No more wheat.
I'd suspected for a couple of years that some sort of food allergy/intolerance was causing me a bunch of small health problems. My in-laws, in particular, had dealt with me going through several phases -- soy everything, soy nothing, no dairy, no nuts, no shellfish, on and on ... but it wasn't until I arrived in North Carolina that I finally put all the pieces together. An old racing buddy of mine wrote a blog entry about his lifelong battle with Celiac's Disease, and his return to being "on the wagon" in not eating wheat products, and a lightbulb went off in my head.
I began to do some research, and the symptoms read like a checklist of everything I'd been fighting. We're talking 25 years of health problems, all interrelated but difficult to pin down. And in the blink of an eye -- really, about two weeks of being completely gluten free -- I was cured.
See, I can't seem to give it all up. Unfortunately, gluten allergy and intolerance requires a very strict adherence to a wheat-free diet, and that can be difficult to manage. Thankfully, our local grocery stores are very gluten-free friendly, but even then, gluten can sneak into products you wouldn't think twice about. Like the Brach's caramels in the candy bin at work. Or the medicine you take when you've got a headache.
And then there's the hush puppies.
It's hard not to fixate on what I can't eat. Really tough some days -- on Saturday, I broke down and ate fried pickles (dipped in flour batter) and hush puppies (also battered), and I paid a heavy price. Living symptom-free for several weeks had lulled me into a false sense of security, and I wantonly crossed the line.
It won't happen again. This is an all-or-nothing proposition.
We've been experimenting with gluten-free pizza crusts, bread and cookies, and yes, even waffles. I've found a source of gluten-free bars that I can eat on my rides, and Honey Stinger gels (and honey itself) are safe. Thankfully I have a fetish for Mexican food, and have no problem eating loads of corn-based processed foods like tortillas and chips. And of course staples like potatoes, veggies and any sort of meat.
That said, I long for a hamburger on a bun. Restaurant pizza. Olive Garden pig-out on breadsticks, salad (with croutons) and lasagna. Southern biscuits. Sweet potato fries from Blue Sky Cafe (battered). Fried pickles. Hush puppies.
But -- and this is the important thing -- I'm healthier than I've ever been. Mentally and physically, gluten avoidance has helped turn my life around. I can still eat ice cream, and you'd be surprised at how flavorful many of the gluten-free products have become. It's going to require a lifetime of diligence, but pretty soon it should become old hat, a habit just like any other. I've quit smoking, I lost weight, I've fought other fights -- I can do this too. And I'll be better off for it. Much better off.
But about those waffles ...