The Trophy Husband
Diaries of the Pretty Little Celiac’s Husband
“Watch the cart” This is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Rebecca and her relationship with food. There are too many times to count when we would be speeding home from a night of eating out, screaming at me to go faster or she was going to “bleep her pants”. One time in particular, I had marks on my shoulder when she was grinding her nails into my shoulder as I was turning the corner, coming into our sub-division. We were forced to stop behind a car of an elderly couple who seem to be lost and to my dismay going under 10 miles per hour. I can’t even count how many times this happened. For a while, we would go to the grocery store immediately after eating out. Within 5 minutes of arrival, somewhere between the produce and bakery (rather ironically), she would eventually tell me to “watch the cart’, and she quickly walked to the restroom to ‘check out the facilities’. What was tough for me to understand was the relationship between what she was eating and her sometimes explosive reaction to the food. She would have what we thought was a very healthy dinner, chicken, veggies, whole wheat bread… explosion.. Then we would eat something that would be considered bad or greasy, like cheese fries or nachos loaded with cheese, and nothing. It was like trying to dodge land mines, but they were invisible or at least mis-labeled.
I Have Allergies too!
To give this some perspective,I have always had an allergy to nuts, more specifically, tree nuts. I have been to the emergency room about a dozen times in 30 years. If I have something with nuts in it, I have an immediate reaction. My reaction is much more severe than what Rebecca has with gluten. Certain nuts, if I ingest enough of them, will swell me up to the point where I will not be able to breathe, and die within minutes. Other nuts will give me hives so bad that I become almost unrecognizable. That being said, I find my allergy much more manageable than having celiac. Why? I pretty much know what food has nuts and what doesn’t. Nut allergies are well established in the manufacturing industry the labels on food are done in a way where there is no ambiguity, which I think has to do with the severity of the allergy. If someone eats a product that has nuts but it was not on the label, and dies, the lawyers come in. In the case of Gluten, if gluten is in a product and it says it is ‘Gluten Free’ and it irritates my stomach, it is pretty hard to sue for that. How could you prove it? I can’t even picture how that would play out in court!
In restaurants, it is very easy to find out what has nuts and what doesn’t, most of the time you can see them and there are well established foods that I know to stay away from.. IE Chinese (cooking in nut oils), desserts with walnuts, pecans , cashews…. For gluten, it’s not that straight forward, even to the most veteran celiac. We typically get looks of confusion if Rebecca asks if an item has gluten or not. Sometimes the quick response of “no’. That is even more concerning, since it is hard to determine if the waiter waitress is truly understanding the question. Lastly, the reaction to the gluten is not as automatic as the nut allergy. I am so sensitive to the nuts, I can of just smell them in the food and know. One bite (not even swallowing) and I immediately know. With gluten, sometimes it happens hours later or at times…days…so there is no immediate feedback. The gluten reaction can also be days in length, and can be one of many things for Rebecca. Mostly notably multiple trips to the bathroom. I know way more about her poop then I would ever care to admit.
More than that, it negatively affects her mood, her joints and at times our relationship. Damn you gluten!
Now that she has found out, initially there was a sense of relief. However, quickly a hard realization. Things that she loved to eat were slowly poisoning her. It has been tough. It is tough for me to find the correct way to support her in these struggles. I am a problem solver at work, however, in my experience with Rebecca, it is best to give her unconditional support and someone to listen to ,as opposed to offering any solutions. I don’t have to live with this condition, and I am learning along with her. I don’t have to live with the mistakes or mis-steps that happen along the way. The first few months she stuck to the four of five things she liked and could eat…but those would quickly come and go… Chipotle for a month, then Noodles and Company… then Annie’s Gluten free Mac and Cheese. Trips to gluten-free bakeries, gluten-free bagels, pizza.. some of it will disintegrate in your month… some of it was actually better than the gluten-free product, but you always pay 2x as much for it. We continue to find things we like, and don’t. Rebecca is very vocal either way.. no ambiguity.
How it affected me and my own weight struggles…
One unintended side effect of the discovery that Rebecca had gluten, was that it had positive effects on my health. To be supportive, and also because I didn’t want to make two different meals (yes, I am the cook in the house), I began eating mostly gluten-free. I have struggled with keeping my weight down, and in the past I combated that with working out more and eating less of the foods I really enjoy! I was smack dab in the middle of one of my most ambitious cycles to get in shape. I was working out, sometime 2x a day, and I was actually gaining weight. The I had started to eat the gluten-free diet, again, the reason of convenience and sanity. I first noticed more energy in the afternoon while I was at work.
Before this, energy from caffeine was the only way I could get through the afternoon. But after eliminating the majority of the gluten in my diet, I was feeling more energetic and didn’t feel I needed caffeine in the afternoons. I began to feel as if there was something to this. I have now embraced eating this way, as well as more small improvements, and have lost 27 pounds in 12 weeks. I am working out less than once a week and not counting calories! My body seems to respond better to not having gluten, and I have never felt better and more energetic.
How I am trying to help…
I listen, I empathize and I learn. As mentioned before, I was not familiar with Celiac disease and gluten. In fact, my knowledge of truly good nutrition was greatly out of date. I have spent the past 5 months researching nutrition and in particular how it affects us on a daily basis. There are great resources on the internet. I particularly like some podcasts I have found on iTunes (search the ‘Health’ category). I listen to these on my to work or when I have the time. Rebecca and I have listened to them on the way to and from some our trips and we have found information that is consistent with what she is experiencing. Cooking for Rebecca continues to be a learning experience. We are constantly trying to find ways to cook the foods we like in a gluten-free manner. Sometimes is works, sometime it doesn’t, and we have to eat the failures. I know immediately if Rebecca doesn’t like it, and we now have at least a few things we can eat consistently. For the most part, we don’t eat out, and when we do there are specific restaurants we target.
We continue to try to find ways to have a lifestyle that we both enjoy. We have had many ups and downs.. mentally, emotionally, physically.. those won’t stop, at least not in the short-term. We are doing it together, but we stumble. She has to live with her body and it’s crankiness, but I see it getting better, although some days there are setbacks. We now celebrate eating out and not getting sick, we celebrate finding a pizza crust that is close to what she used to experience. We celebrate normal bowl movements… yes I said it.
Rebecca started her blog to help people find those little celebrations, to dodge the pitfalls she has found, and to inspire those who have this disease. She is also are looking to collaborate and learn from those who are fighting to maintain a normal and happy life. One day at a time, one meal at a time, we will get there.