Monday, August 23, 2010

Pad Thai but Hold the Chicken...aka What is Gluten?

Two weeks ago I learned that the Pad Thai at Noodles and Company were gluten free. In the past week I have enjoyed them three times (please don't look up the calorie count on a serving, it's through the roof), each time with the chicken. Come to find out, the chicken, as is often the case, is not gluten free.

You may have no earthly idea what gluten is and I did not until a few months ago. I've always had an ailment...and upset my whole life. Growing up, it was always blamed on stress, or at least the stomach problems were. The other ailments could usually be attached to weight in some abstract way. But over the last few years, despite my best efforts to get healthier, I felt awful.

A year and a half ago, as part of my original "living fabulousness" movement, I started going to the gym regularly and trying to lose weight. I felt as though my body was fighting me! I'd be able to work out for a few days and then would just start feeling awful. I would be so tired and have awful headaches and didn't understand what was going on. The food cravings were intense! I could never get enough and would have such strong food cravings that I would have to eat whatever it was I wanted. (Kind of like the cravings I've been having for that pad thai over the last week) I would have days where I was so tired I had to take a nap and then would have trouble waking back up. My stomach was a mess! I was taking so many medications for my headaches and my stomach usually multiple times a day! I had days where my head was so fuzzy I could not focus on anything. I would have to work hard to have a serious conversation, much less write a paper or prepare a sermon. At points, I was taking at least one non-drowsy dramamine a day to stop dizziness. My mood was altered. I was grumpy and sarcastic. College students on our spring break mission trip who did not really know me were frightened by me. (My students just assumed something was going on) It really felt like to me that my hormones were out of control.

Easter night, my stomach got so bad that while on a visit to my sister in Arkansas, I had to visit the ER. I couldn't stop the pain and multiple times during the night I felt I was going to pass out because it was getting so bad. Thinking it was just my weight (losing 10 lbs would cure anything, right), and feeling like maybe my sugar was out of whack, I worked to stop eating foods with flour. Most of my low-fat food included flour, the food I'd been eating since trying to get healthy. On facebook one day, I wrote about making some gluten free cookies and a friend asked if I had celiacs.

As I looked up the symptoms for those with a wheat allergy, gluten allergy or gluten intolerance, I realized I had found the culprit for my bad health. I also suddenly realized how healthy I felt with just cutting way back on foods with flour. The more research I did, the more it became evident that I had to completely eliminate gluten from my diet, which is not easy. Gluten is not only in flour but is also common in salad dressings, marinades, flavor syrups used for coffee drinks and ice cream treats, soy sauce and the list goes on and on. I have visited an allergist and consulted with my primary care physician on these matters. I have tested negative for celiacs.

However, I have never felt better. I started running because my joints felt so wonderful and had so much more energy. I have been able to come off three allergy medications for my allergies and asthma. I'm working on weaning myself off my final medication for asthma, because miraculously, it's going away. I hardly ever get headaches anymore. My TMJ is so much better. My stomach and digestive system are still healing, but are better than they've been since my childhood.

I think back again over the past week and how I was effected by whatever marinade is used on that chicken at Noodles and Company and wonder how in the world I did it for so long. l did continue leading a successful ministry and start doctoral work. I did continue to have friends and try to keep going to the gym and eating healthy. Sometimes we just let awfulness creep up on us until we think it's normal. It can be our health, our relationships, our jobs but we eventually begin believing that this is just the way things are. However, we should want more for our lives. It is critical to pay attention to your surroundings, to your friends concern, to your own body to know when something needs to change. We cannot be the people God intended us to be unless we are willing to make the changes we need in our lives. We must pay attention to ourselves. What is your body trying to tell you?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Women Around the World

I have been in Japan for the last two weeks. It's been a great trip but I am ready to get home. Having a gluten intolerance, I have eaten a lot of rice while I have been here. Sometimes, that's all I've been able to eat for a meal. People have been so kind though. Last night, a kind waitress worked hard to find something I could eat on the menu. I wound up with a bowl of warm rice with some egg strips, green onions and raw tuna. It was actually really good.

The women, especially in our area of Kobe, are beautiful! They looked like they have walked out of a fashion magazine. I don't know how they manage to keep their style in this heat or manage to walk around the city in the ridiculously high heals they often wear. They exude fabulousness.....

We had the opportunity last week to visit with some girls from a women's university. Darling, fun girls! They chose questions they wanted to ask us and many were about the roles of women in our country. There is a culture change happening in Japan and these young women are caught in it. These beautiful stylish, strong confident women are expected to leave work immediately once they have children. There is nothing wrong with choosing to stop working once you have children, but for these women it is different. For one, it is not a choice. Secondly, the family system here is such that the man works and the woman's world begins to revolve around taking care of the children, the house and the husband. Sometimes she is even unaware of what the husband does at work, who he works with and often will not see him during the work week.

Last night we were in a different area, the city of Osaka. We were there to offer English lessons to those coming and going on the trains. In this area, along with others in Japan, it is common for a team of men that dress nicely in suits and have stylish hair, to approach women about working as "waitresses" for them. For some, it may very well be a legitimate waitressing position, but for others it is not. These men just approach women and follow them through the station. Some men took the tactic of getting in the women's faces and harassing them. Others would walk along flirting and flattering the women. Personally, it made me angry.

I do not understand how women are treated so violently and demeaningly around the world. It happens in our own culture in America. Here the police know it is happening and do nothing to stop these men, just like most places around the world. I remember walking through the streets of a Muslim neighborhood in Belgium seeing a women trying to cover her face because she had been beaten by her husband. Her sad eyes were surrounded by bruising. Part of his right as a husband is that he could hit her any time he wanted, any time she did not please him.

This is part of what makes me stand in awe of women. Through the difficulties, women find ways to stand strong. Find ways to make relationships that give life meaning. In difficult circumstances they find ways to raise children with love. And often, they do it with their own flair........that is fabulousness. Find a way to encourage a special woman in your life today. Find a way to work against injustice to women.