I’m Gluten Free, Woe is Me, Boo Hoo & Dairy Too

I’m going to talk a lot about me in this post because I am frustrated and feeling sorry for myself.

It’s about food. Again. And I promise,  there is a digital tie-in.

I thought I was past the hard part, given that I had spent an entire month of May on a very restricted diet. I thought that the reintroduction of food would be a breeze; that I’d have the motivation to continue tweaking and refining my diet, given how far I had come and how good I was feeling.

The opposite happened. I’m struggling more than ever and I have spent much of this month feeling weak and somewhat disheartened.

Knowledge is Power?

The good news is that I know what specific foods do to my body, and it feels empowering to be armed with that knowledge.

Here’s a little selfie along with an illustrated version of how dairy, wheat and sugar (individually) make me feel.

There are nuances, of course, with how specific types of food affect me. For example hard cheeses give me very faint stomach cramps, but I get intense pains when I eat soft cheeses and creams. This is all quite new and hardly scientific, but this, for now, is what I know to be true:

  • Dairy makes my stomach hurt and makes my allergies return. It’s unpleasant, but short lived.
  • Wheat drains me of all energy and motivation for a solid 48 hours. It is a horrible feeling.
  • Added sugar makes me hungry. I snack more when I have too much fruit or any added sugar.

The verdict: I don’t know if I’m more sensitive to food than the average bear, of if we are all programmed this way. Regardless, I will continue to enjoy some dairy like hard cheeses and certain added sugars occasionally. The side effects are tolerable. Wheat, on the other hand, is something I will think long and hard about before consuming. Even on my birthday.

The Downward Spiral

So my birthday happened last week, the big 34, and I gave myself permission to have cake because I would like to live in a world where I can enjoy cake on my birthday. I knew what I was getting myself into and I prepared for the aftermath.

The cravings began 36 hours later and they were worse than I had anticipated. I started searching through the freezer, the pantry and all the usual hiding spots, cursing myself for keeping my house so squeaky clean. I grabbed my keys ready to run to the store for a pastry fix.

But I stopped, reminding myself what was happening, and reluctantly remained home, resigning myself to the fact that I would, for the next 24 hours, be battling my already weakened willpower. One that left me with no energy to work out, or even go for a walk, and no motivation to write or work on the blog. All I wanted to do was sit on the couch and watch TV, ideally with a bag of potato chips.

6 days later, I have yet to completely crawl my way out of this slump. This week I’ve had more sugar than I care too admit (in the form of these devilishly delicious gluten free organic macaroons), a lot of wine, I’ve been snacking a lot and eating too much white rice and hard cheese. I’m tired in the afternoons and have gained 5 pounds.

It got me thinking, again, about food and it’s drug-like qualities.

How one slice of cake has the power to send me on this downward spiral, even when I thought I had it figured out. How food is so deeply psychological and addicting. And how this quest to “feel awesome”  is going to be very long and very challenging.  I suspect I have more than a few setbacks in store, and I accept that.

I can only wonder how long it will take for my “woe is me, I can’t have spaghetti anymore” mentality transition to a “I’m grateful that my body is rejecting these foods” outlook.

In the mean time (and in the spirit of digital life management) I’d like to highlight a few apps that are powerful ways to stay accountable when trying to adopt new habits – food related or not.

  1. Food journaling (My fitness pal). I was writing down everything I ate in a notebook, but by journaling online, I can keep track of servings, portions and calories. The idea of recording actions is enough to encourage better decisions and hopefully, it will help me identify new habits and triggers. Perhaps there is something holding me back that I am missing.
  2. Accountability (Pact). Pact is a free app that uses cash stakes to stay accountable to the things that you commit to. In my case, food journaling. I synced my Pact account to MyFitnessPal as well as Paypal, so that if I miss a day of food journaling, I have to pay $10. Apparently I can earn rewards for completing my Pacts (paid by members who don’t).
  3. Community Support (Lift). This free app focuses on the formation of habits, one small victory at a time. You can set goals (like meditate, walk the dog, keep a food journal) and check in whenever you complete it. You get community support and encouragement, and the satisfaction of keeping your streak alive.

The journey for me continues (and perhaps for you too) and that’s all that it is. A journey. We do the best we can do, one bite, sip and swallow at a time.