Almost three months ago my husband and I decided to go gluten free. Just for a few weeks, at first, to see what would happen. We both have a lot of joint pain and stiffness, and we knew gluten often causes inflammation, so we wanted to see how removing it from our diets would affect our joints. Then our two weeks turned into a full month, as we wanted to give it thirty days to get out of our systems. Plus, it was a lot easier than we thought it would be, so we just went with it.
And outside of my own observations about my body, how I felt, what I wanted to eat, etc, I learned a lot about how our nutritional decisions would affect our social relationships.
Many people in my life were supportive, but quite a few were also bemused when I told them what we were doing. Some were perplexed, others were horrified or apologetic (What?? I’m so SORRY!), a few may have been disappointed (because it kind of makes you less fun to eat with), and a few were downright condescending. And to be honest, I totally got that. Because that’s how I have reacted whenever a friend or acquaintance has made a restrictive dietary change.
And because going gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, processed sugar-free, alcohol-free, carb-detoxing, juicing, any of it, all of it, is sort of embarrassing. It’s trendy. It’s pretentious. And I made fun of it. Until I did it.
So back to our thirty-day trial period of embracing the GF (let’s get on board with the abbreviation now, shall we?) lifestyle. As for our joint pain, I noticed maybe a little difference, but I’ve heard that often takes a bit of time. But here’s what happened immediately: we both began dropping pounds like crazy, and the acid reflux that has been plaguing me for over six years disappeared. Like, gone.
At the thirty-day mark, I had two bites of my kid’s bagel. We were getting ready to go to Disneyland, and I figured I better prime my system for the beignet, macaroon, fried food explosion that was coming. I ate the bagel, no big deal. The next day, my stomach swelled up as though I were in the second trimester of pregnancy and I was up all night with heartburn. It seemed the disappearance of my reflux was not coincidental.
I did not eat any beignets on vacation. Or any gluten at all. To be honest, just typing out those wheat treats above just now made me feel like weeping. But heartburn wasn’t worth it. I was so tired of dealing with irritating minor reflux multiple times a week, and major up-all-night episodes at least once or twice a month. If gluten had to go to get that relief, so be it.
At almost the three-month mark now, I have lost seventeen pounds and I haven’t had any reflux episodes since that night before Disneyland. We have accidentally glutened ourselves on a minor scale a few times, and I quickly feel that day-after bloating and a flicker of would-be heartburn that I immediately squelch with Pepcid. But any actual heartburn has completely disappeared. I didn’t want to go gluten free. But here I am.
Before and after. Me on gluten, then me today. Yes, a crappy post-yoga selfie was the best I could do.
I’m not here to talk about the evils of wheat and tell you guys you should all get on the GF train right this minute. (Although, I will be honest, it’s difficult for me not to become some kind of gluten-free evangelist these days, and after reading Wheat Belly, I pretty much want to wander around handing the book out to strangers while I proselytize about how messed up modern wheat is. Shudder. I digress.)
If, however, you have questions or want to try it yourself, I am totally here to support you. Shoot me an email or leave a comment. I love helping people get resources and figure this stuff out.
But here’s what I do want to talk about: judgment. Let’s start with my own. I really was a huge dick, if not overtly, inside my own head for sure, when friends or celebrities or sisters-in-law of cousins when gluten free. Or sugar free. Or dairy free. For real, I was. I mocked any kind of obsessive or prohibitive diet or fitness plan. (Inside my head now, I am hearing my husband’s affected voice droning, “Ohmygoddd, is this water paleo?” while I laugh and laugh. OK, it’s still pretty funny.)
But you get the idea. I cringe listening to myself ask for gluten free menus at restaurants. I hate scanning the ingredients on a label at a BBQ with friends. I feel super high maintenance. I feel like a fad-driven, pretentious asshat. I do. But.
I am healthier. My reflux is gone. I am happier. I have my old body back, something I had pretty much given up on. So what do I care if people are slightly mean to me because I have crunchy Boulder, Colorado vibes leaking out my pores? I mean, that’s a pretty lame problem, and don’t think I don’t feel like even more of an asshat for whining about it. “Oh, it’s so sad that people don’t support your modern, woo-woo nutrition plan!”
But there’s no getting around it: There is a stigma attached to healthy eating, clean eating, and really any kind of elimination diet. And gluten may be the most annoying stigma food of them all.
What stings the most is that I used to be such a biotch about it, behind everyone else’s back. Because I didn’t want to try it, myself. Because I kept believing my years-old rhetoric that I would rather be happy and have a few extra pounds than remove anything from my diet that brought me pleasure. And because I didn’t really want to look beyond the obvious for solutions to health issues.
And ahem, not one of the FOUR GI specialists I have seen in the past five years ever once suggested to me that I might try removing gluten from my diet. Let that sink in.
We have come a long way, we Gen X-ers, since our own 1980s childhoods. We know more, we practice tolerance and compassion more, we are anti-bullying, we identify our own privilege and support rights for all people. We have evolved.
But discussing nutrition in a sincere, non-mocking way—beyond the stupid food pyramid and the basic (cough, outdated) crap our kids’ pediatricians hand out at well visits—isn’t quite there yet. Our doctors don’t have backgrounds in nutrition. Our insurance, if we are lucky enough to have it, doesn’t cover consultations with nutritionists. Not to mention, it’s f*cking expensive to eat healthy!
Plus, really obnoxious, self-involved New Agey folks are super-obsessed with removing toxic shit from their diet, and we grew up eating Froot Loops and we’re pretty much fine, right, so why would we want to go down that road??
Ugh. I get it. But here’s what I’m trying to say. Let’s stop labeling people as obnoxious when they modify their diets. Even if they make a choice we wouldn’t make, or, more accurately, probably don’t want to make.
We don’t make fun of people who are allergic to nuts for not eating peanut butter, and we don’t mock diabetics for monitoring their insulin and sugar intake. But it’s still pretty tempting to make fun of people whose diets consist of coconut milk products, lean protein, and turmeric.
But I’m thinking this is a great opportunity for us to practice the tried and true STFU technique and open our minds to a different path. Again, do we need more reminders to be empathetic, to be happy for others, and to abstain from judgment?
If you want to try going gluten free, you should absolutely go for it. And like I said, I’m here to help. If you have no need, no interest, and no issues with your own diet, that’s fantastic!
I for one am going to try to crush the critical inner monologue the next time someone I know tells me about a nutritional change they are making, a holistic healing effort, a new fitness plan (unless it’s CrossFit, because eff that. Oh, just kidding. Maybe.), or some other attempt to get healthy that I don’t understand or doesn’t appeal to me. It won’t be easy, but as a formerly GF-mocking, currently gluten free, always sarcastic and hopefully empathetically evolving human, it’s my duty to try.
(And pssst, you guys should totally read Wheat Belly. Just do it. xo)
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I try to go gluten free like every other month. I have hypothyroydism and I’ve heard it can reverse that. I try and i feel better, and I’m happy with my choice, then i fail because i neeeeeed a burger with extra gluten please. No paleo. No gluten free bread. I’m weak. Do you have any suggestions?
We have been happy with some of the GF alternatives but others suck. Some great local restaurants have amazing GF pizza crusts, and the Udi’s restaurant bread (not the stuff at the grocery store unfortunately) is amazing. I use the app Find Me Gluten Free to help me find recommendations for GF food nearby. I also found a great GF bakery that helps when I crave really good bread or baked goods. I’ve had success baking with Pamela’s GF baking and pancake flour blend and that’s been nice… I think when we feel deprived we are setting ourselves up for failure you know?
great GF bakery?? please share! Good for you!
Well, there’s a place on 64th and Indiana called “Gluten Free Things” that has amazing loaves of bread and flour, bread crumbs, etc, as well as a few muffins/cookies. The Rheinlander in Olde Town has some great GF pastries and treats too!
YOU ROCK! When we had lunch in Golden, I think you guys had just started. Reading this makes me want to go GF, girl friend (when did GF become gluten free and not girlfriend, which is kinda part of the gross part, right?).
Hahaha YES! That is totally part of the gross part. ?It hasn’t been as bad as I thought, for sure.
Such a great post, Stephanie. STFU technique is good wisdom for tons of things. 🙂 Glad you’re feeling good!
How are your joints now. I’ve gone glutten free a few times and always felt good. But the Chezit’s always suck me back in. But I’ve been having major joint and nerve issue and wonder if I should try again.
Joints are doing better, but I think that’s going to be the slowest area to change. And there are some awesome GF Cheez-It like products out there! 😀 Give it a try– just a month and then you can always go back! xoxo
I’m really interested in how you lost weight with eating GF. It really doesn’t help you lose weight if you substitute your prior food with GF as most of the food labeled GF is made of rice flour which is higher glycemic. I find people who say they lost weight going GF really went low carb, i.e. DIDN’T substitute their bread/cereals/baked goods etc., but just cut them out completely or almost completely. I’ve been GF for 4 years now since my celiac diagnosis and haven’t lost any weight eating GF. I’m happy for you and would sure like to know how you did it???!!!
You’re right, substituting with other carbs/ GF baked goods isn’t a great idea for losing weight. We have tried overall to reduce carbs, but I do sometimes have corn tortillas with dinner, some rice or rice crackers, and once a week I make pancakes with the Pamela’s blend (which has almond flour in it, so not quite as bad as some other GF flours). But in many ways I’ve just cut down. If we go to a birthday party, I don’t bring myself a piece of GF cake, I just skip cake. We don’t go out for fried chicken (sob) anymore. I feel like clearing the wheat sludge from my digestive system really helped decrease the inflammation I was experiencing and it’s almost like it just kick-started my metabolism going again. I’ve cut out a lot of bad habits (like gluten-y bedtime snacks) and I’m also keeping a food journal, which helps. If I don’t want to write down “8 handfuls of gluten free crackers” I had better not eat them, you know? So being mindful about food and keeping track of it is part of it, plus also introducing new healthier snacks for myself (I eat things now I would have mocked myself for just months ago– coconut chia seed pudding anyone?!) or making something like a golden chai before bed rather than eating cookies (oh my god I miss those cookies though). Deprivation doesn’t work well for me. So I’ve substituted things like hummus and nuts for lunch, more protein and veggie based dinners, and that way the occasional GF pizza feels like a treat and not just a regular part of my diet. I am happy to answer any other questions for you! Good luck! xoxo
We are riding in the same boat. I went GF several years ago after a friend of mine, who was experiencing similar digestive problems (terrible cramps and unpleasant trips to the bathroom at least once a month), had amazing results from going GF. I had these problems all my life (nearly 40 years by that point) and never was able to pin it down to what caused it. I assumed dairy, but that never really fit. So I read Wheat Belly and gave it the 30 day trial. I had no problems that month. Coincidence? I kept going. When those digestive symptoms never resurfaced, I knew I had my answer. Over time, in addition to my digestive problems going away I have noticed that the mild depression I was resigned to living with went away. My nails are stronger. My seasonal and environmental allergies are better and I very rarely get sick, even when the rest of my household does. I do miss some things (yummy warm bread at a good restaurant) but it’s not worth going back.
Wow, that is great! And I think it’s so crazy that I never had any idea that this might happen; I’ve never heard of anyone suggesting I try this for digestive issues. It’s so nice to hear from someone else who has experienced this, and I’m glad you’re feeling better all around! And you’re right– it’s just not worth going back.
Good for you! I went GF about 2 years ago because of my GI, believe it or not. I have type 1 diabetes and he put the clues together. I would never wish celiac on anyone! But once you get the gist of it down, it’s not that hard. I’ve even traveled to Dubai and Quebec GF! Quebec is possibly the most GF friendly city ever! You are spot on about the belly bloat when you get glutened! I’ve had it so bad that I’ve ended up with colitis and on IV antibiotics! Even in the last year the foods have improved. If you have an Aldi (it’s a sister store of Trader Joe’s) they have an entire line called living G Free. I can fill 6 bags for less than $100! (Bring your own bags!! They charge you for bags)!!! But that wheat belly book is life changing! Wheat these days is not wheat of years past!!! By the way, lucky charms, gluten free!!! ❤️❤️
Wow that is amazing!! I am so happy you’ve had a good experience. I will totally look for that line of food, wow!
Totally should! It is cheap and they have basically everything! I fool everyone with their pretzels and crackers!! And Aldi has the BEST cheese department ever if you’re entertaining and not lactose whatever ??? that’s another blog.
I’m glad this worked for you guys. I preach this to my sister all the time, she has fibromyalgia, but what do I know ?.
I reading Wheat Belly right now. I am ready for a change, I need to be better, I have gained way too many pounds. I’ve almost convinced my husband to join me. Problem is, we have three kids who are oh so used to eating wheat. I can do this, I just keep repeating that and trying to believe it. Thanks for this article!
You’re so welcome! And you can definitely do it! It’s hard for us with our two kids eating tons of wheat but we are easing them down gradually. We slipped a GF fig bar into our 6 yo’s backpack for snack today and after school she told us her snack “tasted like poop.” ?
Recently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and I think I’ll give the GF a try. Thanks for the inspiration!! As a side note, Caiden and I soooo look forward to our Monday music class.. ?
Oh thank you!! I love having him in class! And the more I read, the more I realize how gluten can trigger or exacerbate a variety of autoimmune disorders, digestive conditions, so many things. Good luck and lEt me know how it goes!