The Paleo Solution, Wheat Belly, Against All Grain, etc., etc. Gluten-free lifestyles are everywhere. You might be sick and tired of hearing about them. I am, and I live gluten-free. But it’s not a fad for me.
When I first heard the suggestion that I should stop eating gluten, I was already sick and tired. I wish I could say that eating gluten-free solved all my problems, but it didn’t.
Some things got better: my appetite dropped a fair amount, I hurt a lot less, and it was easier to relax. I lost weight more easily than I ever had in my life. The rough skin I’d had on the back of my arms since childhood turned smooth. A rash (little blisters that ultimately made spots on my hands look like they were burned) went away.
What didn’t get better was my balding head and lack of energy. And the most ridiculously small amounts of gluten exposure brought back the aches and the gluten-induced appetite (which, in turn, brought back all the weight I’d lost). I’d do better, get “glutened,” fight my way back to almost where I was, get glutened again, etc.
“Give it time. It takes at least two years without any gluten for everything to heal. Just hang in there. You’ll get better.” Docs and other people with celiac disease persisted in telling me those words, and I chanted them to other people too. I now think those comments are complete crap, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Before I go on, let me define what I mean when I say “gluten-induced appetite.” I once decided to see if I could recreate the amount of hunger I feel for several months after gluten exposure.
So, I stopped eating. I got hungry, wanted food, and by the third day it was getting harder to sleep. But even after three days, my appetite was still a teeny-tiny fraction of what it is 24×7 after gluten exposure. Realizing that it might not be possible to recreate the appetite, I stopped fasting and returned to healthy food on the fourth day.
No wonder I went to such lengths as a kid to eat every piece of food I could get my hands on — I was starving beyond what any of the adults telling me to stop eating could have imagined.
And by “gluten-exposure,” I’m not talking about “cheating” and eating pizza. It’s goofy stuff like someone at the store accidentally dropping flour on the floor and me breathing enough of the airborne stuff to react.
In 2012, I was glutened twice, and the second time, I’d had enough. After six years of gluten-free eating, making slow progress over several months only to have it all yanked away by unavoidable exposure, I was done.
I knew I couldn’t eat gluten. That would have been suicide. But I also couldn’t stand the thought of having constant problems just because I wanted to have a normal life.
I’m meticulous, some would even say AR, about my diet. If I couldn’t make it two years without some sort of exposure, and it took at least two years without any exposure to fully heal, there was no hope for me or the folks who were far more reckless than me. But I just couldn’t accept that. There had to be a way for me, and others like me, to heal and get back to a normal life in a reasonable time.
Enter SCD (The Specific Carbohydrate Diet)
A couple docs I’d chatted with online suggested a slightly more restrictive version of the diet (specifically, no dairy and no nuts even though they are technically allowed). I fought it. I was tired of everything that went with a restrictive diet and they were suggesting I restrict things even more!
But really, what choice did I have? Stay sick, keep cycling through the nasty cycle I had been, or give up? No thanks.
I begrudgingly agreed to 30 days. In fact, I had a new guideline: anything I tried made a difference in 30 days (60 if you could give me a compelling reason and back it up with science) or it wasn’t worth sticking to. It didn’t have to totally reverse all my problems in 30 days, but I had to see a measurable difference.
I started the SCD intro diet February 03, 2013. By the end of a week, the gluten appetite was gone. Two weeks in, and what I’d thought was joint and muscle relief with a traditional gluten-free diet was put to shame. By the end of a month, my hair was noticeably filling in. I could exercise consistently at least 3 times each week without getting progressively sorer. The only thing that didn’t really improve was my energy. I stuck with SCD for 238 days. 🙂 And in all of that time, I never caught a single cold or flu after catching everything that went around for several years.
Six weeks of SCD did more for me than six years of gluten-free…and I was pretty close to paleo-style eating before starting the intro diet. So it isn’t that I stopped eating junk and felt better. I think it was key for me to do the intro.
And here’s the most amazing part:
As it turns out, I was inadvertently glutening myself from December 2012 until July. The lip balm that had been safe for 6 years had added wheat germ oil and removed the word ‘gluten-free’ from its ingredient list without changing the label’s appearance. In July, I ended up in the ER for the first time in my life and lost 30 pounds in about 40 days.
After removing the lip balm, my hair filled in even more and my energy started to return, but my appetite is a little quirky— not as bad as full-on “gluten appetite”, but not as good as a healthy person.
Near my birthday this fall, I stopped SCD for two weeks. The first day, I ate a sandwich made with gluten-free bread. I lost so much hair in three days that our shower had to be unclogged. My stomach bloated to the tune of 14 pounds…overnight…from one gluten-free sandwich. It was obviously water from inflammation, but still.
I went back to SCD and added some ideas from Feast Your Fat Away. My energy soared. I felt better than I had in over 7 years — possibly better than I have since I was in my 20’s.
This weekend, I enjoyed a few non-SCD meals. I avoided the stuff that makes my hair fall out, but I indulged.
Tomorrow, I start the intro diet and head into a year of dairy-free SCD combined with some aspects of Feast Your Fat Away. The last time I used SCD, it was just to feel better. This time, I want to feel better and lose fat. The structure of Feast Your Fat Away seems like it’s going to help with that.
I’ve been close to a healthy weight a couple times, and there was one year for a few months when I’d lost enough I was happy with my body, but the gluten appetite has always been my downfall. I can’t count the times I thought I had the entire fat loss struggle beaten, only to regain it all.
What makes me think I’ll succeed this time?
It’s not that I know I will. But I do know that SCD makes me healthier while Feast Your Fat Away provides a structure that makes it easier to lose fat. The combo worked for my 30-day test. If it stops working for more than 30 days, I’ll tweak it and seek help from a coach or my doc if needed, but I’m committing to 365 days.
It took me almost a year of experimentation to find a combination that works for me. Actually, it took 7 years if you count from the moment I first went gluten-free, or 39 years if you count the first time I went on a diet…that’s right, I dieted when I was 5. I was extremely obese and my brother told me he’d take me to a movie if I lost five pounds in a week. I lost two. He took me anyway.
If you’re struggling with your health despite a gluten-free diet, I encourage you to try SCD for 30 days — do it dairy-free and nut-free for the first 30 days. I also took an SCD-legal multivitamin SCD Complete (not an affiliate link) and the SCD-legal probiotic from the same company.
If you don’t feel better, maybe SCD isn’t for you. If you do feel better, you can add in other foods over time and maybe even eventually totally stop the diet, so don’t panic about how restrictive it is. It is tough, but at least in my case, it was worth it a million times over. I direly wish someone had told me about it when I was first diagnosed.
If you’re struggling with your weight, Feast Your Fat Away has a calculator, templates, and a structure that makes fat loss easier than any program I’ve ever seen…and I’ve seen and tried a ton of them.
If I don’t know if I’m going to succeed, why did I write this post?
Because it’s important to know that other people are out there trying and refusing to give up.
Slightly over a year ago I realized that I was able to rise from the life I didn’t want to create one I did.
- My then-struggling marriage turned around, stabilized, and is doing well. No. Not just well. It’s better than it’s ever been thanks to my hubby also working on it.
- My energy improved enough that I’ve been able to work at least part time consistently.
- I went from unemployed to working part time to making a pact with myself that I’ll turn the part-time work into a full-time business if I can improve or at least hold my health steady between now and next March.
- I’ve (mostly) stopped comparing what I used to be able to do with what I can currently do.
- The energy that comparing used to take is now funneled into brainstorming ways to make life better.
- Some of my family and I are closer than we’ve ever been.
- I was able to help my mom when she got sick without it totally knocking me out of the game for a week or more. Since 2007, that’s been impossible until recently.
- My health is better than it’s been in a really, really long time. I’m still sick, but I’m also still getting better.
That’s a pretty good year for someone who’s broken. 😉
How did I make all of those changes? I’ll get to that in future posts, so stay tuned…
Here’s a link to the SCD book I used if you’re curious: Breaking The Vicious Cycle
And a link to Feast Your Fat Away.