Going gluten free was the best decision I ever made (this is long but could be worth every min)
Updated: Aug 24
Gluten Light. Could it be right?
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 a high end sushi and steak restaurant, I would silently judge the people who would 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 getting 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.
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 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 this year and I stayed strong through every single one of them. 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 nutrition change.
For the past couple years, I’ve been telling myself that carbs are bad, so I 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.
[Sidenote about my family: My mom makes THE BEST Spam musubi, if you’ve had it you know it changes the game on however you feel about Spam and she was so supportive of my anti-rice campaign that one time I went home to visit and she made it with quinoa instead of rice (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 be more sad than if you had just not even eaten the musubi]
On to the good news…
This 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, that 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 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 just 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, 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.
A diet mostly free of gluten has changed my life. Period. My inflammation has gone down, as has my weight and 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. 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 exercise-induced asthma, just plain old ‘for some reason I can’t breathe right now, let me hit this rescue inhaler’ asthma. Now, I rarely use it, which is great because medicine ain’t getting cheaper and the older (and wiser) I get, the less I want to rely of drugs to live.
Every person is different and every body will react differently to every dietary alteration. The deeper I dig into nutrition 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 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 associated with every diet so you must talk to a doctor or a 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, bender 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?