Saturday, June 23, 2012
Let me start this blog post with a disclaimer:
I am gluten-free but I have not had official blood tests to confirm gluten intolerance, nor have I had any testing of the villi in the intestinal track to determine celiac. I used the oldest ‘test’ in the book: I underwent a total and radical elimination test then watched what happened when I reintroduced gluten into the diet. Shortly after doing this, I visited with my doctor to discuss what I had done, and the changes I was seeing. I asked about re-entry of gluten and getting officially tested. She recommended against it based on my history of problems, the changes she was seeing even at that stage, and the knowledge that I would have to consume gluten based foods for at least 30 days before any testing could be done. Ultimately, she gave me the choice to test or not to test, and I declined. I offer this explanation because i know that right now eating “G-free” is all the rage, and for those of us with a real problem, it is not a fad, it is a life-long struggle and readjustment. It has been close to a year of GF living for me, and it is the single best change I have seen in my health in YEARS.
On with the show....
The beginning of the end of eating gluten-based foods started with lunch one particular day, but really, it was only the final straw and not the first one. I had fixed a very basic meal: turkey breast on whole wheat bread with mayo, and a bowl of tomato soup on the side. I got half way through that lunch - 1/2 the sandwich, and 1/2 the soup - and I couldn’t eat another bite. My stomach was so bloated and I felt like I had eaten an entire Thanksgiving meal, even though I had not. Of course, I brushed it off and didn’t think much more about it until later when I was talking about this to my sister, who was recently diagnosed as Celiac. She said ‘You know, maybe you shouldn’t be eating gluten. Look what it did to me.’ Like the good sister that I am, I immediately denied any such tomfoolery and said that I knew I wasn’t gluten intolerant and it wasn’t my problem. She repeated that I might want to talk to my doctor anyway, since it is thought that Celiac disease can be genetic.
Later, I actually thought about what she was saying and started researching. By late into that night, I had made a decision to try GF for 30 days. I didn’t expect anything to happen. I thought I would be able to go back and tell my sister, “I told you so.” The best way to foil someone’s (good) advice is to prove them wrong, right? So I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. I just did it. I bought a bunch of GF replacement foods and cooked only what I knew was gluten free. I checked labels, and checked online to see what foods were on the safe list. I didn’t dumb down my diet too much, but I did keep it a bit simpler. I was determined to prove to myself that I was not intolerant. Boy was I wrong.
In the 12 months preceding the turkey sandwich lunch, I had been having a number of alarming and chronic health issues. I had injured my knees (but not seen a doctor yet), and that was one issue, but I was also in chronic daily pain. I had it all: my right hip ached constantly from arthritis. I had pains in my legs that felt like my bones were just aching continually. I was getting numbness in my toes and hands. My lower back hurt so bad that I thought I blew a disc. I could not stand up straight after sitting for long periods of time. There were days that my boss at work would say to me: Are you alright? I can see you are in pain! One day he told me he thought I should go to my doctor and insist that she send me out for xrays because this couldn’t be normal. I had headaches every day. I had intestinal distress most days. It seemed never-ending and always enduring.
I broke down in tears one day at home and wondered if I was dying and no one knew it. A 46 year old person should not be in this much pain without an explanation. Following my bosses advice, I did see my doctor and a specialist. The only good thing to come out of all the testing and x-rays was the discovery of my knee problems, chondromalacia. For all the other pain, the doctor was puzzled. “There is nothing wrong with you physically. I can’t explain it.” At least I knew I wasn’t at death’s door, but then, why did I still hurt so much??
I can remember two days in two years with crystal clarity: I got to work and I felt SO good... I couldn’t figure out why this was, the first time it happened. The second time around I realized precisely what it was: I had woken up on those days pain-free. Nothing, not one iota. I had been so long in chronic pain, that I forgot what this felt like. I had only one or two more days like that before my journey to gluten-free living started. I treasured those days, because I didn’t know if I would ever see them again.
And then I ate my turkey sandwich lunch.
The first thing I noticed after a few days of eating GF was that my stomach was settling down and I didn’t feel as full after eating. Within a week, I wasn’t having the episodes of intestinal distress quite as often and within two weeks, not at all. At about that same two-week point, I woke up one particular morning and when I got out of bed, I stopped dead in my tracks. I had realized for the first time in two years I was able to stand up straight the moment I woke up and my back was no longer hurting. By 30 days, I noticed that my legs weren’t aching and the tingling was less intense. My headaches were decreasing. The arthritis in my hip (confirmed by xrays) didn’t hurt anymore. Within the first few months, I could bend my knees enough to bend down to the ground and pick something up. I could sit indian style again. My ankles were less swollen. I could stand for long periods of time without lower back pain or my feet tingling.
Now, 11 months later, my chronic pain issues have disappeared. Completely. If someone asked me if I have arthritis, I would say that I don’t, if I were basing it on pain alone. My hip only bothers me - mildly - if there is a major storm front rolling in. My lower back never hurts. I do not get daily headaches like I used to. My stomach feels GOOD. I had brain fog too, and that has gotten much better over time as well. My life changed forever with that turkey sandwich lunch, and I am truly grateful to my sister for making me really think enough to just try - even if I was originally trying to prove my (very wrong) point :) Now she and I work together to manage our GF lifestyles and to help the rest of our family understand how serious this issue really is to us and everyone else who has the same problem.
I’ll end with an amusing story: The first time I ate a GF meal in a restaurant that had a separate menu, I decided to order a GF beer to go with it. After I finished the beer, I was apparently sitting there saying ‘wow’ out loud, because my friend responded with “what?” I told her that I just realized what normal people actually feel like after drinking a beer. Of course, she required explanation, and I said:
“Do your legs feel really heavy after you drink a beer??
“Um, no (LOL)”
“That’s what I mean: my legs used to feel heavy and they didn’t after drinking this beer. Fascinating!”
“Okay.... (more laughter)... maybe you should another one to celebrate your legs not feeling heavy :) ”
Maybe I should have had that second beer... it was pretty amazing, after all.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
I haven't been back here for two years.... and so much has happened including my weight gain. Like so many before me, I didn't just gain back what I lost I gained back more :(
It's been a bit of a tough time over these two years: I injured both knees and foolishly waited too long to go to a doctor for help. I stopped exercising because it hurt too much - I couldn't even walk up and down stairs. By the time I finally got to the doctor, he told me I have chondromalacia in both knees, which is a fancy way of saying the cartilage under my kneecaps has deteriorated significantly. I had go to PT for months to help heal the pain.
Also during this time, I found out I was gluten intolerant (by testing myself with an elimination diet). What a story there! I will save that for my next blog. But suffice it to say that I had spent a year in chronic pain off all kinds, right down to arthritis in my hips, and this along with the knees meant I wasn't doing any kind of exercise. Is it any surprise I gained all this weight back? I was eating like crap to comfort my painful state of being, and not getting one ounce of exercise to offset my self-destructive behaviours.
WELL, I won't make any promises, but I have been GF for a year now (almost) and I am eating better most of the time, and I have started a walking program again. I feel so much better, and I am hoping to stay motivated and stay with SP for a longer time to help me get back to a better place in my life.
It really is a journey, isn't it?
Saturday, February 06, 2010
I have been away from SparkPeople a long, long time. No-one will be surprised to hear that I have gained back all the weight I lost before :( I get discouraged with myself, because it shouldn't be this hard to keep weight off. I am going through perimenopause, and I really feel like this is wreaking havoc with my body. I am hungry all the time. It seems like I gain weight at the drop of a hat. I work a lot of hours, and find it hard to work in exercise. I need to refocus and get back into the right kind of habits.
Let's hope that this time I can achieve better success. I have some greater motivation (for the medium term) - some of my sisters and I are planning a trip to Paris next year!! I really hope we can do this, because it is my dream. I want to be healthier and at a better weight when I make this trip. I want to enjoy and savor every moment of it.
Here's to trying again - picking myself back up and moving forward. I'll keep you posted on how I am doing :)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I feel like I have accomplished something good for my body and I have much more energy. I found a great workout buddy who shares my goals, and we go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week.
I have had access to this gym at my job for 10 years, and it was only now, when I was encouraged to go by my friend, that I took advantage of it.
Well worth the effort!
Friday, November 14, 2008
Today is starting out to be a good day
I got the next trophy level, broke 150, and I finally earned the 10 lb loss mark with SparkPeople - bringing my total loss to just over 15 lb. I am so excited! Finally, people are noticing my weight loss, and some of my clothes are starting to get looser.
This place is awesome - SparkPeople is fully responsible for my ability to stick with it and to get this far. It's taken me so long just to lose this much weight - 6 months - but finally I am starting to really see the hard work paying off. It has been worth every minute of the hard work, and I have never been more confident of my ability to do something in my life. I am 5 lbs away from my first goal weight, and once I reach that, I would like to see another 15 lbs go. At that point, I would be at 130, which is a weight I haven't seen in many, many years, and a weight I would be perfectly happy to be at. But the sky is the limit, so who knows? Maybe one day, I will be at my optimum weight, which is around 120, but I haven't seen that since high school - and that was a LONG time ago. But I believe with SparkPeople, anything is possible....
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