Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Weight Loss Story

I've lost sixty-five pounds in fifteen months.  Seriously.  I can't believe it really happened.
Halloween, 2010.  We had moved to a new town, lost an unborn son, had the worst season in our marriage yet, and I was 180 pounds.

I did it without an exercise plan, without starvation, and without spending thousands of dollars on surgery, supplements, or gym memberships.

March 28th, 2013. I'm now 133 pounds.
I did it by eliminating two huge categories from my diet: gluten and cow's milk products.
I feel like I don't deserve this.  I feel like a factory worker who played the lottery once on a dare, hit the jackpot, and gets to move into the most expensive house in town.  "Do I fit in here?  How do I act in this neighborhood?  Where do I park my 79 Bronco? What do I do now?"

I'm embarrassed when I go into a clothing store and "don't really know" my size.  I keep walking into the plus-sized stores in malls.  I can't believe that the enormous, worn-out bras I'm throwing out no longer fit me.

Lily and Eva's birthday party, in September of 2009.  That skirt is a size 16.

However, the truth registers in the surprised eyes of every person that sees me: "Wow, you've lost weight! How did you do that?!?!"

When I tell them it's because I went GF/DF, very few people believe me.

 They think I'm embracing a gluten-free diet trend, that I must be missing something (like cancer!) going on in my body, or that I'm going to start selling them quack supplements any minute.  Even worse, a couple of people assumed I'd developed an eating disorder.  No one understands that I didn't plan for this, I didn't invite it in, and I certainly didn't expect it to be this dramatic. 

This is why I'm accumulating all the photographic evidence I can, and why I'm telling my story here.   I truly hope it helps you in your own journey.

Justin's graduation. :) I learned to always pose with my chin up, and never show the lower half of my body.

I don't have posed "before" pictures like some people do.  I didn't set out to lose weight.  When I was a *tight* size 16, I avoided the camera as much as I could.  I'll give you what I have, and hope that it lights up your eyes with hope.

I've been pregnant six times.  With seven children.  (My first miscarriage was with twins.)  I was 155 pounds when I got married in 2004, a year out of college.

When I was pregnant with Lily, my oldest, my heaviest weight was 185 pounds.  I threw up for 20 weeks, and lost 15 pounds in the first trimester.

  I'd done Body for Life, I'd done Slim-Fast, I'd done starvation diets, I'd cut out fat in every conceivable way, and I'd worked out for hours at the gym.  I've never been so discouraged as when I'd worked out for an hour, six days a week, paying for both the gym and the child care, and three weeks later lost a *pound*.  It was impossible for me to maintain any motivation.


And I was always HUNGRY!  I couldn't understand how any female could maintain life support on what I'd seen them eat!  "A shake for breakfast, another for lunch, and then a sensible dinner?" Bullcrap.  Or even worse, I'd heard people at restaurants say, "Take back what's on that plate, and bring me a quarter of it!  Box up the rest!" I never could see how.  I could eat as much as any football player for breakfast, and still be hungry at lunch time.

When I did Slim-Fast in college, I just concluded that skinny people must be hungry people.  For a while, I was actually content to live that way.  I wanted so much to change the image of myself as a lazy, uncontrolled slob that I was willing to starve
myself to do it.  I did lose some weight that way, and got a ton of compliments, especially from family members.  But I knew in my heart that it was a lie, and that if I continued on this path, I would end up with an eating disorder. 

I finally said, "Forget it.  I have to stop caring what people think.  This is not worth my time.  It's producing no results.  If anyone loves me, he has to love me the way I am."

After having two living children and losing four, I was 180 pounds, and refused to weigh myself any more.
Bend over, and don't show your tummy in pictures...
Then, in 2010, after marriage, babies, and lots of life changes, I read a magazine article about adults developing food allergies.  Apparently, adults over 30 could still develop food allergies,  but they were being consistently misdiagnosed, since allergies were thought of as children's problems. "Dang," I thought, "That must be hard!" and I put the information out of my mind.

In January 2011, the need for that information came roaring back.

I was going about my day, cleaning my house, taking care of my two-year-old, when I suddenly doubled over in stomach pain.  It was intense, it was sharp, and it wasn't localized in one area of my body, like appendicitis or cysts or an ectopic pregnancy.  I thought, "It must be gas, or something embarrassing," and laid down, thinking it would go away soon.

 It didn't. A few hours later, I called my husband, telling him that I might need him to come home from work and take me to the hospital.  I prayed, "Please, please God, don't let me get sick right now.  What's going on?  What do I need to do?  Please, please God, tell me what I need to do."

I felt very clearly like God said, "Stop eating gluten."


That couldn't be God.  That sounds ridiculous.  Stop eating gluten?  For real? Why would God say that?

I heard it again, deep in my heart, "Stop eating gluten."

I'd been walking with God for sixteen years at that point, but I still was always concerned that I wasn't hearing God's voice correctly, that I was putting my own ideas in there, that maybe I was influenced by a magazine article I'd read a while  back....was this really God? 

In John 10:27, Christ says: "27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."  I prayed that I would accurately follow His voice, and not just my own silly ideas.

Then I remembered a friend from an old church who had Celiac disease.  He used to vividly describe his symptoms at Bible study, till I could almost smell the results. (He dubbed himself, "The King of Inappropriate Comments.")   His wife is a trusted friend, so I wrote to her and asked her about what I was experiencing.  "Oh yeah," she said casually, "Almost everyone I know who has it had the symptoms descend on them suddenly.  Here, have some recipes to go on."

I read that I shouldn't stop eating gluten before a Celiac test, so I called my doctor, scheduled an appointment for a blood draw the next day, and laid on the couch and suffered.  As soon as they drew my blood, I came home, cooked myself some rice, and basically ate nothing but rice, fruit, and soft chicken for the next three or four days.

My stomach got better, and I wondered if I'd made the whole "God said stop eating gluten" thing up.  Maybe It was a virus.  Maybe it was food poisoning.  I decided to go ahead with the elimination diet for a full six weeks, just to see what would happen.

Then, five days after the gluten went away, the craziest thing happened: MY ECZEMA DISAPPEARED!

Completely.  It was gone.


 For the past two years, I'd suffered through a skin disorder that seemed entirely localized on my hands.  From the base of my thumbs to the tips of my fingers, my hands became white, dry, cracked, and they finally bled.  It hurt to touch anything.  Holding my daughter's hand, writing a letter, and especially playing the guitar, all were actions that made needle-stabbing pain shoot through my fingertips. 

Suddenly, less than a week after giving up gluten, my hands were as smooth as a baby's.  I couldn't understand it.  I couldn't prove it.

January 12th, 2011

I started taking pictures of my hands, until I realized it wouldn't prove a darn thing---I had no "before" pictures!  I hadn't expected to need any!

Then a letter came in the mail with the Celiac test results: negative.

I ate a whole wheat sandwich just to be sure that I wasn't truly out of my mind.  I spent the entire next day in the bathroom---> and you just don't want to know more than that.

I decided then, with or without a Celiac diagnosis, wheat was harming my body, and I was staying away from it.

I happily said, "Bye Bye" to blueberry muffins, yeast rolls, regular spaghetti, and the staple food of my existence, Frosted Mini Wheats.  I felt like a cloud was lifting from my brain--life felt like it was in sharper focus.  I could touch a fabric, a book cover, the neck of my guitar, without leaving little blood smudges behind from my fingertips.  I felt *excited*--the pain was gone!

My husband thought I'd lost my mind.

"You can't eat cookies.  You can't eat your daughter's birthday cake.  And you're happy about this?  Where's the mourning and the grief over this enormous life change?"

I couldn't grieve: I had my hands back. 

After a couple of months, however, I realized that if I even touched wheat, or if flour got into the air, my skin would react again, in just a day or two.  I started wearing latex-free gloves when I made my kids' sandwiches.  I removed all flour from my house, and the gluten-consuming family had to settle for frozen biscuits.

All this time, a strange thing was happening: for the first time in my life, I was leaving food on my plate.

I was giving food to my husband to "dispose of" after dinner.  I was able to stretch the meals I cooked into a couple of planned leftover GF lunches for me.

By April of that year, I'd lost 10 pounds.  I'd done *nothing* but eliminate gluten from my diet.

Now, that weight came back pretty quickly, thanks to the birds and the bees. :)  In May of 2011, I realized I was pregnant with my third daughter, Annabelle Joy.

Now, I have *horrible* pregnancies.

I spend hours....which stretch into days...which stretch into weeks....with dizzying, debilitating nausea.  I can't keep anything down.  Heck, I can't *move my head* without losing any nourishment that my babies need.  With all of my pregnancies, I've spent over 2 years of my life sick, throwing up, and confined to a couch.

(Of course, there are no pictures during this season!)

This last pregnancy was the worst, because it seemed like the sickness would never end. I missed my older children.  I hated that my husband was constantly having to act as a care-giver.   My home was filthy.  At 28 weeks, I begged for God to intervene again.  I felt "led" to do another elimination diet, this time with milk.

I stopped throwing up.

Within a day.

A *single* day.

I couldn't believe it.  I walked around the house in a bit of a daze, touching my curtains, my wooden dining table, my stainless steel sink, all without the nausea threatening to cut my legs out from under me.  I wrapped my hands around my growing belly, and felt happy to be pregnant for the first time in my life.

Unfortunately, giving up milk was hell.

I craved milk with the ferocity of a heroin junkie.  I thought about it all day long--imagining a tall, cold glass with little condensation droplets running down the side.  And an Oreo.  I ached for a bite of pizza with stretchy, warm, mozzarella cheese.  I snapped at my husband. I yelled at my kids.  I'd burst into tears and apologize, then wish I could eat an Oreo again.  I thought I would go crazy. Hershey's chocolate, M &M's, sour cream in my potatoes, Breyer's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, heck, even hazelnut creamer in my coffee...all of that was gone. 

However, if I swiped one sliver of Parmesan...if I sneaked a sip of chocolate milk.... if I took one lick of Lily's yogurt spoon, the vomiting and the nausea came roaring back, and I would be confined to the couch again.

I named my couch, "The Pit of Despair."   

The cravings did go away, but it took six weeks.  I thank God that Enjoy Life Chocolate exists.  And Vegans.  I love a crunchy dead animal as much as the next Ex-Southern gal, but the very existence of Vegans allows me to have reasonable substitutes for ice cream, butter, and creamer in my coffee. 

My heaviest weight in my pregnancy was 198 pounds.   Annabelle was born on New Year's Eve, 2011.

New Year's Eve, 2011.  Annabelle Joy was born! The littlest love of our lives..

Thus began the next phase of my journey: Zombie-Land.

Having a baby is a long-term experiment in sleep-deprivation.  I had no desire to start losing baby weight until I slept through the night, and I had no idea when that would happen.  I nursed, I slept, I nursed again, I played, I cleaned, I nursed, I knew I was forgetting something....Oh! a SHOWER! Yeah, those are important...I nursed again...

When Annabelle was between four and six months old, my (beautiful, straightforward, and incredibly practical) friend Julie was walking behind me, and started laughing.  "Oh Dotty...! I think it's time to get some new jeans.  I think it's time to let those goooooo.  You need to go down to the next size." 

I hadn't even noticed that my size 16 pre-pregnancy jeans had worked their way off my butt as I was walking out of church.  I was showing off my taste in granny-panties.

My husband laughed and said, "Yeah, the boob-jiggle while you were singing was a bit distracting too."

If a giant earth-quake had swallowed me up right then and there, I would have probably been ok with it.

I had no idea that I'd lost over 40 pounds since I'd had Annabelle.  I weighed myself at one of Lily's doctor's appointments--155 pounds!  My wedding weight!  As soon as we got home, I put on my wedding dress and twirled around to show the girls what I looked like as a bride.

And it started falling off.

August 2012. I started to realize something was different!

I went to Plato's Closet, because I was absolutely certain this wouldn't last.  I was sure that as soon as I stopped nursing, the weight would pile back on, and I wasn't going to pay full price for temporary clothing.

I pulled on size 14 jeans, and they fell off.

I pulled on size 12 jeans, and they fell off.

I pulled on size 10 jeans, and they felt a little loose.

The size 8 jeans wouldn't *quite* button up--but they were close.  I bought the 10's.

I'd been walking around in clothing that was almost twice as large as I needed.

That was last April.  Between April and September, I went from 155 to 138.  I gained two pounds over Christmas, and then lost them again with no effort.  By March 27th, I was shocked to see the scale at 133.2!!!

Now, the size 8's are falling off. I need to buy some new clothes, and I'm scared to see what size I am now.


I didn't plan this.  


I didn't spend hours doing Turbo Jam or lifting weights at the gym or doing Zumba or Jillian Michaels DVD's. 

All I did--literally, the only thing I did--was eliminate gluten and cow's milk.  I didn't change my activity level at all.  I didn't eliminate sugar, fat, other carbs, "refined foods", or any "toxins."

However, I'm not trying to tell everyone, "You just need to go gluten-free to lose weight!"  I don't believe that's true.  I believe *I* was gluten and dairy intolerant, and that's what was going on with *my* body. 

 More than anything, I want my story to help dissolve some of the lies that surround overweight women in our culture: "You must have no self-control.  You must truly not care about your body, or about the people who love you.  If you'd just
put in 30 minutes a day at the gym, you'd see the fat melt off you like a snowman under a hairdryer.  What is wrong with you?" 

It's not true.  If you can't lose weight, it may not be your fault at all.  It may have nothing to do with your self-control, your will power, your strength, your character, or your heart.

Keep searching, because the answer is out there.


God really does answer.

Thank you for reading my story--please let me know in the comments what you think, and if you have any questions.  I'll be posting some recipes and some "Frequently Asked Questions" in the next few days.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Heartland Lexington's First Sunday in Our New Building

After ten years of setting up church each week in a local high school (then tearing it all down again, and doing it all over again the next week) Heartland Church moved into their new building today.  

We were all a little excited. ;) 

My sincerest apologies to Alec Feazel.  He was in the shadows for most of the set, and the only pics I could get of him were during practice.  He still rocked. :)

The Gurney's. :)

Our pastor, Andy Vallance, stands up and says, "Welcome Home."

Campbell Kate Schurig (in the plaid dress) led several of her friends in dancing in the aisles.  My deeeeeepest apologies to her mother, Nancy, for not getting more pics of this awesomeness.