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October: Unprocessed, Much More than a One Month Challenge for Me

Today I am doing a guest post over at Eating Rules about going “unprocessed” and what that word means to me as a mom raising a gluten-free family, so head on over and check it out! 😀

I did not want to go too deep into how I ended up on this new path in life in my guest post on Eating Rules.  The theme of October: Unprocessed is about food afterall!  If you are interested in more of the medical odyssey that went hand in hand with my journey to becoming “unprocessed,” the following is a partial summary.  There are many other issues that I have yet to share, and I will when the time is right.

I did not begin my journey 5 1/2 years ago by choice, I was forced into it after being diagnosed with celiac disease.  Initially, I did not embrace my condition because I had none of the “classic” gastrointestinal symptoms of celiac disease.  I thought my doctor had confused my blood test with someone else’s!  How could gluten possibly be bad for me if I didn’t feel ‘sick’?  If celiac disease is genetic, how on earth could I be the only person in my entire family who has it?  A more accurate term would be that no one in my extended family has been accurately diagnosed, which is very different from not having the condition.

It would take 3 years of cheating on the gluten-free diet, the diagnosis of four autoimmune diseases (I shared some of my personal story here), the death of my beloved uncle from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the celiac diagnosis of my then five year old son (I wrote about Sam’s conflicting celiac test results here), and a little “professional help” before I finally decided to get real with myself.  I had no choice if I wanted to live well and prosper.  I had no choice if I wanted to be a positive role model for my son who I knew would be watching me closely as he grew up.  If he saw me making poor food choices, then he would make them too and I want better than that for him.  Just recently, my 3 year old son was diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a casein intolerance (a dairy protein) and an egg allergy (I shared some of Luke’s diagnostic test results here).

I have spent the past two years of my life personally challenging every aspect of my life.  This was the real “a-ha” process for me: changing your diet is more about changing your lifestyle rather than just changing the food you consume.  It takes changes in your relationship with food, which will naturally lead to changes in your family dynamic, social settings, general health choices, and on and on.  A “diet” is so much more than the food you feed yourself: it is truly about everything you feed yourself and can require some serious thinking about past decisions and their history.

I had to “unprocess” the entirety of my life.  Who I was, where I came from, and most importantly where I was going.  Being forced to “unprocess” has turned out to be the greatest gift of my life: it now puzzles me when people feel sorry for me because I have to be gluten-free.  I am now free of a lot of things that bound me before.

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  1. "I had to “unprocess” the entirety of my life. Who I was, where I came from, and most importantly where I was going. Being forced to “unprocess” has turned out to be the greatest gift of my life: it now puzzles me when people feel sorry for me because I have to be gluten-free. I am now free of a lot of things that bound me before."

    Yes, yes, yes!

    I've been noticing a theme as we all turn the corner into Week 2: almost everyone has used O:U as a touchstone for creating deeper mindfulness in other areas of our lives.

    I've had this on the brain a LOT lately. I'm questioning a lot more than food, simply because I have a better structure for paying attention.


    • Thank you, and I agree…the more I think about what "unprocessed" means to me, the more I find myself looking at other areas of my life, outside of food. From the moment we are born, we start the journey of being "processed" to fit into one mold or another. Should we have difficulty fitting into a particular mold/set of expectations, we get labeled as "abnormal," "different," "weird," "wrong," "broken," etc., etc.

      What if it's not the individual that is "broken" per se, but rather our convoluted definition of the word "normal?"

      • Oh, absolutely. The modern inversion and co-opting of words like 'normal' and 'elitist' by some extremely deep pocketed and vested interests is very much on my mind lately. Seems like most of the folks defining the norms lately are trying to sell us something. Hmmm.

        • Exactly my thoughts re: the distortion of whatever "normal" is. No one really knows what the so-called "norm" is for any other individual. We are all living within a particular context, having the imprint of our past environments all over us, along with the pressure of society to "conform to the norm" – in regard to every aspect of our lives, including (and perhaps especially) food. I believe that as our minds mature and we begin to "unprocess" our lives and shed the old layers that are no longer serving a purpose for us (if they ever did), clarity comes in regard to all areas – we listen to our bodies more, and in turn, we are better able to care for and nourish ourselves – both inside & out. I am loving O:U!

          • Gigi,

            YES!!! That has been a HUGE positive for me, I can now tell when my body is 'off,' and when I was diagnosed with CD, I could not tell anything was even wrong in the first place. I believe I was so used to not feeling good, that I had no idea what 'healthy' and 'great' felt like!

            The further and longer I go down this path, the more I feel displaced in my surrounding environment too. In the beginning of my journey, I was obsessed with trying to replicate my former gluten-filled life. Just look at the goldfish crackers I make, I even made the faces for Pete's sake, LOL!

            Just over the past 6 months or so, it finally dawned on me, "Heidi, why do you think that your kids must have the exact same looking thing as their peers in order to feel/look 'normal?' What kind of subliminal message are you sending them? That if they don't 'fit' perfectly in their surrounding environment, then they are not 'normal' or good enough?"

            Huh. Talk about some food for thought! 😉

  2. Great post, Heidi. Gluten intolerance also pushed me towards an unprocessed life. Once you start to feel "better" (and I didn't have the struggles you had, nor did I get an official diagnosis, but I'm one of those with a hyper-sensitive digestive system that "hates" a lot of foods, including gluten and dairy!) you start to become more aware of how you feed your body. For me, I want to feel good. It's worth that effort to make my own food (okay, it helps that I love to cook) to feel 10 times better than I ever did when I ate a "normal" diet. While some feel sorry for me for having to eat this way, I feel sorry for them for not doing so – eating whole, unprocessed foods all the time tastes great and makes me feel great too! I watch some of these people overinduldge at the local Chinese super-buffet and then follow it with a Coke or two, some cake, some ice cream, and groan about how they feel. I know how a meal like that would make me feel, and I think I'm better off!

  3. I'm always taken aback when people say "but, you can't eat anything good", meaning cookies, cakes and desserts. Of course I can make those without allergens, but what about wholesome foods like fruits, veggies, etc. There is this stigma of eating healthy to some people in my circle. I keep making eye pleasing, nutritional meals and I always get a good response from them. I have stopped giving out ingredients unless asked. Let the food do the talking.

    • Becca,

      I wholeheartedly agree with you, and I think for a lot of folks who are fruit and veggie adverse, the problem might stem from the fact that they still eat so many processed/packaged foods that are flavor enhanced and high in salt and sugar…I know for me, the longer I went without the chemicals and added flavoring agents, etc., the true flavor of fruits and veggies literally changed and became more than acceptable to my palate. Even my kids now ask for whole fruit as their dessert now, instead of baked goods. How 'weird' is that?

      I think 'weird' is the new 'cool'! 😀

    • I hate hearing how I "can't eat anything good" at lunch with my co-workers. I have started saying "How dare you eat that in front of me!" first. Teasingly, of course, and they have stopped their comments. But as soon as they see some of the home baked goods I have in my lunch they are wanting to try it or they want the recipe. Best part of being gluten free is still being alert at 2pm while working with my students instead of sleepy like everyone else from gluten and carb laden school food! I love having energy after YEARS of poor health from Crohn's disease and gluten intolerance.

  4. Three words, "Less IS More." So many of us who have gone gluten free (or other allergen free) have seen our worlds open up when we've finally embraced real food. And, real food is available everywhere! You are always so inspiring in sharing your and your family's story with us. Totally love you, my dear, and can't wait to read your guest post! Owe you an email! Still trying to catch up from BlogHer Food. We missed,/b> you so much!




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