Finding the right way to make a big change makes all the difference.
A year and a half ago, Vicki Paynter, of Leedburg, faced every day with the depressing thought that she was going to feel bad today.
“I was trying to lose weight but couldn’t, and I felt puffy and bloated. I had joint pain, shortness of breath, and even jaw pain,” she says. “My tongue was swollen and along with chronic sinus problems, I had sore throats a lot. I had headaches every day, and if I sat down for a while, I’d fall asleep, and when I got up I was stiff.”
Vicki, who is 49, says, “I was feeling old, and I thought all of this was just part of getting old.”
Making the decision to see if there was a medical reason for these problems was a turning point for Vicki. After having a series of specific blood tests, Vicki discovered she had significant food allergies, including a severe intolerance for gluten and allergy to turkey and pecans.
As a bread lover, this diagnosis added to Vicki’s depression for a while.
“But I realized the reason I was having all these problems was because my body was inflamed. That’s why my joints ached, and I had headaches every day,” Vicki says.
However, it wasn’t easy for her to change lifetime eating habits.
“In the beginning, it was awful. I loved bread, and I was in mourning. I was angry because I couldn’t eat bread, crackers, or anything with gluten in it,” Vicki says. “But as I continued to avoid these foods, I realized I was feeling better, and that was my incentive to keep doing it.”
Along with breads, crackers, and couscous, gluten is often found in soups, cold cuts, ketchup, salad dressings, and a variety of other products, including beer. Vicki also studied foods that cause inflammation in the body and removed them from her diet. These include sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, and processed meats.
“I worked hard at replacing the things that were bad for me with things that are good for me and that I like,” Vicki says. “I didn’t even try the gluten-free breads or crackers because I felt it gave me too much temptation to go back to the real thing. For me, it wasn’t worth the calories and temptation. You still want it, but you can’t have it.”
Now, Vicki’s diet is primarily organic, clean foods. She no longer eats processed or canned foods. She enjoys salmon salad and is eating as plain and pure, and as “close to the earth,” as possible. She went one step further by removing all dairy products from her diet.
In the beginning, Vicki says much of her time was taken with food preparation. She wanted to be sure her meals were not only tasty but attractive so she’d enjoy them when she sat down to eat. Sitting down to a nice meal soothed her anger and helped her enjoy what she was eating.
“But that changed. I work five days a week, and I spend time with my kids on the weekends. I didn’t want all my time to be spent thinking about food,” she says. “I found a way that works for me. I do a lot of snacking. I keep soup handy and I drink coconut milk.”
Vicki also noticed something else after carefully following her new food plan for a while: the gluten had been affecting her brain.
“I knew I needed to increase my protein, and I hated bacon. I know nobody ever says that, but I didn’t like bacon,” she says with a laugh. “But it’s easy to fix and I can eat it on the run. It provides the protein and the crunch I love.”
Vicki prepares most of her protein meals in her air fryer. “I can throw stuff in my air fryer and by the time I’m ready to go, my snack is ready to go, too.”
After 18 months of eating a new way, Vicki feels like a new person. “I’m so happy not to feel old anymore. It gives you so much hope for the future and the quality of your life, “ she says. “I don’t even notice that I don’t have those other foods now because I feel so much better.”
Where she used to come home and sit in a chair and sleep after work, she now stops on the way home for her yoga class and then goes home and stays busy, seldom sitting down.
“My energy level has increased so much, I feel I’m energized all day long.”
Leigh Neely began her writing career with a weekly newspaper in the Florida panhandle, where she not only did the writing, but delivered the papers to the post office and dispensers. She has been writing ever since for a variety of newspapers and magazines from New Jersey to Leesburg. With her writing partner, Jan Powell, Leigh has published two novels as Neely Powell.
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