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Isn't that the best picture ever up above? Can't believe I actually posted that on the internet. Some people spend hours getting ready for a selfie, I spend hours snowshoeing and then take one. What-evs.
So I inadvertently performed an experiment on myself over the last 2-3 months. For those of you who have not followed me for a while, I found out in June of 2014 that I was Celiac and then went on the Autoimmune Paleo diet (aka AIP, a strict elimination diet designed to help you heal and figure out what you might have reactions to) for the following 6 months and have been pretty much strict Paleo after that. I would cheat with a gluten-free baked good every now and then, or some tortilla chips or popcorn, but other than on vacation (in which I just am gluten-free, not Paleo), I have been very good about what I eat. And for good reason – I know that Paleo just makes me feel my absolute best.
However, over the last 3 months I've kind of pushed the envelope on the whole diet thing. I've been busy, stressed, and frankly, a bit down (some things at my day job haven't gone as I had hoped). Food has always been my go-to comfort so since old habits die hard, I found myself eating a lot MORE gluten-free baked goods, tortilla chips, and popcorn. I basically ate a gluten-free diet, not Paleo. As long as it was gluten-free it was fair game. And since after I'd eat I didn't necessarily feel bad, and my energy levels seemed to stay up, I wasn't very concerned. Things seemed to go ok.
But the cracks are starting to surface now. I've now been sick with something, a virus, cold, or sinus infection every 2 weeks for the last 6 weeks. My menstrual cycle is getting shorter (less time in between periods- who the hell wants THAT?) and much heavier. I've gained weight. I've been bloated. I'm irritable. I bonk (blood sugar lows). Many of these things were the reason I did AIP/Paleo in the first place. I'm sure if I don't change my ways I'll start having energy issues as well and who knows what else.
So since I am listening to my body, I am going to change and go back to strict Paleo. I'm going to start with a Whole30 (starting today – join me on Instagram to see what I am eating each day and here to see a weekly summary) and then if that doesn't do the trick, go back on AIP for a bit. But I know I need to clean things up and fast.
My main lessons learned from this?
(1) Eating a gluten-free diet doesn't mean it is healthy. Junk is junk whether it is gluten-free or not.
(2) Sometimes gluten-free isn't enough. I know many people who have tried removing gluten from their diet (and nothing else) and after a few weeks they throw their hands up in the air and say it isn't working, never to try anything like it again. I just proved to myself that eating just gluten-free isn't enough for me, so I bet it's the same for many others.
(3) Watch that lifestyle component. A gluten-free diet seems to work just fine for me when I'm on vacation – when I'm not stressed and have plenty of down time. But I've ignored a lot of my own advice over the last 3 months and let stress get the best of me yet again. Stress + Bad Food = Disaster. Stress + Good Food = Feeling ok. Less Stress + Good Food = Feeling Fantastic.
(4) It's good to test your boundaries sometimes. Instead of just wondering “is avoiding this food really helping me?”, test it! I mean, if you are deathly allergic to something don't do this. But if you hear the constant mass media outlets saying “It's not good to give up an entire food group like grains” and you find yourself truly doubting a diet like Paleo, see what happens if you introduce grains for a while (after taking them out for at least 3 months). You might be totally fine. You might also find out you really truly don't do well with grains. Diet is such an individual thing, what works for me might not work for you and vice versa. Don't sit here and read what I or anyone else tells you, it's best to figure out what works for YOU. And testing and rechecking some more will really define what works. But if you do this, make sure you really listen to your body. It will tell you if it isn't happy. It might take a while, like it did in my case these last few months, but eventually it will show up.
Being on a restricted diet is hard stuff. It's human nature to want to push the boundaries and see what works. Sure, I wish I could eat whatever the heck I want, but I can't. At least not on a regular basis. But I'd rather KNOW that I can't rather than just wonder. So I guess I know now. Anyway, here's to all of us feeling fantastic in 2016!!