Among my 2013 resolutions, you may have noticed my goal to stop eating gluten at least until my birthday on february 11. Truthfully, I started this goal before the new year and I've offically gone 18 days without gluten. (holla!) I realize this might not sound like a big number, but I challenge you to try it for one or two days and you'll get it -- it's hard. My sincere admiration and respect goes out to all people who deal with food allergies and dietary restrictions, seriously.
Not sure what gluten free means?
Basically it means no wheat...so the foods on the chopping block include bread, pasta, all baked goods (unless made special with non-wheat flour), most cereals (bless you, chex!), many sauces and soups, etc. also random things like reeses, but only the holiday shapes (weird, i know). Basically, the lifestyle means you have to check food labels and/or look everything up before you eat it (bless you, smartphone).
Why am I doing this?
I'll spare you the details of my poor, ailing tummy but suffice it to say, it's hated me for a few years now. I tried going without dairy and a variety of other remedies, but nothing ever seemed to make a difference. Aside from the stomach, my other issues included regular headaches, weak immune system, general fatigue, weird random fevers and joint pain, random itchiness, a plague of deathly canker sores, etc.
Not my first rodeo...
Visits to the doctor always came back inconclusive, even official blood tests (something involving an IgA deficiency that can cause a false negative for the gluten test). I first tried going gluten free a couple years ago, and let's be honest: i was terrible at it. I frequently cheated or didn't pay close enough attention to food labels, so i never could tell what made a difference and what didn't. The problem with gluten is that, if your body doesn't handle it well, it damages your digestive system -- so the only way to fix it is to go cold turkey long enough to let the system heal itself and then avoid gluten....forever. Needless to say, my low commitment level resulted in failure for my first gluten free trial.
But then, I just snapped one day.
I reached a point the last few months where i felt like i got sick every other week. If i was around anyone with a cold, i inevitably came down with it. I'd get random fevers that made my whole body ache and put me in bed for a couple days at a time, but i never tested positive for the flu or mono. We won't even get into the angst and woes of my tummy, but it was no bueno. I still struggled with regular headaches, and it reached a point during december where the pain was pretty crippling and struck like clockwork every afternoon/evening. The only thing that made it better was excedrin migraine, but i don't always love the racing heart and jittery caffeine high that comes with that avenue. So a few days before Christmas at the grocery store, I just snapped and took everything out of my cart that had gluten in it.
And I mean it this time.
It's never been so easy in my life to say no to something. All those christmas baked goods? No thank you. Free food at work and social events? I can pass. It definitely takes work and planning to eat gluten free (it's in pretty much...everything) but my mind is in a much better place this time around. As much as i love so many things with gluten in them, it no longer outweighs my desire to feel good. Instead of feeling resentful of things I can't eat, I've actually noticed a large amount of gratitude when I remember all the delicious things I can eat: grilled chicken, vegetables, gluten-free dressing and sauces, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, etc. I also have a sincere appreciation for restaurants and grocery stores that cater to a gluten-free diet -- they do exist, and I want to hug them all and shout their names from the rooftops!
And has it helped?
Honestly, yes. I know it's only been 18 days so it might sound cheesy or dramatic, but I haven't had a single headache in more than two weeks, my stomach is working noticeably better (not perfect yet, but better), and my overall energy level is on the upswing. My initial goal was to make it all the way until my birthday on february 11 so i could get a more conclusive gauge on the situation. More time will surely tell if it's causation or coincidence, but with the way I feel so far I suspect I already know the answer. But like I said, only more time will tell for sure. I struggle a little with feeling high maintenance when friends try to plan their meals around me or I have to turn down free food offers, but I've been doing a really good job of keeping my own snacks on hand so I can just tell other people to do their thing if I can't eat what they are eating.
Thanks for the support!
And finally, I just want to give a shout-out to crystalee from delighted to write. This sweet girl has been gluten free for several years, and is someone I only know through the online blog world. When I sent her an email about not eating gluten a few months ago, she offered to have a phone conversation with me (a complete stranger!) and gave me the nicest pep talk about it all. It took me a couple months to get in gear and commit to the idea, but I am so grateful for her support and example that this crazy diet isn't completely daunting and impossible. You're a gem, crystalee!
Any other gluten free eaters out there? Thoughts?