I always thought that going gluten-free was only for people with Celiac Disease, and those who did it otherwise were just jumping into the latest food craze. Little did I know that is far from the truth, and how going gluten-free literally changed my life.
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Are you curious about this gluten-free thing?
The Back Story – 2012 – 2014
It was 2012, and I had been out of cancer treatment for over one year. I was still sick. Every. Single. Day. Routine blood tests came back “normal” and my doctors encouraged me that all of the changes (chemo, menopause, Tamoxifen, etc) would take a toll on my body and take time to recover. I wasn’t convinced so I pushed for better answers. They ran more tests and found that I have an under-active Thyroid. Also known as Hypothyroidism. And in my case, specifically, Hashimoto’s Disease.
I found a “great Endocrinologist”. After close to a year, we found the right medicine dosage, and I also found the right timing of when to take it with my other meds so they wouldn’t conflict with each other. I was feeling a little better and had hopes of that trend continuing. But it didn’t.
Why I Gave Up
Even with the new meds, I woke up feeling sick every single day. I woke up so tired, I felt like I hadn’t slept in several days. The fatigue was so bad it was painful. It literally hurt to stay awake. The migraines would be so bad, I could barely see. My stomach was in a constant state of nausea and there were days that it was normal to take 4-5 trips to the bathroom to launch a space shuttle.
Would you have felt like giving up if this were you?
I gave up. Not because I’m a quitter, but because I thought that with everything I went through over the past few years, that this was my lot in life. I live a healthy lifestyle. I eat healthy – lots of fruits and veggies, no red meat, limited sugar so it couldn’t possibly be my diet. I even worked with a nutritionist who is known for her work with these types of conditions. My workout routine transitioned to walking five times a week and a short run on Sunday mornings if I was up to it. Walking was the only exercise that I had the energy to do. So I’m a healthy weight, live a healthy lifestyle, and have exhausted the options for blood work and lab work. It was frustrating to wake up every day and not feel better. But there was a peace about acceptance because I have a life that I want to live. This must be how I have to feel after everything I went through. I hate it, yes. But I’m tired of fighting my health. I have a full-time job, a home and family to take care of, and two businesses to manage. So I stopped complaining and tried to ignore how bad I felt.
As a blogger, I get a lot of visibility into other blogs. I like following the healthy bloggers and seeing what they are up to. Time and time again, I would see recipes and articles covering the full spectrum of diets like Gluten Free, Vegan, Paleo, AutoImmune Protocol (AIP), GAPS, and Wahls. “These people either have some kind of disease or are one of those weird uber healthy people,” I thought. “What’s wrong with enjoying food? What’s wrong with a little moderation? How do these people survive outside of the bubble in their home? How do they go to parties? How do they go out to dinner? Why would they ever want to do that to themselves or their families?”
The exposure finally wore me down, melted my walls of ignorance, and opened my eyes. I started reading for education instead of judgment. I realized that I was one of those people. I realized that being healthy wasn’t good enough. I needed to make some drastic changes.
Would you have been scared to make drastic changes? Or would you jump right in?
Which Way Do We Go?
Yeah… I don’t do drastic food changes. I knew that if I tried any strict nutrition protocol, I would fail. Miserably. I needed to create a plan of action to succeed. All of these protocols seem to have their merits. But which one should I follow? I read, I researched, and I studied like my life depended on it. Women with the same issues and symptoms as me would swear by one protocol or another. The problem – a lot of these diets contradicted each other. Corn is ok. Corn should be banned. Coconut oil is ok. Coconut oil should be banned. Lentils are ok. Lentils should be banned. It was crazy confusing.
Additionally, these protocols were extremely strict. The women who wrote about being on these protocols all claim that you need to be 100% and never go back to the old way of eating. It’s all or nothing or you will fail and continue to feel sick. Knowing that I’m not one to be super strict, knowing that I need something “easy” to get me started, I decided on Gluten Free. Which ended up being GF with a little influence from Vegan, Paleo, and AIP. Believe it or not, there is even a movement called Paleo-Vegan. Crazy, right? If you have to label, I guess I would be considered Gluten Free Paleo-Vegan. I prefer to call it…. Clean-ish.
I talked to Hubby about it and assured him that nothing would change for him and Stepson. He was immediately and completely on board and said that we’re all in on whatever I need to do to improve my health. Cool beans. Wait… are beans GF? AIP? Ugh… I need to make a list. I’m thinking it will be easier to survive on air and lemon water.
Are you as confused as I am?
Baby Steps to Clean-ish Eating
Fortunately, GF foods are now very mainstream in regular grocery stores. My first step was to eliminate major sources of gluten and substitute with healthy GF alternatives. I also eliminated “all” sugar except for fruit. I didn’t have any problem finding substitutes when I went shopping. I swapped out pasta, bread, cereal, flour, oats, breadcrumbs and anything else along those lines for the GF version. I didn’t worry about the “smaller” things like salad dressing or spices. I wanted to see if making a change on the bigger items would help. I found out that it can take anywhere from two weeks to a month to up to six months to start feeling better, so I didn’t have high expectations. I figure I would give it one month and if I didn’t see any improvement, I would decide where to go from there.
Hubby is totally fine with the changes, and Stepson hasn’t even noticed. According to him, GF tastes horrible, so at this point, some things are better left unsaid. The best part – I don’t miss anything. I don’t miss the sugar or the carbs. I haven’t even had a craving for a small treat. Whole and clean foods make up more of our diet now. I’m eating to fuel my body with healthy nutrients.
It’s also been a major experiment. The cleaner I eat, the more I can isolate trigger foods outside of GF. Long-term, I amped up a more vegan-ish diet and finding that an entire elimination of dairy is a good choice. I finally ended on a 90% plant-based diet and entirely GF.
My Challenge for You
We are all different. What works for me may not work for you. I’m finding that it’s difficult to be 100% on one protocol or another. There are merits to blending the protocols. There are merits to eating healthy with sweets in moderation. And there are merits to taking the time to learn about yourself and what foods fuel you and what foods drag you down.
I’m not advocating anything, other than to take care of yourself. But I do challenge you with this… learn what fuels you. Don’t assume that conventional wisdom and advice is correct, because it is constantly changing. YOU are your best health advocate. Love yourself.
Are you Inspired?
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