Monday, February 20, 2012

It Gets Better!

Gluten free.

The funny thing about living gluten free is that the process for me has been a lot like having kids.

When my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world nearly seven years ago, we couldn't believe how much harder parenthood was than it had looked. We were dumbfounded, exhausted, overwhelmed.

It took me at least a year to get the hang of being a new mom and at last fully let go of my former identity as a fun, energetic, spontaneous single girl.

When our second baby hit the scene, parenting started feeling a little less intense... because at least some of the time, my husband and I knew what we were doing. We'd dealt with fevers, tantrums, stitches, all-night-colic, stomach flus... we actually got to the point where we could change a diaper swiftly, with sterile finesse.

By the time our third (and final) baby joined the family, parenting small children had become second nature. She is nearly three years old now. A few weeks ago I laughingly asked my husband,

"Do you remember our life before kids?"

His reply was pretty simple: "No."

* * * * * *

Living gluten free has been sort of a parallel journey for me.

In 2007 when I first found out about my autoimmune thyroiditis and the relationship between autoimmunity and celiac disease, the notion of living gluten free was intense.

Give up wheat? (You mean, BREAD? PASTRY? PASTA!!!?) Live without soy sauce? Read the label of EVERY product I used in the kitchen? Learn to substitute strange flours, strange starches, and even the mysterious product known as xanthan gum?

Not only did this prospect in itself seem daunting but I had very little support for my sudden change in diet at home. My husband thought living gluten free was a fad, a phase... something that I would "grow out of". He mocked the naturopath who diagnosed my thyroiditis and recommended a lifelong gluten free diet.

Our families were even more perplexed, baffled by my abrupt dietary sea change. My mother had always known me as the girl who would cheerfully eat ANYTHING. I'd affectionately referred to myself as "a human garbage disposal" as a teen, happy to eat all leftovers, all snacks, all junk food.

(I was sinfully lucky, blessed in the 1990s with the kind of metabolism that would let me eat a pint of Ben n'Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream in one sitting without gaining an ounce.)

It took a long while and many patient explanations for our families to wrap their generous, loving, but baffled minds around the concept that this was a permanent change for me.

* * * * *

Starting to write this blog in 2008 made eating gluten free a lot more fun. Trying out new gluten free products was always an enjoyable treat, and more than anything I loved tinkering in the kitchen.

For someone who had never thought of herself much as a good cook, it was a true pleasure to discover that when I really put my mind to figuring out a recipe, interesting and positive things happened in my kitchen!

2009 - 2011 were truly challenging years... yet my gluten free diet remained a highlight. Something constantly positive to feel great about.

Four years after going gluten free, my family and friends have at last wholly accepted my choice and it is no longer a common discussion topic at group dinners. My husband automatically checks to make sure packaged foods are gluten-free before purchasing them for me. He now asks routinely waiters at restaurants about their gluten-free menu options.

Our growing children know more about gluten free eating than any of their friends or teachers... and I find that they've become very sensitive and considerate of the food allergies and intolerances faced by their classmates.

So here we are!

2012. Still gluten free.

And to be honest, living gluten free has become one of the easiest things I do.

* * * * *

I haven't posted recipes over the past two years because after my third pregnancy, I found myself navigating one serious health challenge after another. My body went to crazy-town.

Heart trouble. Esophagus trouble. More thyroid trouble. Spinal disc herniations. Chronic bacterial infections. Antibodies trending toward lupus. Multiple food allergies.

It's been quite a time.

Gluten free became the least of my dietary challenges.

Suddenly I had to avoid, um, EVERYTHING.

Dairy, Sugar, Soy, Sea Salt, Lemons, Nuts, Seeds, Shellfish, Ginger, Sulfites... even some favorite gluten-free grains like Amaranth and Quinoa which inexplicably began giving me hives and flushing.

With all the ups and downs I've stayed gluten free... followed an anti-inflammatory diet bordering on Paleo.

I still cook gluten free every day, still make two dinners every night - one for my family and one for me. Thankfully over time some of the more recent food intolerances have receded and my diet is a bit more 'normal', whatever that means.

* * * * * *

Through it all, high quality produce, grass-fed organic meats and wild-caught fish have been my solace.

"You Are What You Eat..." I still believe this.
"Life And Death Begin In The Gut..." I still believe this, too.

Food may not be the answer to ALL of my health problems; but I truly believe that the gluten free lifestyle has opened me up to an entire world of alternative healing options where on a daily basis I challenge truisms spouted by aging doctors and look to the Earth to find my medicine.

I've decided to pick up where I'd left off with this "Tasty... and Gluten Free" blog... and to really make something special out of it.

In my best dreams, I hope that my ongoing gluten free experiments, recipes, research and discoveries will help others who are also navigating the challenging long-term path of eating "differently" than everyone they know.

Wherever you are, and whomever you may be - I wish you the very best of good health... and a delicious dinner!


Ali said...

So true! Your blog helped me so much when I was learning to make dietary changes. I'm looking forward to reading more.

imwithaslan said...

Fantastic post! I'm glad I stopped by. The pressure to eat without thinking - as opposed to being careful about what you eat, having a special diet, etc. - is enormous. Especially as a teenager, kids my age scoff at me or minimize my decisions with food; however, I'm glad there are people like you who embrace honoring the body's needs!! Thank you :D