In January of this year, I started to have severe sinus problems stemming from an upper-respiratory track infection I had suffered in Dec.
I began to notice that when I ate hamburgers, my sinuses went crazy. I was unsure about it at first because even the ENT said he had never encountered a case where wheat flour activated sinusitis.
I self-tested to confirm my suspicions and discovered an undeniable connection between the two and so I embarked on a campaign to cut gluten out of my diet.
I was unprepared for how difficult it was. Wheat flour was in everything: For breakfast I preferred chicken chunks and fish-cakes. Lunch or dinner was a sandwich or a pasta dish and I had gotten into the habit of snacking on jam-filled pastries. Most takeaway meals were also out of the question, because everything from fried-chicken to rotis, all contained wheat.
I could not simply switch to the gluten-free alternatives because those products were very expensive. One loaf of gluten-free bread was twenty dollars versus four dollars for the regular kind. Multiplying my grocery costs by five times was not sustainable.
This lead to a complete overhaul of my diet and I had to start cooking three times as much as I had before. It was a challenge to keep myself motivated.
I wavered at times, and ate flour anyway and then suffered the consequences of sneezing fits and sinus headaches. It took six months to get into a routine that worked for me, and one of the biggest hurdles was finding recipes that I could use.
I am also dairy and egg-free, and I don't cook a lot of meat-dishes. The amount of recipes that you can use when you screen them for more than one dietary restriction plummets from 200 to around 20. And that makes it very difficult to fill up a meal plan without constantly repeating the same dishes.
I stuck it out, and eventually came to a list of recipes that I didn't mind eating over and over again. Learning how to use spices to make my vegetables taste spectacular was also a huge turning point in the journey.
Even when I had mastered my meal-planning I found that in social situations it was difficult for me to stick to my diet when everyone else was eating pizza or hamburgers. I felt like I was missing out, even though my choices were the best for my body.
Giving in every now and then and eating a bite of pastry or a piece of pizza seemed okay until I woke up one morning with a rash. Sh*t had officially hit the fan.
My motivation spiked and I redoubled my efforts to make sure that I had enough healthy food and snack alternatives so that I was not tempted.
I came to the realization that I was sulking and feeling sorry for myself and when I stopped acting like my sudden allergy was a curse, I was able to feel proactive instead of backed into a corner.
I detached food as much as I could from emotions, and I focused on nutrition. Truthfully, the diet I had before was not balanced or very healthy. I naturally lost a lot of weight and started to have more energy when I overhauled my diet.
My experience this last year of having to deal with my allergy, has improved my health and showed me that I have a lot more will power than I thought. I would be lying however, if I said that I didn't wish I could have learned those lessons in some other way.