A lot has happened in the past few months. You know how it is – you think you have a plan and some goals to achieve but life always shows you who’s the boss: definitely not you. They say smart people know how to make the best of what they have rather than pine after what they don’t have. In that aspect, you can say I’m trying to be smart.
Lately I’ve learned that…
- I’m gluten intolerant. After the elimination and provocation diet, coupled with tons of medical tests, I received my diagnosis mid-March. It has taken me awhile to deal with it as I am a huge foodie. I love food. It’s also one of the key things my husband and I have in common and something that we use to bond with our friends. I spent a few weeks being really, really sad about this diagnosis. In fact, I’m still kind of upset about it. It hits me at moments like when I see something I used to enjoy eating, or when I remember a childhood dish and think “I shall eat that when I’m back” and then I remember that I’m not allowed to eat it. Well, I could eat it but I would definitely see a reaction. I currently don’t have celiac’s disease but I have the gene for it – so I may develop the disease in future; which is very, very scary for me as I know people who have celiac’s and it is not easy. I seem to react to wheat in general so I am currently staying away from wheat entirely. I refuse to be down about this, which brings me to my second point.
- There is life beyond wheat. When I look back, I’m shocked by how much wheat I used to eat. I ate pastries, bagels, bread (all the time), pasta, wraps (my former favourite), pizza – you name it. On days when I felt a bit sad or stressed, my fix was to go for a walk outside of my office and grab a latte with soy (due to my self-assumed lactose intolerance) and a pastry. It wasn’t like I ate a sugar laden pastry all the time, but sometimes. Sometimes I had a muesli bar (also wheat) or a wholewheat scone. *Shudder* Today, the husband and I live off salads. We eat tons of vegetables so much so that we can no longer justify buying vegetables at our high end supermarket *cough* Meny *cough* because we eat a lot more of it. Instead we go to a quaint little grocer nearby and buy as much vegetables as we need. That way we save at least 20% on our groceries. The reason we do this is because health food is expensive especially in a city like Oslo. Almond milk, chia seeds, nut butter, erythritol (sugar alcohol), low carb seed crackers, gluten free bread mixes, protein bars/powder, sugar free chocolate, kale chips are all luxury items that are quite expensive at the health stores here. We also eat a lot of soups and baked fish as well poultry. I’m allowed 1 carb meal a day, beyond that I have to lead a high fat, lean protein lifestyle with little to no processed food at all. The reason I say “lifestyle” instead of “diet” is because I have been prescribed this lifestyle as a way to eat clean and maintain a high level of energy and a clear mind.
- I can no longer eat much sugar. My nutritionist wants me to avoid sugar as much as possible. This is doable, but it’s quite tricky because a lot of gluten free foods have sugar in them and sometimes you really want to eat a chocolate chip cookie or a Marie biscuit that you kind of have to ignore the sugar. I can’t, however, eat very sweet food anymore. I start to feel really guilty and worry about my skin. The more I stay away from gluten and sugar, the clearer my skin is. This also means I won’t be able to eat my wedding cake in July as it will contain both gluten and sugar. I’m trying not to feel bad about this, but it’s hard. I will also not be able to eat a large portion of the food that we will be serving our guests. I have less than two months to come to terms with this. So far, I’ve been repeating in my head “It’s just food”. It’s kind of working.
- I’m no longer lactose intolerant. This came as a surprise as the tests actually proved I was lactose intolerant. However, it seems that if I’m not eating gluten, I don’t react to lactose. That said, cottage cheese seems to cause some breakouts on my skin, so I am trying to avoid that as much as possible – even though it’s really tasty and energizing to eat cottage cheese with fresh berries as a mid afternoon snack. But, the best part of being able to tolerate lactose is being able to drink regular caffe lattes again. Nothing like milk with coffee – also helps that I get to save between 5 or 6 NOK as cafes do charge you extra for soy milk.
- Sushi will not always taste the same. Most Japanese restaurants only serve regular soya sauce which contains gluten. Hoisin sauce – which I would bathe in, if I could – has gluten too. So, when I eat sushi in restaurants that do not serve gluten free soya sauce, I eat it plain; without wasabi or soya sauce. It’s not bad, but it’s not the same. I’m also a huge fan of Vietnamese fresh spring rolls which are always served with Hoisin sauce as a dip. Man, I’m going to miss Hoisin sauce so very much.
- Nothing tastes the same anymore. My taste buds seem to have changed. I’ve always wondered if I had super taste buds but these days I can taste everything and the food just doesn’t taste the same. Some days, food tastes bland. Other days, it’s too spicy. In some ways, some dishes feel as if there’s something missing. There are dishes that taste really good, but generally I no longer enjoy food as much as I used to. Having to analyze everything you eat, having to write a detailed food journal for a good 3 months, having to dissect ingredient lists constantly really changes how you perceive food.
- I’ve actually lost weight. To date I have lost almost 11 kg by eating clean and working out. Previously I had a mostly stagnant weight for 4.5 years and it was so hard to lose anything. I built muscles and gained strength. I burned a lot of calories during workouts but my weight remained mostly the same. It was so frustrating until I started the elimination diet. Halfway through my elimination diet, the weight started to melt away. It was a surprise – one that I’m still learning how to accept as I don’t look like I used to look anymore. I feel like the same person, but also different.
- People are not always supportive when you do something they don’t really believe in or understand. I kind of expected this and it usually doesn’t bother me but sometimes I get a bit sad when some people around me are insensitive of my dietary restrictions or health choices. But I guess this is my journey and I cannot expect other people to understand it. They have their own journeys.
- My skin can heal. I’ve been blessed to be able to travel and purchase all the wonderful skincare items people rave about. Most of them are not easily available in Norway but I have recently traveled to Washington for business and Berlin for leisure so I’ve stocked up on all the skincare saviours that seem to help my skin heal. The Pai Rosehip Biogenerate Oil is the best facial oil I have ever used. It’s been healing my scars slowly but surely and it makes my skin feel alive again. REN’s Vita Mineral Omega 3 Optimum Skin Serum Oil is a soothing, anti-inflammatory serum that reduces the swelling around pimples and clogged pores. I use it everyday underneath my makeup. Clarins Cleansing Milk with Gentian is possibly the most soothing cleanser I have ever used. It cleans my skin without stripping off the natural oils and always makes my skin feel soft and clean. I do have to work this in properly into my skin and massage it for best results. Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner is an exfoliating toner that removes dead cells. I use this once a day to make sure my skin is thoroughly clean before apply serum. Perricone MD Citrus Facial Wash is what I use when I want to wash my face quickly especially in the morning or before heading to the gym. I never wear makeup when I’m at the gym as I’m afraid I will clog my pores even more. The down side is that I sometimes bump into people I know (Oslo is a tiny city) and I always feel a bit embarrassed about my appearance. If you see me around the city and I’m uncomfortable, it’s because I’m bare faced without my game face. The wash is really good and it always removes the last traces of makeup and grime left after I’ve used an oil based cleanser to remove my makeup. SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense is a newly acquired serum that I’m still learning how to use optimally. So far, I do like it as it seems to be reducing the amount of bumps I get on my face. Smooth, blemish free skin is still all I dream about. I know it sounds weird, but I can’t help it. Korres Pomegranate Moisturizing Creme Gel is a no nonsense moisturizer that works very well for my combination skin. I was lucky that a good friend’s Mom got this for me in Greece where it’s a lot more reasonably priced. Lastly, the Kate Sommerville Daily Nourish and Goat Milk moisturisers are very soothing and calming for my skin. They don’t cause any breakouts so far for which I’m very, very glad.
In a way, you can say I’m learning how to be me again and I’m just getting started.