Making change: Switching to gluten free was a bust

Emily Shockley, education writer

It’s nice to have energy again. It’s nice to see a half-inch gone from my waistline. It’s nice to eat well, put down the junk and feel full after a meal.

It’s just too bad that all happened in the last month and not during the eight weeks I spent eschewing gluten.

I dumped gluten at the beginning of this experiment because I wanted to see how it made me feel. My brother and my cousin’s son have celiac disease and we’re pretty sure my late grandmother had undiagnosed celiac.

I don’t think wheat is the devil or that the protein composite found in some grains, gluten, is chewing up the intestines of every person who eats it. Given family history, though, I thought maybe I would feel better without gluten.

Guess what? I didn’t. Even though I tried to supplement the absence of whole grains with fiber- and protein-rich foods such as black beans and quinoa, I had more digestive issues without gluten, not less (not horrible stuff, but not anything I would mention in polite company).

Sure, I ate fruit and vegetables but my body couldn’t have gluten so it pouted and punished me with cravings for sugar. I ended up eating more just to feel full.

I also didn’t have the energy I used to have to power through a workout the way I used to. And my bank account was making a run for the exit — gluten-free is not cheap.

The cardinal rule of quitting is that you don’t quit if something is beneficial, even if it’s hard. I had the opposite problem — it wasn’t ultimately that hard to go gluten-free, but it wasn’t beneficial for me.

I slowly introduced bagels and whole wheat bread and the like back into my diet at the end of February. I eat less and more healthful and I’m much more satisfied. I regained energy and am back to my old running pace — faster, actually — and have the stamina for long fitness classes and lifting heavier weights.

This experience confirmed what I already knew but ignored for the sake of experimentation: Good health is about making nice with various healthy habits, not pinpointing one enemy.


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