Monday, March 4, 2013

Gluten Free

So I did it, yes, I have jumped on the Gluten Free band wagon!  I'll give you a quick history of what lead me to the decision to stop eating all things soft and yummy!  I promise, I'm getting somewhere with this story.
For most of my life, I was able to eat anything I wanted, never felt unwell, never gained a pound.  In my later 20's, a panic disorder that I think was always looming, hit me hard!  For the next 6 or seven years I struggled with this and as anyone who has anxiety can attest to, it ruled my life!  I tried almost everything...therapy, a naturopath, acupuncture, esodynamic therapy (correctology), books, Cd's, DVD's, on line courses, more therapy, and band-aid solutions like Ativan and Lorazipam.  Through all of this focus on overcoming my anxiety and avoiding things that made me anxious, my world became very small.  Not only were social gatherings difficult for me but working, sleeping even eating became something that I had to force myself to do every day.  I had also lost touch with most of my friends, through no fault of their own, I had become inaccessible.  Luckily, my now wonderful husband stood by me through it all, it cannot have been easy! 
During these years there were ups and downs, some of the above mentioned things worked better than others but the anxiety was always there.  Never the less, through these difficult years, I was able to accomplish a lot.  I owned my own business (a coffee shop), I got married, we bought a house and I had a baby.  There were many great times but there were also many dark times...
I had a major health scare when I was 31.  About a year post baby, I was diagnosed with Grave's Disease, not before having a major "Thyroid Storm" which resulted in severe weight loss and congestive heart failure.  Scary!
My anxiety only worsened after that.  By the time I was 33, I was at the end of my rope.  My family Dr had recently moved her practice and I was referred to a new Dr who would not refill my Rx for Ativan (my only salvation at the time) but did write me an Rx for Effexor, an antidepressant.  I filled the Rx but didn't take it...I'm not depressed, I have anxiety.  What if it changes my personality?  What if I don't feel like myself?  What if I experience all of the horrible side effects that they mention in the paperwork?  No, I'm not taking it.
After a late night heart to heart with a friend and a few too many glasses of wine, I came clean on just how severe my anxiety really was.  I was honest about the thoughts that ran through my head on a minute to minute basis.  With her encouragement, I started taking the meds the next day.  For that, I will be forever grateful!  It was a rough road.  The side effects I was so afraid of were a bit awful for about a week or two...headaches, hypersensitivity, anxiety (go figure) but I stuck with it and suddenly, the cloud lifted.
Did it change my personality?  No.  Did I feel like myself.  Yes, for the first time in 8 years.  Everything changed.  I started putting myself out there again.  Getting together with old friends, mending relationships.  The change in our family dynamics were astounding!  My daughter seemed to have also experienced a cloud lifting as well.  Although I tried very hard to hide my anxiety from can tell.
This is not to say that I was "cured" but that the looming feeling that at nay minute I could lose control was gone.  The thoughts were less and for the first time, all of the skills I had learned about dealing with anxiety were actually working.  I like to say that the ways of managing my anxiety described in the books at the time were like trying to teach someone how to swim while they were drowning.  I needed a life preserver, then I could learn to swim.
All of this new freedom meant nights out, drinks, food!  Things tasted good again and eating didn't make me anxious.  I decided to have "the summer of Angie!".  I was going to drink wine, eat whatever I wanted and gain some weight for the first time in a long time.  Well, that was a slippery slope.  I fell off the health wagon...hard!
I don't really have any regrets, I thoroughly enjoyed my 3+ years of overindulging.  Only problem is that my body did not.  I had gained about 40 lbs, my skin was awful, my hair was dry and frizzy, I felt lazy and tired all the time and my wardrobe had become, very uncomfortable.  I had a wake up call a few weeks ago when I caught a staph infection.  Are you kidding me?!!  Why would that happen to me and why did it spread so fast?  I was pretty sure I already knew the answers but I needed a kick in the butt.  I started seeing a naturopath and although she reassured me that my unhealthy eating and lifestyle didn't cause the infection, it sure didn't help me fight it off!
So, here I am today...four weeks Gluten, Sugar, Dairy, and Wheat free!  I can't begin to tell you how good I feel already!  Another cloud lifting experience, I can think clearly, my mood is elevated, I have more energy my skin has cleared and I've dropped ten pounds.  I feel like I have a new lease on life.  I've started a work out routine (I'm only on week one of that but you have to start somewhere right?)
I plan to share my successes and struggles along this new path.  I'm sitting here typing, eating a bowl of gluten free steal cut oats instead of drinking my usually fourth cup of coffee and I am actually loving it!

*Disclaimer:  I am not a Dr nor am I an expert in gluten free eating.  I'm a newbie and will probably make some mistakes along the way.  Let me know if you read anything that I've will really help me out!

How I Did It

I was a self proclaimed sugar addict!  Anything I could get my hands on.  Sugar in my coffee, white bread with Nutella, Gummy Bears, Skittles, and CHOCOLATE!!!
I quit the sugar cold turkey (including fruit for now) and really only had one day of unpleasant side effects...major sugar hangover!
The Gluten and wheat were cold turkey as well.  I spent the first week eating mostly veggies and meat.  I've broadened my horizons now and have Steal cut oats for breakfast and Quinoa about once a week  Otherwise, I'm trying to not over do it with grains.
I cut down on caffeine slowly.  Coffee and Diet Coke.  I now have a coffee in the morning and maybe one in the afternoon (I LOVE coffee) and NO Diet Coke.  Otherwise I drink 3L of water a day and green tea when I need something warm.
I eat spaghetti squash with my meat sauce instead of pasta and it's delicious!  I eat chili, lentils, sweet potatoes, meat, homemade soups, nuts, salads...there are so many things to eat!  I haven't tried any of the gluten free baking products yet because at this point I am still sugar free and plan to stay that way as much as possible.  I think sugar was as much a problem fro me as gluten was.
I plan to try dairy again in the future, I have never been a huge consumer of dairy but I do love a stinky cheese!!  Dairy has always seemed to agree quite well with me.
Another interesting find it that I was quite sensitive to raw vegetables in the past, especially dark leafy greens.  A huge green salad could send me to the bathroom for hours!  For some reason now that I've cut out other things, I can eat it!  No troubles?  Not sure why that has happened but I'm loving it!
Well, that's about it for now.  I plan to share the website I love and great recipes that I find throughout this journey.  I've also taken a before picture of myself in hopes that I will see a big difference but I'm not ready to show that one yet!  Here are a few photos of me through the years that I described...

Healthy, Happy Days.  There had been some tough times before this but when I got married and throughout my pregnancy and most of my daughters first year, I felt pretty good.

Grave's Disease in action...wasting away and feeling awful!

These look like great times and although they were, I was REALLY struggling.  I was running daily because I read that it helped.  It did "help" but I needed more.  So I was in great shape physically but not mentally.

Bring on the fun!  Mentally healthy and happy!  Loving life!  Physically...going a bit downhill :0)  I can't look back on these photos with anything but joy.  Although I'm not skinny, they represent pure joy for me.  I could almost weep!

Feeling great and on the road to recovery!  The center photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, post gluten free diet.  The other two were taken this year.

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