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.