Food, ah food…I love food and cooking and baking- especially chocolate! I was a super picky (veggies were the devil) eater until about 5 years ago when my taste buds finally grew up and discovered all the delicious foods I’d been missing. Then, 2 years ago, B and I did a 21 day program that eliminates all wheat, gluten, soy and dairy (and sugar) from your diet. Until then, I thought my allergies (serious allergies that required medicine almost daily) were only airborne (pets, dust, grass, mold, etc), but for those glorious 21 days, I didn’t sneeze, sniffle or wheeze once…literally a miracle. We didn’t participate in that program as an allergy relief measure, but it really opened our eyes to the reality that my body can’t have some of my favorite things and still function normally.
After the 21 day program, I started adding things back in one by one and knew without doubt soy was a huge problem (and let me tell you- soy is in almost EVERYTHING). I was less sure of the wheat and gluten, so I decided to have an ALCAT test done to identify some of the issues once and for all (well, at least now and for now). Sadly, it confirmed wheat and gluten are not friendly to my body. The rest of the things identified were both a little surprising (olives- i.e. olive oil is my primary trigger!) and easier to handle than the wheat/gluten diagnosis.
Why was/is wheat/gluten so hard?? B is a beer guy- a serious beer guy- and he’s passed along his love to me. Eliminating wheat/beer from my diet meant no more beer and that people is one of the things that pained me most. (I know there are gluten free beers on the market, but I like a good dark stout and have yet to find it in the gluten free variety.) Moral to this story, if you know of/make a good, dark, malty gluten free beer, let me know! There’s nothing better than finishing a race and indulging in that frosty cold one at the end.
In the 2 years since these food intolerance discoveries, I’ve become more and more adept at modifying recipes to fit my constraints and knowing which brands to buy without spending 3 hours reading labels at the grocery. Yes, it took time, so if you’re just starting down this path, know it will get easier (and I’m willing to answer questions). I use primarily regular/non-gluten free cookbooks and just modify recipes accordingly. The one thing I haven’t been able to figure out yet is a good soy sauce alternative- we’ve tried 1 or 2, but nothing knocks my socks off yet. So, on top of missing beer, I do miss Asian cuisine.
Eating wheat/gluten free does not by any stretch mean I’m low carb—trust me, I love my carbs!! I make my own pizza before every long run, love to use the bread maker, and still make a mean chocolate chip cookie (I modified the Nestle tollhouse recipe). Plus, there are so many carbs that are naturally gluten free—potatoes, rice, quinoa (added protein plus), etc. Yes, it takes a little more planning to ensure I get the right mix of nutrients in my diet, but it gets easier every day and the extra planning makes me less of a nut case in the mornings (and keeps me away from vending machines)!
Making these dietary changes has not only revolutionized my allergy life, but it also rocked my racing life. I never knew that what I thought was fueling my workouts was really holding me back. Since making my diet modifications, I’ve PR’d at every distance I’ve raced. Sure there’s a lot to be said for training, but I don’t think my body could handle my training load if I hadn’t changed things up. Do I ever “cheat” – of course- I am human and because I’m only intolerant not allergic to wheat/gluten, I can have those things in moderation. For me, moderation is about once a week at the most. I try to save it up and get to really enjoy that ice cold beer after a PR- when I’ve truly earned it because I’ve listened to my body and treated it correctly. I hope that my story helps even one of you who are also struggling with making the switch to different eating habits. Bon Appétit!