Four weeks ago, I set out on an adventure to live life gluten- and dairy-free. After a challenging 7 months of ups, downs, and life transitions, I had not been feeling my healthiest. I wasn’t ready to commit to a full Whole 30, but I felt these were 2 things I could reduce, if not fully eliminate, from my diet. After all, my endocrinologist suspects my thyroid disease could be Hashimoto’s aka autoimmune … and a gluten/dairy/soy free lifestyle support health in AI cases. (I’m generally soy free most of the time except the occasional soy sauce with sushi.)
At the same time, I stepped up my fitness. I took 13 Jazzercise classes, practiced yoga 3 times, and completed 2 sessions of a women’s health yoga workshop. I also did bonus activity by joining a second line in my neighborhood and logged about 21,000 steps that day!
- Lost 3.7 lbs (at one point in the month I was down 5.5 lbs!)
- Lost 5.25 inches (most notably, 2 inches from my abs and 1.25 from my hips)
Here’s what I discovered on my four-week journey:
It’s easier to be gluten-free than dairy-free. Particularly when eating out, I found it much easier to find gluten-free friendly options not requiring additional modification, but often would need to ask for cheese to be skipped. CHEESE. IS. ON. EVERYTHING. I never realized that before this experiment.
As for gluten-free choices, I started first by focusing on lean proteins, fruits, and veggies. It was only later in the challenge that I allowed myself first quinoa and sweet potatoes, and then rice and white potatoes. I think if I keep going most of the time on gluten-free, I’ll probably limit rice and white potatoes where I can. I didn’t always feel my best after having them.
I don’t want to give the dairy-free life a total bad rap though. I found I really like almond and coconut milk creamers; I feel this is a substitute I can keep in my life. I also found going dairy-free made it easy to avoid added butter, when it was presented to me.
Catered events are generally a nightmare. First, there is no way to know HOW the foods were prepared. Many times, butter is involved, so that kills the dairy-free plan. Second, I never noticed how many catered event options were gluten- and dairy-heavy until I chose to avoid them. Cheese and crackers. Pasta. Sandwiches. I attended a gala in this time frame, and had some gumbo from the buffet, even though the roux was made with white flour because there weren’t many more options for me on the menu. There were also a few bites of fried items during the month, which likely also were violations.
I did find I had more fruit during this time period than I normally do at such functions. And one breakfast meeting had Kind Bars along with the muffins. I did find in week 3 a few times where I did slip a half and half tub into coffee at such functions; I am just not a person to drink black coffee. But I normally would use two, so that was progress.
Meal planning is critical. One of the weeks, I had lunch meetings/events almost every day of the week, so I chose to skip grocery shopping and just stop to buy salads at various outlets each night. While I may have spent close to what I did for a week of groceries, it was a little exhausting to take on each night, and that didn’t really leave me snacks for the week. Snacks are important on this adventure! I really came to love popcorn and fruit.
The weeks that I spent the weekend prepping meals for leftovers, it was super easy to stick to the plan and avoid the temptation of eating out and possibly veering off plan. My lesson learned is to stay healthy, I need to plan nearly all my meals each week.
Adding exercise makes a difference. It was serendipity that at the same time I started this challenge, a Jazzercise challenge started. The goal is 40 classes between June 1-July 31. I set a goal to do half this month. I achieved 13 classes so far. While short of my goal, that is one of my most active months this year in class, and I think it’s where the inches lost came from.
I also signed up for a yoga studio membership at the end of May, so adding this to my workout schedule offered balance during times of stress and kept me from emotional eating. I noticed a few times where I craved carbs (evidently, I find po boys healing!) but I was able to stay on plan and avoid the temptation.
Abstaining makes treats worth it. I had breakfast tacos, queso, and fajitas today, and it was AMAZING. And, I’m also totally okay with not having those things again for a while! The gains I’ve made in how much better I feel are worth the tradeoff. I do think I’ll spend the next month experimenting with small quantities of dairy, such as butter on a baked sweet potato, or light cheese on a gluten-free pizza. At some point, I’m going to want that po boy, and when I have it, I’m going to savor it and then save the next one to be another treat.