Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Good God I Miss Sourdough, Part Two

In the last post, Good God I Miss Sourdough Bread, Part 1, I wrote about why I drastically changed my diet and how it greatly improved my everyday well-being. Overall, the changes have been beneficial but they have been difficult. Figuring out what to eat was a huge problem. Dealing with social situtations has been awkward. And as with weight management, sticking to a restricted diet is challenging and sometimes makes me feel resentful of people who can eat whatever they want. I've identified a few main challenges and a few things I would have done differently. I hope that the following information will help you if you decide to embark on this journey!  

Problem 1: Now what do I eat? I gained weight when I stopped eating gluten. I did not expect that. When I explained to people early on that I was going gluten-free the first response was usually, "Oh, you'll lose so much weight!". Unfortunately for me, I didn't take the time to really research, plan and prepare myself for going gluten-free. I just went to Sprouts and Whole Foods and bought a bunch of gluten-free, high-calorie crap. Before the gluten news, I ate whole grain everything in my general diet. Every once in a while I'd eat a cookie or piece of sourdough bread as a treat. I had done Weight Watchers for years so I was always looking for the high fiber options (lower points, whoo-hoo!). Most gluten-free options are made with things like potato starch and rice flour so they are lower in fiber than whole grain options. When I found out I couldn't eat eggs, dairy, and almonds, we were about to go on a family vacation with two other families. I drove straight from the doctor's office to Whole Foods Market (crying) and bought all of the packaged foods I could find that were safe for me to eat. I left with "oreos", crackers, bagels, bars, breads, coconut milk ice cream . . . Again, a whole bunch of stuff that I wouldn't normally eat. I basically went from eating minimally processed food, to almost entirely boxed or packaged junk. I was so overwhelmed by thinking about everything I couldn't eat, that I didn't take the time to figure out what I could eat. It took me a little while to realize that this way of eating was not going to work for me (reality hit when my pants stopped fitting).

Solution 1: Eat real food and substitute with real food. Once I got over the panicky feelings, I sat down and made lists of what was safe and healthy for me to eat. It meant more cooking, which I wasn't happy about, but I knew that it would be worth it. Vegetables and meat are okay for me to eat (but I have to prepare the meat myself). When I discovered quinoa, it was like the heavens opened up and the angels started singing! I've included more info about what I eat later in the post. Luckily, I reversed the trend and after a few months of being very careful about what I ate, I lost almost 15 pounds (which was on the lower end of the healthy weight range for me).

I recently found out about some more health issues and am having to cut more food out of my diet. This time I was smarter. I took a few days to research and plan. I made a list of the foods I could eat. I found recipes that would work. I set aside time that weekend to shop, prepare, and cook food for at least a few days. Sometimes I feel like taking care of my health is a full-time job that I have to fit into my life in addition to being a wife, mother, and fitness professional. But the positive changes I notice make me optimistic and willing to continue.  

Problem 2: People think I'm crazy and there's never anything for me to eat at parties except for raw carrots. Another issue with cutting foods out of my diet has been social awkwardness. My family and some of my friends see me as a bit of a hypochondriac (even when there are scans and tests that show that yes, there really is something wrong). I think many of them were rolling their eyes when I first told them that I stopped eating gluten and that I felt better. I was very defensive and emotional about it. Beyond dealing with my close family and friends, I struggled to find a graceful way of dealing with social outings. At restaurants, I felt embarrassed to ask the questions I had to ask and order the way I needed to order. I was worried the servers and the people with me would get annoyed. At parties, I was either really self-conscious when people went out of their way to have something that I could eat, or annoyed because there was nothing safe for me and I was starving. People always end up asking why I'm not eating and when I explain, I feel like such a downer. I have actually avoided going to social gatherings just because I didn't want to deal with the issue.

Solution 2: Get over it. I'm less self-conscious when I order at restaurants but I also only go to a few now that I feel relatively confident eating at. I try to limit social outings that revolve around food and I feel okay bringing my own stuff to parties. I also try as often as possible to eat before an event so that if there is nothing safe for me, I don't faint or get drunk because I have no food in my stomach (made that mistake again recently and it was not good). Sometimes I'm surprised by people's reactions. I was at a 3-day training this weekend and had to pack all of my food in a big cooler. I wheeled it in every morning and made my special little snacks and lunches. The funny thing was, the rest of the group was interested and actually a little jealous of my food as they ate their Panera sandwiches!

I have also come to the conclusion that I need to surround myself with people who won't be annoyed when I take 5 minutes to order a meal, or I bring something with me to a party, or have to hear me explain, for the 100th time to someone new why I can't eat what's on the table. The people who really love me have gotten over it now and are very supportive (and many have gone to get tested themselves!)

Problem 3: I'm ready to punch everyone around me who can eat pizza. I shake my fist at the sky and get a little "why me" every once in a while. This whole thing really is a pain in the ass. It is torture to watch other people eat pizza or to make my kids sourdough toast with butter. And then every 6 months or so, I get really mad, say "screw it", and eat stuff that my body can't handle. Then I pay the price and remember why I'm doing this in the first place.

Solution 3: Be grateful. In the grand scheme of things, I could have much more serious health problems or may never have figured out why I was feeling bad to begin with. My health is not great, but right now, I can move without pain. Nothing I'm dealing with is life threatening. I'm not facing an illness that could bankrupt my family. And so far, most of my auto-immune issues are being held at bay. I believe this is at least partly because I am so careful regarding my diet. I have an amazing husband, awesome children, a wonderful family, and great friends. I have a job I love, working with people who inspire me every day. Overall, I'm one lucky chick. Sometimes I just have to remind myself of that. 

Resources: There are so many resources available that make this process easier! 

1. Blogs: There are a ton of bloggers out there creating recipes that are healthy and allergy-friendly. I have been especially happy with the recipes I've tried from Real Sustenance. I have only made a few of her recipes but they have all turned out well. I have a few recipes here on this blog that are also very allergy-friendly. The most popular is my Turkey Quinoa Meatloaf. I've also been checking out Paleo food blogs because they tend to omit most of what I can't eat.

2. Labels: If I'm going to go with packaged foods, I read labels very carefully. Since I can't have dairy, I have to look for a whole host of ingredients that have different names but which are derived from dairy. When I had the testing done, the paperwork that came with my results listed everything I needed to avoid for each category. Packaged foods list major allergens, so I know that if I don't see dairy, and if something is marked Pareve or Vegan (and doesn't contain all of the other stuff I have to avoid), then it should be safe for me. Learn your trigger foods and research all of the ways they are used in packaged foods. Dairy and Soy are probably the two that are the most prevalent and the most "hidden".

3. Fresh food: As difficult as it can be to have to cook as much as I do, when I'm primarily eating vegetables and meat I prepare myself, I feel much better. And it's much easier to maintain a healthy weight. My fridge is usually stocked with salad greens (Big Green Salad #1), greens for smoothies (My Favorite Green Smoothie), cooked chicken, and the odd Applegate Farms meat product. I also make Tuna Salad and some grain-based salads (Mom's Summer Quinoa Salad, Mango Quinoa Salad) frequently. My new favorite snack or meal base is my Cauliflower "Couscous". Last week I added some grilled chicken and curry powder and ate it for lunch ~ Deeee-licious! Almost all of the recipes I make can be made in a large batch and then either refrigerated or frozen for later use. I find it easiest for me if I spend a few hours on a Sunday making most of my food for the week. And the more I cook, the faster I get!

4. Substitutes: I've replaced most of my dairy with coconut milk products. I eat grains like quinoa and rice instead of wheat. I really like using Daiya shreds in recipes where I need cheese. I use Tamari instead of Soy Sauce (now that I'm also avoiding soy I'm going to try coconut aminos). I also like The Pure Pantry mixes because they use more high fiber grains like buckwheat and quinoa in their baking mixes. I'm also starting to bake more from scratch and less from mixes (the little baking that I do).

I don't believe that everyone needs to, or should, create dietary restrictions for themselves. However, If you are not feeling well ~ headaches, fatigue, intestinal distress, foggy-headed, etc. ~ it may be time to talk to your doctor or look into testing for these types of antibody reactions. It's not easy but it may make as big a difference for you as it has for me!

If you already live with dietary restrictions, please share any resources you find useful. The more information we all share, the easier this journey is!


  1. Thanks for the great posts Brooke! I love solution 2 !! Way back when I was a vegetarian I ran into very similar issues, and I always found that bringing my own food( and some to share) was the best way to educate others on how I eat. I was a traveling Tofurky and homemade gravy sideshow!!!

    I have a few questions maybe you can help me with... I've been wondering are there benefits to being part time GF? Or is it all or nothing?

    And what questions should I ask my oldest child to see if she may have Gluten Allergies? She has been diagnosed with mild(haha) ADD, we don't allow artificial anything (sugar, flavors, color), but life is still a struggle and I've heard from others with personal experience that sometimes gluten is the problem What made you realize that life wasn't flowing like it should?

    1. Thanks! I remember those vegetarian days ;)

      If you have a reaction like I do, eliminating it for periods of time may give your gut some time to heal and allow your body to reset. But those periods may have to be lengthy. I'm not sure just eating less gluten each day, or having no gluten for only a few days would do much. One theory is that if you are prone to having a reaction to a food, and then you eat a lot of it, then you are more likely to develop a reaction. So if you limit your exposure, then you may avoid developing a full-blown reaction. Even though my kids aren't gluten free, I try to limit their wheat and use other grain alternatives a lot to hopefully help prevent their developing reactions.

      Regarding your daughter, I didn't initially realize that cutting out gluten (and later, dairy and eggs) would make a big difference in my ability to focus. For me, it had more to do with chronic headaches and GI issues. But after a bit I realized that I had less foggy headedness and was less irritable. Now, when I eat food I shouldn't, I get that spacy feeling and have a really hard time focusing at all. And mulititasking? Fuggedaboutit! It's like the Claritin commercials ~ when I'm avoiding the foods I have issues with, the fog lifts. I'm still spazzy and forgetful and easily distracted, but it's a lot better when I'm careful with my diet. If she has the attention issues, it may be an indicator of a food issue. If she also gets headaches frequently or has intestinal issues I'd say it's a good bet she may be reacting to foods. The best thing to do is a food challenge. I'd do an extended test where she eats some gluten every day for a week or so, then have her cut it out for 2-3 weeks and see if there's a change. Then, add gluten back in for a few days and watch to see if any symptoms start up again (it can take up to 48 hours for the symptoms to really show). It may be a little rough for her to cut out the gluten, but luckily she's old enough to understand why and hopefully, if she notices a difference, she'll decide it's worth it to control her diet. Keep us posted!