Saying YES: Celebrating 8 years Gluten-Free


October 24 is the most important, personal day of celebration in my year. More than my wedding day, more than my birthday, October 24 means rebirth. It means saying YES to a life without gluten and without chronic, daily illness. This year, I am celebrating 8 years without wheat.

My beloved husband married me 3 months before I learned that wheat was killing me. Mark married a woman who had horrific environmental allergies, near daily migraines who was fatigued and exhausted every day. We joke that Mark married “crazy Jenn” and truly, I was. Gluten made me irritable with wild, emotional mood swings going from normal to batshit crazy in a matter of moments. In those days, getting up and going to work was a struggle, then being stretched to my limits by the mountain of work that needed to be done could bring me to tears on any day…it was a good thing I had an office door to close. Life often felt unfair, like I was being personally prosecuted at every turn. Gluten did that to me.

Puffy and tired, even on my wedding day…life with gluten.

My allergists and doctors had no answers for me, beyond taking heavier and heavier doses of allergy and pain medications, which only seemed to make me sicker. Feeling lost, depressed and not knowing where to seek answers, my amazing mother-in-law, ViviAnne, suggested that I talk with a healer she’d been working with for a few years. With nothing to lose, I requested a phone consultation with her medical intuitive. ViviAnne sent the healer my phone number, and I was scheduled to have a brief phone consult with him in a few weeks’ time.

On October 24, I closed the door of my office at The Cradle, and opened the door to a new life. I picked up the phone to talk with the healer and in 30 minutes, my world was changed. Rocked. From a thousand miles away, he could “scan” my body, checking in with my organs and systems, and in 5 minutes, could tell me that though I was overweight, my body was undernourished because gluten was preventing me from absorbing nutrients in the food I was eating. He gave me a daunting list of foods to trial living without for a few weeks – wheat, dairy, beef, pork, sugar and eggs. In a few weeks, he would do a “full scan” and send me an audio tape explaining what my body was doing, and a layout a healing path to create wellness, with the supplements, books, personal dietary recommendations and exercises I would need to walk my way back to true wellness that I had never known.

Sounds crazy, right?! That someone a thousand miles away could “read” my body and tell me exactly what was wrong…I thought so too. But everything the healer said turned out to be right on. I won’t lie, I grieved deeply for all the foods I loved that were now lost to me…but after a week on the new regime, my brain fog had lifted. I didn’t have migraines…I was still exhausted, but I could tell that the new diet was RIGHT. I never knew that it wasn’t normal to have a stomach ache after every single meal. I’d never thought to even complain about it because it was ever-present, so I figured everyone felt that way after eating.

Six months later, under the guidance of my healer, with supplements and many diet and nutrition books read, I had lost 50lbs and gained a new life. My life without gluten had begun. My LIFE had begun.

Lighter, brighter and with a sassy new haircut…life without gluten.

I’d always loved food and cooking, but the gluten-free life made cooking a necessity. As the months went on and my energy rebounded, doubled and tripled as I was healed, standing in the kitchen creating safe, nourishing meals felt like JOY. I learned to take the flavors I always loved and apply them to my new food life. A couple years later, it didn’t feel hard anymore. Routines were reborn, and my cooking skills rose to the challenge. I especially learned to love cooking foods from other parts of the world that were less reliant on wheat. Thai, Mexican, Asian, Indian foods were new flavors and an open book for experimentation.

A few years ago, the marketplace began to catch up and new gluten-free pastas, breads came along that actually tasted GOOD. I don’t take advantage of many of the gluten-free packaged foods as I now prefer cooking from whole foods, but I am so glad that they are there…and that people who aren’t celiac have some awareness of special dietary needs. Eating out still isn’t easy, but it is becoming more and more possible.

So today, 8 years into my new life, I celebrated the way I know best – dancing in my kitchen. This morning I made pumpkin spice bars, steel cut oats with apples and pears and cinnamon, harissa quinoa salad for lunches, beef barbacoa for dinners this week, roasted pear ice cream base and gluten-free Oreos, which are better than anything Nabisco ever came up with.

8 years ago, I never thought that food could heal me. That I did not have to be overweight. That I would be an athlete – loving to run and cycle and setting goals to train for my first marathon. Saying YES to a gluten-free life is as essential to my being as saying YES to marrying Mark.

Cheers to 8 years of health, and to many more living and loving my gluten-free life!

Want to make these delicious Oreos? My beautiful friend and gluten-free guru Shauna Ahern, aka Gluten-Free Girl, converted the recipe just for us…and they are amazing. If you like the look of these cookies, and take as much joy as I do in Shauna’s writing, maybe you’ll want to buy a copy of her new cookbook…you won’t be sorry!

Head on over to Shauna’s blog for the recipeGluten-Free Oreos

Jenn, October 2010…healthy, loving life and headed out for a gluten-free night in the city!

If you’ve said YES to living gluten-free, what has been the biggest JOY in your new food life? If you’re not living la vida gluten-free, what has been your greatest food revelation? Share in the comments below.

36 thoughts on “Saying YES: Celebrating 8 years Gluten-Free

  1. This made me cry. I am SO happy for you, for the transformation (so much like mine) and the revelation that you could be healthy and alive.

    I’m so glad you are here.

    I mark April 30th as my birthday every year (even though officially it’s in August). That’s the day that the self I am now was born.

    Happy Birthday, Jenn!

    (p.s. so glad you love the cookies!)

    • Aww, thanks Shauna! And I am SO glad that we’re in this healthy new life together!! Just gave some of the cookies to non GF friends, and they were moaning with joy eating them! Our GF baking has come SO far in the past few years. I remember my first failed attempts at “bread” – sandy, dense loaves that even toasting & slicks of olive oil couldn’t make palatable! Feel so lucky today!

  2. As someone who doesn’t know a lot about gluten allergies this post really opened my eyes to the hell so many people go through before they’re diagnosed. Thanks for the lesson and also for coming up with so many delicious, healthy recipes that satisfy your appetite and many many others, including mine.

    Happy Anniversary Jenn!

    • Awww, thanks so much Leia! Yeah, the years – decades for most of us before diagnosis are no fun – and I really gave it the PG version on here – HA! I really feel like I have two lives – before and after diagnosis – and I’m THRILLED to live with celiac, compared to the person I was when I ate wheat!

  3. Aww, Jenn! I love hearing your GF story…I don’t know if I ever knew all of this?! Crazy, but wow. It’s amazing what gluten has done to us and I’m glad that I have you to turn to for delicious meals that I can make and not have to alter. YES!!! :)

    • Aww, thanks so much, Betsy! Yeah, on the rare occasion that I do get glutened these days, I’m just SO thankful for my health – even a cross-contamination is horrible, and to think what we lived through for YEARS with no answers?! Life is indeed a blessing!

      • It’s soooo true Jenn! I was a mess. Dropped out of U of I, had the worst anxiety, you name it! I can’t believe your before and after pics. Amazing! You are a gluten free rock star for sure!!! :)

  4. Thanks for sharing your story, Jenn! I’m so glad you said “Yes!” and have come so far! And thank you, thank you for sharing all the goodness that comes from your kitchen. Even though I have no problem with gluten, cooking/eating from your recipes has helped me eat – and live – better.

    And isn’t “Yes!” powerful?

    • Thanks so much, Crysta! I’m so honored to share the fruits of my kitchen with everyone – gluten-free or not! Saying YES! to my own health was the best thing I’ve ever done…learning to be a runner might be a close second. ;)

  5. So incredible Jenn!

    Thanks for sharing your story – I know so many others can relate even if they’re just beginning their journey.

    Congratulations and to many more years of delicious gluten-free living :)

  6. congrats on another great year! as someone who never knew you ‘before’, it’s amazing to read your story and see what an awesome person you’ve turned into – love it!

    ps – LOVE the red streaks. sassy indeed :).

  7. Wow… Jenn, I had no idea you went through so much health-wise. I am so happy you came through it healthier, happier and glowing :) You look beautiful! Cheers to a healthful, happy life. This isn’t the first time you’ve inspired me!

    • Awww, thanks so much Sabera! I could probably write an exhaustive text on the road to diagnosis, but consider this a cliff’s notes PG-rated version. Giving up the gluten was truly the greatest blessing in my life!

  8. Oh I’m in near tears – you have come so far, congratulations. Even though you went through such a terrible time, you have been able to help so many of us. I was desperate when I started searching for information (even though I am not celiac but gluten sensitive with other food sensitivities) and you were a blessing to me. Still a blessing to me and someone I’ll probably refer to for a long, long time. Thank you. I always think of you when I’m in the kitchen now, even when I’m making something with wheat involved somehow.

    ps: your hubby rocks!

    • Thanks so much, Teresa. Starting a blog to share my journey and love for cooking has really been such a blessing…and to hear that I’ve really helped you through your GF transition is just about the best, most amazing thing I’ve heard! I’m so glad you found my blog, and are learning how to manage your new food life!

      Oh, and the hubby does indeed rock!

  9. Aw, Jenn. This post made me tear up. Happy anniversary to you and your health! You have been (and continue to be) inspirational and helpful to me in my changes with my eating habits. I do not know how I would’ve gotten through that food detox a couple of years ago without you! It is always good to have back up. :o)

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  11. Happy gf-niversary! Mine is in Oct, too, but it’s a year after yours. And here’s to many more happy and healthy vital years of living well and enjoying every minute of it.

  12. Hello, I’ve just found this website. Your story is so interesting; can you pass on the information on how to reach the healer? My husband has been suffering from a skin problem for years & I’d like to have him ‘scanned’ to see if it might be a food allergy.

    • Hey Barbara – the medical intuitive I worked with is no longer taking new clients – he’s referring people to Brent Atwater now, but it’s pretty expensive. Skin problems are likely something to do with some kind of allergy – once the liver (which processes everything we eat, breathe and smell) is in crisis, skin eruptions can be the next step, as it’s also part of the body’s elimination system. I get painful, itchy blisters all over my hands and fingers when I get the tiniest bit of gluten, and they can last weeks.

      I’ve also recently been working with an acupuncturist who’s using the Bioveda Wellness BAX Aura system to help alleviate my other allergies, which might be very helpful for your husband. The Bioveda system can pinpoint allergies and correct the immune system by sort of “reprogramming” the immune system to tell it not to have an inflammatory reaction when you come in contact with an allergen. It hasn’t cured me from celiac, I think that one is so entrenched, it may never fully reverse, but for some of my other food sensitivities and environmental allergies it’s made a huge difference. And just having the knowledge from the testing that tells you immediately what food/stressor is causing you the most trouble at that time is helpful in guiding diet changes as well. Check out the Bioveda site for some more information: http://biovedawellness.com/center-locations/. The site is not very well-written, but you can also check out the site for the center I’ve been going to as well: http://chicagoallergyandhealth.com/.

      Hope that helps!

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