Don't you miss 🍞 bread?!
Note: I started writing this post LAST YEAR in May. Seriously. A year ago. Clearly, I have a finishing problem. Well, today I'm going to finish this post. What I thought I was going to do was sit down and write a post about National Scrapbook Day—tomorrow, May 5th, 2018—but instead I'm doing that thing I do, called DISTRACTION, but that's ok. I have learned to embrace a little of my distractedness, because frankly it's one of the reasons I like me so much. I like that I'm curious and that I'm willing interrupt my plans with something that pops up peripherally because this often allows me to experience inspiration. I've discovered new thoughts, new people and many, many NEW ideas by inviting healthy doses of distraction. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, this old post about giving up gluten.
Ok, here we go ...
Don't you miss bread?
I get this question a lot. And I'm going to be 100% truthful here. I do remember LOVING bread, especially the warm, homemade kind, or the really hearty, chock-full-of-nuts-and-seeds kind (think Dave's Killer Bread) but in all honesty, I don't miss bread anymore. For reals! Walking away from the "staff of life" wasn't easy, I'm not gonna lie, but now with a little hindsight, this journey to a gluten-free (and a mostly grain free) existence has been a huge and unexpected blessing. The other question I get is, "So, bread makes you sick to your stomach?!" This question is posed with a incredulous look of utter disbelief, as in how is that even possible? And no, it doesn't give me a tummy ache, but I have learned without a doubt that gluten does make me sick—primarily in the head. I know. Weird. Bread actually messes with my head so that focusing is even more difficult than it already is, ha!
Here, let me explain by walking you through my body's reaction if I were to eat say a big stack of buttermilk pancakes or one of those Cinnabon cinnamon rolls in the mall ...
Stacy eats bread.
10-20 minutes later: I get a headache, especially right behind my eyes. I almost NEED to close my eyes, or otherwise I start to feel a little dizzy even.
30 minutes later: All I can think about is laying down. My limbs, especially my arms feel very heavy. I am suddenly very fatigued and I can no longer concentrate. Any ability I had to focus disappears. I feel tired and drained. My head actually begins to hurt, right in the back. I WANT to lay down and close my eyes.
1 to 4 hours later: I recover somewhat and the headache lessens to a dull, foggy feeling. But, my pants begin to feel very tight as inflammation sets in. And, this is where the ability to focus or remember or even read is diminished. I have to do things that keep me moving and I have a yucky-ish taste in my mouth. I also feel like I should try and eat something to make me feel better—anything sweet or caffeinated. My blood sugar has plummeted, awakening what I now (thanks to Whole30) refer to as the sugar dragon.
The next day: I don't want to get out of bed. My joints feel achy and I have almost no motivation to do anything active. My head is still not clear and I feel depressed.
2-3 days later: My head is clearing and my inflammation is decreasing, but I am NOT in a good mood. I not only feel depressed, but my mind starts spewing negative thoughts, which fuel negative emotions and I struggle for a day or two to get back on track with a healthy mental outlook.
Now, just so you know. I had no idea that all this was going on—I was just living life and all this was going on behind the scenes and contributing to a general malaise that set in once I turned 45. I could literally feel my sense of wellness slipping away, but I assumed it was me getting older, running a busy family and a busy work life etc.. I had no way of isolating or linking the reactions I've described to what I was eating until after I completed my first Whole30 back in August of 2012. I had been feeling YUCKY for about 2 1/2 years, had read many books and been to multiple doctors, when I came across the book, It Starts With Food. I ordered it on Amazon in mid July that summer, and read it in a matter of days. It was the first book that explained hormone imbalance and the role food plays in our wellness in a way that I could easily understand. The authors had developed a dietary reset program, that was helping people and the more I read the more I decided I had nothing to lose by giving it a try. After about 2 weeks of Whole30 I was feeling SO good that I decided I would keep eating this way—which means plenty of delicious whole foods without grains, dairy, legumes or sugar of any kind—so I did. After the initial 30 days, I learned how to make some really yummy treats with dates and started experimenting with baked goods using almond and coconut flour, etc.. but as Thanksgiving approached I thought since I was feeling good I would prepare our traditional meal with rolls, stuffing, pies and much more. We ate and it was delicious, except that immediately afterwards I began to feel a little sick and very tired. But, hey it was Thanksgiving, you're supposed to overeat and feel tired right? It's all that tryptophan in the turkey. We then decided to take in a movie. It was at the theater that I began to realize that what I was experiencing was much more than post-feast sleepiness. I could barely focus on the movie, my eyes were fuzzy, my head felt horrible and I could barely stay awake. I had to loosen my pants and when I got home and undressed I was shocked at how puffy I looked—all over! All of a sudden I remembered the Whole30 and what I had read about the symptoms to watch for. I was having a reaction to all the gluten that I had ingested, after not eating ANY for 3+ months.
There is of course much more to my journey, but I am currently doing my third Whole30 reset. I'm on day 4 and even though I have completely changed what and how I eat since 2012, I still need to periodically refresh my resolve and reset my digestive system. I have been completely gluten free from 2013 and I'm SO GRATEFUL that I am on the other side of a lot of frustration, discomfort and discouragement. If you think gluten may be a problem for you, I highly recommend Whole30 as a way to find out for sure. I've had friends say something like, "I gave up gluten for 3 or 4 days and it didn't really make a difference." The truth is you need to completely eliminate it from your diet for much longer—30 days even and then you have to eat a bunch of it in one sitting. If you do that and you have a gluten sensitivity, trust me, you will know.
Looking back on five years of a new lifestyle, I can say that there are many benefits to eliminating bread and the like from my life. I love that by not eating gluten I can automatically avoid MOST of the ooey-gooey treats that contain too much refined sugars and other stuff that isn't good for me. I also love that when I'm at a church function or a social gathering where there are treats that I don't have to wonder if I'll eat or overeat. I know I won't and that has allowed me to focus on the gathering and to make other people the focus on my attention. I have been collecting healthier recipe replacements for special occasion foods for several years, and I now know how to cook from scratch—which is much easier than I imagined. I know how delicious real food made with fresh ingredients can taste. I've lost my fear of (healthy) fats and I have a wonderful sense of wellness all the way down to my cells. This is why when someone poses the bread question, I can genuinely say, I absolutely do NOT miss bread.
I'd love to read any comments, or answer any questions. If you'd like to learn more about this approach to eating, I recommend Nom Nom Paleo, Danielle Walker and Balanced Bites. These websites and their authors have each written books and been my go to for information, motivation and recipes. They are my FAVORITE resources.