It’s not what you think.  I do not use illegal drugs, and I didn’t start smoking again.  But I have discovered that I have another addiction that seems to be far more insidious and possibly even more difficult to conquer than all of my other addictions combined.

Yeah, my name is Valarie, and I’m an addict.  A wheat addict!

Let me explain. I recently have made the most startling discovery.  If I don’t eat foods with gluten in them, I feel good.  Not just sort of maybe possibly a bit better.  But GOOD.  As in my stomach doesn’t hurt, my ankles don’t swell, my headaches disappear, and I don’t have indigestion!

So, for Lent, I tentatively gave up wheat.  Well, to be more specific, gluten, which includes things like oatmeal and rye and barley. And I have to tell you, it really was harder than giving up cigarettes!  I felt foggy, cranky and vaguely desperate (although I had no idea WHY!).  I kept making circles through the kitchen trying to figure out what to do with my life, now that I had eliminated one of my primary reasons for living.  I wanted to cry! Literally.

But, like I mentioned above, the benefits have been phenomenal!  And the craziest thing of all?  I don’t feel very hungry anymore!  And I’m losing weight.  I am sure it’s because I am not as hungry as I used to be, and I have been working very hard at not eating if I’m not hungry.  But when I am hungry, I do eat, and I eat whatever I want, as long as there is no gluten involved.

Which brings me to another thing I have quit.  I have quit dieting! After all, I’ve been on some variation of a low-calorie, fat-free diet for roughly 35 years now. And all it’s gotten me was fatter and fatter.  My grandfather used to pay me a dollar for every pound I lost, when I was like 8 or 9 years old. My dad used to follow me around the kitchen and tell me how fat and ugly I was, and how could I eat all that *&#$*???  (Trust me, destroying someone’s self esteem does nothing to help them feel motivated to lose weight!) So, I’ve quit dieting.  It’s not working, and I don’t enjoy it.

At first, (again, like I said before) I felt a bit desperate!  I mean, I am Polish, for crying-out-loud!  How in the world am I supposed to take proper care of my family if I don’t feed them huge quantities of breads and pierogi and babkas?  They will surely starve, right?  Or, (and this was really my fear) they would hate me for depriving them.

Okay, Alex may have some sort of deep-seeded resentment, but since he’s always gone at work, I don’t think his vote really counts. However, everyone else has been amazingly supportive, and jumped right on board with me!  So, as a family, we are on a quest to eliminate gluten from our lives.  Which, is not as easy as you might think.  Wheat is freaking EVERYWHERE!  For example, I was going to make a chicken and rice casserole the other night.  I checked the ingredient list on the Cream of Mushroom can, and sure enough, it has wheat in it.  I thought maybe it was just a Campbell’s thing, or perhaps a Cream of Mushroom thing.  So, I checked my Cream of Celery from H.E.B., and found wheat hiding in there, too!  (And for those of you who, like me, are deathly allergic to MSG, it was lurking in both cans, as well!)

Well, I started really freaking out inside, and feeling very desperate that this was never going to work.  But, we made stir-fry, and it was delicious! (Except that we had to do without soy sauce, because, you guessed it: there is wheat in Kikoman’s soy sauce!!!)

If it wasn’t for my family’s support, I would really be in trouble.  Because I am thoroughly convinced that gluten makes me feel like crap, and I don’t want any more of it. Mom left me a really sweet card on my desk, promising her undying support (there was never any doubt about that one!) and describing this new dietary thing as our new ‘adventure’! The encouragement really did help a lot.

So, finally I felt a bit more bold, and Googled “gluten free cream of mushroom soup” and found a plethora of wonderful websites and recipes and best of all, support and understanding!  So now, I am armed with a new determination, and a sense of hope.  I *AM* going to do this, and I *AM* going to be successful, and it *WILL* taste good!  I mean, it has to, right?  I love to cook too much! I found one website, in particular, that was so helpful and encouraging: Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom.

Now, I know that not everyone believes that gluten is an issue, and I appreciate that.  It took me a long time to really believe it, too.  But I started by reading a book that my friend, Jen Fulwiler, recommends on her blog, “Conversion Diary“, in one of her “7 Quick Takes Friday” posts, called “The Perfect Health Diet”.  Now, it is a rather complicated book, with information I will probably never be able to wrap my brain around (Jen is clearly far more intelligent than I!) but it got me started. She also recommended a blog called Wellness Mama, which I spent hours reading.  It changed my religion!  So, when I went to order my own copy of “The Perfect Health Diet” from Amazon, I noticed a book that had been recommended by Wellness Mama, too: “Wheat Belly”, by Dr. William Davis.  Seriously, how could I not order that one? 😉

I’m glad I did, because it makes a lot of sense, and explains how hybridization of the various (okay, thousands!) of wheat varieties has lead to all sorts of terrible problems.  Most of which I have been suffering from!  It also explained that wheat has opiods in it, and that there really is such a thing as wheat withdrawal, similar to nicotine withdrawal. That was nice, because I didn’t feel so crazy after that.

So this is my new adventure, and I don’t have a lot of answers yet, but I’m off and running.  Figuratively, anyway. 🙂

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