregory Halpin: Yes, absolutely. I would say. Definitely practice. I was getting frustrated because I just could not get the competition and I was getting frustrated. So someone recommended that I just take my camera and go out into the world and just take photographs of non-food things. Just see how the light works and how the shadow is. Let me tell you that really helped. I would recommend seeking out someone named Joanie Simon.
Megan Porta: Oh yeah, she’s great.
Gregory Halpin: Yeah. She has a lot of tutorials and she’s super sweet and I got her book and I learned tons from just her free videos.
Megan Porta: There’s so much free stuff out there. I feel like you could just consume free content all the time if you wanted to. But once in a while, it’s good to invest in that as well.
Gregory Halpin: Absolutely. Definitely is worth it because the free stuff, you can only go so far with it.
Megan Porta: I just have to say, I’m looking at your blog right now. Because I was wanting to see your photos and your composition is amazing. These are beautiful. Just really creative too. Such a creative spin.
Gregory Halpin: I think it was just recently that I just, I hit a stumbling block with that. I was just like, it just can’t get what it needs to be and then they turned a corner and then all of a sudden it’s different and I’m like, wow, that’s cool.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Isn’t it cool when you can get past that plateau and see amazing progress? I love that point. I have a question for you. Do you feel like you’d be here looking at your great composition, great photos, your new rebrand if you hadn’t been through what you’ve been through?
Gregory Halpin: I honestly believe I wouldn’t have. I think all of those experiences definitely shaped and influenced my decisions up until now. I probably wouldn’t even have started food blogging. I’d probably still become a therapist.
Megan Porta: That’s very interesting. I wonder how many other people have used an unfortunate situation to dig into food blogging. That’s why I love talking to people and hearing stories because you don’t assume that. You just assume that everyone’s oh, I’m gonna make a lot of money or have a standard answer there. But I love your story and that you took two things that were really unfortunate and created this beautiful blog out of it. That’s so cool.
Gregory Halpin: Oh, thank you. I really appreciate that. Sometimes I need to go back to it. I need to go back to my blog and look at what I’ve been doing. Because sometimes when I’m taking a photograph I just want to throw the cake against the wall. But then like I go back maybe the next day and I look at the photos, I’m like, wait a minute. That looks really good. So that’s another thing I would say to food bloggers is to just take your time with it. Always step away and come back if you feel frustrated.
Megan Porta: Oh, I love that. We need that. We need a little space between frustration and clarity, just to see your blog from a different perspective. That is such great advice. Your photography, your posts are so great. I was looking at your chocolate cupcakes. I literally feel like I should just dive into my monitor right now. They are so beautiful. Oh my gosh.
Gregory Halpin: Is it my mom’s moist cupcakes?
Megan Porta: Yeah.
Gregory Halpin: I think I think like going through the cancer and healing and going through the journey of the eating after chemo food blog, it really cracked something open in me. It just inspired me to pull from my mom’s experience with baking and coming from not working class, but like a poor family. But still making sure that we had dessert after each meal. She would make everything from scratch.
Megan Porta: Oh my gosh. I hope you have that in your about page because that was beautifully said.
Gregory Halpin: I am going to put it there.
Megan Porta: Yeah. That needs to be front and center. That is such a beautiful thing to say. Wow. That’s so cool.
Gregory Halpin: Yeah, I love my mom.
Megan Porta: Oh, that’s so sweet. As a mom of boys, I love to hear that. I hope that my boys love me when they’re older. Is there anything else you would like to love? I’m on the love theme. Anything else you would like to leave us with Gregory, as we start saying goodbye? Any last nuggets for food bloggers or anything you want to share about your journey?
Gregory Halpin: I think I mentioned it before, but the best way that you can and if it’s possible, just take steps back and just really try to have fun with it, with food blogging and just really try to find the joy and the experience, even when it gets really difficult. Just really try hard to dive into that difficulty and find joy.
Megan Porta: That’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m guessing it’s probably not easy to share stuff like this. So we really appreciate you and we really appreciate you being vulnerable and just being here today. So thank you, Gregory.
Gregory Halpin: Thank you Megan, for having me on the show. It was lots of fun.
Megan Porta: It was so fun to get to know you. Do you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to share, to wrap up our conversation?
Gregory Halpin: That’s funny. Because I always say this and it’s a big lesson for me and it seems simple. So what comes to my mind is it’s not all about you. It’s weird because we can take things to heart and then sometimes you have to tell yourself it’s not really about you. You can just chill.
Megan Porta: Perfect. It’s so simple, but that just ties into food blogging and thinking about the user. It’s not about us. It’s about them. So that is the perfect way to end this I think. So we will put together some show notes for you, Gregory. So if anyone wants to go look at those, we will put those at eatblogtalk.com/cravingtheyum. So go peek at those. We’ve mentioned it a few times, but why don’t you reiterate where everyone can find you online and on social media?
Gregory Halpin: Yeah. So you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, all under Craving the Yum and you can find my website, cravingtheyum.com.
Megan Porta: Awesome. Everyone, go check Gregory out. Thanks again for being here, Gregory. Thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
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