Why I Made the Change

So, I haven’t really told you guys how I made the change over from being a fairly average nosher to a more cognoscente and mindful eating. I did mentioned how Tara Stiles was the catalyst to listening to my body and observing what I put into it. It wasn’t until this past January when I really put it into practice. It all started by going pescotarian (someone who eats seafood but not land meat.) I started reading about how the animals in many slaughterhouses in our country are treated. Slaughterhouses are stressful places to work and it doesn’t take much for the handlers to start abusing the animals. Pigs are sodomized by objects lying around, chickens are thrown like soccer balls, people, very disgustingly, shove electric shockers into cows’ vaginas. I’m not one for swearing, but that shit is sick as fuck! I felt immense guilt for eating meat, especially since my family (or school) wasn’t regularly buying meat from reputable farms. There was no weaning myself off of red meat, then chicken, then pork; I went cold turkey. I was surprised to find that after the first month I didn’t really have cravings except for fried chicken, pork from Chinese restaurants, and the occasional burger—all relatively unhealthy. I had no desire for steak or grilled chicken. Unfortunately my school wasn’t very vegetarian friendly (a person needs more than tofu and veggie burgers, people!) and I found myself learning the art of the salad. I mean a real, colorful salad, not the kind with ranch, cheese, croutons, and those squiggly crunchy bits. I slowly started learning about other diets like the raw food and vegan. Though I never went completely raw or vegan, I tried to as much food in its natural state to my diet.

There was also food I found myself eating less of. Bread was no longer a big part of my diet, as veggie sandwiches really weren’t that enthralling. My milk consumption decreased significantly as well, as I started eating more Greek yogurt to add protein (which the average person really doesn’t need loads of, despite the typical ‘how do you get your protein’ claim), and iron, which I admit was hard to get. I noticed myself feeling better and having more energy almost immediately. I used to always need a nap in the afternoon. During the summer I started venturing into fake meats. I never wanted them to become a huge part of my diet, as they are highly processed, but Chris and I fell in love with Morning Stars Hickory Smoked “Ribs”.  Summer is also when I started feeling like absolutely crap again. July was brutal. There were many mornings when I would wake up, make an egg, and feel so exhausted that I had to go back to sleep again. I could barely function at my job and was an emotional wreck. My hair was falling out, my hands hurt, and I was deathly frightened. I thought it was the lack of meat that was doing this to me. The doctors ran blood tests and my iron levels and thyroid were fine. Everyone chalked it up to stress, but I knew it was more than that. It wasn’t until a few months into the school year that I finally began putting the pieces together.

Image: JupiterImages.Jen Christiansen

One morning I was eating toast and within minutes my hands started hurting. It felt like my bones were itching. I’d eat pizza and the next day I wake up feeling like someone had hit me with large beam. After some internet sleuthing, once again: thank goodness for Google, I stumbled upon sites talking about gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat that more and more people are having difficulty digesting. It can cause severe stomach pains, gas, bloating, hand pain (!), brain fog, and numerous other conditions. Celiac Disease has the same symptoms, but if you keep eating gluten it damages the lining of your stomach, making absorption harder. I decided to test this theory out. It’s very hard to do something and not subconsciously cause yourself pain, but I knew I wasn’t lying to myself when not long after eating a slice of whole grain toast I doubled over onto the bed in intense stomach pains. Then there was the brain fog that would follow me around for a few hours. In severe cases when I ate a lot of pizza (which is now my kryptonite) I would have intense feelings of gas in my stomach that would never, erm, work their way out. Not to mention if I kept eating more wheat my stomach would start lurching. I’ve thrown up 6 times in my life, so I knew this was not normal. After realizing this was something I couldn’t eat anymore, I also had the horrible realization that right now was not a time in my life where I could not eat meat and wheat/gluten products which are found in so many foods. After a few weeks of telling myself that it was okay and that my health was just as important, is started eating meat again. One thing I notice is that the amount of meat I eat is so miniscule to what I used to eat, and I still hardly crave red meat. I have a much healthier relationship with a food group. I try my hardest to buy meat from good farmers, but I cannot all the time. I’m not much for dinner time grace, but I do say a little thank you to the animals. Almost instantaneously I felt better. I started dreaming again and realized a big reason why I felt better back in January wasn’t necessarily from kicking meat, but from limiting my gluten intact. And the reason I felt horrible in the summer is because wheat and gluten are generally the first few ingredients listed in fake meat.

I got tested for celiac disease over break. Unfortunately gluten sensitivity is not something they can easily test for and the general celiac disease panel they use only shows 2 of the 5 possible inhibitors that can show up for celiac positive patients.  But after explaining my symptoms to my doctor she said she felt 100% okay letting me avoid gluten and wheat. The worst part about the testing was that I had to eat gluten a few weeks before hand. I was in so much pain and was extremely grouchy for several days, and I didn’t feel completely right for quite some time. My test results came back this week and they were back normal. Still, this still doesn’t change the fact it makes me feel absolutely horrid. Life is going to be pretty different for me. I’ve been trying Udi’s gluten free bread (awesome), gluten free rolls (disgusting), and reading all labels. I’ve also been playing around with how much bread I can eat before I feel sick and am realizing that it is a very delicate balance between feeling fine and being knocked off my ass. So long sweet pizza. You will be missed.

It took me a really long time to figure this all out. What is most scary is that this is something I know in my heart has been plaguing me for years. It wasn’t until I started peeling away all those unhealthy eating habits that I could get to the source of the issue. The more you strip away the uglier and more painful it gets, but it is absolutely necessary. Again, I cannot stress this enough, listen to your body. If you always feel gross after you eat then simply start eliminating foods to see if you feel better. And don’t let doctors try to sell you the easy answer. Three people told me “oh, it’s just lactose that is making you feel bad.” Errrr, wrong! I can drink all the milk I want and feel excellent. You are the best judge of your body. Just listen carefully and it’ll tell you what to do.

Now Peel Away!