I made it! I went an entire month without wheat or dairy, or at least, very small amounts of it. I was good about staying away from wheat, but dairy seems to be in everything, and there were a few things I ate outside the house that had me suspicious. The first couple of weeks were difficult, especially at my little sister's 15th birthday party, where there was pizza, potato chips with Tostito's cheese dip (my favorite!), and chocolatey Texas sheet cake. That night, I ate more veggie chips, carrots, broccoli, salsa, and guacamole than I hope to ever eat again. And I almost caved... I told my mom, "I don't know. This is so hard! Maybe I'll just have one piece of pizza and a little cake." But I didn't and at the end of the night I was so proud of myself and it felt so good to know that I had fed my body healthy foods and had the self-control to say no to the crap. Beside that, there were only a few times when I was really tempted, but John was tempted almost daily at work, when coworkers would bring in doughnuts, bagels and cream cheese, pizza, and french fries to share. I don't know how he said no!
Planning meals with wheat and dairy was a challenge, but I learned to incorporate a lot more veggies into our diet. Often, I took regular recipes and doubled the veggies, converting wheat flour to rice flour, while leaving out the cheese. We ate a ton of hardy vegetable soups, veggie pizza, and creamy gluten-free pasta with sauce made with almond milk, butter and garlic, without missing out on delicious flavors.
Another plus was that because dairy and wheat are found in just about everything, I had to pass up a lot of processed foods when we were out and about. I used to always get a treat when I relaxed and sipped coffee at Barnes and Noble, but in March I probably managed to save a nice handful of cash by passing up the cookies. Every now and then I did give in and help myself to a treat when one was available. A lot of gluten-free, dairy-free items also happen to be vegan and organic; so, while normally I probably would have chosen a white sugar, white flour brownie or muffin to go with my coffee, I was forced to make healthier choices and buy the less processed snack items available at coffee shops. Occasionally I made yummy gluten-free baked goods at home to take care of my sweet tooth. Interestingly enough, I was able to pace myself better, and instead of eating an entire batch of cookies in a couple days (this happens, guys), they would last for three or four days, sometimes longer.
So now that I have been back on wheat and dairy for about a week, here's how I feel:
1 - Processed foods aren't as appealing. In the first few days of going back to wheat and dairy, I was still eating generally healthful foods. I did probably eat a little too much Easter candy than I should have, but normally I would completely gorge myself on sweets and eat candy after candy. I guess practicing for an entire month made it easier for me to say no to the candy. However, on the fourth day I went out with my cousin for a couple drinks and found myself wanting some crappy appetizers. We chose some homemade potato chips, boneless wings, and a BBQ quesadilla.
Side note. If I have not made my relationship with food clear, let me -- I love food. I love bad food. I know why I should eat healthy, and I always go back to bad food, because it's so tasty. And ask my husband, my mother, anyone who knows me well -- I eat a lot of food. It has been determined that I eat more food than anyone else in my family -- more than my dad, more than my teenage brother. (Okay, actually, that's a close one... he's catching up.) The point is, I really like food, I eats lots of food, and I love eating until I'm stuffed.
So, here I am with three delicious food choices in front of me. Heaven! I planned to just eat these nasty foods and then go back to eating whole foods. This was just going to be a fun, celebratory, "Hooray I made it a month!" night with a good friend. I had a handful of chips, one small slice of the quesadilla, and four or five boneless wings, and then I sat there looking at the plates, still very full of food. My stomach kind of turned a little. I was full, and I felt pretty crappy. I didn't want any more... I actually didn't want any more food. I had enjoyed the flavors, I was satisfied, and I was done. I'll take it. And, yes, it was easy for me to eat whole foods the next day.
2 - Dairy makes me feel crappy. Have you ever spoken with someone who gave up dairy, perhaps a vegan or Paleo-eater, who then tasted a little dairy and made it out to be the devil? Well, you're about to, and I am mentally prepared for you to roll your eyes at me. But seriously, guys.
I've been trying to pay really close attention to my body this past week, making note of how I feel after I eat something I hadn't eaten in the past month, and with every complaint, dairy is the culprit. To put it simply, conventional milk and cheese makes me feel heavy and bloated, my mouth feels dirty, I have phlegm, and my stomach feels slightly nauseated.
Let me say that I don't believe milk is all that bad. Raw milk has been called "the perfect food" and I personally know people who have experienced the benefits of drinking raw milk. However, I do feel that conventionally processed milk is horrible. Over the last few years I have read countless articles about why conventional dairy milk is just another unhealthy, over-processed food. A year ago, I thought I'd never be able to give up dairy, but I just did it for a month. I proved to myself that I can live without it. Even though it may be inconvenient at times, such as when we are eating out or eating at someone's house, I am ready to give it up for good. Well, maybe I'll indulge in a little local goat cheese now and then -- but as far as drinking it by the glassful, making cheese-filled recipes, and keeping it in the fridge, I'm done. If you are interested, a Google search will lend you informative articles about why some people give up milk, and maybe if I feel inspired I'll share my own opinions about it someday.
3 - I like wheat. Ugh, I really hate the grain debate. I mean, really hate it. There are so many reasons to give up wheat, but I feel like if I am giving up wheat, then why not rice, oats, and other grains? And if I'm giving up grains, why not beans and seeds? But then if I give up beans and seeds, I have to eat more meat, and I'm not a huge meat lover, and it's expensive. So what should I do? And I like bread, dammit! For now, I am going to continue to eat whole-grain wheat. I think I'll continue to cook with brown rice flour and try to limit my intake of gluten, but eating gluten free is expensive. I think we need more variety of all types of grains, instead of just relying on wheat to complete every meal.
At this point I just start believing what I want about food. I'm half-joking, but what else are you supposed to do when so many educated people who know what they are talking about choose such extreme diets that differ so greatly from one another? You can find evidence supporting almost anything -- why grain is poisoning your body, why we should be eating grains, why people need meat, why people shouldn't eat any animal products. It never ends!
One blogger wrote that she does what she can, and prays about the rest. For me personally, I feel the perfect food lifestyle is one that includes lots of veggies, limited meat and grains, and no dairy products. Maybe this will change in the future. Maybe in a year from now, we'll be full-fledged vegans or Paleos, or maybe we'll be back to eating dairy. Who knows. It's easy to get stressed out when reading about why you should or shouldn't eat certain foods, but right now, this is the best I can do, and I'm choosing to feel great about it!