Embracing a lifestyle

By 04:21 , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today I decided to create a new lifestyle section to R-ambler. 

Over this past month I guess you could say I've begun to really take an interest in health and more importantly; well-being. Not really out of choice but because it has become an unavoidable part of my life that I could no longer ignore and I'm so glad I did because this has changed my perspective on so many things. 

It started the moment I lay down in a doctor's office while he examined my stomach and skin. For years I'd been back and forth to these appointments, each time I'd leave with a glorified version of E45 cream, pills for stomach cramps and a half hearted "we'll see how you get on". 

These appointments had started when I was 16, I was now nearly 23 and still none the wiser why my skin would turn to sawdust, why my stomach was always swollen and other issues I'd just learnt to live with. For the past three months, I have taken an anti-histamine every day just to keep the irritation at bay. My nails kept short so I didn't draw blood scratching in my sleep. All of these things had just become a natural part of my life, almost routine. I know that if I apply fake tan I'll turn into a patchwork quilt of oompa loompa, I know that my stomach swells after a bite of toast, I know I should avoid chocolate digestives at all costs (failed) and all of this I thought I could live with/ hide or at least tolerate. Until one morning I noticed the traces of eczema now spreading onto my face and in a bout of frustrated tears, I decided enough was enough.

I vowed that this was my last ditch attempt, I wasn't leaving the doctors until I was guaranteed a referral to a dermatologist or at least a real solution. Most people should grow out of eczema by the time they reach adulthood, mine had intensified. 

I marched into the clinic with an angry intensity, years of frustration and impatience ready to attack the poor man who's healing hands I had fallen into that day. I immediately began to ramble on about the history of my skin conditions (which was quite extensive) and which he had already read on my file, but I felt it necessary to make it perfectly clear that I meant business. He then asked to examine my skin and stomach and I think out of all these meetings, this is the first time anyone had actually asked to examine me. 

After an awkward five minutes of prodding, he told me with clear, casual indifference that this was a food intolerance. That when a stomach can't digest something it results in a bloated, uncomfortable even painful condition which has then caused my skin to flare up and react. This was my skin telling me something was wrong. 

After all this time, I found it hard to pin all these uncomfortable and torturous years on something as simple and harmless as food. 

I took some leaflets and left feeling slightly sceptical that this was the huge revelation I had been waiting for. After further reading the two most likely food groups for allergies, particularly those that manifest into skin rashes are either gluten or dairy. 

The surest way to tell was elimination. 

The two foods that gave me severe stomach problems were digestive biscuits and bread, but I'd never eat bread without butter and digestives both contained the suspects gluten and dairy. I decided I'd trial run gluten first. I'm not going to lie, this seemed like the most daunting task of all; gluten is in everything.

To me, food was something that satisfied a craving and added a few pounds to places I didn't want to add a few pounds to. It was a mix of enjoyment, guilt and numbers, not to be enjoyed but battled with. I followed so many Instagram accounts of girls posting pictures of neatly arranged fruit and acai bowls, in circular patterns with complementary colours completely putting my soggy cornflakes to shame. Yes it looked pretty but as someone who did their very best to boycott the kitchen, I was happy to just be an observer and the only 5 a day I'd worry about were my pizza toppings.

Yet now here I was savagely checking every food label within close proximity. Eating fresh foods seemed the easiest way to control a gluten free diet, yet that meant I was going to have to nurture my unhealthy and complicated relationship with the kitchen. I quickly found out that if the food wasn't fresh or raw when I bought it, it was highly likely to contain gluten. Yet even the foods I thought of as being fresh had in some way been tampered with and preserved, now containing that Satan like word that I dreaded to see. It took me 35 minutes on my first gluten free day just to pick up a soup for lunch. So much jargon on the back of packaging trying to disguise wheat in all it's forms and I had to play detective to hunt it down. It was exhausting but I knew it had to be done. Gluten can take two weeks to leave your system, for some people it doesn't matter if you eat a whole pizza or just a crumb, the side effects can be exactly the same. 

There were a lot of emotions in that first week but for once in my life I was learning to pay attention to what I was putting into my body and how it was making me feel. I began to feel a certain passion and sense of accomplishment handling and preparing fresh food, I spent more time in the kitchen than ever before, experimenting with foods I would never have dreamed of trying. I began researching the chemicals in food, and just how much power this fuel had on our lives.  

I got so lost in my research and new hands on approach to my diet that I woke up on the sixth day and for the first time realised I had been three whole days without waking up scratching at night and having to take an anti histamine. Sounds stupid but for me this was a huge step forward. 

Around the seventh day I realised that my jeans felt bigger, it was like my whole body had de-swelled since giving up the wheat, I had eaten breakfast and lunch yet my stomach still looked like I had just woken up, something I had never even thought about before. Was I really that bloated? 

By the end of my second week, every single patch of eczema had disappeared. For the first time in about ten years my skin was silky smooth, my stomach flat and not swollen, no cramps, no pain, no trouble with digestion. I had so much more energy. I could go for a run only twenty minutes after eating and not get a stitch whereas before I could wait two hours and still be coiled over in pain (another signal sign that you're gluten intolerant). I had never understood how people could go out for meals, drink and then dance in a club after. If I was dancing I sure as hell wasn't eating, whereas now I could eat a three course gluten free meal and go and swing off the chandeliers. 

This has been a change I never anticipated, my hair thicker, my skin healthier. I didn't think that a change in diet could change so many things about me, it sounds stupid but I'm genuinely a happier person, just by getting into the kitchen and paying attention to what my body is telling me. I've now become a lot more comfortable finding gluten free recipes and knowing the foods and products I can eat and the ones I have to watch. I now find it impossible that I had spent so many years ignoring these signal signs and what I was putting my body through. 

 Gluten free can be a pain in the arse but the effects and benefits it's had on my body and therefore my whole attitude has been completely worth it. Admittedly, I dread eating at restaurants without wanting to be a pain but I guess that's just something you get used to. 

I've discovered that I need to embrace a healthier, more aware lifestyle which is exactly what this part of the blog will be about. I have been inspired to look at food differently and in a less negative light, to pay attention and actually listen to my body. 

Now I think it's really important for me to state here that I am not suggesting you all embark on a gluten free diet, this is an industry which has had a lot of speculation and criticism over whether it's a money making fad or an actual health improvement. I have a gluten intolerance/sensitivity which has meant that going gluten free has completely changed my body and lifestyle. This will not be the same for everyone, if your body can happily digest gluten, you may not feel any benefit, in fact a gluten free diet could lead to weight gain and malnourishment. 

I will be going into more details on my next post about whether or not you should embark on a gluten free diet, the benefits, the disadvantages, the truths and the myths. So look out for  FAD OR FACT to learn about my first hand experience with the diet change, it's not all been as glorious and beneficial as you might assume. 

But nothing can detract from the new perspective it's giving me on lifestyle, health and fitness. I hope you'll join me for more on this lifestyle journey and if you're kitchen phobic and hate the thought of cooking (I might add that my year 9 cooking teacher actually asked me not to continue on to GCSE) than maybe you'll give it some more thought and embrace the benefits. To locate future lifestyle and health posts you can head to the navigation bar and find it under the category tab. 

If you can't think of anything worse than hearing more about food, gluten, health and fitness then normal R-ambler posts will resume and you can swiftly ignore the lifestyle rambles.

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  1. So interesting to hear your results. I can't remember the last time I wasn't bloated or my hands full of eczema. I reduced my wheat a while back and started to notice a difference but have since fell off the bandwagon. After reading this you've encouraged me to try again...and to go back to the doctors and see if they can give me some answers! Hope you're felling better now thugs are sorted for you! :)

    1. It's absolutely worth looking into, eczema can be such a pain and a huge confidence knock and even though you kind of learn to live with it, as soon as it all dissapears you wonder how you ever did! I hope you get to the bottom of it and let me know if the gluten free works for you as it did for me! xx

  2. That's amazing! I've struggeled with bad skin problems too (acne), but when I changed my diet and stopped eating the things that aren't good for me (I've been tested on multiple things) it almost completely dissappeared ! (in combination with treatments and using products, but still!) This was a really interesting article to read X