I remember reading a friend's Facebook post not so long ago about being gluten-free, thinking, "Why in the world would anyone do THAT?" I have to admit, I have a bit of a love affair with food. Rites of passage in my family have always been celebrated with food. Nothing can lift my spirits more than a silky piece of milk chocolate or a bowl of ice cream. I am practically drooling on my keyboard just thinking about it.
My life took a major twist earlier this winter when I realized I had been sick for four months continuously. After battling respiratory and sinus issues, I put my health in the hands of a holistic doctor. "Traditional" pharmaceutical medicine was clearly not working, so what did I have to lose with a couple of herbal supplements and perhaps a recommendation to exercise? I get that I am a full-time, working mom with two young kids, but feeling cruddy all the time was certainly not a requirement of the job.
After running some muscle tests and completing a physical examination (in addition to filling out a humbling and revealing health habits questionnaire), the doctor determined that my dairy addiction might be causing issues with my healing. When she suggested cutting dairy out of my diet completely, I can honestly say that I was crushed. Cut out dairy?! I liken her statement to telling a heroin addict that he/she must stop shooting up immediately. Did she know any of available rehab programs for women like me? I truly did not think I could survive without cheese, milk chocolate, ice cream, and most of all, my five-plus glasses a day. How was I going to do this? I walked out of her office, dazed and confused, but I was willing to give it a try.
After one week, I was feeling like a new woman. I excitedly trotted into her office to share my progress with her. She was proud of my efforts (I had not fallen off the wagon once in that seven day period, not even a lick). She ran several more tests, informing me that my body was definitely on the road to healing. But, my body was still showing signs of stress when exposed to wheat. Wheat?! She then recommended following a gluten-free diet. My body went numb. First, this woman asked me to give up dairy and now wheat?! As she sat shoulder to shoulder with me on the examining table, she shared pamphlets of information with me about the nasty effects of refined wheat. My head swirled with visions of thick slices of wheat bread piled with butter (wait, hold the butter), pizza crusts slathered in marinara, steaming bowls of pasta. Could I do this and hold off on the dairy too? I swear a few tears rolled down my cheeks on the way home.
Alas, it has been exactly one month (minus four hours and twenty five minutes) since I embraced the dairy-free and gluten-free lifestyle. "Embraced" may be a bit of an overstatement. I no longer have to avoid the bakery in the store, and I can even walk past the dairy case without drooling. The other day, I made my kids non-gluten-free pancakes dotted with banned milk chocolate chips, and I didn't even lick the spatula. I can tell you it hasn't been easy--the first pan of "gluten-free" brownies I made tasted like someone poured sand in them when I wasn't looking. But, I pressed on with it, confident that I was made to face this challenge head-on.
Has my new diet been worth the effort? You bet. I can honestly say I have never felt better in my life. I sleep soundly and restfully (even when my kiddoes crawl into bed with us). My headaches are gone, and I no longer feel like I need a Prozac lick on the tough days. My cough literally vanished overnight, and my nose hasn't run in weeks. I am cooking "closer to nature," and I even dusted off the bread maker (using rice flour, of course) and bought a delicious gluten-free, dairy-free cookbook that has become my best friend. I found a gluten-free beer (it rivals my favorite Blue Moon), and margaritas are still permitted in new lifestyle. While my grocery bill has skyrocketed (it costs a lot to eat healthy!), I am down to my pre-baby, fighting weight (my baby will be 3 in one week). I couldn't be happier (well, I could, but it comes in the form of a peppermint ice cream sundae drizzled in hot fudge with a side of frothy, 1% cow's milk). I am worth the time and expense my new lifestyle has forced me to expend.
So, when my class has our "Slice Party" on April 1st to celebrate our month of "slicing," I will sit in the corner of our classroom and resist the urge to rip every single last slice of pizza from their little fourth grade mouths and gobble them down all myself. But, I won't because I am "embracing" my gluten-free, dairy-free lifestyle. But, I can dream, right?