Gluten-free since: May 2012
Are you completely gluten-free?
"I try to be, but I'm still having trouble transitioning and fitting gluten-free options into my lifestyle. I mostly maintain a gluten-free diet, but I slip up about once or twice a week, on average."
What made you decide to go gluten-free?
"I just recently got married, and in the months leading up to my wedding, I was feeling puffy, gross, and blah — not attributes any bride wants pre-nuptials. I had been speaking with Dr. Frank Lipman for a prior story and he mentioned something called the Elimination Diet — cutting out dairy, caffeine, sugar, red meat, gluten, and soy for a month, then reintroducing them into your diet one at a time to see if you had a reaction. I found my body reacted poorly to wheat and dairy, so ever since then I've been trying my hardest to minimize my consumption."
Take us through a typical day of meals for you on a gluten-free diet.
"Against the advice of every nutritionist I've ever spoken with, I'm not a big breakfast person. I'll usually grab a Lara Bar and either a Juice Press Love At First Sight juice or a Be Well Sustain Shake mixed with a Greens packet. For lunch it's either a salad or Juice Press's raw turnip 'ravioli' with cashew cream cheese, sesame seeds, and pesto. I'm pretty sure I spend half my paycheck there, but frankly the food is so good that I'm willing to go bankrupt for it. Dinner is a little tougher since my husband is the kind of guy who can eat everything and anything. My willpower is weak, so if he suggests pasta or pizza, I usually cave. Most of the time I try to make food that I can easily add gluten-free substitutes, like burgers with sprouted-grain buns and soy cheese. For snacks, I'm a devoted acolyte of kale chips."
What's the hardest thing about being gluten-free?
"Being around people who aren't gluten-free. When I go out with friends, I can't just go to any old restaurant — I have to make sure the place we are going has gluten-free options. I'm also the most hated person at my friend's monthly potluck dinners as no one seems to share my devotion to sweet potatoes and quinoa."
What do you like about being gluten-free?
"I've never been a 'healthy' eater, so there's a smug sense of satisfaction I get from being a good eater for once in my life. Selfish and self-involved, but true."
Have you noticed a difference in your health or the way you feel since going gluten-free?
"I haven't felt this healthy in years. Usually when I eat a big meal, I feel weighed down and uncomfortably full. When I eat gluten-free, I feel satiated without feeling puffed up or gross. It's also had a great effect on my weight — I used to be about 15 lbs. heavier, but after cutting out gluten and dairy and reducing my sugar intake, I've lost all the stubborn weight that I never seemed able to shake before. As a long-time migraine sufferer, I definitely see a difference in the frequency of my headaches. They're not gone, but they're definitely not occurring as much as they used to. I notice the difference most whenever I 'accidentally' eat wheat — I wind up feeling bloated, heavy, and all-around yuck."
Do you ever cheat?
"Yes, at least once or twice a week. As I said, my willpower is weak, so if someone tempts me with gluten foods, I usually end up caving. That's why I try to remove myself from those situations, so I don't set myself up for failure."
What gluten food do you miss the most?
"Pizza and pie. Pizza has everything that's bad for my system — gluten, dairy, and grease — but the very thought of a slice of pepperoni is making me drool as I type this. And I have never turned down a slice of raspberry pie in my 29 years of existence, nor do I ever intend on doing so. If you deprive yourself of what makes you happy and take the joy out of food, how can you ever feel good about your choices?"
What kind of advice would you offer to anyone who is considering gluten-free?
Definitely try it first before you say it's not for you. Only after cutting it out did I realize that there were some health issues I was having that I didn't even know about. And don't berate yourself if you slip up now and then. You have to be realistic about the fact that this is a major life change and there will be the occasional cheat."
What are some of your favorite gluten-free brands/foods?
"Macaroni and cheese is pretty much one of my major food groups, so Amy's Organic Rice Macaroni and Dairy-Free Cheeze is a weekly treat for me. My intern Tara turned me on to Goodie Girls' Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies, which are pure heaven. New York Naturals Bombay Ranch Kale Chips are like the gluten-free version of Cool Ranch Doritos — I can eat a package of those in one sitting, easy. Go Raw Spirulina Super Chips have this lovely, slightly sweet flavor that I'm addicted to, and Go Hunza Go Raw Go Fudge Brownie is an amazingly healthy chocolate treat made with raw cacao, almonds, cashew, agave and absolutely no tummy-irritating ingredients."
Where are some of your favorite places to eat gluten-free?
"I just recently discovered Tu-Lu's Bakery and their absolutely amazing cupcakes. They are so fluffy and cakey that I can't even tell that they are made gluten-free. And, of course, the Juice Press is a daily stop on my East Village food tour."
Can you offer some advice about eating out at restaurants when you are gluten-free?
"Restaurants are starting to take gluten-free seriously, since so many people suffer from issues caused by gluten. Never be afraid to ask your waiter if something is okay for you to eat as most places train their staff on how to deal with gluten-free requests. Remember: You're not being difficult or high-maintenance; you have a dietary restriction and that should never be a problem for a restaurant to accommodate."
There's a lot of controversy around the idea that gluten-free is not a healthy lifestyle. What do you have to say about that?
"People tend to get very defensive when you talk about gluten-free and I really don't know why. Don't take other people's health choices so personally. If you're not down with gluten-free, that's fine, but don't tell people they are wrong for making a life choice that they think is right for them. You need to do what's healthy and right for your body and let other people decide what's right for them. Let's leave the negativity out of the conversation, shall we?"
Gluten-free since: May 2012