This past year, I did the hardest thing I've ever done – I gave up gluten. And though it was a difficult journey ridden with obstacles, I can proudly say I accomplished something monumental, and I'm healthier and happier for it.
For those of you who knew me before my Year Without Gluten, you may think to yourself, “Kathy? Giving up gluten? Sure, that'll be the day. I'll see her slurping down her second plate of pasta carbonara at Little Dom's Italian Bistro on Tuesday.” And before my Year Without Gluten, you'd be right. At five foot one and two hundred and fifty five pounds, I was anything but the kind of noble warrior who maintains a gluten-free lifestyle. But one day, I found an Internet article about celiac disease, and I could instantly tell it was the root of all my health problems. What else could explain my general sluggishness, unwillingness to bathe, and donkey-like laugh? Celiac disease, for those who don't know, is an allergy to gluten. Gluten, for those who don't know, is a chemical or compound or molecule or something like that that is absent in all gluten-free products. So with only one way to get healthy, I committed to a Year Without Gluten.
Learning to live a Year Without Gluten required many clever substitutions. Instead of making my favorite uncooked pizza dough sandwich, I used gluten-free pizza dough instead. For the six slices of white bread, I used a stick of unsalted butter, with a generous heaping of salt added for taste. Delicious and gluten free? Memo to all my stupid friends who haven't yet given up gluten: hey! This health stuff ain't so bad!
You might think my Year Without Gluten was also a Year Without Setbacks – but it was anything but. It was frustrating to have to constantly shout at waiters, “bring me another slice of that gluten free chocolate cake!” Many times I burst into tears when I explained to my physician that I simply couldn't eat the fruits and vegetables he recommended. “It doesn't say gluten-free on the packaging!” I screamed until I was red in the face. Not to mention the drain on my checking account purchasing box after box of gluten-free rigatoni, gluten-free penne, gluten-free linguine, and gluten-free tortellini. I had to split my weekly shopping trips on two credit cards just to avoid hitting my limit. The employees at Trader Joe's eventually refused to sell me more pasta on moral grounds until I lied and said I was purchasing it for a bunch of schools. But that's what you encounter when you commit to living healthy and gluten-free.
Was it hard walking past a bakery before stopping inside and asking for a gluten-free pastry? Of course. There wasn't a single day I didn't cry in my car before work, sopping up my tears with a gluten-free doughnut. But I forced myself to buck up, eat the doughnut, finish the rest of the box of doughnuts, and march into work with my gluten-free head held high, breathing heavily and clutching my chest. The more I resisted temptation, the bigger my stomach got, and the healthier I felt.
As my Year Without Gluten drew to a close, I collapsed in a Whole Foods and was hospitalized for three weeks where surgeons performed life-saving liposuction. After I was discharged, I went home and climbed on the scale and braced myself for my reward. Trumpet blare! My Year Without Gluten got me down to my target weight! Despite the success, I don't think I'll continue living without gluten. I miss real food too much.