Becoming Gluten/Soy/Dairy Free

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For the past three years I have been getting progressively more tired, my eczema more frustrating and inconvenient and, well, ugly, and my mood more generally irritable.  

I was attributing all three rather debilitating problems to stress and exhaustion from film school and being over-worked.  Forcing myself to sleep 7-8 hours a night for three months straight helped a little, but then I started a demanding job with Stand Up To Cancer (return at the end of May for more information on that), and I couldn't stick to my sleep regimen to save my life. Very quickly, within two weeks of starting the job, I regressed to where I was before I started my strict sleep plan.  I thought biking to work (7.5 miles each way) would help, but while it is a wonderful way to start and end my days, it didn't solve the problem.  And the decline in my health was becoming noticeable not just to me, but to everyone around me as well.

I finally dug deep into my pockets and scheduled an appointment with a doctor who came highly recommended, and learned a life-altering fact: Gluten, which includes wheat, barley and malt, is poison for me.  

Every time I eat a cookie, grab a bagel, nibble on a pretzel, drink a fiber-enhanced beverage, I'm making myself sicker and sicker. And the icing on my now poisonous cake?  Because I've been so evil to my body for... my entire life! I have developed allergies to other basics as well - dairy, soy, almonds, eggs (and chicken inconclusive).

This is actually great news: I'm otherwise completely healthy!  I'm fit as can be (hey, I frequently bike 7.5 miles each way to and from work, what do you expect?).  For someone who spends her days surrounded by talk of cancer, this is a happy diagnosis for deeply troubling symptoms.  I have complete control over this.

And so, last week I became gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, egg, chicken, almond free.   Open your cabinet and read the ingredients on the items you have in there.  Chances are you won't find a single thing I can eat!  That's what happened to me when I got home the night I received this news.  Try looking at a menu anywhere - even a vegan or health-food restaurant.  You'll have to settle for the nice bowl of white rice.  

Yes, this diet is extremely difficult. But - I had no idea how sick I was until I removed these things from my diet.  I feel *amazing* - my energy levels have soared.  I'm happy.  I don't feel nearly as stressed in spite of the fact that I've hit crunch time at work.  I don't fall asleep until I get into bed.  I wake up with my alarm clock.  My skin is normal again.

This reminds me of how I felt when I first got glasses.  I had absolutely no idea how bad my vision was until the moment I stepped outside with new glasses (at the age of 14) and realized that trees had individual leaves.  I had no idea how sick I was until just a few days ago, when I discovered what it feels like to be entirely healthy.

And the real irony?  I'm now eating meals that are not only far more healthful, but tastier!   Having to pay attention to what I eat means being creative and figuring out what I truly enjoy. Even better: I have a wonderful supportive partner, Jon, who has really taken upon himself the task of learning as much as he can about my new food restrictions and how to eat normally in spite of them.  This weekend, he made me chocolate chip cookies.  Soy/dairy/gluten free chocolate chip cookies.  And they were excellent.  He's actually made the process of transitioning to an entirely new lifestyle (because that's what being soy/dairy/gluten free requires) fun.

The internet is amazing, and there are a lot of resources out there for this kind of restrictive diet.  Usually, however, the people who write in are able to eat one of the three culprits above.  So, consider this my first of many posts that will offer insight into living entirely free of all three.  I'll write about tasty safe products, adventures, the trials, and whatever else comes to mind.  If you have advice, or your own stories to share, please comment! More later... now I have to continue standing up to cancer (my current job).  We have a deadline to make.

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