When Jose Gonzalez was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, he already knew exactly what to do:
“From that day to the next, I changed everything about the way that I ate food.” He switched to a very low carbohydrate diet overnight, and quickly dropped his HbA1c back down to non-diabetic levels. His success totally amazed his doctor. There was only one problem:
“I have an insane sweet tooth. I needed something sweet.”
That sweet tooth led Jose down a path he never could have imagined. Jose, who once planned to become a doctor, soon found himself tinkering in the kitchen for the first time in his life, and before he realized it he was spreading good health to himself and others with the most improbable of medicines: cookies. Low-carbohydrate cookies, to be exact. Jose is now the co-founder of and primary creative force behind ChipMonk Baking.
“If you’d asked me ten years ago what I’d be doing now, I would have never, ever guessed that I’d be baking cookies.”
Jose’s path began soon after college, when he began to work as a personal trainer. He found the work so rewarding that he began to rethink his planned future in traditional medicine. “I fell in love with helping people holistically. I was treating the causes of disease, not just the symptoms.”
Diet and nutrition was a big part of his practice, and the trickiest: “Food was easily the hardest thing for my clients to fix. People always told me that there was never readily available food, that they worked too much and didn’t have time to cook.”
Meanwhile, Jose thought that he was taking pretty good care of himself. He was working out constantly, and had a lean and strong body. But he wasn’t really taking his own dietary advice.
“Looking back now, I realize I used to put sugar on everything. I put sugar on my cereal, I poured sweetened condensed milk on my ice cream. The more sugar I ate, the more I liked it. I guess I justified it. I’d eat 8 slices of toast for breakfast. I thought I was eating healthy, because I didn’t gain weight.”
Strange symptoms crept up in his mid-20’s. Foremost among them were intense drowsiness and energy issues, issues bad enough that they caused a brush with death.
“I started falling asleep in the middle of the day, just falling asleep. I didn’t have energy in the morning, my energy levels would really change and fluctuate with food. That was kind of a red flag.
“One day I was driving home one day and I fell asleep at the wheel. I hit the rail of the highway and it jolted me awake. Nothing happened except some damage to my car, but it was terrifying. That was the jolt that I needed to go see a doctor.”
“I went in, got the bloodwork done. My doctor called me a couple days later and said, ‘Hey, you’re in really good shape, there’s nothing super wrong with you, except you have Type 2 diabetes.’”
It was a huge wake-up call: “My doctor said ‘Come in, and I’ll prescribe you some metformin, and you’ll be good to go.’ But I stopped him there and said, “No thank you. I’ll see you again in three months.” And that was it. From that day to the next, I changed everything about the way that I ate food.
“I gave up processed carbohydrates, I gave up all the sweets that I grew up eating, I gave up juice and beer. It wasn’t necessarily strict keto, but it was very low-carb. The only carbs that I had were coming from nuts, seeds, berries.
“After my next visit, my doctor called me and he said, ‘I think you need to come take the test again. Your numbers are really bizarre. Your A1c is 5.3% now. That just does not happen.’ We did a second blood test, and my A1c was even lower the second time.
“He asked, ‘What did you do?’ I told him that I changed everything about the way I eat. And he was blown away. He said that people just don’t do that. But I was looking for a cure, and not a band-aid. I wanted something holistic that would help me for the rest of my life.”
Jose’s new diet not only plunged his A1c back down to healthy levels; it also cured his fatigue and foggy brain. “It was like night and day. I would wake up and have energy in the morning, and steady energy all day long.” It also led to effortless physical gains: “In two or three weeks I lost an inch off my waist.”
One thing that didn’t change was that sweet tooth. Jose was happily chowing down on spaghetti squash, cauliflower rice, and other popular low-carb alternatives, but the low-carb, alternative sugar desserts he bought off the shelf were not satisfying.
“When I discovered monkfruit sweetener, I was really happy because it was nice and sweet and didn’t have any blood sugar impact.
“So, I started baking for myself, something I’d never done before. One weekend I made some chocolate chip cookies monkfruit. My roommate, who was not eating low-carb, said, ‘Hey, this is pretty good. Can you bake other flavors?’”
Jose kept on baking and trying new flavors. At this point Jose was working in a Houston startup hub, his roommate was working in venture capital, and the two of them together were looking for entrepreneurial opportunities. They started handing out samples, and then moved to selling their cookies, initially to co-workers and acquaintances. Jose says that they just “kinda ran with it.”
Flash forward to today: ChipMonk Baking has its own certified gluten-free kitchen and sells its many flavors of cookies and keto bites nationwide over the internet, in addition to locally, mostly in independent grocery stores. For sweetener, with assistance from a local food scientist, Jose has settled on a combination of both monkfruit and allulose. The baked goods are mostly made with almond and sunflower flours. Packed with protein, healthy fats and fiber, each serving has as few as 1 gram of net carbohydrates.
Why is it called ChipMonk?
“We’re a nut-based product, and chipmunks and squirrels eat lots of nuts and seeds. We spelled it with an ‘o’ because we used monkfruit sweetener. And at the same time, monks represent a very holistic way of life, conscious and aware of everything they do, especially what they put in their body.”
That’s how Jose hopes to live his life, too.
“Diabetes is a very long-acting disease. There are no immediate consequences to having a little cake here and there. But I made it top of mind. Three or four years down the line, I’m still eating low-carb.”