Going 'Free From': Is It For You?
As we become more aware of our bodies and what does and doesn't work for us, more and more people are choosing to go 'free-from'. There's a whole new market with both dairy-free and gluten-free options set to explode as 'clean eating' continues to sweep the nation. Two of our Brighton Girls recently went 'free-from' with very different experiences.
The Wee Food Blogger
I quit smoking in January and started a food blog in February. I felt frumpy and out of sorts with myself. Instead of just complaining, I decided to take action and launched myself into the Whole30 diet.
In short, you’re only allowed ‘whole foods’ for 30 days - meat and vegetables - and must eliminate everything else. Thankfully, I was still allowed chicken, bacon and eggs! The first few days were a real struggle, as I felt so hungry all the time. After a week, I had a routine in place, and began preparing my meals and planning what to have in advance.
My meals themselves became more creative and I continued to cook for myself and others, just leaving out the ‘naughty’ things from mine. The results were worth it. Not only did I lose the extra weight I had put on, but my skin was radiant, my nails were super strong, my hair felt better and I stopped falling asleep on the sofa every evening.
Since finishing, I haven’t kept to all of it but it has certainly made me question what I put in my body in terms of processed food and how my body deals with these. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always love chicken dippers - I just try to have them a little less often now! All in all, I feel all the better for cutting out dairy from my daily diet.
It was shocking to see just how often supermarkets and restaurants put preservatives and chemicals into the food we eat day in day out without question. I now check the labels of things and if there are too many ingredients I can’t pronounce, I put it back. I am definitely an advocate of ‘everything in moderation’. It’s all about finding out what works for our own bodies.
At 21, I suddenly began having bouts of crippling stomach cramps where I’d be unable to move or eat. Suspecting that it could be linked to my diet, my GP suggested I try an elimination diet, where you eliminate common intolerance foods for 3-4 weeks then gradually reintroduce them while monitoring your body’s reaction. I really didn’t have much of a choice, so I gave up (deep breath): gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, pork, beef, chicken, beans, lentils, coffee, citrus, nuts and ‘nightshade vegetables’ (mildly threatening term for tomatoes, aubergines, etc.).
It really wasn’t easy. I ended up eating so many rice-based products, I nearly vowed never to touch the stuff again. I discovered that while buckwheat flakes may look like oats, the ‘porridge’ they make is possibly one of the worst things I have ever eaten!
My stomach cramps did ease up, but I was also really lethargic – most likely because I couldn’t eat my usual proteins. I also began to feel really isolated, always having to pass up on invitations to lunch or drinks with friends.
Like the wee food blogger, I definitely felt inspired to become a more creative cook. Did you know that if you mix those god-awful buckwheat flakes with banana, coconut flakes, cinnamon and coconut oil you can make a passable granola? Not that I’d recommend it though – I still spent my days fantasising about cooking ratatouille and drinking lemonade.
After three weeks, I caved, paid for some private tests to find the source of the cramps and found out that I was lactose intolerant. Go figure! I celebrated with a massive peanut butter sandwich and dropped the diet immediately.
Looking back, I learnt a lot about myself and my eating habits. If it had been a choice, like it was for the wee food blogger, I do wonder whether I could have embraced the experience a little more. Then again, there’s definitely a lot to be said about everything in moderation.
Except milk. I stay away from milk.
Have you had to or chosen to go ‘free-from’? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments (or you can tweet us at @BrightonGirlMag).
Written by The Wee Food Blogger and Cara Ghoshal.