© 2013 jen

Fit-tastic Update: Health – The Choose Your Own Adventure Book


Why all the hats? I thought it seemed fitting for a Choose Your Own Adventure Story
+ my hair looks terrible this morning and my shirt has stains on it,
so I thought the hats would help bring some pizzazz to this story.

Six months ago I was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  I never really had an upset stomach, although my stomach didn’t always feel right – it wasn’t cramping, or behaving in ways that made it seem obvious that I was reacting to something. I didn’t experience pain in my stomach.

I had other symptoms that are referred to as delayed allergy symptoms. Celiac disease is actually an intolerance, not an allergy, but it’s the same idea – there can be a delay between the thing you eat and the reaction you have, which is really the most challenging type of food issue to identify, because it’s so not obvious.

For me, because I ate wheat all the time, for almost every meal, I was in a constant state of reaction and couldn’t decipher what was normal and what was a reaction.

Here were the areas where I was most affected by my undiagnosed Celiac disease:

  1. Mood – I struggled with anxiety and depression over the years. I also had anger issues that were related to eating foods that were poisonous to me.  Sometimes I would also get really spacey and even confused without knowing why.
  2. Breathing – I had chronic asthma all the time and bronchitis whenever I was sick.
  3. Body Awareness – It affected my coordination and ambulation. I used to feel like gravity was against me. Now I feel like I’m a puppet with strings that suspend me in air. Everything physical has an effortlessness to it now.
  4. PMS and lady times – I had terrible PMS. Terrible cramps. To the point that I was bedridden at least once a month to cope with all the pain I felt. Gone!
  5. Gastrointestinal – The only symptom I had from this category was occasional constipation, up until the end.  Right before I was diagnosed, I started finding blood in my stool, which is what led me to finding out I had Celiac disease.
  6. Arthritis – I used to have lots of joint issues – knees, shoulder and hips. I had mild arthritis in my knees and probably would have ended up with it in other areas, but I changed my story and now I don’t have any of these issues anymore.

None of these things happened directly after I ate gluten. They happened randomly and mostly constantly, but now that so much time has passed I see that there were tiny clues that I could have questioned more, but I didn’t. I didn’t know I should question them.

This is why I’m writing this post today, so that if people are reading this and struggling in their own ways, they might be able to find themselves in my story.


Today, when I reflect back on times when I was in a bad mood, or when I was really, really stressed out, most of the time I can find my way back to gluten. Again, it NEVER happened directly after eating, but there were signs – I just didn’t know how to look for them.

My own life story has taken on a surprise ending that I didn’t see coming (OK, maybe ending isn’t the right word, but you know what I mean, when a plot line takes you to a whole different place that you didn’t expect – that is my life).

I was always someone who had a bit of a temper and at times it was really bad. One of the things that my family and friends who’ve known me for years have commented on is that I’m so calm now. It’s pretty unusual for my emotions to get the better of me these days. I can still get teary in a moment, but anger isn’t a strong feeling in me anymore.

If you think about it, imagine eating foods that are poisonous to you, toxic to your cells and polluting you from the inside out. How would that make you feel? I had chronic inflammation and disease in my body for most of my life.

That’s an angry, angry situation.

I’ll give you an example of the type of angry moment I used to have – maybe a handful of times a year. One time I was selling skirts with my friend Jocelyn. That morning I’d had biscuits and gravy, which was one of my favorite breakfast options. I felt great while eating it and afterwards too. Satisfied and full. I still think of biscuits and gravy fondly even though I know it’s poison to me.

On this day it was very hot out. I didn’t bring enough water with me and I also had a tooth situation going on – a temporary cap thingy that made my tooth very sensitive to cold temperatures, so I drank very little water that day.

I sat out in the sun for the first part of the day and started to feel a bit weird. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I felt agitated. I felt confused. I felt really weak and more than anything I felt profoundly annoyed by the world. This anger was bubbling up and making me feel rageful.

Jocelyn showed up half way through the day and we got into a spat about something and I snapped at her and she was like, “Woah! What’s going on with you?” I remember thinking I needed to go home because I felt so angry and run down. I felt like I needed to hide from people and like I REALLY, REALLY needed a break, but my need to be responsible overrode my need to go home, so I stayed.

By the end of the day I felt so confused and weak I had a hard time doing basic things. I remember at one point, I was driving home and I couldn’t figure out how to work my air conditioner in my car – the car I’ve owned for 10 years.  I’d never had a hard time operating my AC before.

I decided that whole situation was related to very extreme heat exhaustion, but now I know it was the gluten that made me do it and the heat, I’m sure, added to my problems.

I also used to be a ruminator.  When I got frustrated about something it was almost impossible for me to get rid of those feelings without seriously working through the problems. It would take hours, days, weeks and sometimes years for me to get over things. I don’t even connect with that type of rigidity anymore.

So more and more, my life feels like it’s becoming a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Remember when you were a kid and you’d get one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books? You’d read it through to the end with one outcome and then you’d read it again with another, just to see if the other outcome was better?

This is my life.

I was living one life, which was mostly pretty great, but I had some weird health issues – both in my mind and body that I couldn’t explain. I read that book and when I got to the end – where the protagonist was a sickly person – it wasn’t turning out the way I wanted it to. There was so much more sickness in that story and I’ve had enough of sickness.

Now, I’m re-reading my own story.

Looking at the dots that were spaced far apart.

Reading between the lines of my own story and

seeing myself clearly for the first time.

In this new version of my Choose Your Own Adventure story I’m no longer sickly. My mood is steady and even. Yes, there are still highs and lows – like a normal person – but nothing like it used to be. In this new version I rarely have cramps or PMS. I don’t have asthma or arthritis and I’m more coordinated than I ever thought possible. Now, I’m not someone who holds on to much of anything, including possessions. I don’t desire holding on to much of anything anymore – mentally or physically.

The choices I’m making now are related to health: eating better, exercising and making sure I have enough time alone to be the best version of myself. Strangely, I used to never crave time to myself, and now I crave it all the time. How will I ever accomplish all the things I want to do and learn if I’m not alone to plan and practice them? I NEED a lot of alone time.

In this new “read” of my Choose Your Own Adventure story, I don’t have all the answers and I cannot predict the outcome, but I can see the protagonist in a new way. This time the lead character knows what her health baseline looks like. This is a character who doesn’t stand for sickness.

She’s a crusader for health and what the hell?

I never saw this coming! What a surprise ending!

photo copy

Now obviously there will be sequels to this story. It’s not really over. I’m still on my health journey.

I’ve learned so much and the more I learn the more I realize I still have to learn. Life is funny that way.

Just like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, I know there are new choices just a couple of pages away and I can stay on this path or find a new one.

As I head into the the sequel of my story, with two full rich stories under my belt, I know that this time I will have a much more open mind to myself, to others and to life – because there’s always another story just a few pages away and it’s not healthy to fixate on one page of the story.

I thought I knew me with my old story, before, when I was sick. I thought I knew a lot of things and in truth, I did know a lot, but there were some big holes in my knowledge and all of them were happening inside of my body – mostly without my knowledge.

But that is no longer my story or part of the choices I’m making. I’ve chosen a better ending for my life adventure and it’s one that I’ll keep striving for in future books.

How about you? How’s your Choose Your Own Adventure story going? If it’s not all you hoped it would be, just remember there are choices just a couple of pages or lines ahead. It’s not too late to choose a new story if you’re tired of the old one and if the old one is working for you, hooray! Keep on keepin’ on.

PS. I forgot to do an update on my weight, which is 190 lbs still. I’m exercising like crazy and feeling healthier STILL by the week.




  1. Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm | #

    Wow – Your symptoms could be mine. The anger & depression – not being able to get over stuff (I’ve always just thought this was a trait of being a Capricorn), the asthma & bronchitis, the lady stuff. And clumsy? Don’t even get me started. A few years ago I started getting flustered and having panic attacks – where the hell did that come from? Hmmmm. I would never in a million years think I had an allergy. I might have to look into this.

    I love that you are sharing all your discoveries, your growth, your changes, your progress. And I love that you are willing to admit you have stains on your shirt :)

    • Posted April 13, 2013 at 4:53 pm | #

      Coral – I’m so glad you read this post. It may or may not be Celiac disease, but if you have all or most of these symptoms, it’s very likely that you have food allergies or intolerances. Get tested for sure and then if you’re up to it do an elimination diet. That is the best way to figure out if you’re responding negatively to the foods you’re eating. Lots of luck!