What makes me tick

Saturday, January 16, 2010

So, why the obsession? Why am I so bent on making sure that every meal is "worth it", that every snack has some redeeming quality? Food and I have a long history. I'll try and explain.

Once upon a time, I was a happy, healthy child. I was never as lean and athletic as my sister (the jock!) but I was average and healthy. The pre-teen years were tough...and things got ugly. I began packing on the lbs, and became the butt of so many jokes. Years later (15, 16, etc) I resolved to control my eating habits and unfortunately, things were crumbling somewhat around me so I controlled my food intake to a dangerous level. In retrospect, I know that when things got bad back then, and later in life, my panacea was always to grab hold of the one thing I knew I could totally control, meticulously and obsessively. I could effect change on what went in my mouth and it made me feel good.

I have a very deep-rooted fear of becoming overweight again. It was an extremely painful time in my life, one that I will never repeat, but part of me still fears that one day, I will catch a glimpse of myself in a store window- mid 40s, hair a mess, no makeup, and wearing an enormous Tweety Bird shirt and too-tight leggings. I observe others who are already there, making food choices they truly believe are helpful (which are nothing short of utter self-sabatoge) or using food as their own panacea. When I see someone who is ridiculously unheathily large (we're not talking an extra 20lbs here) I am so sad for them- I always wonder what "it" was...what made them use food in the place of what they really wanted. I also renew my vow to never do that.

I now know, that I can maintain a healthier balance, whereby I can eat well, maintain my weight and actually enjoy food. The thing that makes me enjoy food the most though, is finding the magic combination that is both delicious, and nutrient dense. Like finding a chocolate bar with the nutrient content of an avocado. You get my drift.

One of the things I eliminated during my intensely controlled phase, was meat. It was all meats at first, but a few years later, I reintroduced chicken because I found out that I was intolerant to milk, and could no longer rely almost solely on dairy for protein (I was not a very careful vegetarian for all those years).

After I stopped drinking milk and really limited my dairy intake, the suffering I'd lived with since childhood was vastly improved. Night and day difference. Not perfect, but much much better. 

Years went by, and so did two pregnancies. For those of you who have been through it, pregnancy can do some UGLY things to your body (like sending various "parts" south, but not just for the winter). For me, my second pregnancy really did me in. My gastrointestinal symptoms severely intensified. I was tired, sluggish and felt awful.

At the behest of my sister, I began taking a supplement called Seven +. That supplement was the springboard for the months that followed. I slept well again, had tons of energy and really felt like I could start to tackle the things that were bothering me. I went to see a Naturopath and began a very tough elimination diet. For six weeks, I had only whole grains, no refined sugar of any kind (that means reading all the labels and cutting things with Dextrose, etc.), no "fake" sugar, no dairy, no alcohol, and a handful of other things. It was hard, but man...I felt GREAT during that time. GREAT. Again, still had days where I felt not-so-great. But overall great.

After talking with my boss, who is a diagnosed Celiac, I wondered if perhaps the last remaining piece of the puzzle was gluten. I went one step further, and cut all gluten-containing foods (though I was not exceedingly careful about "contamination" of my food). Now, I was REALLY rockin'. As opposed to before, when I felt ...say 60% okay all the time, I now felt 90% most of the time. However, I still have bouts where I feel about 30% okay. So I know that something is still bothering me. I have a few theories:

1) I've got the gluten thing all wrong, and something altogether different is the problem (I sincerely doubt this one);
2) Gluten IS a problem, but I'm missing something else that is ALSO a problem; or
3) I am constantly contaminating my food with gluten (it can be a matter of crumbs, or just the cross contamination that occurs in a factory).

I suspect the problem is #3. But here's the tough thing: you can read all the labels in the world, but about half of them do not actually TELL you when there is a potential for cross contamination in the processing of the product. For instance: Garlic powder. Yes, I'm serious. The big jug 'o garlic powder that I bought at Costco was made on a line that also processes items with gluten. Ergo, I'm not supposed to eat it. How is it that I found this out? Research...online...on various Celiac websites AFTER I suffered through a few of the most painful days since going gluten free. Why? Because the bottle says nothing about it. Very frustrating.

I have a plan to figure out what's going on so that'll be coming up in the next few months. First a consult with my sister's naturopath when we visit with her in February, then an appt with a gastroenterologist in March.

Meanwhile, I strive to keep the pain and digestive issues at bay as much as possible by eating simple, home made healthy foods.

Care to join me?



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