“I don’t think I need to be gluten free anymore.”
I announced this to my boyfriend a couple of weeks ago through mouthfuls of avocado smothered gluten-free toast.
Three months prior, my fabulous dietitian Marieke Rodenstein had recommended that I ditch gluten to see if it would help heal the gut issues I had been experiencing. The list of reasons Marieke gave for this suggestion were long and hard to refute (and I was sick of feeling sluggish, bloated and generally not great) so I happily accepted the idea and after leaving her clinic, headed straight to my local organic grocer to stock up on all things gluten free.
After about a week of my new diet I found that my symptoms were starting to lessen and I was feeling much more energetic. I was still getting bouts of nausea and bloating but over the following weeks, these symptoms also started to fade.
For the next couple of months, I continued to adhere to a gluten-free diet and reaped the benefits. I had more energy than I’ve had in years (albeit, my iron levels were also on the way up, which would absolutely have contributed to this) and I no longer had to struggle to button up my jeans over my bloated tummy. In short, I felt great!
So, why did I decide I no longer needed to live out my days sans gluten? At the time, I told myself it was because I was about to embark on Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar program and that I wanted to only eliminate one thing from my diet at a time to really determine the cause of my issues. Sounds reasonable, right? That’s what I convinced myself, too.
It actually wasn’t until a couple of days ago (yep, you can call me Laura “Ye Ol’ Slow On The Uptake” Miller) that I sat in discomfort (and not just from the Mexican wheat-flour burrito I had just devoured) with the realisation that I had been lying to myself. I didn’t revert to eating gluten because of any misguided nutritional belief that if I gave up both gluten and sugar I would never know what was causing me grief. No, I started scoffing the stuff again because I was scared of having yet another food label slapped across my name.
Social functions were already fraught with uncomfortable moments of not realising that the delicious-looking arancini ball actually contained mince meat until it was already in my mouth. Now, they’d be even more stressful as I faced the choice of either accidentally chowing down on something with gluten in it, or dealing with the embarrassing prospect of being handed a Glad wrapped plate of special-needs dried out food, while everyone else swanned around with canapes.
When eating out, not only would I have to scour the menu for that elusive little fella called ‘v’, I’d also have to hunt out his even more rare cousin ‘gf’. My friends would groan as I’d say to the poor waitress, “Yes, I know porridge is made of oats but are they gluten-free oats or just oat oats? I can see that the bacon dish is gluten free but I don’t eat meat.”
Not only would I be Laura: that vegetarian woman, I’d now be Laura: that vegetarian, gluten-free, pain-in-bum, can’t-take-her-anywhere woman. Me, dramatic? Surely not.
Nope, it wasn’t happening. Not on my watch. It turns out my desire not to be a social outcast was far stronger than any urge to rid myself of the physical discomfort I was experiencing – at least it was, until last week.
Last week, when I finally found the courage to dig a bit further into the real reason behind my decision, I was shocked (and if I’m being really honest, I was disappointed) at myself. Here I was, studying to be a naturopath, passionately espousing the importance of listening to your body and finding out which foods make it sing, and I was doing the opposite. The exact opposite.
Isn’t it funny how these contradictions creep into our lives without us noticing! I am endeavouring to be more aware of when this happens so that my reality more closely matches my ideal life. In psychological terms, this is called congruence and achieving it is an important part of being a natural therapist. It’s also kind of critical to living a happy life. Sticking to gluten-free fare for now is the right choice. I feel it within every cell of my body.
So, I’m back on the gluten-free bus. I’m still giving up sugar (more on that soon) but I’ll resume my gluten-free ways and then reassess once the I Quit Sugar program is finished. I’ll take an honest look at how I feel and decide then whether I truly can go back to eating gluten or not.
And this time, the decision will be based on love for myself, not fear.