I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW THE GRAIN HAS GONE

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Today is my "finish line" day of doing one round of The Whole 30.  It has been a month since I ate any sugar, grains, legumes, soy, dairy, or weighed or measured myself.

 The results are in but, as the authors of this diet say that it is not a weight loss diet.  I cannot say that I was not hoping for that to happen.  I had about 20-30 extra pounds gathered around my torso but the weight was not my main motivation for starting this.  I felt horrible.  I would wake up each morning not knowing if that day would be good or bad health wise.  Most of the time I had aches and pains in my joints and my head hurt and I could not focus.  When I would get out of bed in the morning I would feel as if I needed WD40 on my joints.  I would plod to the coffee pot and hope that the caffeine would give me some energy.  I was like a sloth and would nap every few days in the afternoon.  


 

When you are the mum of eight kids this means that life is one of survival.  I would drag myself through the week and dread those weeks where the calendar was filled up with activities because I might have to go out on a "bad" day.


 I did not always feel like this.  When I was in college I was the top of my class in my first two years ( in England a BA is a 3-year course).  I was studying ceramics at art college and I loved it.  I was in the studio from 8am to 8pm each day. From the day I set foot on the campus I knew I was going to get my bachelors and then go to the Royal College of Art to do my master's degree.  I was focused and determined and nothing was going to stop me.  
 


  During my second year, a bunch of us rented a house together.  One of my closest friends that year was a runner.  He would do half marathons for fun.  That was not my idea of fun.  One day we had a discussion about running.  He said runners could be made and I disagreed.  I was built for comfort not speed.  His point was that a world-class runner had been given more to work with than me but he could make me into a runner of some sort.  


 I gave him six weeks and promised to train with him every day.  The first day we ran I was gasping for breath after about 50ft.  My throat was raw and as we ran up the side of a canal a family of ducks swam faster than I could run.  I could not call that running but my feet were moving faster than a walk.  It was awful, I hated it.  We "ran" every day and after two weeks I actually liked it.  We would run for an hour and I was not gasping for breath and it felt good.  


 I had planned to run a half marathon at the end of the six weeks.  Being able to run for an hour and then suddenly running for 4 ( yes, I was slow) was a life-changing mistake. After doing it I became ill.  I was really ill.  I thought I was dying.  My head and throat hurt all the time, I had no energy and the worst part was that I had lost all my creativity.  I literally scraped through that final year and to add to my misery my best friend got accepted to the Royal College and I did not.  I had gone from being a speedboat to being a sailing boat with no sail.  I was a listless raft that had holes in it. 


 My path changed and a few years later I was in another country and married. (another blog for another day).  During those newlywed years, my husband was a drug rep and he would normally be home by 4pm each day.  On his return, he would find me fast asleep.  Now, I mean FAST asleep.  A deep sleep.  Every afternoon I would have to go for a nap and I would sleep all night too.  He called on a lot of allergists so even though he thought I was a hypochondriac he took me to see one of them.  


 I finally had someone verify that I was sick.  I had seen many doctors in England and had been tested for things like mono etc and all the results were negative.  They thought I was a hypochondriac too. 


 He told me that my sinuses were so red and inflamed that he was worried that they were damaged.  I was sent for allergy tests and put on a decongestant allergy med.  It did help a bit but none of the standard tests at the time showed any serious allergy. 


 I spent the next 15 or so years trying to discover what it was I was allergic to.  We now add the first bunch of kids.  I had 4 small children under 5.  I was either nursing or pregnant.  I trained them to nap every afternoon for 2 hours because I had to sleep. Fast forward a few kids and years and we now had eight kids and a very tired and often sick mommy/mummy. 


 

About 9 years ago I went to a naturopath that did live blood analysis in the hope of getting an answer.  He took me off wheat, dairy, and sugar.  I looked at him and asked what there was left.

For 10 days I followed his advice.  I felt better for the first time in years.  After 10 days we were out shopping at the Walmart and I decided to take a break.  I got a coffee and a donut.  It tasted heavenly.  I made all sorts of oohing noises as I savored that delicious sweet gooiness.  The next day I was in agony.  Every muscle in my body was screaming.  I could not get out of bed for two days. I felt like I had a full-blown case of the flu. 
 

 

Well, it could have been the wheat, the dairy or the sugar.  My quest began to find out what it was. This was years before the explosion of the gluten-free craze.  I had not even heard of gluten.

I went to the library and found books on wheat free cooking after I narrowed it down from the three suspects.


 

One of the books I found was wheat and gluten-free cooking.  Gluten?  What was that?  I started reading and reading and reading.   During my literary travels, I came across a book called "gluten-free girl" by Shauna Ahern.  Her story was mine but under different circumstances.  She was hit by a car and after recovering from the broken bones etc she became so ill she could not function.  The trauma to the immune system had made her a celiac.  The proverbial penny dropped.  The half marathon that I had undertrained for had caused such trauma to my immune system that I had caused the same thing to happen.  

My life became gluten-free.  This was before you could buy any food in the supermarket.  It was a treasure hunt for baked goods that cost about $7 for a small box and tasted like cardboard.  I remember the first time I made french bread.  Two crispy hot gluten-free loaves came out the oven and one was devoured, slathered in butter in about 4 minutes flat.  

I learned to cook with weird ingredients like xanthan gum, tapioca flour and navigated the maze of information I needed to eliminate gluten from my diet. 


 For the last eight years, I have felt better than I did but I was still not well.  Knowing the cause has helped but there was obviously more that was going on.  I had suspected all grains as I had felt really good when totally grain free.  The more I read the more my suspicions were confirmed as there were studies showing that all grains can affect some celiacs.  


 

Making that change to grain free was not something I really wanted to do.  When you do not feel well you do not want to do anything and food has always been so comforting.  That was when the Whole 30 came into my life.  A friend had started doing it as she was dealing with health issues too.  The food looked good and there was a plan that you had to follow.  It was a strict 30-day path.  I could do 30 days.  

My biggest fear was hunger and not being able to weigh myself.  It took me two weeks to stop looking longingly at the scale.  



 The rest of the thirty days I experienced an awakening mentally and physically.  Instead of crawling out of bed at 8pm and wanting to go back I was awake at 6-6.30 am and ready to get up.  I was actually scared to get up this early as I was worried that I would be done by 10am.  I slept too without the crutch of taking a Benadryl each night.  My body stopped aching and my mind cleared.  I was not in that painful fog anymore.  My pants got looser and my skin clearer apart from in the last week a spot the size of a boil appeared on my chin.  I felt as if I was regressing to my teenage years.


 Am I done?  I do not think so.  The point of the diet is to detox your system and then re-introduce one food group at a time and see what is causing any problems.  For someone like me that has been unwell for so long another 30 days or more might be needed.  I do not want to eat food that makes me sick anymore.  
  



 

Wait, the weight loss.  Everyone always wants to know about the weight loss.  I am down 15 pounds and my daughter lost 20!  It is a double win to feel better and lose weight.  I really feel that I have broken the cycle of sickness and can keep going and feel better and better.  So if you are thinking of trying this just do it.  What are 30 days?  Maybe it will change your life!      

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