I ditched being gluten free to save my social life

Eggs on GF toast

Homemade eggs Florentine on gluten-free toast, courtesy of my lovely man.

“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.

Laura xx

Super spelt pizza (and a GIF!)

I'm getting hungry just looking at this photo!

I’m getting hungry just looking at this photo!

You guys, guess what? I made a GIF! Well, if you’re into technicalities, I asked a wonderful soul to make it for me, but who’s into technicalities? Not me. I have put it at the end of the post so, if you’re super keen to get your GIF on, you can scroll right on down there and have a look. Otherwise, the post starts….

…now!

Spelt, otherwise known as hulled wheat or dinkel wheat (which is my favourite name, for obvious reasons) is an ancient wheat species from the fifth millennium BC. That’s some old fibre, right there!

This old-as-the-hills grain is packed with goodness in the form of manganese, protein, copper and zinc. The best bit? People with wheat sensitivities sometimes find that they can eat spelt. I suspect this is because it has avoided the inbreeding that we humans have subjected other more common forms of wheat to. Or maybe it’s just because it is a grain we haven’t saturated our diets with yet and thus our bodies haven’t built up an intolerance to it. Either way, I’m a huge fan of the stuff.

So, because I want to share the spelt love, here’s a pizza recipe for all of you lovely folk who love pizza (and who doesn’t love pizza?!).

The Dough

Goodness gracious, big balls of... dough.

Goodness gracious, great balls of… dough.

This is what’s in the dough (these measurements will make two bases, so you can chuck one in the freezer for another time):

  • 3 cups of wholemeal organic spelt flour (plus a bit extra to use during the kneading phase)
  • 2 tbsp. of almond oil (plus 1 tsp. extra to coat bowl)
  • 1 tsp. of sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. of Manuka honey
  • 1 cup of warm water with yeast dissolved in it (refer to yeast packet for instructions)

To make the dough, just combine the spelt flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast mixture, oil and honey. Use a round-bladed knife in a cutting motion to mix until the mixture is combined. Then use your hands to mould the dough into a ball.

Next, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface then knead until it is smooth and elastic. Brush a bowl with a little bit of the oil. Place in the prepared bowl and turn to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place so that it can rise. It will take about 30 minutes and the dough should double in size.

Once the dough has risen, knead it with some extra flour and roll it out so that it is about 1cm thick.

Pop it in the oven for 10 minutes and then take it out so that you can put the toppings on.

The Toppings

The ingredients.

A chopping board full of goodness.

  • One handful of baby spinach
  • 1 cup of sliced button mushrooms
  • Half an eggplant (sliced and roasted with olive oil, sea salt, turmeric and cayenne pepper)
  • A couple of sliced spring onions (keep the green part to sprinkle on top once the pizza is cooked)
  • 3 tbsp. of pesto (the one pictured is Botanical Cuisine’s Basil and Kale Pesto, and it is to die for!)
  • A pinch of truffle salt (or sea salt)
  • 1/4 cup of feta

Spread the pesto on your base and then layer the remaining ingredients on top, finishing with a sprinkle of the truffle salt.

Put it back in the oven for 10 minutes and you are cooking with gas… or electricity, if that’s more your style, you 21st century person you!

The GIF!

PizzaAnimation

Laura

What I eat when at work: the lunch edition

During the four and a bit years I have been working in a 9-5 role (well, 8-4 mainly but you get the idea) what I eat for lunch has changed dramatically. When I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed university graduate, I made a lot of less-than-ideal choices (read: rubbish) about what I put in my mouth (mind. gutter. get out). Combine that with adjusting to sitting at a desk for eight hours per day and I quickly became tired, bloated and run down. You know that colleague who catches every cold and drives you crazy with their sniffing and coughing? That was me.

You know that colleague who catches every cold and drives you crazy with their sniffing and coughing? That was me.

I realised after a few months, and after reading The China Study, that something had to change. I switched to a vegetarian diet and began seriously trying to find out what on Earth I should really be eating!

Since then, I have set myself the challenge of finding the perfect work lunch. My lunch varies dramatically between Summer and Winter; in the warmer months, I make a lot of salads. A lot. In the cooler months, I favour warm protein and carbohydrate combinations. The only real constant is avocado because it is, well, amazing. OK, without further ado, I introduce my two favourite quick and easy Winter lunch options (da, da, da, da-rum roll please):

The Choose Your Own Adventure Burger

Chickpea paddy variation of the Choose Your Own Adventure Burger.

Chickpea paddy variation of the Choose Your Own Adventure Burger.

This meal’s brilliance lies in the fact that you can make it with just about anything. Need to use up that Portobello mushroom? No problem. Got a hankering for some grilled eggplant? Got it covered. Feel like you really should defrost that chickpea or grass-fed beef paddy that has been hiding in your freezer for months? This is the opportunity you have been waiting for.

Just grab whatever salad stuff you have in the fridge (I used avocado, cucumber, tomato and baby spinach in the burger pictured), some cheese if you so desire (haloumi is great if you have it but any cheese will work), your burger paddy and some bread.

When lunch hour rolls around, grill your paddy in a sandwich press, toast your bread, chop up your salad and then assemble your burger. Done.

Oh, I almost forgot: if you have an egg and some silicone egg rings like these you can fry up an egg on the sandwich press. Just remember to leave the top of the press open.

The Egg and Quinoa Muggin (like muffin but with g’s, geddit?)

My take on the muggin.

My take on the muggin.

This gem came from wellness blogger and creator of the hugely successful I Quit Sugar program, Sarah Wilson. It is one of those ideas that is so simple, when you find out about it,  you can’t quite believe you didn’t think of it yourself… or maybe you did think of it yourself. In which case, go you!

Just throw some frozen peas and spinach into a mug and put a couple of un-cracked raw eggs on top (I wrapped mine together in cling-wrap to stop them rattling around and breaking). When you are ready to eat, crack the eggs into the cup and whisk everything up then pop it in the microwave for two minutes.

I like to mix things up a bit some days, as well as add an extra punch of protein, by lining the base of the mug with pre-cooked quinoa. I do this the night before so all I have to do in the morning is put in the peas, spinach and eggs.

Another technique that I employ to make sure I always have access to healthy food, even if I’m super busy, is to take a couple of containers of homemade soup to the office and keep them in the freezer. I also always have a couple of tins of organic baked beans in my drawer and some frozen peas in the freezer. I mix the peas in with the beans before microwaving them, and I serve them on toast (I also keep bread in the freezer). While baked beans aren’t something I like to eat often, due to their high sugar content, they stop me from heading to the food court when I’m on the hunt for lunch.

It’s all about finding a few key ingredients that are easily transportable, then just experiment to find out what works for you!

Laura