Pizza, ice cream, and tacos are life’s joys. I love them all so much, but unfortunately they do not love me back. I have been struggling for months, even years with negative body symptoms, which I could not exactly pinpoint the cause. The symptoms are pretty vague and include: bloating, heartburn, gas, joint pain, headaches, phlegm, stomach pain, rosacea, fatigue, and a mix of constipation and diarrhea, etc. The list of sexy symptoms goes on.
I knew my diet could be better, but I just did not know where to start for elimination. In September, I did 30 days without dairy and my symptoms did not seem to relent. So for October, after watching the documentary Fat, both my husband, Paul and I decided experiment by cutting added and refined sugar (including honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.) and grains (including corn, quinoa, rice, wheat, beer, etc.) from our diets for 30 days to see if we experienced positive results.
It sounds so simple to cut two things out of your diet, but the problem is sugar and grains are in nearly EVERYTHING. Sugar and grains are in drinks, pasta sauce, salad dressing, pre-packaged meals, etc. The list is overwhelming. Trying to find a restaurant that can accommodate these two restrictions was nearly impossible so instead we ate our meals at home. While our grocery bill may have went up, our savings did too because we were not spending money eating and drinking out.
The first few days were rough. This was not only due to craving sugar and the self discipline it took to refuse homemade cupcakes my coworker brought in, but because my body started to “withdrawal” from grains and sugar. The symptoms included stomach cramping, constipation, fatigue and irritability. So basically, nothing I was not already suffering from, but on a more intense scale. The one side effect I was not expecting was a random period. I have not had a period for years due to my Intrauterine Device (IUD) birth control, but switching to a high fat diet can cause a disruption with leptin and luteinizing hormones associated with periods. All the symptoms lasted only a few days for me.
The rest of the month I saw only benefits.
Cutting out grains and sugar was difficult the first two weeks but then it was like second nature. There were a couple instances of temptation. One was at a friends’ party where they made barbecue and multiple desserts and another was at a friend’s book launch where multiple hor d’oeuvres and wine were served. At the first party we were aware in advance and brought our no sugar, no grain sides and sadly avoided dessert. At the book launch, there was hummus and veggies brought out so I snacked on those while pining for the mini cupcakes. Overall, it was not as horrible as I prepared myself for. Paul and I did indulge ourselves for one day when a friend came to visit from Seattle. Oregon is known for its wine so we went wine tasting at a local vineyard. The tastings added up to about a glass. For food, we split a charcuterie board and ate the meats, cheeses, and olives; leaving the crackers behind. I felt deprived the first week, but for the other three I felt myself feeling content.
Staying home was the easiest way to avoid temptation. We only bought compliant foods and did not have to witness the copious amount of options outside of our house. We also made a point to tell our friends ahead of time in case any of them wanted to make dinner plans. After a yoga class when a friend of mine and I went out to eat, we were able to find a restaurant ahead of time that honored my food restrictions.
On our day of freedom, October 31st (aka: Halloween), we went to my sister’s house which had bowls piled with brightly wrapped chocolates and other sugar filled treats. Paul and I were originally excited to be free from our limitations on Halloween because then we could indulge in the tradition of treats. Paul had a couple beers and I had: nothing. Not even a Reese’s peanut butter cup. I am never one to turn down chocolate (especially with peanut butter) but after 30 days without sugar I did not feel the need for artificially flavored candies. I wanted to save my splurge for something amazing, and I did (Danish strawberries and cream cake).
Paul and I went out for pizza with my sister and brother-in-law, who also eliminated sugar and grains for the month, and we treated ourselves to wine and pizza. This was the first non sugar, non grain meal I had experienced in those 30 days. The holy havoc the pizza wreaked on my stomach was unbearable. I laid in bed after dinner, crouched in the fetal position with a heating pad on my stomach for the rest of the night. I have had a few other gluten items since the 30 days without them, and for the first time in my life I experienced acid reflux and still do every time I eat it. The symptoms from gluten still have yet to abate.
I now know gluten is the main culprit of my symptoms. When I choose to eat it I have to decide if what I am about to eat is worth the symptoms that will follow. This mindset allows me to prioritize and only choose the treats worth the aggravation and skip the crappy items like store-bought cookies or stale crackers (things I would never normally skip) in favor of something delicious. Like minimalism, I get to choose the important things and filter out the rest. I keep the things worth having (aka: eating gluten for special occasions) and avoid the things not worth my time (aka: pie. Not my thing). Just like minimalism, diets and sensitivities are different person to person. Only you can choose what works for you and only you can choose what to avoid.