10 things that have changed since going gluten and dairy-free

I hate running.

Making muscles on the back porch

Making muscles on the back porch

This afternoon I went for a run and didn’t hate it.  In fact, I liked it.  I ran longer and faster than I have in double-digit years.  As I made my way past tomato stands and cornfields in rural Pennsylvania I couldn’t help but attribute it to my recent elimination diet and resulting gluten and dairy-free lifestyle.

When I first approached my doctor with the idea of being gluten intolerant 4 years ago  she scoffed, said it was just a fad, and waved off my question. At that point, I was less direct and didn’t pursue it further.  Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I’ve changed and she’s no longer my doctor.  My history with food is pretty busted. I’ve written about it at length here, see Related Posts below for more. After feeling off my game for years, I decided to try a gluten-free elimination diet/cleanse of sorts. I’m in love with Rebecca Wood’s, revamped, book, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. It’s not a diet book. It’s not a cure-all. It’s information.  I’m in love with information and I want it to be my baby daddy.  The book is just what it calls itself, an encyclopedia about whole foods. Not the over-priced market, Whole Foods but the plants that grow out of the ground you’re supposed to eat.  I learned all about new plants and even picked up a few recipes.  I was able to find any ingredient I needed at my local co-op.  Look for one in your city. They’re worth it.  My life has changed since going gluten and dairy free. Here’s how.

  1. Energy: I’m anemic, I have Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD), Polycystic Ovaries, Lactose Intolerance, I have allergies that rival Bubble Boy’s, and I’m an educator starting 3 companies simultaneously.  My body is put through its paces regularly.  I assumed that all those issues were the reason I was so tired. Cutting out gluten and dairy reset my body to “normal” and I’m no longer fighting “the itis” or ethnic fatigue.  I feel like my body came back to me.
  2. Waist size: 3 or more inches have disappeared from my waist. It might be weight loss, but I think it’s bloat. Probably both. I was constantly gassy and bloated. My clothes rarely felt comfortable and I  never felt completely empty even if I was famished.  My midsection is notably smaller.  I’ve also stopped farting like a frat boy after drinking PBR.
  3. No joint pain: After I stopped skating derby I started seeing a physical therapist.  My hip was hurting and my ankle quickly followed.  She gave me exercises and the pain started to go away.  I attributed it to the exercises, but I noticed that the pains came back after I’d been “glutened.” My joint pain has disappeared. It doesn’t hurt to move.
  4. No more insomnia:  I have a history of my body hating me.  That would manifest itself in the form of 3am wake ups after midnight fall asleeps. That’s no longer the case. I often arise with the sun if I’ve gone to bed at a decent hour.  More importantly, I sleep for 7-8 hours regularly and awake feeling refreshed and excited to get my day started.
  5. Wheezing: I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma a few years ago. I attributed it to being out of shape. My Ear Nose and Throat Doctor said it was asthma and prescribed an inhaler.  I filled the prescription once and then never again.  If my breathing became labored I would just stop the exercise until my lungs stopped punching me in the chest.  Since cutting out gluten and dairy I can run for at least 1-2 miles without encountering labored breathing. Even then, there’s no mucous, and I don’t end up bent over fighting for air.  It’s nice.
  6. Weight loss: Of course. It just seems like a natural progression. If one cuts out breads and cheeses (the only meat I eat is fish) they’re bound to lose weight.
  7. Uncontrollable Cravings: My current doctor (and physician soulmate) prescribed (or rather suggested) I start taking digestive enzymes after I told her how I CRAVED sweets and bread.  I don’t mean, “Oh, I could go for a piece of chocolate.” I mean I’d be sitting in my apartment feel the craving and somehow find myself teleported to Safeway with a basket full of Spicy Nacho Doritos, sugary drinks, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Snickers, and whatever else I stumbled upon. It was bad, folks.  I took the enzymes for awhile.  I’ve since stopped.  The cravings have also stopped. Also things taste different. Processed food has started tasting…well…gross.
  8. No itchy Skin: For the longest time I thought I had lice. It felt like there were flies on random parts of my body.  This might be a result of my recent trip to Morocco where there were literally flies on me all the time, but I doubt it. The itch has gone away and I’m grateful.
  9. Mood swings: I’m pretty even-keeled at this point. Granted, I’m not as stressed as I was previously.  Well, at least I’m not stressed in the same way.  My grandfather is still dying. I’m a new entrepreneur. My salary technically makes me impoverished. I’m writing and acting in a one-woman play that goes up in 8 months. But I’m not snapping at people. My emotions aren’t all over the place.  I feel like….a person.  I’m different.
  10. Pooping:  It used to be weird. Now it’s not. I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

This is not a post to convince you that you should eliminate gluten or dairy.  If I could go back I would jump buck naked into that pool with the quickness.  I can’t though. My body has been sending me messages for years. Things like poverty, lack of knowledge, and plain ol’ stubbornness have preventing me from hearing them.  I’m walking away from this experience feeling like I have more control over my health than I previously believed.  That’s what I’d like you to take away from this experience.  Your have more control over your well-being than you think.

Related Posts:

Emotional Eating

Body Image

Fasting and Babysitting Leads to Reconciliation

Pooping

Sugar Cravings in an Athletic Woman

Preparing for that which I cannot control

The possibility of taking a 23-day NOLS course this fall is the first thing to excite me in years.  I’m responsible for at least 50 visits to the NOLS website over the last few weeks.  I’m not really worried (maybe a little) about my mental capacity to handle the backpacking. I’ve hiked from 2-14 miles in a day in the past and handled it well. I’m used to spending time in the backcountry for long periods while covering long distances and tackling rolling terrain.  This is not to say that I’m under some foolish impression that any part of my NOLS course will be easy. It won’t be.  Many of the difficulties I may have I cannot prepare myself for.

What I can do is address the physical aspect to being on course.  I started jogging again when I was in Georgia and the weather was nice.  I tried to keep it up when I got to Chicago, but couldn’t. The temperatures aggravated my asthma and I was a complete shit show. I don’t have insurance so me going to the emergency room isn’t something I can afford.  So, I started with P90X again and get outside when I can.  Additionally, I started another fast. I’m on Day 4/Day 2 (depends on who you ask) and I feel great.  I’ve been moderately active and I haven’t been able to complete my P90X workouts. I also haven’t forced myself to, either.  This fast is about resetting my system and trying to reprogram old habits.

I have a pretty fucked up relationship with food at times.  Before you start thinking I eat 4 supersized meals and a small kitten for breakfast, that’s not the case.  I love vegetables and the cooking kale for breakfast is a common occurrence.  I was a vegetarian for almost a decade then I started adding fish to my diet.  In fact, I’m more vegetarian than pescetarian.  Soda is rarely my go to beverage and hasn’t been for about 2 years.  I make fresh juices with my juicer and drink homemade teas and lemonade flavored with stevia when I have a hankering for something sweet.  My problem isn’t often with food choices. Mostly it’s about quantity. When it isn’t about quantity it’s about choice in a big way. Go big or go home, right? *She shakes her head* I’ve used food as a coping mechanism for a long time. Probably ever since I was able to control what I ate which hasn’t been long. Let me explain.

My parents divorced when I was five and we didn’t have much. My mother did what she could, but I spent a lot of time feeling hungry.  She was from the islands and fed us the rural island version of cuisine.  Well, at least what was available here in the states. That was probably fine, but we were in America and when my brother and I hung out with friends, McDonald’s was a go to. She worked something like 4 jobs and we were left to our own devices often. We’d steal money from her coin jar and go to the baseball field, or corner store and buy candy until our faces exploded.  Fast forward six years and I was sent to a boarding school for financially needy and social orphans called Milton Hershey School (MHS). At The Milt, we had access to plenty of food, but I’ll be damned if it was good for us.  We’re talking Pennsylvania Dutch style cooking.  We ate casseroles, potatoes, cream chipped beef, bullseyes (the breakfast egg dish not the seeing orb of a bull), sugar coated french toast, and their nutritionally deficient cousins. Everything  came in the big box truck known as the meal bus.  Not only was the food for shit (props to the ladies in the Central Kitchen even though it was nutritional shit is was pretty tasty… those birthday cakes and cookies?! I still dream about those) it was also controlled by someone who wasn’t me. I did not grow up learning about the food around me. I just remember we had to set the tables with meat first, starch second, and then the vegetables.  Our portions were controlled. If we wanted more it was kinda a no go. If we wanted less, or none we couldn’t.  We had one “No Eat” food and that was it. Because my mom didn’t want me eating pork, that was my “No Eat” food. Everything else, I had to ingest.

That was middle school. High school was a bit different, but not much. The atmosphere of the school changed and we started shopping more often at the local Giant Food store.  Nonetheless, my education did not include food.

In college, I became a vegetarian.  I don’t remember when or why, I just did.  The cessation of meat consumption didn’t really, at least I don’t think, come with knowledge about healthy eating.  It wasn’t until I went to work for Milton Hershey School full-time at Springboard Academy that I began to teach myself about nutrition.  I’d began some studying in Chicago, but I made pennies and couldn’t afford healthy shit anyway.  When I got to Springboard I made enough money that I could live alone AND afford healthy food items.  Hell. Yes. When I learned about quinoa I damn near lost my shit. Stevia? Hell, that knowledge pretty much gave me an aneurysm. Even then, I was in a SUPER toxic relationship with someone who had CF.  You may not know, but people with CF need to consume large amounts of fat.  People with ADPKD like I have don’t. So with this toxic relationship not only was I not strong enough to set healthy boundaries for myself, the person I was with had the exact opposite dietary needs as I had.

Moving to Seattle is what did it for me. I was working as an Outdoor Educator and physical activity was my life.  When I started with Seattle Public Schools, I had enough money, again, to afford the food we all deserve.  My apartment was across the street from a Jewel Osco, and few blocks from Trader Joe’s, and the Central Co-o: Madison Market — my favorite place in Seattle. I spent so much time at the co-op learning about vegetables, buying fresh breads and cheeses, selecting kombucha, and focusing on my overall well-being. This was two years ago. I’m twenty-nine years old and my healthy relationship with food and nutrition just started. I’m still a baby.

My hope is that my fast will tune my brain and my heart to the key of my stomach. I don’t want to eat when I’m not hungry. I want to remember what hunger feels like and associate that with goodness. Like it’s a message from my body that reads,

Hey, thanks so much for that last meal. We’ve sent it on to do great things and are looking forward to more. ”

Instead of,

Holy shit we’re hungry. We’re hungry. Fuck, when’re we going to eat again? Are we going to eat again? Who remembers how to make biscuits?! Flour’s cheap. We can use water instead of milk. That’ll keep us from dying, right?! Right?!

Two very different messages. I’m tired of teaching my body that panic is a good way to approach meeting its needs.

This NOLS course will test me physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally. I’m worried about meeting my cohort and being the only  Brown person. Worse yet, would be finding out I’m the only Brown person with no White allies.  My standard for interacting with Whiteness is pretty concrete. I’m not going to sacrifice my wellness because of ignorance. I will not allow someone to learn off of my back. My story is not a novelty it’s my life. I don’t know how I can/would/should respond to racist shit that occurs Outside in this situation.  Actually, I don’t want to deal with it all I just want to fucking play outside because it’s my favorite thing to do.

What I can do is prepare (as much as possible) my body for the physical challenges that are certain. Cause NOLS is hard, y’all. I can sharpen my mind and clear out space for frequent visits. Other than that, I can only rely on the me that’s been alive this long and has not gone to prison for reacting to hate — purposeful, or accidental.

Body Image

To say I have a problem with body image is to Mitt Romney might be a Republican.  My struggle with weight has existed since college.  While many put on freshman 15, I put on freshman 40 (+/-).  My face puffed and my calves, which are usually fat free expanded with cellulite as well. I have a pictures where my potbelly looks like I’m 6 months pregnant.  It’s been a struggle. Often a struggle of which I was unaware, but a struggle nonetheless.  During my last Obgyn visit in 2010 my doctor told me I needed to lose 50lbs.  A few months ago I went to the emergency room with chest pains. At a follow-up visit the doctor told me I was strong, but I “needed to lose weight.”  I can pack on 20 lbs in a season without thinking about it.

Photo 326

After proofreading this post I wanted to take this down. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to remove it…for now.

One of the biggest issues that comes with these weight fluctuations is a skewed body image.  No matter how much I weigh,  when I look in the mirror I see that 6 months pregnant not actually pregnant 19 year old. This is a picture of my back a few months ago.  My bra is too small and back fat is spilling out the sides.  The thing is about 2 years ago this bra fit perfectly, and was, in fact, an eensy bit too big.

I don’t have a picture of of my back, but this is a random picture of me from that summer when I was at my most fit.  Photo 49

I spent the summer leading backpacking trips and had less than enough food to eat.  I remember cooking a red pepper with an onion, adding salsa, and putting it in a corn tortilla.  I couldn’t afford bus fare to and from work, so I’d bike the 10+ miles to and from the base each day I was in the front country.  Seattle ain’t flat. In the back country I’d carry a pack between 50 & 80 pounds (+/-) and hike 2-7 miles daily.  I was in great shape.

It is nearly impossible for me to maintain that level of fitness in the front country.  Fitness was my entire life. The problem with the off-season is that I was not burning the same amount of calories, I consumed relatively the same amount of calories if not more, and I wasn’t consuming the same quality of calories (Red Hot Blues vs. G.O.R.P.).  As a result, I needed to find a way to burn a large amount of calories + go to work and lead an urban life.  Not simple. I’m not a fan of pretend exercise. I don’t want to go to the gym. I’d rather hike 14 miles to get from one campsite to another. With the hiking it’s mandatory exercise. The gym is pretend.

I started roller derby in June of 2012. I skated about 3 times a week from June until August.  I was in a different kind of shape. Just look at my legs.  Here is a picture of me in July or August of 2012.

Photo 335

My rectus femoris (totally had to look that up) are AMAZING. My gracilis (again with the look up) are lacking.  I know you can’t “spot” burn fat, but that’s a place I would if I could. I’d like to accomplish a few things:

1. Reconcile what I look like in the mirror with what I see in pictures, and what is true in real life. There is a huge disconnect for me.

Photo 317

I had no idea my stomach looked like this until I took this picture and saw it. Even when I looked back at the mirror I couldn’t see myself as I was.

2. Develop an eating lifestyle that is not reward based and does not lend itself to stress or emotional eating

3. Understand that women are different. Websites like My Body Gallery are fantastic.  I don’t need to look like: Michonne.1.2  imagesimages-1images-2

No matter how much weight I lose I won’t be shaped like them.  My body is built to climb mountains not to grace the covers of magazines stocked on shelves in a society that oversexualizes women.  Their bodies are beautiful.  I just don’t need to make them the mile marker for my own.

Taken 3.20.2013

Taken 3.20.2013

Related blog entries:

Chest Pains – She is indeed Undone

Detox – Wearingmyblackness

Knock Kneed Mary – Wearingmyblackness

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Cheers!