Everything changed the moment I focused on what I had to gain rather than what I had to give up.
A little more than 7 years ago, I chose to eat gluten-free. Now, I use the word “chose” because, no, I was not diagnosed with celiac disease. However, after being hospitalized for esophagitis, doctors advised that I begin keeping a food journal so that I could figure out precisely what was causing the burning of the inside of my esophagus. Yes, my insides were literally inflamed and raw due the reaction I was having to food as it traveled to my stomach. I couldn’t eat, dropped down to about 97 pounds, was incredibly weak, and had stomach distress to where I couldn’t leave the house. Yeah, it was bad. And I was ready to figure out what was causing it.
I found the pattern rather quickly. But let’s back up for a second. Ten years prior, my allergy doc performed the “prick test” on my back to check for food allergies. What’s funny is that I completely dismissed the findings and so did my doctors: wheat, chicken, corn, strawberries, pineapple all showed up as allergies, but not very severe. Meh. I went on with my life. Well, a lot can change in 10 years, and allergies can come and go. We now know that wheat is extremely intolerable for my body. How?
After 1 month of writing down what I ate day in and day out, I noticed every weekend I would get a severe migraine which started Friday night and didn’t lesson until Sunday. On Tuesday, I’d get the migraine again, and it wouldn’t go away until Thursday. Why? Well, every Friday I’d go out with my friends and order 2 pints my favorite beer: Hoegaarden. And every Tuesday, I’d go with my work buddies to Chik-Fil-A and order a fried chicken sandwich on wheat bread. Boom. An overabundance of wheat was triggering not only the allergy in my throat, but also my weekly migraines. Could it be the culprit of other things too? In fact, yes. Over the next year I would find that by going gluten-free, I solved my migraine mystery, bloating and general stomach distress (which I was told was ABS, ha), esophagitis, reflux, acne, psoriasis (I had been doing weekly laser treatments for severity), eczema, foggy brain/memory issues, depression, insomnia… shall I go on? Yeah, all because of FOOD.
So when you read that list, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well damn, I bet it was SO easy for her to stop eating gluten”. Hah, I wish. In fact, quite the opposite. I dug my heels in for weeks. I remember going into a depression when I went out with friends and saw them eating whatever they wanted on the menu while I had to search for the 2 items that seemed ok, typically following up with the waiter multiple times to make sure what I ordered truly was gluten free. I felt like I was annoying everyone with this, not only myself. I was the odd guy out at the dinner table. Going to weddings and watching all the appetizer trays fly by knowing I couldn’t just pick something off of them was so disappointing. Reading all the labels at the grocery store was tedious and tiring. There was no more freedom with food.
But then something happened. A few months later I did realize just how amazing I felt. (I mean, you read the list, I felt AMAZING.) I woke up an decided to focus on what I was GAINING rather than what I was GIVING UP. I also realized that for the first time in my life, I was in control of food and food wasn’t in control of me. Talk about an epiphany.
Funny thing is, I have watched my challengers go through this same realization while doing the 21 Day fix. I can spot the ramp up and then the release from a mile away. It’s actually a really lovely thing. Here’s how it goes: you start out, thinking about all these things you’re giving up — junk food, preservatives, food dyes, fried food, soda — and you get really concerned. Maybe even a bit sad, because, you know, you were kinda pals for awhile and you won’t be seeing them again. The first week is hard to let it go and clean-eating can be a bit scary and overwhelming. But then, oh man, the the second week comes around and you’re like, “What was that stuff I was putting into my body? I still miss it, but I don’t miss how it made me FEEL”. And then week 3 hits and the real transformation begins. Because no longer do feel like you gave up anything, you realize you are getting so much in return instead: a lifestyle, one where you have a healthy relationship with food that makes you feel pretty damn incredible.
Shift your focus. It’s pretty life-changing on the other side.