One of the big lessons I took away from my 30-day gluten-free challenge is not to enter in diet modifications lightly. The times I felt the most significant changes to my overall well-being were when I removed gluten from my diet and when I reintegrated it. Neither times were positive, bringing headaches, mood swings, and a digestive retooling. Do not enter this type of challenge lightly.
The second lesson I took away from this is how quickly something becomes a habit. After a few weeks, I honestly did not miss gluten. Not eating baked goods no longer became a will power issue. It was mostly an inconvenience, as in, I am hungry and see nothing easily accessible that I can eat. I now find it difficult to eat gluten after 30 days without it, not physically difficult, but mentally. I have become so use to rejecting it that I no longer desire it. Not that this stopped me from eating birthday cake on my birthday or pizza on vacation.
The big question for me remains, is gluten really the culprit? Or is it a heavy starch-based diet of processed foods? Obviously, for those with celiac disease gluten is the problem. But what about the others who claim miraculous transformations from cutting out gluten?
Moving forward, I will do my best to follow a clean, whole food diet, not as a 30-day challenge, but as part of my everyday life. This means less processed foods and more time at the farmer’s market.
The father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, recommends that individuals keep a reflective journal of three things that went well in their day to help create a more positive mindset. We do a modified version of this around the dinner table where we each discuss what our favorite part of the day was. My favorite part, of course, is hearing my little ones detail the moments that stood out to them the most. Today it was swimming at the lake, picking up a pizza, and going in the pool.
I have now completed three weeks completely gluten-free. So far, I do not feel any miraculous change. My stomach is still sensitive. I am not thinking more sharply nor am I less moody. Perhaps the only change is that I am a bit more energetic. However, I can easily attribute this to the change of season. It’s hard to keep all the other variables in my life the same. For instance, since my children’s school let out for summer, I have not made it to the gym. I have, though, been generally more physically active: bouncing on the trampoline, swimming in the pool, and taking care of household messes both indoors and out.
Still, while I do not think I will remain gluten-free after my thirty days are up, I think I will remain more gluten conscious. One of the greatest benefits from doing this challenge has been a sense of mindfulness about what I eat. Usually, I just finish my children’s food or grab a handful of whatever is in the cupboards without any thought. Without the ability to eat pasta or crackers, this practice became much more difficult.
Despite my mindfulness, I did not lose any weight. My body has remained at a state of homeostasis for so long, through new exercise regimens, holiday binges, and seasonal changes, that I would fear a terminal disease if I began to lose weight. I also found a way to replace the calories from the foods I cut. The first five days of my challenge I ate an entire pound of almonds! This wouldn’t have been so bad if most of those almonds weren’t followed by a dark chocolate chaser.
It’s important to note that a gluten-free diet is not necessarily low-carb diet. My bunless burgers sometimes came with French fries on the side. After I finish this challenge, I plan to engage in a different healthy eating plan, which will include less carbohydrates and processed foods in general.