So I’m sitting here at Poke Chop on a rainy Friday afternoon thinking about how much my life has changed over the past 3 months. I’ve come to 3 conclusions:

1) 2018 is going to be the best year of my life

2) Going gluten free has made a tremendous impact on my life

3) I’m on the right path.

This post is about #2.

A friend of mine, Brett, is gluten free. Brett has the best arms I’ve ever seen. They’re not the biggest or the most vascular, they are just solid arms. Girthy forearms, big biceps and defined tris. This is the guy that does burpees instead of biceps curls or triceps extensions because his arms will get too big **sigh** I know how this sounds and I’m entirely okay with it.

I had never planned on going gluten free. I used to look down on those people. When I was working at an upscale sushi and steak restaurant in La Jolla, I would silently judge the people who’d tell me they were “gluten free but not like celiac’s, you know?”. This was about 3 years ago, before everything in the grocery store went GF. I mean, it’s gotten a little out of hand when they’re putting that GF stamp on a pack of bacon. Bacon has never had gluten. And neither has vodka.

Then it happened.

This past November a company I’m very close with, Jumper Media, was having their company Thanksgiving feast and I was lucky enough to get invited. Brett was there with his sexy ass arms and we got to talking about what it actually means to go gluten free (up until that point I still had no real clue) and THAT NIGHT I decided to make the change.

People called my stupid for deciding to make the switch during the biggest eating week of the year, but when I go into something, I go deep. And this was jumping in head first. I had four Friendsgivings that year and I stayed strong through every single one. The only complaint I had was having to become one of THOSE “I’m not eating gluten right now” people. Surprisingly, it was easier than I thought. I was allowed to gorge on mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, all the meats, the green beans, and even the pumpkin pie (sans crust). To be honest, over those 4 meals, I crushed 2 entire pumpkin pies. Needless to say, I friggin’ loved this!

For the past couple years, I had been telling myself that carbs are bad. I mostly avoided them and would mentally feel awful when I would eat them, like I was being weak or doing something terrible to my body. I limited my Subway visits (or would switch to salads when I went), I really tried not to eat pizza and even went as far as to distance myself from my favorite food of all, sushi, because of the rice. I was neglecting my favorite foods because I put myself on this super restrictive diet. It was a painful existence. A Japanese that didn’t eat rice.

[A little insight about my family: My mom makes THE BEST Spam musubi, sorry Leilani’s. If you’ve had it, you know it changes the game on your previous thoughts about Spam. She was so sweet and supportive of my anti-rice campaign that once when I went home to visit, she made it for me with quinoa, instead of white rice because in my mind quinoa was a more acceptable carbohydrate. LOVE her to death for that, but do not try it, it does not work. If you do, you will become even more sad than if you had just not eaten the musubi. This is fact.]

To the good news…

The simple thing, is gluten is a naturally occurring protein found ONLY in wheat, barley and rye. So, if you can (and you can) find a way to stay away from those specific foods, you’re doing it. Like I mentioned earlier, the GF stamp is on everything. They have literal aisles in some grocery stores. From Lucky Charms cereal to quinoa and brown rice pasta and from Betty Crocker cake mixes to beer, there are a ton of companies jumping on this band wagon. There are huge bags of quinoa chips at Costco, you can find delicious gluten free pretzels, corn tortillas are fair game, rice cakes, popcorn, butter, whipped cream, they even make gluten free pizza crust….. the list goes on.

That being said, NOT ALL THINGS GLUTEN FREE ARE HEALTHY. While I very much stand by the gluten free (or gluten reduced) lifestyle, you should not be putting anything that says gluten free in your shopping cart. I still do a majority of my supermarket runs around the perimeter, not down the aisles where the processed foods are located. I simply stopped buying the 9 grain ‘healthy’ loaves of bread. I stopped eating the bread that gets served before you order dinner (this can be very hard at some restaurants when it’s fresh and steaming but it’s worth it. Plus, I have more room for the meat). I don’t eat burritos, but I CRUSH street tacos at Tacos Mimi. I order my hamburgers wrapped in lettuce. But if I do eat a bun, I make damn sure it’s Rocky’s and is gonna be worth it. I still order my Poke Chop bowls with seaweed salad and cucumbers as a base and try to avoid eating rice as much as possible. But when I go to sushi, it’s on, and I don’t feel too much guilt about the rice. I still eat salad with every meal and more often than not it’s the main course. But I don’t feel bad when there’s a baked or mashed potato on the menu for special occasions; because what is life without happiness and sometimes that is manifested in carbs.

A diet mostly free of gluten has changed my life. Period. My inflammation has gone down, as has the number on the scale and my waist-line. I can see and feel this improvement everyday. I have more focus and mental clarity. I also have more energy throughout the day. Even on those days I wake up at 4:50 and don’t have time to nap (though I must admit coffee and proper hydration do play a factor). But the most important benefit to me and something I know most of us take for granted; I breathe better. Yes, this diet has helped my struggle with life’s most basic necessity. Most of you know I’ve dealt with serious asthma since childhood, and not the exercise-induced kind of asthma, just plain old ‘for some reason I can’t breathe right now, let me hit this rescue inhaler’ asthma. Nowadays, I rarely need that lifesaving puff of magic, which is great because medicine ain’t getting cheaper and the older (and wiser) I get, the less I want to rely on drugs to live.

Now I know, every person is different and every body will react differently to every dietary alteration and honestly, the deeper I dig into this nutrition mystery, the more questions come to the surface. There are so many different ‘diets’ out there: Atkin’s, Paleo, Ketogenic, vegetarian, vegan, Mediterranean, the Zone, raw food, low carb, no carb, no sugar, there are even crazy liquid diets, but the fact of the matter is the only diet that will work is the one you can stick to.

There are obviously different health benefits and risks associated with every diet, so talk to your doctor or dietician before starting anything but I strongly recommend giving gluten free a try. Just for a month. You can do anything for a month: dry January, creepy Mo-vember, and the whole month of drunk December… The truth is, with a little willpower, a smidge of self-control, and an open mind, why not try gluten free February? It’s even the shortest month, what have you got to lose except those love handles and a couple California burritos?