(Warning: Health-obsessed post coming up)
I wasn’t too sure, when I started this gluten-free diet, whether I really wanted it to work or not. At one level, I felt I’d welcome absolutely anything that could get rid of that bloated feeling. But when I contemplated a gluten-free diet for the rest of my life, I had to wonder whether this was the kind of anything I’d rather not have to welcome.
The gluten-free diet was really tough in the first few days, as I began to discover with horror that all manner of things one would never have suspected of harbouring gluten were now off the cards. As my friend Chris said, regarding me with the horrified pity normally reserved for the terminally ill, I never actually related gluten with anything. Now I began to find that fairly innocuous things like soy sauce and – horror of horrors, the cornerstone of my existence, chocolate – could contain gluten. I mean, here I was going on about beer and cake, never suspecting that the alpha and omega of my diet was just about to be struck off the list. Forever.
As I determinedly ground my teeth and assured myself I was just trying this out for a couple of weeks, I found myself swinging between despair and despair. On the one hand was the despair that the diet was working; on the other hand, despair that it wasn’t.
The websites said that an absolutely gluten-free diet for two weeks would result in a “dramatic” improvement in symptoms. By the end of ten days, I was noticing only an “erratic” improvement in symptoms. And the fact that the bloating and acidity still occasionally returned, albeit in reduced doses, made me feel that the gluten-free aspect was not really working at all. But I stayed the course for two whole weeks and at the end of it, I had to admit that the improvement in symptoms had progressed from “erratic” to “dramatic”.
By this time, I was definitely happy to have found the solution to my problem. I just felt so much better with a light, flat, stomach that seemed to be what I remember as me. I was beginning to think in terms of working around the problem – from attempting homemade gluten-free chocolate, to considering homemade rice-flour-based cake. But I was delighted enough with my recent return to good health not to be tampering with my gluten-free diet even under extreme provocation.
Then, suddenly, something else happened. The needle on the blasted weighing machine started stopping 1 kilo short of where it used to. A few days later, it was stopping 2, then 3 kilos below what had been “normal”. And this morning, it showed me a whole 4 kilos lighter than I was at the beginning of this year. Four!!!!
The whole of last year, and a bit of the year before that, I was mystified by my unexplained weight gain. I thought it was out of proportion to my lifestyle, diet and activity level. But the allopathic doctor found nothing wrong with me, so I put it down – unhappily – to aging. I had noticed, though, that the first time I took the medicines the gastro doctor prescribed, 3 kilos had fallen off just as suddenly as they had piled up. The next time I took the same gastro medicine, though, there was no such miracle effect. I put it down to “unexplainable”.
But now this. I’ve been gluten free for less than three weeks now and that blasted weighing scale, which hasn’t been my friend for almost two years, is showing me as 4 kilos lighter. Can gluten do that to you? I obviously haven’t reduced my calorie intake to the extent that I could have lost 4 kilos in a month – that would be unhealthy – so I can only surmise that being gluten-free has somehow given my metabolism a good kick in the backside. That would also explain why my sister has such a superb figure; she’s been gluten-free for years. (Of course, she also works out a lot, that could have something to do with it.) But could it be that a wheat-rich diet, which is supposed to be good for you from a blood sugar and diabetes perspective was not only causing me to bloat up like a helium balloon, but also causing me to gain weight? There’s irony for you.
Of course, next week that blasted weighing scale might decide to go back to “normal” and put an end to this line of thought; but until then, it’s my best friend. And gluten-free is here to stay. (Though I might cheat on it once in a while – what’s life without a bit of cheating to look forward to, huh?)