Tuesday, November 22, 2011

curse you, tiny foods!

Well, I went off gluten for a little over a week. I felt great at first, then some of my symptoms came back a little bit (could be that I accidentally ate some hidden gluten, could be that something else also triggers my symptoms, could be that I'm not sensitive to gluten at all). Then I got back on gluten to see if I could contrast the two (there wasn't a big difference at first except for one thing that may or may not have been related, and perhaps there's some sort of dietary "momentum" from going off gluten for a while, or, again, perhaps it's not gluten at all) and then it seems to get incrementally worse... The point is, I'm not a doctor and I don't know what the heck I'm doing.

For those of you who may not know, gluten is a protein found only in wheat, barley, oats [contaminated oats, really, which are almost all oats], and a few other obscure grains. So I wasn't eating carb-free; I ate lots of fruit, quinoa, brown rice (white rice is no bueno), and the occasional potato or bit of corn. I also ate a lot more vegetables and a bit more protein (mostly in the form of beans and almonds and delicious Columbus-brand deli turkey from Costco). And I ate a lot less in general. And I really felt great - I felt a peace in my guts that I hadn't felt for some time. I lost weight in that week and got a lot of, "You're looking thin! You have a healthy glow!" kinds of comments. (Don't worry, I'm still about fifteen-twenty pounds overweight. Your lovably squishy krebscout is still here.) Now, was it gluten? I don't know. Turns out that when you cut out wheat products and eat little-to-no added sugars (another potential irritant for my particular problem), you cut out about 99% of the world's unhealthy foods. And maybe it's just that eating healthy feels good.

Conversely, eating two doughnuts at ten o'clock at night because you're helping your husband with his PhD applications and it's tedious, obnoxious work so you self-medicate with glazed-fried-deliciousness...maybe makes you feel terrible and have a terrible night's sleep.

When did I get so old?

So I've been trying to change my relationship with food. For a while, even before all of this gluten stuff. It's bugged me for some time that I always feel an urge to punctuate my family outings and date nights with some kind of treat. Let's go to the beach...AND THEN GET ICE CREAM. Let's have family home evening....AND THEN GET DOUGHNUTS. Let's have a holiday/birthday/celebration....AND STUFF OURSELVES SILLY. It's such a strong culture, and it's so personal. One of the gluten-free blogs I was researching addressed the question of why Celiacs often cheat on their gluten-free diets despite the fact that it could put them in the hospital...she said it's denial. Because we were raised for food (specifically gluten) to be part of our souls. We have memories of food smells that we associate with home and mom and childhood; most of our traditions are based around the cooking, eating, or giving of food; your soul sags just to think about how much your children would be "missing out" if they didn't get, say, ice cream cones after going to the dentist/doctor (this was our tradition) or didn't enjoy an enormous amount of Halloween candy. I read elsewhere that sugar is how we say "I love you" in this country. Grandmas bake cookies, moms wouldn't dare let a birthday go by without a cake, and sweethearts go to the soda shop to get malts.

I don't want food to have that much power over me or my children.

Not at the risk of the muted sort of existence I feel when I eat the processed, refined, sugary stuff that I usually eat. Growing up, I never believed that healthy food could make such a difference in my life, but boy do I have a testimony of it now. My life was brighter and fuller and more vivacious in that gluten-free week than it's been for a good long time. I'm often one to dismiss arguments like this with a shrug and a, "Whatever. Millions of people have eaten a lot of gluten and sugar every day for generations and they turned out fine, my kids will be like me, blah blah I'm not going to worry about it."

But I can't shrug it off anymore.

Food is pleasurable, and I have no problem with that. God probably made it that way for a reason. But I wish I could turn off the "eat food for pleasure" command in my brain and rewrite the code to say, "eat food for nourishment, then make it pleasurable."

But the truth is that I am a very sentimental, tradition-loving type. It breaks my heart to think of my children without the good memories and food associations that I have. But if I rewrote the code now, while they're so young...if I established a new tradition of treasuring moments and experiences over ice cream cones and Thanksgiving pies...wouldn't they have just as much of a glowing childhood experience as mine? It would just be different. And that's okay. I WANT it to be different. Sometimes...often...I think to myself, "Dang, I wish I could raise my kids in a culture vacuum." No gender issues, no social conventions, no self-consciousness, no keeping-up-with-the-Jones-manship, no political correctness, no sense of isolation and no desire to be different. Just us and truth and God and grass and stars and math.

Lately I've been feeling like Satan's most effective weapon has just been the sheer noise of it all.

Well, there's a little snippet of my journey toward being at peace with food. Fortunately, I have an extremely open-minded and supportive husband who, though he's not quite feeling the same itch to go extreme, is willing to have an open dialogue about the role of food in our traditions and eat healthier with me in general. Now to convince my two-year-old that lollipops aren't that awesome.

1 reason(s) to click here:

Chase said...

Well, if Celiac's is anything like what I had, if it was gluten you'd notice it within an hour of eating it and it would be obvious. Give me an email if you'd like some pointers on identifying foods that cause you to die - I've got "a little" experience at it.