Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Two Years, Two Hundred Entries

I’m at blog entry #200 and just a few days over my the two year mark of blogging at Windy City Cooking: Living Lactose and Gluten Free in Chicago.  My original mission was, “Hey look, Ma! I’m eating!”  I’ve come a long way.  Now it's "Hey look, strangers! I'm making really delicious things.  Mom, want to read my blog, too?"

Three years four months dairy free.
Two years gluten free.
Five months low fructose (well sort of).

Dairy free has been going great.  I am fortunate that I can tolerate sheep and goat cheeses.  I have started scratching the surface of my limits with my dairy intolerance and was pleased to find that I can enjoy Creamy’s sugar free lactose free ice cream that contains dairy.  Despite my mom’s wishes, I have not gone further and seen if I can tolerate some butter or cheese.  It normally can take half a day to a day to recover from a dairy reaction and I have not ever been bored enough to give it a shot.  My life is too busy to hit pause over a piece of cheese!

Gluten free gets easier every month.  More companies and restaurants are joining the party.  The online community is growing.  I was fortunate enough to attend Nourish, the gluten free blogger convention, this spring.  I met so many new people who share my diet and have never been happier to be a part of this exciting, passionate community.  Earlier this year, I also became the co-chair of the Chicago Chapter of the Gluten Intolerance Group.  We meet the first Monday of the month at the South Loop Whole Foods at 8:00pm.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest happenings.

Being low fructose has undoubtedly been the hardest restriction yet.  Going vegan for a month was a breeze in comparison.  I used to drink a can of Coke a day (39 grams of sugar) and two servings of fruit juice (easily 60-80 grams of sugar) in addition to eating fruit and sweets.  I stopped buying juice and switched over to diet soda.  At the recommendation of a few dietitians, I then kicked the diet soda habit as well.  After a month of being low fructose (probably 5-10 grams of sugar a day), I lost about five pounds and was dizzy from the weight loss.  I was paranoid about what I was eating and in essence, stopped snacking and unintentionally cut a lot of calories.  How I felt from the weight loss was about how I felt on over 100 grams of sugar a day.  With my doctor’s blessing, I added fructose back into my diet.  Currently, I’m mostly juice and soda free; I’ll still dip my gluten free communion bread into grape juice at mass and I will continue to enjoy fruity cocktails or wine at bars on a special occasion basis.  Throughout the past months, I have figured out what an acceptable level of sugar is in my diet: about 30 grams.  I still have one symptom with that level of sugar, but am working with a natural health doctor to minimize it.  I am fortunate that I have the freedom to choose how much fructose is in my diet, unlike my “must avoid all things” restrictions with gluten and lactose intolerance.  Shockingly, I have been able to tolerate a frosted cupcake much better than I can six raspberries.  I make as many of my meals as I can low fructose so I can use my available allotted grams of sugar towards sweets.  Does that make me a bad person or a genius?

Having food intolerances was shockingly one of the best things that happened to me.  I am in touch with how my body is feeling and better understand the relationship between my body and food.  Food used to exclusively be fuel.  Now, it is delicious and I look forward to eating.  Blogging has been great fun and has challenged me to make better food choices as well as up the ante of my cooking.  My first year out of college, I filled my grocery bags with packaged goods.  I only bought raw meat once – the rest of my meat came from frozen, pre-cooked chicken patties, chicken fingers or hamburgers.  I spent that year as the costumer for Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding and ate pasta with tomato sauce, Italian sausage, and French bread with a glass of Coke every time we had a show (up to 5 or 6 times a week!).  Not a single meal I made that year would have been safe for me to consume with my newfound restrictions.  All of my intolerances started after an emergency appendectomy almost four years ago.  There is a chance that I was always predisposed to these intolerances and the surgery was the trigger to flip the switch on.  It took a while to name all of the issues.  It took several doctors before someone finally mentioned Celiac Disease to me and only after the negative results, did I create a one week gluten free experiment.  Miraculously, I felt fantastic without gluten in my diet.  As soon as I ate wheat again, my symptoms came rushing back.  Officially, I have Non Celiac Gluten Intolerance.

Looking back on pictures of me before, during and after my gluten eating days are pretty funny.  Not only did my hair dramatically change (not pictured: the months of being a blonde or a red head), but I can see it in my eyes that I was very sick and detached with reality in 2010, right before learning what “gluten” meant.  I’m alive and well!  And better than ever!  Now let’s not add any more restrictions next year…

And yes, that Chicago wind really does love my hair.  Why do you think I'm Windy City Cooking?

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