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"Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose." ~C. S. Lewis

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PostHeaderIcon Two years

Two years I’ve been gluten free. A gluten free athlete at that. As I sit here prepping for race #4 of 2013, late October in LA, I can’t help but reflect. It’s the third in a row Rock and Roll LA race I’m running and it was two years ago, on the morning of the first one I wrote about having just gone gluten free. Seems apropos to see what the journey has been all about.

First of all, I wouldn’t change a thing. Sure, I could say I wish I’d gone gluten free earlier, but I’m in such a good place with my health and body that I understand that everything happened as it to lead me exactly to this place right now. And it’s glorious. I’m completely in control of how my body feels, how it reacts and how it moves. Being highly aware is a gift I take seriously. Am I a shrieking fool who lashes out at whoever is nearby because there might be gluten in or touching the food – not even remotely. I actually pride myself a little on being out with people and navigating a menu without anyone necessarily recognizing I’m specfically choosing a gluten free item.

Sure, when I’m at someone’s house and they serve non-gluten free crackers with cheese, it’s going to come up. But nowadays, most people tend to ask “any allergies or diet issues I need to know about?” and there’s the opening. Funny thing is, I really do eat just about everything else (thankfully, as being a food lover, I love trying new things – hello buffalo! – and am not restricted by allergies, politics or fussiness), it’s the gluten that gets me.

Gone are the days of a refrigerator stocked with a chilling bottle of mint-flavored Mylanta, gone are the days a puffy tummy needed to be rubbed or hidden, gone are the days of mild to moderate to severe bloated-ness in the face and generally all over, gone are the days of all-over body inflammation seen and unseen, gone are the days due to that inflammation of consistent weight training and working out without anything to “show” for it meaning why could I never see muscle tone? and now I know and now it shows, gone are the days of brain fogginess – it wasn’t due to overdrinking or over tiredness or overworked-ness, it was most likely the gluten (although, drinking less, getting better sleep and setting real clear boundaries on my time spent “working” does of course positively contribute!), gone are the days of thinking “it’s just the way my body is built” in conceding a particular stomach ache or heartburn or a cold due to a compromised immune system, and gone are the days of knowing deep in my soul that I’m not just an active woman but capable of much more athletic ability and achievement than I (or the people around me) gave myself credit for.

And here are the days, the glorious days, of feeling truly empowered in my body, in the awareness I’ve come to relish, of the education I continue to cultivate in order to have my body run like a well oiled, well fed, well nourished machine. How amazing! How awesome! How breathtakingly engaging! I know what fuels my body and my mind, I know how to take care of them both, I know what makes them purr and hum and thrive. I never apologize for being gluten free because I know it’s absolutely the #1 way to take care of myself nutritionally. I’m grateful I don’t have celiac and am not so severely restricted that even a trace amount of gluten can send my body into swift and major decline. And I’m grateful that to best take care of an auto immune thyroid disease, one I was diagnosed with at age 12, is to be gluten free and that I now know how best to take care of me.

There’s no looking back or blame to throw for when I first diagnosed. There was little knowledge even then about gluten or even celiac disease. It was rare. But as we’ve poured more and more flour into products to act as “glue”, our exposure to it has increased a hundred fold. If you like pineapple juice and drank a cup a day, you’d probably be fine. But if you drank a gallon a day, most likely after many days or even months you’d not only be sick but may develop an allergy or intolerance to it (let alone just a severe dislike of it!) And absolutely, the GMO wheat and barley and other gluten by-products without a doubt have contributed to the meteoric rise in gluten allergy, intolerance and sensitivities. No, it’s not a fad folks. Perhaps for some Hollywood or vain types it’s a fad or trend to try a la Atkins or Scarsdale or even for some vegetarianism. But aside from those, it is a real true issue for many and therefore the gluten free products everywhere. There’s no self righteousness in this decision, there’s no political or “it doesn’t taste good in my mouth” reasons – it’s an honest to God health decision that has completely turned my health and personal outlook into one of educated empowerment and curiosity about the optimal use of my body.

A beautiful side benefit of going gluten free is eating far less processed food and eating much more pure foods. And neither of these things – not eating gluten because of the risks it poses for me or the purity of the food I now concentrate on eating – is anything I would ever impose on others. There’s no lecturing, or eye rolling or turning up one’s nose in the presence of someone eating gluten. It’s “this is what works best for me” and if someone has questions, I have answers or explorations, but otherwise, do what works for you and I do what works for me. Sure, I’d love for those I love to assume better choices for themselves or expand there possibilities but as with anything, one has to come to these conclusions on their own and then make their own choices, or not.

Having now enjoyed 11 races having gone gluten free and about to embark on #12, I’m so very grateful to my friend who pointed me to all the research around Hashimoto’s people going gluten free. I run cleaner, I think clearer and I feel stronger than ever before. Days leading up to races, moments before a run, during a run and post race are much easier on my body and psyche. Having had very un-understanding and discompassionate people around me post races years ago where my stomach would knot up post race and cause me to fall into bed in some kind of delirium for hours before rising again, and now knowing that was the gluten wreaking havoc on my compromised body, I’m forever grateful at the way I’m able to have so much more control over how my body reacts and feels (eating a bunch of roughage and questionable protein the night before a race, while gluten free, will absolutely also wreak havoc the next day…back to the night before light and lunch being the main fueler). No, perhaps we didn’t know back then what was causing some of the consequences of how my body reacted. But the disdain for not just bouncing back immediately was a kind of pressure and shame that felt practically cruel and that I’m gloriously free of now, as I know my body in such a way to be in exquisite control that I take responsibility even when things don’t go well, because I know pretty clearly what I did or didn’t do.

Someone going gluten free for health reasons is nothing to mock or shame or make fun of. I’m actually often asked “oh, are you gluten free for trend or health reasons?” which is to me a somewhat understandable question, and owning it’s for health, well, every time I say that I feel like my body says thank you and stands a little straighter. It’s a little jolt of “yes, I’m taking care of myself!” And what it’s done for my physical self in my running and recovery is a delight as well – while I’ll never actually know, I surmise that the ability to continue running at the level I do and these soon-t0-be last 12 races being gluten free is because I’m tuned into my body and take care of it in a way I didn’t know I could before. And every year you’re on this planet begs you to assess and reassess how you treat your body and mind, how you nourish and feed your soul and how you expand your existence in the universe – and that changes so the ability to remain aware and awake is critical to not survival but real thrival of your life this go ’round.

So thank you Heidi, thank you brain and thank you body for this beautiful adventure of going gluten free. I feel so much better, I feel so much clearer and cleaner, I feel so much more me. Most of all, thank you heart of truly committing to loving yourself enough to take care of your soul to this level.

Very excited and curious to see and feel and experience this next race – it’s an enjoyment of the senses I’m looking forward to!

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