#4 Healing time.

It took a long time for me to get past the mourning period. The full realization that the way I used to eat was now history. We have to let go of the memories of meals past. Pizza and beer, pasta and garlic bread, dumplings and tempura, hamburgers and fries.... It's not easy to let go because these memories are not only of the food, but the emotional attachment we all have to the foods. The transition can't possibly happen overnight. First you have to let go, and then there appears to be a period of acceptance, where you realize that your precious energy is being wasted on pining after what is lost, instead of focusing on what is yet to come. Then we move into a grateful time where we start to feel a bit better and creativity is born of our new found knowledge.

That's where I am now, in the creative period where substitution of food items is starting to fill in the gaps.
Where there was spaghetti, now there is..... *trumpets playing*  corn, quinoa and brown rice pasta! Okay, so I have to make my own tomato sauce, but trust me it's delicious! Where there was hamburgers and fries, now there's...... hamburgers and fries! -what? Yes, not everyone puts filler in their burgers. I have found some local restaurants who offer gluten free burgers. And it also seems it was all a lie that you needed to mix flour into the meat to hold it together. There are plenty of substitutions for flour. Flax meal, almond meal, corn meal and pea or lentil flour and these all work great. I've even made my own burgers with rice mixed into the meat, or with no filler at all and they held together fine on my Forman Grill.
Even the egg, it turns out isn't necessary if you are avoiding eggs. I'm finding more and more that the replacement foods can be more nutritious than what I was eating before.  There are also alternatives to the basic wheat bun. You have to shop around to find them but when you do find one you like, pay mind to the brand and price. And keep in mind that you can always choose bread slices instead of buns too. And why did I mention fries? Surely there's no wheat on french fries!? It turns out that some kitchens use brands of pre-made frozen fries that have been sprinkled with wheat for crunchiness. I always ask if the place is making their own fries or sweet potato fries. At home I make my own sweet potato 'fries' by slicing and salting (and for me a little garlic powder), and they get nice and crunchy on my Foreman grill.  Sweet potatoes it turns out, are really good for you and taste great when prepared this way.

In this grateful and creative stage of food transition, what is actually happening is that we're creating new 'meal memories' and moving toward enjoying foods again. I've pretty much condensed these steps for the moment, but I'll return to the points in later entries. The key to moving forward is reading a lot and learning about more nutritional substitutes to create and re-create meals that we really enjoy and share them with others.

#3 Living in the grey area.

I've read many stories about how people came to realize they had some form of gluten intolerance and I found one common thread that really strikes me. Many people who have chosen the path of gluten avoidance have been tested for Celiac, IBS, IBD, Crohn's and so many other diseases that all have similar symptoms, and a really high percentage still do not know with certainty what the actual disease is that they are suffering from. I read that it can be years before someone knows what is really causing the problems.
With me, I got tested for Celiac after I was already avoiding gluten in my diet, therefor rendering the test moot. This is common apparently and to make matters even more confusing, sometimes the tests for Celiac come out negative even though the person has a gluten intolerance. The only other way to test for Celiac disease is to have a biopsy of the small intestine to see if there's damage. To me, that seems too invasive.

I've been suffering from digestive discomforts all my life and it's only now that I feel in control to a certain extent and even empowered. All I'm saying is that everyone has to take their own health history into account when researching what the problem might be. Doctors can only guess by symptoms, which change all the time. These diseases all have such similar symptoms that it makes it really difficult to diagnose. It would be great to know with certainty what the problem is and have a plan of action but for now I am managing my own health. I get a lot of flack for this but the improvement speaks for itself. The one thing I would love to have now is a nutritionist but with out a firm diagnosis, we are on our own to pay for such a luxury.


#2 Wheat is so 'blé '

What's in a label? One of the first things I learned when trying to avoid all things wheat related, was that it hides behind long names of regular things like "spices" and "flavours".  MSG is also a no-no and is found in many sauces. The bright side of this is that you can make your own sauces and I'll offer some of my own recipes later in the blog.  As for the labels, I encourage everyone to take a good look at all labels before buying foods and learn what those un-pronounceable names are. Google the words, learn which ones hide wheat in them. Many of these words it turns out, are made up and then trademarked for use in the food processing industry. When you see them on the label, they don't actually say "wheat derived" or anything about wheat at all!  Also when doing my research I learned that many of the chemicals used in food processing are actually toxic in large doses but they keep the percentage just low enough to pass the FDA allowances. *rant* Guess who sets these allowances and does the 'independent' testing? --why the companies themselves. Do you think the FDA has the time and money to do the testing? They don't, so they take the industry's tests and use them to create the standards. And why do I care? because I am one of millions of people who are affected by these minuscule amounts of chemicals and I don't want to eat them and then feel lousy. Maybe the illness caused me to be super sensitive to all processed foods, it's possible but the more I read and understood about these processes, the more steadfast I became about eliminating the non food items from my diet. Emulsifiers and preservatives do not belong in my body any more than wheat, and my body protests their presence. 

In the beginning, shopping was a hugely tedious task. Reading all the labels took time and caused eye strain. I now carry a small magnifying glass which really helps. It also helps when your partner checks labels for you. It's key to share the burden with your partner when you shop for groceries or go somewhere to eat.  Dining is another major learning experience on this diet. We have to be calm, clear and patient when ordering and hope for the same from the servers. Most of the time these days I'm finding the servers to be well educated about gluten intolerance and Celiac disease. They will often ask the cook or chef if they're not sure about the ingredients in something. Dining out was a nerve wracking lesson for me for a long time. I didn't want to draw attention to myself by taking up the server's time, or by asking them to check with the kitchen more than once. I felt anxious that my friends would not understand my long interactions with the servers and I worried what their reactions would be to me.  You can start to see how many ways we are affected by the diet, it's not just about the food. Even larger hurdles were yet to come. Beyond the required discipline I had to move toward resolve and acceptance.


#1 With this blog, I thee wed.

I feel as though my life has been renewed, I'm re-energized and this blog is my commitment to living a fuller life. No more procrastination, it's time.  It was a promise I made to myself a while back and it's powered by the encouragement of friends that I begin.

My journey to clear my mind and regain my health started about three years ago. I knew something wasn't right, I was loosing weight, having dizzy spells, my energy was depleted, I couldn't concentrate and I had what can only be described as brain fog. The mornings were the hardest part. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say I discovered an adult use for baby wipes. Each day I would wonder if I should call in sick, or wait to see what happens, and each afternoon, I would leave my place for my walk to work and pace myself. Where I used to practically skip along the pavement, now I was dragging along and resting where ever possible, like an old lady. I seriously started wondering if this was the beginning of the end of my life.

I was living in San Francisco, a city of every kind of diversity. Wonderful food was everywhere around me. On my walk to work each day, I passed through the predominantly Chinese neighbourhood of middle Clement St. with all it's Dim Sum shops and fresh bakeries tempting me to eat pork buns and Har Gao and Ham Sui Gok, the delicious and glutenous sweet rice flour pork dumplings, and the low price of 3 pieces for less than $1.20 made it even more tempting.  But as time went on and my food fears grew, my diverse palate and intake began to shrink. I thought that maybe I could figure out what foods were causing the problems, if indeed it was food, by the process of elimination.
I had already been pretty much avoiding lactose because a simple sensitivity had turned into a full blown intolerance, causing violent attacks in the night that started with heart palpitations and shaking like Wile E Coyote on TNT . By that time I began to really worry that my "food fascism" was starting to resemble Bulemia or Anorexia and as I looked inward for answers as to the cause, my confusion muddled my already fogged mind even more.

I began learning about Gluten intolerance and Celiac disease on the day my mother emailed me from her home in Florida to tell me that she had been tested for Celiac. I thought this might be my problem too, so I decided to learn as much as I could from the web, look for improvements and go from there. I had no idea at that time of the journey ahead of me. It was like leaving for school one day with a small back pack on and finding myself on a trip around the world.

I have bumbled my way along and struggled to find the foods that best suit my needs while paying close attention to my body's reaction. In this blog I'm going to share what I've learned over the past few years about how to best avoid gluten, where to shop for the best prices and what products are out there that can bring the joy back to your table.
I have relearned how to eat, cook, entertain and to help educate some people in the food industry.

Okay, that's enough for now, I'm going to eat! I'll catch you later.