Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oh, gluten... (and other vices)

I get asked a lot on this gluten-free diet about what happens if I indulge.  What happens if I slip?  Maybe just a cookie?  A cracker? One bite?

There are those out there with serious allergies to gluten and wheat.  One bite could place them in serious pain.  Others, it could be much worse- think of those you know with peanut allergies who go into shock with just a small amount of contamination.  Some people have to think- "I know this sandwich was made with gluten-free bread... but how was this sandwich prepared?  Toasted on the same griddle as gluten?  Do they have a dedicated gluten-free fryer for my delicious fries?"

My answer up until this delicious, memorable Christmas holiday was that I was much more energetic, my bones just moved better, and I just feel better when I live my life in a world of rice, quinoia, and corn rather than Olive Garden bread sticks.  It doesn't sound like a lot.  In fact, one could say I have fallen for the fad.
Holidays in general are hard for gluten-free folks.  All the traditional foods, going out to eat, the unfamiliar fridges... it's a nightmare.  So, because I'm fortunate enough to not be technically gluten-intolerant, I let myself slip.

We arrived into town on the solstice (December 21).  I was good that night.  And then little allowances were made.

December 22nd- Woke up late.  Forgot to eat breakfast as there was no gluten-free bread available.  Ate Famous Star (with bun!) at noon.  Thai food for dinner- didn't check gluten in the curries, pad thai, etc., but the dumplings sure as hell weren't GF.  Whoops.

December 23rd- Seafood buffet at the Coeur D'Alene Casino.  Not inherently bad, but used some bread to sop up delicious clam/crab juices.  Then had a piece of tiramisu.  I was still feeling good.  No problem.

December 24rd- Christmas Eve.  This is the night with my family.  I especially made a GF Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake AND stuffing.  I brought ingredients from Whole Foods especially so I could be gluten-free with my family.  The cheesecake was sooo good.  The stuffing was less so.  So, I made it taste better with gluten-y gravy.  Then sopped up that gravy with a crescent roll.  Whoops.

December 25th- Christmas with my husband's family.  A huge test (which I had planned on failing).  My MIL's monkey bread and homemade orange-coconut rolls for breakfast.  Then my FIL's aforementioned calzones.


I ate the whole calzone.  I had never done that before.

I forget which day I started hurting.  I think it was the evening of the 23rd or the morning of the 24th.  I got more and more stiff until I was downright cranky on Christmas. The next day, I was back on the bandwagon- armed with my Udi's multigrain bread and some gluten-free burritos.  I even had my mother-in-law purchase some gluten-free soy sauce for some Kung Pao chicken they made for dinner one night.  But, the damage was done.  I was achy, I felt slow, I woke up each morning without feeling rested, and getting up off the floor after playing with my nephew was a real bitch.  My fingers swelled up to nice-looking sausages and my wrists decided not to cooperate with any of the work I needed to do.  My Costochondritis acted up- which is always panic-inducing and fun. I was pretty miserable. 

It's important, however, that I mention the other bad things I did that could have caused this.  This isn't a gluten-free blog... it's a lupus blog.  There are lots of different things that could cause a lupus flare, and I was guilty of most of them.

I certainly didn't exercise as much as I should have.  I did yoga once in the nine days we weren't home.  I ignored my resistance band.  I took the dog for only two walks (it was really cold).  Yes, I was constantly running around and moving, but not in a way that kept my joints limber.

And then, I indulged while I was with my family- and not even in moderation.  My slab of prime rib at my family's Christmas dinner was embarrassingly huge.  Then I had another slice for "second dinner" later that night.  Topped with a big dollop of horseradish sauce. There was also snacking- Doritos, Ruffles, cheeses, large amounts of this delicious jalapeno Greek yogurt dip my MIL found.  It's at Costco.  Go find it.

Visiting family also means drinking.  Jack and Gingers, mimosas, hard cider, eggnog (with brandy), Knob Creek, and wine, wine, wine.  I didn't succumb to delicious beer, but that didn't matter. My liver is begging for mercy.  I did my best to drink water, but I certainly didn't do as well as I normally did.

I'm also sure I overdid things while in town.  Helping my grandmother, cooking a bunch of meals (Christmas dinner, cheesecake, three pasta casseroles, minestrone, quinoia and butternut squash bake, two turkey tetrazzinis, and chicken noodle soup), playing with my nephews, sixteen hour car rides, going out in the snow, wrapping gifts... it was a lot of wear on me. Since I visit so rarely I always try to squeeze as much in as possible to be the best friend, granddaughter, auntie, sister, daughter-in-law, whatever I can.  Hard to squeeze in time to be good to yourself when you're so busy.

Then there's the emotional toll of the holidays and some family matters that needed to be tended to.  While I'm going to opt not to elaborate here, I will say that there's some big changes going on and a lot of what-ifs and unanswered questions.  Stress city.  And I did very little self-care in the process. (Spa day, anyone?)

As you can see, I crammed a lot (of gluten, stress, gluttony, etc.) into a short visit to my hometown and I paid for it. It's important for those with chronic illnesses to learn from their mistakes, however, and I fully intend on working on that.

This post is a nice lead up to my next one- New Years' Resolutions!  Yes, I do resolutions.  There is nothing wrong with having goals in your life.  So long as you don't beat yourself up if you find yourself challenged.

Before all that, though...

How are you paying for all the holiday fun?


  1. I enjoyed reading this. It helped me re-live having you here. I just love you! I'm sorry you were hurting so. You did a good job of hiding it! Resolutions? 1 month @ a time. January = no hard alcohol. February? I'll think about that during January. St. Croix @ the end of April is incentive! love you much! MIL

  2. For me, the emotional stress is hardest. I can usually count on that to contribute to a flare. Sorry that you had a hard time. Holidays and food seem to go hand in hand. Given all that you did, it seems that many factors could have contributed to how you are feeling. I sounds like it's time to be kind to yourself for a bit.