“Candace, imagine if someone told you you could never eat your favorite food again. It would be hard, right?” my sweet former-co-worker once posed.
Debi was struggling to quit smoking, and I was struggling to understand why she wouldn’t just stop doing something she knew could kill her. But when she described it in terms of food, I got it. I remember standing there in the rain while Debi smoked, thinking about how much it would suck if someone told me I could never have pizza again.
Fast forward nine years and that’s what happened.
My doctor told me to cut out gluten and possibly dairy. Suddenly, all my favorite foods were in the forbidden zone: Pizza, cookies, beer, lattes.
I admit, I struggle as much as Debi did to stop smoking. It’s been a huge lifestyle shift for me. I no longer bring gluten or dairy (with the exception of yogurt, which my doctor said is OK) into my apartment.
- Cereal is out, eggs and gluten-free waffles are in.
- Oatmeal is out, steel-cut oats are in.
- Granola bars are out, trail mix is in.
- Cookies are out, fruit is in.
- Sandwiches are out, salads are in.
- Milk is out, almond milk is in.
- Beer is out, wine is in.
- Cheese is just out.
I cut out about 85 percent of the gluten and dairy I was previously consuming. I do make exceptions and get gluten or dairy when I’m out. For Maggie’s birthday last week, we got lobster rolls. I ate the bread. The other day, I was craving pizza. I ate a slice. This morning I got a latte and a blueberry muffin.
This isn’t something I’m doing for attention or because it’s fun or trendy. In fact, the opposite. This is not something I ever wanted to do. I know it’s good for me, but I don’t like it.
I like to think it’s my God-given right to eat wheat. I grew up in wheat-growing country. My grandfather was a baker. I grew up on delicious, flaky croissants.
Just last night on “The Mindy Project,” one of the guys made a crack about the girls he dates who all “talk about their gluten-free diets.” I hate being lumped in with the trend or being accused of “faking” a gluten allergy. For the record, I’ve never, ever claimed to have a gluten allergy. If I did, I wouldn’t cheat and get pizza because I’ve heard that makes your tummy hurt for days.
My problem is inflammation, which is the body attempting to protect itself from harmful stimuli, irritants and pathogens. The immune system response is a good thing if you have a cold, sprained ankle or pimple. But some bodies, like mine, go in overdrive. Inflammation can become inflamed.
Chronic inflammation can lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression and allergies because the immune system constantly being in go-mode isn’t sustainable.
Thankfully, my case is mild and can be controlled without medication (or with medication, if I chose that route, which I did not.)
One of the best ways to fight the effects of inflammation is through diet, my doctor told me. That’s why she instructed me to give up gluten and dairy. She said ideally I’d also cut out coffee and alcohol. Again, I’ve cut both way down from my previous levels.
What would it be like for you, if someone said you could never have your favorite food again?
I’m a journalist, content strategist, doting auntie, amateur bobsledder, fitness enthusiast, and wannabe health nut (who loves chocolate and pizza too much to fully commit). I don't want you to think my life is perfect. It's not.