Saturday, December 28, 2013

An Experiment With Food Intolerance

I know, I know!  I've been gone for a while, but I will try to be better in the new year.  After all, I have so much to share with y'all about my adventures in CrossFit, running, and nutrition.  But first, I feel that this post is something I need to share now while it is so fresh in my memory.

Before I made the big move across the states from Nashville, Tennessee back to my home state of Idaho, I was dabbling in the nutrition part of my life.  My husband and I came to the conclusion that I have a gluten intolerance and with that comes a dairy intolerance.  I was trying to eat clean, whole foods and not processed or packaged crap and I couldn't believe the change in not only my physical appearance, but my health and mental state as well.  I was doing so good--and then I moved home.  All of a sudden I'm around family and friends again that want to hit up our favorite restaurants and catch up or just for the pure enjoyment that I wasn't a day's worth of flying in an airplane away.  Willpower has always been my weakness.  I am not a mentally strong person.  When I'm sad, I want to eat my comfort foods.  When I'm sick, I want grilled cheese sandwiches and Hagen Daaz Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream.  When I'm celebrating, I want some Dairy Queen ice cream cake.  A few months of this after the move and I said that enough was enough.  I went back to eating like I was in Nashville when I realized that food was either going to heal me or hurt me.  Within a few days, I had my abs back because the inflammation and bloating was gone.  I had more energy.  I was working out more.  My skin was clearing up.  I turned 30 and even made my own gluten/dairy free birthday cake and turned down all the foods I couldn't eat that were at my own party.  I was proud of myself.  I even did great at Thanksgiving and ate only turkey and the gluten/dairy free chocolate chip cookies that I had brought.  Then the Christmas season started...For pretty much the whole month of December, I have been letting myself have whatever I want to eat and that includes all the foods that I was so mad about missing out on before.  I'm an "all or nothing" kind of gal, so this led to a pretty steep downward spiral.

So I titled this post "An Experiment" because I knew that with my lack of willpower, this would be a good time to make note of the changes I have when I eat this way.  I'm hoping that when the new year starts in a few days and I go back to the gluten/dairy free approach (who doesn't need "to eat better" as a New Year's Resolution, right?  Original, I know...) and I have the bitterness towards people who eat "good" food in front of me, that I will remember the awful way I feel when I eat those foods.  Here is what I have been going through the last few weeks and see if you can relate to any of these symptoms.  I'm betting you can.

1.  Bloat.  Now I'm not talking about a little that-time-of-the-month puffiness.  I'm talking about the no matter how much you work out, you would be on the cover of a magazine with "Baby Bump" by your name if you were famous.  That may seem extreme and unlikely, but I promise you that those are the days that you will not catch me in a tighter shirt.  Before I knew what my food intolerances were, I even had middle school students of mine ask me if I was pregnant.  Leave it to middle schoolers to speak their mind, right?  Now here's the crazy thing about this food intolerance bloat:  if I go three days avoiding gluten and dairy, I have abs again.  You can actually see them.  I should take pictures with the dates on it because it is unreal.  My husband even said that it was crazy how quickly a change in my diet affects my midsection.  If that's not crazy enough, I have been known to drop 5-10 pounds in those three days just because of flushing out the foods my body cannot tolerate.  No diet tricks or cleanses, just eating meat, nuts, veggies, and fruit and drinking water.

2.  Acne.  I've never had great skin and I have just accepted that as a way of life for me and makeup has been my best friend but there is something different about the zits I get when I eat my body's trigger foods than the zits I had as a teenager.  Now, I'm a little sick and I KNOW I'm not the only one like this, but I LOVE to pop zits!  Nothing is more infuriating that having zits that are painful, huge, and unpoppable.  Unfortunately, that's what all the zits that I get from my food intolerances are.  They mainly cover my jawline, neck, shoulders, and back.  It's really sad that they are so bad that they hinder me from going about my normal life.  I won't wear tank tops to CrossFit when I have them or I'm super self-conscious about it.  In fact today I didn't go to the group WOD when I really wanted/needed to because my skin is so bad.  My skin is a very visible sign that I have not been eating the way I should.  There's no hiding from that.  I can't down a container of Oreos in secret because in a few days time, you can see it all over my face.

3.  Headaches.  I have been a headache/migraine sufferer for as long as I can remember.  In the last year when I have been cutting out gluten and dairy, I can count the number of headaches on one hand, I believe.  However, the last few weeks have been plagued with headaches.  Why take medicine to make a headache go away when all I really need to do is read more food labels and be more aware of what is going into my mouth?

4.  Dehydration.  I find that when I eat foods that I'm not supposed to, I'm more inclined to drink things I'm not supposed to as well.  I just got back from a movie and I had buttered popcorn and a Pepsi.  I'm not a pop drinker at all, but when I'm eating badly I think, "Why not have the drink as well?"  I can only think of a few times in the last few weeks that I actually had my normal intake of water.  It has been mostly energy drinks or nothing at all.  I'm sure this has a lot to do with my headaches as well.

5.  No Energy. Shocker that being bloated, having a headache, and being dehydrated does not make me want to run to work out, right?  Especially with CrossFit where it is essential to be well-hydrated or your performance will suffer...and you might get dizzy and throw up.  But I haven't really felt like doing anything.  Everything feels like a chore and I just want to take a nap.  I actually took a two hour nap today.  It's a very frustrating feeling to be restless from not having worked out in a week, but yet not having the energy to get up and go.  Boo!

6.  Stomach Discomforts.  I'll save you all the mental image of the tummy troubles that couple with having food allergies but I'm pretty sure you have a pretty good idea that it is not fun.  Having the constant "yuck" feeling during most waking hours is clearly not going to be enjoyable.  What is really sad is that I know that I am going to feel that way, but it didn't stop me from having a quesadilla 30 minutes ago for dinner.

7.  Compromised Immune System.  I recently read somewhere that your small intestine is the gateway to your immune system.  If you are having issues there, as in food allergies/intolerances that are not being taken care of, you can become sick more often.  Those of you that personally know me know that I'm ALWAYS sick.  Er, I was always sick.  I haven't been sick that much in the last year when you compare to my previous track record of colds and what not, but I have not felt "good" in the last couple of weeks--sore throats, chest and head congestion.  Could this be coincidence?  Of course!  It is that time of year that people are getting sick.  However, if I can cut down on my number of sick days just because of what I'm eating, why not do it?

8.  Depression.  Now I don't know if this is directly related to having a food intolerance even though it is listed as a possible symptom when you look up information from any source, BUT after the seven symptoms I listed above, how can someone not feel depressed?

If you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms, try messing around with your diet.  It may surprise you in the difference of how you feel.  And now I think I'm done with this "experiment". Tomorrow, after I finish the chocolate ice cream in my freezer tonight. :)

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