Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Not-So-Happy One Year Anniversary

Today is the Saturday after Thanksgiving -- a day that will always live in infamy for me, at least.  It was the kick-off to one of the most difficult years of my life.  One that would test me in ways I had never been tested before.

Last year, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day, my life changed dramatically for the worse.  When I say "worse," I mean I was previously in pretty good shape.  I had maintained a much-needed weight loss of 50 pounds for about 18 months.  While I would never be a bikini model, I was able to do most anything that struck my fancy:  bike, run, hike, climb, snow ski, water ski, etc.  But when I got out of bed that particular morning, I stood on two feet that felt broken.  It was weeks before I got any relief, and in the meanwhile, other strange symptoms emerged:  my hands felt as though all the bone inside had been crunched by an unseen force; various joints randomly failed to operate; muscles from hips on down tightened to the point I thought they would snap, and they throbbed as though pulsing with electric current.  Later, I thought I would go insane from insomnia.  I felt powerless to do any of the things that make me happy, and sometimes, I was in such pain I avoided drinking water for fear of having to get up and walk to the bathroom.  It was a dark time for me, and there were occasions that I felt my life, as I knew it, was over.  By April, I had lost hope that the mystery would be solved and I would be "stuck" that way.  I began to express these thoughts out loud, by way of explaining to people why I wouldn't be able to do all I was expected to.  Five months had passed, and nothing had changed except an increase in the number of alarming and energy-draining symptoms.   I started to withdraw from life and I mourned that which would never be.  Or so I thought.

At six months in, when I had nothing to lose by trying even the weirdest ideas, the lightning of healing finally struck.  Early on, someone had suggested to me that I try to eliminate gluten from my diet.  As a subscriber to the South Beach Diet (good fats, lots of fiber, whole foods, and plenty of water), I was sure my food intake couldn't be the problem. But finally, in desperation,  I did eliminate gluten on a trial basis starting on May 1st -- along with corn and dairy.  I also launched my first ever "cleanse."  Three weeks later, it dawned on me one afternoon:  I was in a total absence of pain! 

Hindsight is 20/20 isn't?  How I wish I had listened to that person who first mentioned "gluten-intolerance."  I am 45 years old.  Six months is a lot of time to waste in the Big Scheme of things! So I've had to adapt to a new concept of healthy dieting.  I am not celiac, but "gluten intolerant."  Nope, whole wheat and whole grains just aren't good things for me.  It doesn't matter how organic the wheat/gluten is (I'm still not sure if it is just wheat or all gluten), in 24 to 36 hours after I ingest a good chunk or the final straw in a camel's back of small tastes, I will experience that all-too-familiar sensation of broken-up, gelatinous bones.  Corn has a slightly different but almost as egregious effect on me, but I do think I can now have some dairy.  The jury is still out on how much is too much.

Even the last six months of new hope have been difficult.  It takes the mind a while to wrap around such a significant lifestyle change.  Next time you are in the grocery store, just try to find a product without corn and/or wheat in it!  You'll find these ingredients in the strangest places.   I recently watched Food Inc. to try to understand the reason for that.  King Corn is next.  It is good, in that it forces me to avoid most empty carb calories.  It is good, in that it makes me read all labels.  It is bad, in that most gluten-free items are ridiculously expensive, and that my friends often feel inconvenienced by planning around my "intolerances." 

Back to the 50 pounds I had lost.  About 20 of it is back.  Sadly, most things that are produced as gluten-free are chock-full of sugar, which I didn't eat at all before this.  Rice flour (a simple carb) replaces whole grain (a complex carb).  So I constantly struggle with mixed instructions on what I can/should eat. 

My goal for this next year is to find my balance again.  I want to rejoin the life I had before.  I want to climb the highest mountain, and then ski down.  I want to be ready for opportunities to challenge myself as they present themselves, without the huge training curve.  By next Thanksgiving, my story will be one of victory!

Queenofthehill in Alta,Utah, 2 years ago. Happy as a pig in slop!