Interview: Annmarie Kostyk, featured essayist of Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir

Whether you loved it or hated it, it's back! (Though, it never really went away) Celebrating the ten year anniversary of the best selling title,  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, today is the official release of the fan written anthology, Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert claims she never really knew specifically why her memoir became so popular. That answer, the connection, is what inspired the stories of her fans to be released in a collection. It's a movement.

Reflecting back at the original, two major occurrences stand out to me: First, is the great divide in audiences (which is not unusual when a book becomes a major blockbuster). Second, is the overwhelming phenomenon of people crediting Eat, Pray, Love as the big push in their own pursuit of happiness.

In close comparison, the book and film are like night and day.  Intriguingly, so are the backgrounds of those individuals sharing their stories in Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It. For a quick re-cap, this article from NPR is a good breakdown of how the original book and film compare.

What the world wants to know is, what did Eat, Pray, Love make you do? How did so many fans approach their lives differently? What did they learn? What can we learn from them? What were the pivotal moments they faced? Why hadn't they faced them sooner? The beauty I see here is that whether you love it, hate it, or have yet to read or see the original (or both), this fan written anthology is only a fraction of the phenomenon of personal empowerment generated from Gilbert's journey, yet has something for everyone. I encourage you to read each of their stories with an open mind and heart.

One featured essayist I am especially proud of calls her personal journey, "The List". She brings joy and inspiration to me daily, whether she realizes it or not. Of all things, we met through our fascination with chocolate (shocker), on Facebook through mutual friends. At first, her posts were mostly light and fun to read. A recipe or article would catch my eye. It was a breath of fresh air to see how much someone else loved to read. I found it strange that I enjoyed so many posts from someone I barely knew. One day she asked for recipe suggestions followed by a long list of dietary restrictions. This sudden change in her posts, stood out to me. Here, she openly wrote about personal challenges with her health. She was reaching out to the world though she appeared beyond capable. That wasn't something I just scrolled over. Something in me stopped and said, this is a woman who is fighting something. Or bored. Or both. I sent her some suggestions, doubting I could offer her anything new. To my surprise she happily replied with interest. Conversation felt natural and continued. Before this I'd considered deleting my Facebook account many times. After leaving the military, a brief and surprisingly comfortable period of homelessness, starting over, I didn't want to talk to anyone. I knew that deleting my account would mean I would lose contact with family that seldom see one another (let alone speak to each other) and friends I had made all over the world. Humanitarians. Soldiers. Good people in general. Some of these "friends" weren't familiar anymore. That felt isolating but also normal. People grow apart, they drift. At times, my own background as a woman veteran has become a social barrier to others who cannot relate, or are intimidated by my independence. When women disregard other women out of their own lack of self love, it is a shame. It's tired. We don't have to live how others want us to. Developing a friendship with Annie Kostyk, is a prime example of why I keep my heart open to the universe. It is a gift to get to know her better through her journey "The List".

Photo of and by Annmarie Kostyk      


Name: Annmarie (Annie) Kostyk 

Hometown: Sewickley, PA

Hobbies: chocolate, reading, exploring food through cooking/eating, knitting, walks, travel, museums, coloring

Words to live by: You get what you give.

As a self proclaimed foodie your entire life, what centered your focus on chocolate?

I started getting interested in the health benefits of food while I was working at an integrative cancer and wellness center. Not too long after that, I moved from Chicago to Austin, Texas where they are very focused on health and lifestyle, plus the flagship Whole Foods store was there. I started sampling my first dark chocolate bars and I fell in love. I was really excited when I learned through research that dark chocolate and cocoa were actually good for you!

You wear several hats in the chocolate world. In what ways have you enjoyed working with chocolate most?

Honestly, I enjoy finding new companies and trying their bars the most. I love doing research. It’s the story that really gets me.

Your personal journey is featured in the fan written essay collection Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It. How did the original title by Elizabeth Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love influence you?

I was lost when I lived in Austin. I was sick as hell. My allergies and asthma, that I thought I had outgrown, came back in full swing when I moved to Austin. I found out it was the second worse place in the world for someone like me. I lived there for 8 years and I kept hoping my body would get used to the pollen and mold conditions. Instead, I developed other health problems due to the environment and all of the medication I was on. My immune system got so messed up I ended up with ulcerative colitis which is an auto-immune condition where your colon gets inflamed and ulcers appear. I felt incredibly defeated and lost. Nothing was working for me. My health was terrible, so not only my physical health suffered, but my mental health suffered as well as my social life and work life. Eat Pray Love made me realize I had other issues I was carrying with me that just continued to build. I needed to work on a lot. I read the book once or twice a year now to keep my on track.

After your diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, how has your relationship with food changed?

Truthfully, I’m afraid of food now. I hadn’t had a UC flair and had never been on medication for it. I got it into remission with fish oil, probiotics and aloe vera juice. Now I can’t eat anything fermented or fish, so no probiotics or fish oil either. I’m building up my immune system by healing my gut. The bad news is all of the suggestions make me sicker! They all have high histamine levels which my body reacts to severely.

I would eat anything I could get my hands on before the UC. I appreciate a great salad, a piece of fish, a veggie burger or a loaded pizza with all of the same zest for life. Now I have to be really careful what I eat. Sugar, grass fed dairy and refined carbs are only a once in a while treat. I make sure the quality is excellent in the event I get symptoms. Nuts, seeds, legumes and beans are tough to digest. I keep bouncing back from being a vegetarian to eating Paleo. My body feels better when I eat Paleo. I have no UC symptoms when I eliminate grains, beans and legume. I used to dabble in milk and good white chocolate, now I only eat it on occasion - so much sugar and dairy. I try to stay with dark chocolate that’s 80% or higher, although I do eat 70-80% sometime. My gut can no longer tolerate 100% cocoa content.

How do you personally include chocolate in your lifestyle?

I started being able to eat dark chocolate again about a month ago. I used to eat about 2 ounces of dark chocolate a day and I loved to make hot chocolate with grass fed milk and a half of a dark chocolate bar. No more hot chocolate for me. Now I eat about one dark chocolate bar a week.

Huge surprise! I’ve never been a fan of chocolate desserts! I do love a good flourless chocolate cake or chocolate cheesecake with a sour cream top.

Tell me about your favorites (with or without dietary restrictions):

My favorites that I can’t eat right now: sushi, seared tuna, pizza, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, Ceasar salad

My simple favorites: Honeycrisp apples, grilled asparagus, veggies wrapped in rice paper, Japanese sweet potatoes

Favorite type of cacao?


Favorite chocolate?

Not one! Right now…Marou, Dandelion, Potomac

Favorite chocolate pairings?

I’ve never been into pairings. It’s true! FIKA does an amazing goat cheese dark chocolate truffle though if you would consider that a pairing.

Is there any food or flavor you personally do not find to be compatible with chocolate? (bacon for example)

It really depends. I’ve have some bad mixes by one company that were fantastic with another. I know it’s a culinary classic, but I can’t stand chocolate and mint.

What is your earliest chocolate related memory?

It’s of chocolate candy. Every Valentine’s until I was about 8, my dad put a box of chocolates at the bottom of my bed before he went to work. For Easter, my mom bought us these amazing giant peanut butter eggs. Sometimes we got not so great ones like fruit and nut, but most were good.

Your website was reportedly hacked by Russians. What happened? Where can we follow you now?

Pod72 was my online chocolate shop. I closed it because when I was in the hospital last summer with my second UC flair, it was very hot in Chicago. No a/c was on. I lost all my inventory due to the heat. is the website that kept getting hacked by the Russians. When I have patience, I call GoDaddy to work on getting it back up. Baby steps.

Anything else you'd like to share?

I really want people to be educated about cacao and chocolate – the child slave labor, the intensity of the growing and harvesting process, the creation and blending process, the difference between fine, artisan chocolate and chocolate candy, as well as the health benefits of dark cocoa and dark chocolate. Most people still have no idea what’s going on.