Living gluten-free, allergy-free and shedding weight
Yesterday I thought of cheating on my diet. Yes, I wanted to have a delicious Italian meal for lunch. After a long intensive power yoga class at Healthworks Fitness, a woman’s gym in Massachusetts, I had built up an intense appetite, which wasn’t cool down by an after-workout shower.
Eating out – restaurant or home
After the gym, as I walked down Harvard Street, I noticed an Italian restaurant, which is very popular in the neighborhood, a mom and pop type restaurant where the food is always great… I’ve heard. The restaurant has been around for over two decades. It serves authentic Tuscan food according to locals. But I’ve never eaten anything there, though many times over the years I’ve gone to this Italian restaurant to inquire if they served any gluten-free and vegan options. “No,” I’ve been told. So, I’ve always walked out each time with an empty stomach but satisfied that I didn’t cave in. That is life with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
My long gluten-free journey
It has been a two-decade journey since I’ve followed a gluten-free diet. Honestly, I have rarely missed gluten-containing food such as cookies, cakes, muffins, pasta, and pizzas. Bread was one of my favorite foods, especially freshly baked or whole-grain bread. As a teen, I was always the one in my family to run to the bakery to purchase a loaf of bread. Most times half of the loaf of bread would be gone by the time I arrived home. Yes, I could eat a half a loaf of bread during the few blocks it took to arrive home!
“How could you eat all that bread!” my mom would exclaim.
Yes, I could also eat a half a cake in a sitting! Those were the days’ pre-gluten intolerance awareness.
Staying on the straight and narrow on a restrictive diet was not a comforting thing for me at times. But it has been a blessing for my family and me. Following a gluten-free vegetarian diet has been good. First, it keeps me allergy-free, keeps me away from high empty carbohydrate foods, and it keeps me within my ideal weight and healthy.
Coming back to the present, I didn’t cheat yesterday. I would only be fooling myself. I don’t have celiac disease. But I’ve had gluten sensitivity, a gluten intolerance that caused respiratory problems and nosebleeds, which kept me medicated for seasonal allergies such as hay fever since I was 13 years old. In the late 1980s and early 1990s—I experimented with numerous natural alternatives to treat my seasonal allergy such as hay fever—my goal was to eliminate all medications. Side effects scared me more than the seasonal allergies. My doctors were not able to help. They didn’t have a clue. I tried homeopathy. It helped, but it didn’t cure the problem. I tried herbs such as nettles, and that helped, but it didn’t eliminate the problem either because unknowingly I kept feeding my body with what triggered my seasonal allergies: gluten. (Though I had given up milk and chocolate milk, the cheese was something I was not willing to give up until nearly three years ago. I had to give up since it always caused me nasal congestion.) However, the cause of my problems was gluten intolerance, and it was easy to give up. I “cold turkey,” I weaned off glutens overnight, and to my surprise, my allergies went away. In 1993, I committed to a gluten-free diet when few were talking about gluten being a problem, though it was a problem. For many with celiac disease, gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, their condition went undiagnosed, including in my family.
I wasn’t new to the gluten-free way of eating and preparing food. In the mid-1980s, I took a series of over 20 vegetarian cooking classes, and two of them were gluten-free. As soon as I went gluten-free, within months I was allergy free! Yay! I needed no medications for my allergies—all I needed was to tweak my food to gluten-free. Food was my medicine! Yes, I’ll repeat: Food was my medicine! I must confess: I cheated several times! And several times my allergies returned. After 22 years following a gluten-free diet, I know better, I don’t need to cheat. There is always gluten-free food at home, at supermarkets, and at most reputable restaurants.
Refrain, abstain, and resist does not equal deprivation
Whether we are following a diet for weight loss or health, it’s good to reward ourselves, so you don’t feel deprived.
As for me yesterday, instead of stopping at that Italian restaurant, I distracted myself and I walked to a local bookstore to chill out at one of my fav neighborhood stores. A few minutes later I went to Trader Joe’s grocery store, got myself a box of gluten-free seaweed snack and vegetables. I walked home on that beautiful Sunday afternoon. By the time I got home, I had eaten all the seaweeds! That was 4 ounces of roasted seaweed snack—11.3 grams!
Lunch was simple: Amy’s gluten-free pinto and brown rice burrito, salad, and vegan ice cream (in case you are wondering, the cone are Gluten Free Ice Cream Cones. The healthy choice was the salad; the rest made for an organic fast food option.
In my case, I rewarded myself with a gluten-free ice cream on a cone. That worked!
The moral of my dilemma, my story, yesterday is that it is okay to dream, think, and want something that we just can’t have for good reasons. I know I can eat an entire gluten-free
version of any meal or ethnic food at home. I can create nearly anything gluten free in my kitchen. That’s what I’ve been doing for over 20 years. On Sunday, I resisted temptation and made the right decision. You can too! Until there are healthier gluten-free vegan options in my neighborhood and beyond, I will continue to be the: ‘¡Chef excepcional en casa!’ Family and friends approved!