Jan 31, 2011

Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start?

Wobbling Baby Steps by Amy Gordon Stokes

I’m the reluctant sojourner in this Real Food escapade. While I never drank much soda and opted for real butter over margarine, I didn’t imagine myself making bone broth or buying unadultered diary. Yes, I loved Little House on the Prairie and Laura’s do-it-yourself lifestyle, but really, I was working full time, and boxed food was my friend.

Then, life, as it does, brought its surprises and losses. My lifelong depression sank to a new low. Anxiety increased. Mood swings tumbled me and lack of concentration (labeled ADHD) left me doubting myself. I suffered from migraines, hormone imbalances, perimenopause, itching, weakness, and fatigue, just as I had years before. Fortunately, a sharp doctor helped me out of the worst of it with a mix of Western and homeopathic medicine. But during this streak of trauma, I abandoned the costly treatment and expensive doctor visits. So here I was again, back at square one, but with a few variables this time: newly married, working from home part time, traumatized from recent life changes, and utterly, absolutely exhausted.

My marriage started to fracture. I didn’t have the emotional energy to resolve conflict or the physical energy to work. My husband (Andy) and I noticed a recurring weeklong aloofness in the third week of my cycle. We suspected PMDD. Andy insisted it was physical, not psychological, based on the regularity of the shift. I acknowledged the problem as well, just not during the third week.

Fortunately, a wise friend suggested I return to my doctor. At this point cost was (somewhat) irrelevant. What good is money in the bank when life stops? Sure enough, my dear doctor, Betsy Hendricks, tested me and discovered the cause: gluten intolerance, sprinkled with resistance to several antibiotics. My cycles were regular—just no egg drop.

Huh? Gluten intolerance?

I didn’t suffer from gastrointestinal troubles. (Well, except for those three visits to the ER over a ten-year span. And rare splashes of IBS.) But Dr. H could have knocked me over with a feather. She explained the host of symptoms spurred by gluten intolerance and celiac disease. My sister was diagnosed a year prior, so I knew the consequences: no wheat, barley, rye, triticale, blah, blah, blah for the rest of my life. I grieved my sentence with a glass of milk packed with Chips Ahoy.

Well, since there’s no time like the present, I decided to cease my whining (or taper off) and head to Drug Emporium for a stash of gluten-free goodies. Further examination of my grocer’s shelves showed me that seemingly innocuous foods like cream of mushroom soup were right out. So was cereal. And brownies. Pies. Croutons. Imitation crab. Most soy sauces. Pizza. Even communion wafers. Is ANYthing sacred?

Well yes, but as GF newbie, I didn’t know that yet.

So I slashed from my diet all that was good n’ yummy. At least it felt that way at first. I used these fair-to-middlin’ substitutions to get me through the transition, and I started to research.

Dr. Hendricks’ welcome-to-the-never-touch-gluten lifestyle packet (my term, not hers) included some articles about Dr. Weston Price’s work. Hey, this is the same guy that my friend Julie was telling me about. Maybe she’s not so crazy. The research showed evidence-based health benefits to traditional foods. And, best of all, the good doctor advocated real butter. By taste comparison alone I knew that butter was from God and therefore had to be better than a low-fat, factory-made substitute. Finally I had a way to justify my logic besides religious claims about God’s expertise in the culinary arts. (I’m not the only one to do this. It is Ben Franklin who reminds us that “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”) And since I can’t have beer, I could at least feel good about eating butter.

Things were looking up. This Weston Price dude seemed to know a few things about health. Things I needed to know.

So that prompted further reading, searches for GF food and healthier choices, subscribing to the Real Food in Little Rock blog, and more talks with Julie. I figured, since I had to make over my diet anyway, I might as well a head in healthy direction. What I had been eating wasn’t working for me.

Another encouragement was that the Real Food blog graciously spoke of “baby steps.” This notion seemed better than my usual routine: plan major change, buy the right stuff, do the “right” thing for a short while, and then abandon the effort because I was overwhelmed with all the changes. In those baby steps I could hear the words of my friend, who didn’t fuss with perfection, but rather focused on just doing the thing. Thank you. I was too darned tired to bother with perfection.

My start:  kombucha. Odd choice, I know. Nothing like floating faux fungi to raise the hubby’s eyebrows. But it was tasty. And I had I’d conquered the butter baby step years ago.

Now the processed stuff—let’s say it’s a work in progress. Much of that vanished with the GF lifestyle. I found that dinner shortcuts required the long route first—making cream of mushroom soup from scratch. And bone broth. Cooking in bulk, acquiring more freezer space, and a nifty GF Crock-Pot cookbook (Make It Fast, Cook It Slow) helped me spread load the work and save time. Most boxed cereals were now contraband, so I substituted quinoa with raspberries and butter. Then I started adding unadulterated dairy to my bowl. Hard boiled eggs provided quick n’ cheap protein. This Real Food/GF thing wasn’t so impossible after all.

After four months of this life change, my energy increased, moods stabilized, and concentration returned. I didn’t know how sick I was until I started to feel better.

And then, I’m happy to report, another crash into fatigue and exhaustion. More naps on the couch. More zero-productivity days. Why? One October night Andy and I  forgot Dr. H’s warning: “You haven’t been ovulating, but going gluten free usually changes that.” Whoops. What a happy surprise! “Amandy” is now 18 weeks along and should make his or her world debut in late June.

I had taken only a few baby steps, but those have led to a baby! What a difference a diet can make! We’re parents! (Ah!)

For my next trick I’m trying to choke down my fermented cod liver oil. My chiropractor reminded me it’s great for developing the baby’s brain and nerves. So for the sake of Amandy’s SAT score, I endeavor to take my “medicine.” My mother-in-law has promised to remind the little one, “Do you know what your mother did for you!?” when he or she misbehaves. I’ve promised to equip her with her own FLCO stash, with which she can punish the little turkey for wise-cracks and smarting off. Might as well start ‘em young.

Amy Gordon Stokes is writer, editor, and homemaker who lives with her husband, Andy, in Little Rock, Arkansas. She evangelizes about going gluten free and how it has improved her life.

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1 comment:

  1. THis is a GREAT post! Thanks Amy for your wit and wisdom! And congrats on AMANDY! (love the blended name!) Praising God that you found the answers to your health issues! Amazing what we learn isn't it?



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