Before I even begin this post, can I just say that I fully believe everyone is a bit sensitive to gluten. I don’t know a single person who can eat a ton of pizza or large plate of spaghetti with garlic bread and feel amazing after. If you’re that person, consider yourself lucky!
Growing up I ate A LOT of bread and pasta. I was constantly involved in sports and my mom worked her butt off to chauffer me everywhere along with my little brother while my dad worked nights. That meant a lot of quick meals and going out to eat with whatever sports team was currently in season after our game. I remember going to Burger King with my cousin often after volleyball games and getting a King size fry and pop. As a matter of fact, I related most of my fun experiences with food, especially food containing gluten.
Going to the mall? Better get soft pretzels and cheese.
Movie theatre? Popcorn with lots of butter (and the oil that contains gluten!)
Dates with my boyfriend? Pick up pizza/breadsticks and head to a pond to go fishing.
Friday nights? Pizza, pop and babysitting with my friend
Eventually, when I was in college we would go out for a beer and then later grab some beer nuggets (GO NIU!) which is pretty much just fried bread.
College? Beer nuggets
It wasn’t until that college/early 20’s period in my life that I really started suffering the consequences of my diet. My husband (then fiance) deployed to Iraq for more than a year during that time, there was a terrible shooting at my college, we had some tough divorces within our family, and the stress just kept coming. My stomach was a mess and I was getting severe migraines often.
I couldn’t figure out why I could go to a cookout and have one beer then be completely ill the next day and my friends could drink a few without any consequences. It wasn’t that I wanted to get trashed but the logic of it didn’t make sense to me. It was as if I couldn’t function normally until everything I had eaten was out of my body. I could almost feel it going through my system. Stomachache/bloating, then pain in my lower abdomen along with fogginess and horrible headaches.
The years following were random doctor visits, gallbladder removal, frustration, more visits with migraine specialists, hormone specialists, GI specialists, until finally I felt like someone listened to me. I had some testing done that revealed I did not have celiac disease (thank you God!) but after a trial and error type diet my doctor and I figured out gluten was the culprit. I was “diagnosed” with a gluten sensitivity and I was so glad to have found an answer.
Everything started to make sense to me. I was always terribly ill when my husband left on deployments, military schools, whatever. That was no doubt partially because the night before we would go out for a dinner which usually involved pasta, bread, chicken wings, or other yummy breaded appetizers.
It never failed that I would wake up with a migraine and feeling flu-ish after a night out with my friends even if I only had one drink. Regardless of my active life style, I often felt sluggish and extremely bloated. So, I had to take control.
That might sound easy, okay, so stop eating it. No biggie. Except, gluten is in EVERYTHING. At first, I was very careful, I learned to read labels and was determined to take care of myself. I did research and bought some helpful books. I felt like “The G Free Diet” by Elisabeth Hasselbeck chronicled my life. It was nice to not feel alone. I remember being so happy to find that I could have white rice, broccoli and chicken from my favorite Chinese restaurant, until I got home and became sick. Apparently, the sauce is filled with gluten. I was overwhelmed, frustrated, sad and angry. This is going to sound crazy, but I had to take time to grieve my previous lifestyle. I had to reprogram my brain and it’s associations with food and fun. (Which is still an ongoing process!)
I became extremely anxious when traveling because I never knew when I would become sick. My husband stopped MANY times for me to run out of the car after eating something I shouldn’t. I still always prefer to drive myself places for that very reason. I tried buying everything gluten free which became very expensive and honestly not that healthy. I much prefer just eating “real” food rather than items labeled gluten free.
So, the reason this post came about is my recent chapter in this affair. My 3rd pregnancy I could eat whatever I wanted. I loved it. Bread didn’t bother me, pasta was fine, pizza, chicken wings, you name it. I wasn’t having migraines, and my stomach felt good, so I went back to enjoying foods I hadn’t enjoyed in a long time. I wasn’t extreme but it was nice to not have to watch every little thing and then be consumed with the worry and guilt that follows. I know this wasn’t a great choice as it was still damaging my system but I did it. Now, after baby it’s been tricky getting back to my old lifestyle, especially during the colder months when fresh fruit and veggies are hard to come by. If I have a piece of breaded chicken on my salad, I’m usually okay, but spending the day eating gluten containing foods doesn’t ever work out well for me.
This past week I had a day where I had a bagel for breakfast. ( I never eat these because 1. they used to be one of my faves , 2. I begin my morning feeling sleepy after eating them) I was thinking okay, I’ll have this and no more today. Lunchtime rolled around, we were in a hurry and I had dino chicken nuggets with my girls. My mind is saying SERIOUSLY Jami, you know what is going to happen if you don’t eat well at dinner. I have dinner planned out and change of plans, we go to a friend’s house ….and order pizza. There it is, the day is a loss!
I’ve learned that no matter what the situation compromise almost always leads to more compromise. In the food/workout world this takes me right on the path to destruction. If you are compromising with your spouse, or a partner at work, that’s great! As a matter of fact compromise is necessary in many situations for success. When it comes to taking care of your health, it’s the complete opposite. I have no doubt that if my day had started off with a better choice than a bagel, the following day wouldn’t have involved feeling grouchy, tired, being nauseous and a migraine that was so bad I had to take prescription medication to get rid of it. So, here I am, continuing to work on self control, and remembering food is fuel for my body and it will run based on what I put into it. I”d love to hear what you do to take care of your body or any experiences you have with gluten sensitivity or celiac!
Thanks for reading and be well!
Two of my favorite books related to gluten sensitivity and how it affects your body: