Saturday, November 23, 2013

Shannon Speaks for The Last Time: Gluten-Free and Beyond

November marks the end of the Gluten Free Health Challenge. Shannon is sharing one final reflection post today, after being a part of the challenge for six months. Please stop and leave a comment for her, or join us in our Gluten Free Facebook Group. -Iris-

With hubby at a football game

Wow, six months sure does fly.  Feels like yesterday we were all signing our forms and starting our first blog entries. Now it's a week and a half until Thanksgiving. Also known as my first gluten-free turkey day. Ugh, the stress. It's making the gray hair more obvious. But, like all things, I will figure it out. The only dilemma is finding a good GF stuffing. I know Rudi's put one out, but it's not being sold anywhere near me. Go figure.

I've been pretty MIA in the month of October. Sadly, nothing was going on, yet everything was going on. To elaborate briefly, I was pulled from my teaching duties and plunked down into another teacher's job until she returned from a medical issue. What we were all hoping would be a few days turned into over five weeks. I was exhausted. I hadn't been the "lead" teacher in a while, and although I was loving it at the beginning, I forgot all the energy that went into it. I just didn't have that kind of energy at that point. Had I known from day one of the year, that would have been one thing. But I had parents of the special ed kids I'm responsible for, e-mailing me questions about class and their child, the case workers at school wanting to know what I was doing for those kids (while I was teaching someone else's class load, prepping and grading and responsible for 75 students), and all of the other stuff that goes along with going from being myself to being someone else.

Now that I'm back to being "me," the one teacher that I teach with is going out on maternity leave this Wednesday. There's still no long-term sub for her, and I'm putting all my wishes out in the universe that I don't find out on Tuesday that I'm taking over her class load until she returns in March. I may be posting in the Facebook Group from the looney bin if that is the case.

So, work is stressful, nothing new there. Hopefully life will be less stressful. Though I can confidently say, being gluten free is not stressful, and for that I'm thankful. Between reading everyone's posts on the blog, threads on FB, and my phone meetings with Georgia, I feel like I've got a solid handle on this thing. When I was diagnosed, I didn't allow myself any time to acclimate to being gluten free. I jumped headfirst into the lifestyle because I was afraid if I allowed myself to gently ease into it, it would be even harder than just going balls to the wall. There was no option to NOT be gluten free. I had too much at stake. I didn't get sick like some people. I didn't break out in hives or visible reactions, and while all of that is serious for the people who have those reactions, I thought to myself, "If that was how my body reacted, I would probably cut down on the gluten but still indulge sometimes." I would have coped with the physical outcomes. Knowing that Celiac Disease had caused me to lose two babies and may somehow have had a connection to my son's birth defect (we'll never know, and I refuse to spend my life dwelling on it because it's not healthy for me), I felt like I had no choice. I was going gluten free for life and there would be no looking back. Hopefully I will have some positive news on that front, and soon. I can say that my body and hormones have regulated themselves, which gives me more hope that I will have good news soon.

My kind of therapy

I have faith in myself and the other wonderful women that have taken part in this challenge that we will all continue our gluten free journeys successfully. We will all experience challenges and roadblocks, but we are all so strong and will continue to grow stronger because of those challenges. I wish you all nothing but the best of luck and a beautiful, gluten free life.

Much love!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Marie's Last Musing: Gluten or No Gluten?

November marks the end of the Gluten Free Health Challenge. Marie is sharing one final reflection post today, after being a part of the challenge for six months. Please stop by and leave a comment for her. -Iris-

So we're at the end of the Gluten Free Challenge. It's crazy how half a year can pass so quickly. It's time to do some reflecting on the things I've learned along the way, and to decide what changes I'll be keeping as part of my life.

When I started this challenge, I was having severe GI issues, and I am happy to say that with the exception of chronic acid reflux, those issues are 100 percent gone. I never thought my body would get back to functioning normally but here we are. It has truly been a blessing. I cannot say whether it was eliminating gluten that caused my digestive tract to get back to normal or if it was the elimination of animal products, but regardless, I feel like a healthy person for the first time in a very long time, so that is a win.

The past six months has also seen me eating a lot more balanced in terms of food groups, so there is another win. Fresh fruit is still hard to come by, but since I've been depriving myself of so many things I've been making a concerted effort to get in good vegan sources of protein, "good" carbs, and vegetables most every day. Going from eating veggies bi-weekly to eating them daily or every other day can't be a bad thing, even if they have been canned for the most part.

The past few months have been absurd with my work schedule (haha, "schedule" - just kidding!) so I can't say whether or not I feel rested, as my sleep has been entirely unnatural. However, I will say that before I started working like a madwoman, I did feel more rested since going gluten free, so that was nice.

It has not been easy, mind you. I don't think I could go vegan and gluten free at the same time if I had a family or any semblance of a social life. Because of my lack of time/desire/resources to cook, I've been forced to eat an incredibly monotonous menu. Living out here in the desert with limited (read: non-existent) sources for vegan gf fast food hasn't helped matters. It's been fine for me, but I can say if you like variety, you may struggle with it. While it has been cost effective, buying the same few meals to eat over and over can get tiresome at best.

I have cheated a few times with beer and honestly saw no detrimental effects. Thus, I am thinking that for my body it's been the elimination of dairy that has led to me feeling awesome. I think that if gluten is an issue for me, I'd have had GI flare-ups when I had bloopers on the challenge, but that simply has not been the case.

Thus I will be returning to eating gluten once this challenge is up. I honestly just miss the variety and options available to me. This challenge has definitely been a wonderful experience but I think it's time for me to start incorporating different foods back into my diet. I definitely have a renewed ability to identify what my body is feeling, and if I start having GI issues, I do plan on going right back on track.

I guess the biggest thing I've learned about myself through this challenge is that I am able to be disciplined, but it doesn't mean I have to be. I am learning how to be conscious of how my dietary decisions affect my body, good or bad, and am no longer a slave to cravings. I CAN limit myself, but I am also no longer afraid to have a bit of dietary freedom. I feel good, and I don't want to lose this feeling, and I am not afraid of losing this feeling, and for that I am grateful.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

From Rose's Garden: One Final Reflection

November marks the end of the Gluten Free Health Challenge. Rose is sharing one final reflection post today, after being a part of the challenge for six months. Please stop and leave a comment for her, or join us in our Gluten Free Facebook Group. -Iris-

Wow! Where do I begin? Let me just say this: The last six months, especially the last couple, have been a HUGE challenge for me. And not for the reasons that I would have initially thought I would be sharing with all of you. The Gluten Free Challenge turned into something far different than I anticipated.

Iris and Shirley (my coach) opened my eyes to much more than dealing with food issues and challenges. They actually suggested that I learn to love and accept myself...AS IS! Not an easy task for me at all.

Iris, you opened up a whole new world to me.

Shirley, although our talks were few, your quiet, non-judgmental demeanor - interspersed with Louise Haye - was a welcome respite.

For the past few months, I have been learning to set boundaries. I honestly never realized how much of a pleaser I really am. It is often said that we teach others how to treat us, and these are words I'm learning to live by. I realized that I have been saying yes to just about everything since I was very young. When I finally said no, I had often come to such a state of frustration that I responded in hurt and anger.

I want to make one thing very clear, and it's this: For those of us who are so very sensitive to the needs of others, the reason that we have to set boundaries is not to hurt others or be unavailable, but rather to protect ourselves. I am learning that being in a relationship doesn't mean losing my sense of individuality. I have also come to realize that I was never taught to effectively set necessary boundaries.

My boundaries were weak, unguarded, and unclear. Sad, I know. With no boundaries, people dumped on me in almost every area of my life. I was letting in all kinds of "stuff" that wasn't MY STUFF. I was unconsciously giving away my own personal energy. So unhealthy.

When it became apparent that I had much work to be done, I got down to business. My boundaries needed to be shored up and I needed to return to my center. I needed grounding. I liken grounding to a tree setting her roots into healthy, rich soil that she can draw upon in times of need. I began setting aside time for myself every couple of days, meditating or just being still, and frequently getting lost in my art, which I had lost touch with.

I am slowly working on these issues. This isn't an overnight thing. It's taken me years to get where I am and I'm allowing myself time to get where I need to be. I am learning to surround myself with people who love me for who I am, and I am eliminating people who I've discovered are toxic. By toxic, I mean people who manipulate, abuse or try to control me. I am seeing results and I no longer feel responsible for everyone else's happiness. Only mine. I'm not being selfish. I'm just learning to love me.

Learning to set healthy boundaries takes time. It's a process. I am setting them slowly and within my own time frame...not when someone else tells me. Iris and Shirley, I thank both of you from the bottom of my heart.

Love and peace to all of you. And remember to take care of yourself.  


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rebecca's Last Balancing Act: Was It a Success or Failure?

November marks the end of the Gluten Free Health Challenge. Rebecca is sharing one final reflection post today, after being a part of the challenge for six months. Please stop and leave a comment for her, or join us in our Gluten-Free Facebook Group. - Iris-

Was it a success or failure? 

When I started this gluten-free journey, I had five goals:
  • Lose 10 pounds for my wedding.
  • Stop having yeast infections.
  • Stop having headaches.
  • Cook more. 
  • Take better general care of myself. 
Weight - Totally lost the 10 pounds. And then, after the wedding, totally found them again. So, gluten-free eating can be just as calorie-laden as gluten eating. No magical cure. But...

Infections - Totally working!!! Haven't had a single one since (mostly) removing gluten and dairy from my diet! Ironically, I did get a UTI, but, AND HERE IS THE AMAZING PART, thanks to my new diet and probiotics (which came along as part of the take-better-care-of-me portion), I didn't get a yeast infection after taking the antibiotics for the UTI. That is the FIRST time in my life I haven't dealt with a yeast infection after curing a UTI. Happy dance!

Headaches - MUCH reduced. And the ones I've gotten, well, they've been mostly after overindulgences. ;) 

Cook more - GIANT success! This week, I made the most delicious shrimp curry soup (yum!) and also delicious asparagus risotto. Who knew risotto could be made without dairy? (I didn't.) And it was so good that I plan to make it again in two nights. Last week, I made a butternut squash curry soup. OH SO GOOD! And I made a veggie and kale soup. SUPER TASTY! I wouldn't say I am at ease in the kitchen yet, but I've made serious progress. Not everything is amazing. The yam enchiladas in pomegranate sauce sounded so promising, but were not really worth the effort. But the main thing is that I am finding that gluten and dairy free cooking isn't so hard after a while, though the learning curve is hard at first. How do you make the same twelve ingredients take on different textures and flavors? 

Dairy-Free Asparagus Risotto

By the way, when I say I am not at ease in the kitchen yet, here is what I mean. Shrimp Curry Soup is REALLY EASY. That is IF you don't cook the prawns first and then peel and devein them. Duh. Live and learn. Actually, re-learn, because 15 years ago, I knew that. Oh well. I was kind of pissed at myself while it was happening, turning a 15 minute meal into a 45 minute meal, but luckily it tasted so good that it was worth the extra effort. 

General Care - Really good advances. I dabbled in acupuncture (amazing), chiropractic (effective but freaky), and of course, hypnotherapy with our amazing, Iris Higgins. I learned so much about myself through these adventures, and am learning to create time to be quiet and time to just be. A long way to go, but a good tool box is growing. Damian and I walk together, I occasionally get out to the parks and woods, we go dancing, and we're eating most of our dinners at the dinner table instead of in front of the TV. 

So while I didn't keep away those annoying ten pounds, I call this a successful journey. I've learned that gluten and dairy have a detrimental effect on my general health, I've grown more comfortable in the kitchen, I've started my new marriage with healthier habits, and I have a foundation for staying healthy long into the future. 

What a blessing this has been, and what a gift Iris gave to each of us. 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marisa's Final Menu: Beyond the Challenge

November marks the end of the Gluten Free Health Challenge. Marisa is sharing one final reflection post today, after being a part of the challenge for six months. Please stop and leave a comment for her, or join us in our Gluten Free Facebook Group.  -Iris-

(Straight Hair courtesy of Ali Owen and Beachy Waves courtesy of Holly 
Williams at Hagoyah- Kansas City, MO)

This amazing opportunity to take part in The Daily Dietribe's Gluten Free Health Challenge has been a whirlwind of knowledge, emotions, progress, obstacles, empowerment, exposure to resources, and above all, an unforgettable experience, showered with tons of love and support.

I have gained so much since embarking upon this challenge. I now have an active and sincere support system, accessible via the internet, that I had never even realized was possible. I have learned a lot about myself and life in general. And I have built relationships and support systems with folks who I am not sure I would ever have come into contact with if it hadn't been for this challenge.

My health coach, Eryn McEntee, has been instrumental in guiding me through some tough times that I had been struggling with all on my own. She has been a lifesaver and angel in so many ways, and I feel so grateful to have had the chance to work with her. Depending on where her career path takes her, I plan to seek out her services - hopefully in the capacity of being a patient in her naturopath practice.

None of us would be here without the beautiful, magical, and inspiring Iris Higgins. What a true, real-life fairy angel she has been for us. This challenge fully exposed us to how we can all enhance our lives by working on the dynamics of our Mind, Body, AND Spirit. Iris managed to bring it all together with perspective and a nurturing, skillful approach. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to participate in our guided meditations and receive the thoughtful encouragement offered by Iris throughout the challenge.

For me, this challenge is far from over. But I am no longer feeling as lost as I was prior to taking part in it. So many doors have opened, and I now feel like I am not alone in this journey. I plan to continue documenting, rambling, and hopefully sharing some progress and revelations online, via my personal blog (and my online identity), Feud With Food. I would love to keep in touch with all of you, and maintain those lines of communication going forward.

The main things I will take away from this experience are:

  • A support system from the online community. Thank you to everyone who has already supported me. It has helped immensely. 
  • New perspectives, recipes, ideas, and resources. 
  • Strength, courage, and hope. 
I have had so many ups and downs throughout the duration of the challenge. My health coach and the others participating in the challenge made all the health frustrations so much more bearable than they would have been.

I am stronger than I was before I started this challenge. I plan to take what I have learned during our guided meditation sessions and call with with my health coach, and move forward with my own journey of healing, minus the level of fear, failure, and frustration that I had been experiencing before. I have already started to benefit from the knowledge, hope, and even just the ability to practice more self-care during the challenge. I really do feel as if it is now solidified more as a learned behavior and part of my routine. I can sincerely say that being gluten-free is EASY compared to many of the steps I have taken since removing gluten. The emotional component was much more difficult to battle than the removal of any one food. I believe that all of the good energy I was able to put out thanks to the support I was getting has a lot to do with the good energy that has come back to me recently in the form of new endeavors, opportunities, learning experiences, and friendships.

My relationship with food has changed since starting the challenge, and I am much more mindful of how I feel while I am eating now. The emotional state I am in and how I am dealing with stress at the time I am actually consuming food at a particular time has a huge impact on how my body reacts to said food. That has been one of the greatest pieces of the puzzle I pieced together during the past six months. And I believe being aware of that will be very helpful going forward. I now make a conscious attempt to be present during each meal, and avoid taking that first bite until I have diffused any type of stress or pain. I am finally at a point where I am not regularly using food for comfort or stress relief. And when I am faced with that scenario now, I am more likely to realize it, and instead opt to use the coping skills I have learned during the challenge versus using the food itself.

I hope to meet many more online comrades in the coming days, and perhaps have the chance to follow the progress of those of you sharing in this crazy world of gluten-free and dietary restriction adventures on a path to healing. I will do my best to update my blog regularly. I may likely continue with the Marisa's Menu type of posts. They will just now be located at Feud With Food.

My personal feud with food has been an interesting journey thus far. I am so thankful that Iris presented this opportunity for me to grow as a person, access additional resources for healing, and understand the benefits of sharing this experience with others. I had kept my own blog private up until the time of the challenge, and am now looking forward to sharing and maintaining it. I am also in the process of attempting to finance my return to school for holistic nutrition. Having such a fantastic and inspiring community with this challenge has given me the motivation and strength I needed to follow through on something I had been wanting to do for years. Thank you!



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dorothy's Last Diary: A Shift in Perspective

November marks the end of the Gluten Free Health Challenge. Dorothy is sharing one final reflection post today, after being a part of the challenge for six months. Please stop and leave a comment for her, or join us in our Gluten-Free Facebook Group. - Iris-

Upon Reflection
Wow, I can't believe it. This is my 6th month, my final post. I almost don't know where to start writing. There has been so much change and shifting in the past six months that it seems nearly impossible to express it properly in one blog post.

At the beginning of this challenge, I started out sick, scared, and uncertain of the future. I had lots of shame and self-judgment about my body, and also about my life, health, career... and just about everything else. It was one big unhealthy muddle. I wasn't even sure if I could stick to gluten-free (or anything) for six months.

Amazingly, I really did stick to the gluten-free foods throughout the challenge, and I'm still cooking. It doesn't feel like a diet. It just feels like cooking my meals and real life.

For me, the gluten-free diet started out being about healthy eating and trying to heal my body. It turned out to be so much more. It has been a pathway to understanding myself better, to discovery, to releasing and letting go, to healing, to awareness and learning. It has been about shedding judgment and shame, learning self-care, and learning how to truly love and accept myself and my body. I've learned to have a partnership with my body instead of fighting it. Internally, I feel forever changed - in the best way.

It wasn't just eating gluten-free that brought such profound change. It was a whole combination of factors: the program duration, my fellow challengers, my nutritionist, Drew Parisi, writing blog posts, a Facebook community that felt safe, and a Fairy Angel to guide and support me.

I feel a special bond with my fellow challengers: Rose, Marie, Marisa, Amy, Shannon, and Rebecca. Your posts inspired me and helped me with my own progress in more ways than you know. I am so glad we all got to go through this journey together. I have so much love and gratitude for my wonderful nutritionist, Drew. I think you are all amazing women.

Highlights of the Gluten-Free Challenge: 

  • Lost 20 pounds and lowered my blood pressure. 
  • Decluttered my entire house (OMG huge). 
  • Discovered how important home is; I hung all my art on the wall and really moved in. 
  • Mr. Dynamic! I found a brief but powerful romance, released body shame, released fears, and remembered who I was again. My body got to feel pleasure and bliss after a lot of pain. I learned to focus on the positive. 
  • Learning to accept and love myself as I am. 
  • Writing the blog posts (and keeping a journal) brought numerous insights and change. 
  • Feeling of belonging to a supportive community, everyone rooting for me, and feeling less alone. 
  • I've learned to be more open with my family about my health issues and when I need help. 
  • Releasing the need to be perfect. 
  • Learned about nutrition and PMS/body cycles
  • Learned that I had to ask for help, that I couldn't do it alone, that I shouldn't do it alone. 
  • Learned I need more interaction with people and less time alone. 
  • Learned new ways of healing, including meditation and hypnotherapy as tools. 
  • Learned to be kind and patient with myself. 
  • Understanding that sunlight, the beach, and the ocean are part of my soul. "All roads lead to the beach." (A message from my inner wisdom that came out during a hypnotherapy session with Iris)
  • I feel proud of myself. I feel very proud!
New Changes
In November, I finally, FINALLY stopped drinking caffeine. I packed away the coffee pot. I threw out the coffee. After a rough month in October, I decided my health was more important and I committed myself to letting go of caffeine. It's no longer part of my morning routine. 

A Visit from Mr. Dynamic
I saw Mr. Dynamic again. No, not in person. Instead he showed up in a hypnotherapy session. I was "visiting" a garden, and saw my dad sitting on the bench. (Oh no, I thought.) Immediately, my invisible wall went up. Next thing I knew, Mr. Dynamic showed up. He said it was time to heal things with my dad now. He wasn't leaving until I started talking to my dad. He was there to keep me honest; he was there so I wouldn't run or avoid. And so the talking began. 

In the next (self-hypnosis) session, Mr. Dynamic showed up again. He put two chairs facing each other. Said my dad and I had to sit down, face to face, and talk it out. Mr. Dynamic was acting as mediator. He started the dialogue. Said he wasn't leaving until we hashed things out. Mr. Dynamic told me I had kicked him out of my apartment because I needed healing with my dad, and it was time now. So the conversation with my dad started, and the healing began. In this session, I finally let the invisible wall down. My dad and I had a real heart-to-heart, and there was hugging and forgiveness. Then my dad and I went for a walk on the beach together, our bare feet in the water. Interesting, isn't it? 

Before and After
When I look back at who I was at the beginning of the challenge to who I am today as a person, I feel completely changed. Like a new woman. Not a perfect person, but one who has improved health and a new outlook on life. I have much better tools to deal with the ups and downs of life. What I feel is overwhelming gratitude. 

One of the things I am most proud of is that I decluttered my house and hung my art on the walls. I live in a real home now. I wanted to show you some before and after photos. The photos say even more about the challenge than my words. 

My gluten-free eating and self-care won't end now. Everything I learned has become a foundation and a lifestyle for me. I do actually believe this gluten-free challenge saved my life. Honestly, I feel so much better now, and I'm never going back. I feel certain I can sustain this new way of living and it's the key to my future. 

What's very clear is that all the changes and the healing came through a shift in perspective - how I view experiences, how I view life. With that comes the understanding that I'm not going back to my normal life; instead I'm moving forward into my new life. 

And for me...all roads lead to the beach. 

A Special Note to Iris Higgins
What can I say? You gave me unconditional love and support. You made me feel safe enough to share things I couldn't share with others (even family and friends). You saved me, Iris, you just absolutely saved me. You have amazing fairy magic. Keep on sprinkling your fairy dust because you are changing people's lives. It's what we need. I will pass it forward. 

Love and Light Back to You,


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