Pros and Cons of Going Gluten-Free. (and a brief lament about the smooshed banana)
It’s been about seven weeks on this “no way, gluten!” lifestyle, and I’m starting to find my footing. But there are still many pros and cons to balance, so I’m listing them here. That way, I can look back at this post in a few months and be all, “Pfffft. Whiner. You’re in the zone now.”
Here we go – PROS and CONS of Going Gluten-Free in ALL CAPS at times because that’s the only way my brain can operate this morning.
CON: It’s a pain in the ass, doing this. Reading food labels for carbohydrate content and grams of sugar in pursuit of better blood sugar control is second nature to me by this point. After 28 years with type 1 diabetes, I’m comfortable with the carbs. But trolling labels for that bright, shiny GF logo, or reading through each ingredient to ensure that I’m not inadvertently eating gluten is a new adventure, and one that I find very intrusive.
PRO: As a result, weight management has been easier lately. Which I guess is a plus but at the same time, I’m hungry, so I can’t call this a total pro.
CON: I’m hungry. (See above.) All the time. Mostly because I’m unsure of what to eat, and that insecurity leads me to eat the same things all the time. Staples like hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, spinach salad, yogurt, almonds, and every fruit I can get my paws on dominate my days. Menu items like gluten-free pizza, butternut squash (done with GF ingredients), and chicken soup are being explored, but my natural inclination to be a lazy chef makes this sort of exploration tougher.
PRO: Eating the same things all the time makes me very familiar with how they map out, blood sugar wise. So I’m best able to pre-bolus with precision and my post-prandials aren’t gross. This is boring as eff, but effective for diabetes management.
CON: Low blood sugars have been really weird lately, especially the ones that follow a visit to the gym. Before going gluten-free, I’d eat froast or some other glutened up snack to keep my blood sugar steady through cardio (yes, there are other options, but I can’t pretend to have chomped on kale during a run – that would be a big, fat lie and kale hates lies). Now, I’m erring on the side of fruit and sometimes those sugars get in and out of my system too quickly to hold me for an entire workout. I’m still figuring out what foods work best to deal with during- and post-exercise hypoglycemia.
PRO: Glucolift Wildberry tabs are gluten-free.
CON: Traveling is weird now, too, keeping gluten off my plate. Airports are not designed for people with dietary needs or preferences, especially little airports like the one I frequent here in Providence. Finding foods that are gluten-free while on the road is tough, with little exception. Once I land somewhere, I’m fine, but while in transit, I keep my bag stashed with snacks.
PRO: I’m learning a lot about what foods travel well. These gf bars are among my favorites to toss in a backpack, and while they are not as healthy as something fresh, they can stand up to traveling with me and they are more filling than the Southwest pretzels that I can’t eat.
CON: Bananas do not keep well in backpacks. They turn brown quickly and often end up smeared on … oh, let’s say the lid of a laptop.
PRO: I wash my backpack more often than I ever have before, and now it permanently smells like dryer sheets. Which is a nice contrast to my computer, which smells permanently like bananas now.
CON: I hate being “that girl.” The one who asks waitstaff if certain menu options can be made without gluten. The one who reads labels before taking a bite of anything. The one who might be mistakenly marked as someone following a “trend diet” instead of someone who is unhappily-but-smartly following through on feedback from her body. As good as I feel off gluten, I wish I could still eat the stuff and not make waves.
PRO: I’m learning not to care about feeling slightly embarrassed because DUDE I feel so much better.
“You’re more … you. The change between then and now is significant,” Chris said the other day.
He’s right. My mood/disposition/health/everything since kicking gluten out of my diet has been ten steps in the best direction. All of the non-celiac gluten sensitivity symptoms are gone. The “head fog” where I would forget what I was doing or what I was about to say has receded. The numbness and tingling in my hands and wrists is gone. The ache in my hip joints after running is gone. I don’t want to spend the afternoon taking a nap on the couch. My energy is back. My face is less puffy. I can chase Birdy without feeling like my feet are in lead boots. It took months to tune in to how poorly I felt, but now that I’m feeling better, the change is undeniable.
As much as I miss being more carefree about food, a gluten-free diet is the best fit for me. And after almost three decades of type 1 diabetes, what’s one more food constraint? So long as coffee and wine remain in the mix, I’m good.