'At 29, I was the editor of Cosmopolitan. 5 years later, I received a devastating diagnosis.'

They say your thirties are supposed to be the best decade of your life. But for me, this was when my life ground to a screeching halt.

At 29, I was the editor of Cosmopolitan Australia and life was busy, hectic, but ultimately fulfilling.

But at the age of 34, after weeks of feeling unwell and fatigued, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease – an autoimmune condition of the thyroid gland that affects the entire body.

It was a devastating diagnosis, especially because the condition can only be managed, not cured. Hashimoto’s took a huge toll on my body – my hair fell out, and I couldn’t walk for a year. Most awful of all, a doctor told me that I would never have children.

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Video via Mamamia.

It was during this scary, isolating time that I hit rock bottom. I have lived with anxiety, bipolar disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since my teens but my mental health deteriorated to a point that I experienced suicidal ideation and even attempted suicide. 

I knew something had to change. In a bid to figure out how to cope with my new circumstances, and live as normal a life as I could with an autoimmune disease, I started doing research about what the science said about living with Hashimoto’s.


In addition to medication, I learned that sensible lifestyle practices were a key part of managing this condition: getting enough sleep, eating well, and so forth.

Going deeper into the research, I also came across stacks of literature on the link between sugar and inflammatory diseases such as Hashimoto’s. I had a gnarly sugar addiction, so I gave it a go.

I quit sugar in 2011, and it became a book and programme in following years.

To be clear, I Quit Sugar was never about extreme dieting, losing weight, or any of that. It was me sharing what I’d learned from the scientific literature, what worked for my health, and a roadmap for others to undertake this gentle experiment if they wanted to.

As the project grew, however, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that what I intended as an educational journey had become a business. It was taking me further and further from my mission as an educator and a communicator. 

So, I closed up shop and gave the money to charity. This was absolutely the right choice for me, and I’ve never looked back.

After that chapter closed, once again my life circumstances shaped my next project. Determined to find solutions to the lifelong struggle with my mental health, I went deep into the literature on anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.  

This time, I consolidated seven years of intense research into First, We Make the Beast Beautiful – a memoir of living with anxiety. But amid all the facts about triggers and treatments, fashions and fads, and the stories of other anxiety sufferers, this was ultimately a deeply personal book for me to write.

The book sharpened my belief about what my purpose is: to take on the issues that affect our health and well-being, research them deeply, and communicate the facts to Australians so that they can incorporate the information in their lives, however they want to.  


This is why I’ve turned my attention to the gas we use in our homes – to cook, and for heating, and hot water.

In recent years, I’ve been alarmed to read study after study on how bad for our health gas is. The science is clear that burning gas in our heating and cooking appliances creates nitrogen dioxide, which is well understood to be linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses – particularly childhood asthma. 

I decided to do a little experiment in my own home to find out if there’s really something in this. I got hold of a nitrogen dioxide monitor to measure the levels in my kitchen. 

The first test I did was really simple, just boiling a pot full of water over gas. The numbers left me stunned. In just 10 minutes, they spiked up to more than 100 parts per billion, from about 13 parts per billion when the stove was off. 

The National Air Quality Standard, which sets limits on common air pollutants to minimise health risks, has set the limit for outdoor nitrogen dioxide to an average of 80 parts per billion per hour. We blew past this number in just ten minutes, but many common foods including soups and stocks take much longer to cook. 

It is worth noting that the World Health Organisation says there is no safe level of exposure to nitrogen dioxide.

Being a renter, I can’t change my cooktop. So I went out and bought a portable induction cooktop – they can cost as little as $70 – that I do virtually all my cooking on now. I love it.


I feel pretty frustrated that so many Australian families are stuck living with this health hazard in their homes, probably even without knowing it. And it’s worse for renters like me, or people on low incomes, because all-electric appliances are unaffordable for them.

I’m determined to get the word out that gas, in your home, is potentially doing you  – and your kids – harm. And it’s starting to have an impact.

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Like an ex-colleague of mine, whose daughter had terrible asthma when living in a home with gas, but no longer does since moving into an all-electric home. Another reader shared that they changed their plans for a new home after seeing the campaign.

Seeing more and more people switch on to the dangers of gas in the home is the wind in my sails as I enter my fifties, and my outlook on life has never been brighter. I still have difficult days, of course, where taking care of my physical and mental health requires rest, pause, and time. 

But I’m more energised than ever to keep learning, speaking out, and helping Australians improve their lives and navigate the complexities of our changing world with science, stories, and solutions.

Sarah Wilson is a New York Times and Amazon #1 Bestselling Author, podcaster and the founder of the I Quit Sugar movement. She has partnered with the Climate Council to launch the I Quit Gas campaign to help Australians get gas out of their homes.

Featured Image: Supplied.

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