Mid-December I decided to quit gluten cold turkey. I’d been researching gluten sensitivities and some problems I’d been having with my digestive system and eczema and decided one day (where my stomach was being particularly difficult for no good reason) that I was going to take a break from it.
Let me also say, that I don’t really like to buy into trendy things that people do just because say, Oprah did it (which she really did in this case) but I just had a feeling I should try it. I met with my general physician who had tested me for celiac’s previously for some other reasons (I know I’m being vague here, but if you know anything about celiac’s you know why) but suggested it may be good for me to give up wheat just to see if I felt better and if my eczema cleared up at all, even when my celiac’s test came back negative.
The first three weeks were rough. I have never been so tired in my life. It was basketball season and I was in the midst of the busiest stretch and there were days where I actually fell asleep at basketball games, like during the games in the loud gym. There was one day where I nearly fell asleep driving on I-40 and had to take a nap in the garage before going in the house. Exhaustion like I have never, ever known.
Over Christmas break I got my hands on the Wheat Belly book and skimmed/read most of it and had a totally mixed feelings about it. On one hand, if this guy is telling the truth then I feel like it totally explains the “obesity epidemic” in the US and why after exercising and eating healthy (ie; whole grains) I still was gaining weight but on the other hand my brain was reminding me that people are always looking for a “cure” to everything and for some people, this guy’s diet was their cure and many other ‘low-carb’ diets have success stories, which overall the wheat belly diet is just another low-carb/no carb diet.
So three months sans gluten what is my take home?
First, I have never felt better. I am significantly less bloated and uncomfortable than I once was in my clothes and skin. Last semester I had students and teachers asking me on the regular if I was pregnant. I would get so offended and reassure myself that they were just teasing or seeing something that wasn’t there, but I feel so much thinner now, and I have only lost 3 pounds which is really nothing in the grand scheme. My clothes fit so much better and I don’t find myself shopping for baggy shirts or looking in my closet for a baggy outfit that will let me breathe comfortably and hide the lil’ belly.
Second, my energy level is pretty constant and I don’t want to eat all the time. When I first started teaching I had to snack every hour. I mean, granola bars, yogurt, string cheese, fruit, and inevitably when my snacks ran out I was getting something (probably gross) from the vending machine. Now I eat breakfast, maybe have a midmorning something and then eat at lunch time. Sometimes I even forget to eat lunch and end up cramming something before my last class of the day because I know I need to eat something. Total 180 from two years ago. I also don’t have the afternoon slump or feel the need to drink a large amount of caffeine in the morning. Some days I DIY a lil’ chai latte to take with me but days where I just have water I feel just as awesome. Honestly I am getting to the point where I don’t like caffeine in the morning because my first period says I talk so fast they can’t understand me. Most mornings I wake up awake, but there are some days where I wake up and am dragging but that has more to do with a late bedtime and the life of a teacher being exhausting I think than what I am eating.
I don’t think wheat has anything to do with my eczema. My hand eczema has improved some, but I think that is because my hands aren’t nearly as swollen as they used to be. That could also be winter time too, so I am not sure if I should attribute that to gluten. My eyelids have improved a little bit, but that is probably more to do with my constant taking of Allegra and incessant moisturizing more than anything. That allergy is definitely more probably related to dogs/dust than anything I am eating. Or my ridiculous nickel allergy that I found out about at my dermatologist which is a whole other thing to discuss later.
Food has a lot to do with emotion. Or emotion has a lot to do with food. Not sure why, but this has been emotional. The worst is waking up on a Saturday starving and wanting pancakes. Or a muffin. Or a cinnamon roll. or a Bojangles biscuit. and having an egg. or bacon. There have been days where I have actually cried. There have been days (like Friday) where I gave in and ate a cookie. And promptly regretted it for 48 hours. Which leads me to, how much does food have to do with my relationships? In the past when I totally did not eat right, ate whatever I wanted to, bread or otherwise, how did this affect my mood and how did my mood affect my relationships? Which leads me to, how much does what I/we eat affect my marriage? When you are married or in a committed relationship, are you eating for two? Again, for some people, food may not affect their emotions but I can tell you, I have felt the best emotionally in the past three months than I have in a long, long time.
I don’t think everyone needs to give up wheat/gluten to be happy/healthy. I think some people have a predisposition to not processing it well and others can process it just fine with minimal problems. For me? I like waking up awake. I like staying awake all day. I like sleeping good at night. I like having normal poops. I like not being asked if I am pregnant. I like not being bloated. I like feeling good about wearing a bathing suit and not feeling like a whale. I like not being grumpy because I am hungry every two hours. And right now, I am experiencing these things because I am not eating wheat and I am 100% okay with that.
So what is next for me? At least 3 more months of gluten free life to see if it gets even better. In May I am going to (hopefully) do the Whole30 challenge(?) to give up the rest of grains/dairy to see how that affects me/eczema. Rumor has it that dairy can be a big eczema trigger (as can dog hair, ha!) so I am excited to see 1) how awesome I feel off of grains/sugar/dairy and 2) if my eczema shows any sign of leaving me.
So much of this is probably TMI or not interesting, but I just wanted to share in this big life-change that’s been happening. I am excited to see where it leads. Thanks to friends/family who have been encouraging and supportive and insert witty comment here to those of you who have felt the need to tell me that this gluten thing is just a fad and I am less than intelligent for buying into it.
Anyone else wheatless and loving it?