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18 August 2005

learning to love your food, fully

quiche without a crust, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

A car slammed into mine, right into my side. I’m lucky to be alive.

I’ve written about this before, many times before. In December of 2003, I survived a terrible car accident. Life spun me around, and I finished facing another way. Pain surged through me. I could barely walk. My back spasmed in time with my head.

So, two weeks later, I started a diet.


That entire time period is foggy in today’s mind, so I cannot tell you why I thought it the best plan of action to start The South Beach Diet for my stupid new year’s resolution. Everyone was doing it? I knew I wasn’t going to be doing much more than lying on my back in pain, so there went exercise. And of course, following a lifetime’s tradition of regarding food as my enemy, I panicked. I’m going to get fat.

Maybe I needed something to do. I don’t know. I wasn’t eating much anyway, and everyone had to make the food for me. But in my cracked-up, concussed head, I thought the best thing I could do for my body was to deprive it.


I’ve never been a skinny malink. I’ve never been a size two, or even a size six. And so, following in the tradition of everything I had been taught by the media and other girls my age, I perpetually worried that I should lose more weight. And some of those years, I was right. I used food as a defense, as a layer against the world, as a muffling of the loud noises in my mind. Emotional eating overwhelms many of us.

But so many other people have written about that. I don’t want to put any more words into the world about that. Especially because it’s no longer true for me.

For the past five years, I’ve been eating well—olive oil; ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day; nothing fried, everything whole—with the occasional exception. Except I couldn’t lose weight. I was doing everything they say to do, and it just wouldn’t come off. I went to a fancy-schmancy gym and lifted weights, took African dance, worked out six days a week for an hour a day, and the needle on the scale barely moved. I had surgery in January of 2003, which left me constantly enervated. I think now that’s when the celiac set in. Apparently, it can lie dormant for years, silently affecting us, but a trauma to the body of some kind can kick it into action. Like abdominal surgery. At the end of 2003, the terrible car accident—that was a peach of a year. That made the celiac worse. I just couldn’t shake my exhaustion, my headaches, my lingering joint pain. Exercise was right out. And so I slipped even further into the fear of food. It seemed it was always chasing me. No longer a comfort, food threatened me.

Most Americans seem to regard food as an enemy. At Weight Watchers, people talk about “trigger foods,” the ones that open up the doors to the cavernous hole below and they just fall in and eat to fill themselves up. Is food a shotgun, threatening to shoot them? Others eliminate entire food groups, as though they are little blue meanies ready to attack with pointy knives. People talk about carbohydrates as though they are the devil.

Well, for me, some carbohydrates are. Wheat, rye, barley, triticale, spelt.....

I have this theory. I think the reason all these no-carb/.low-carb diets have been so popular is because undiagnosed celiacs tried them and felt mysteriously better. They didn’t know why, but they just felt lighter. More awake. And so they stayed with these rigid programs (and in the case of Atkins, I’m sorry, stupid programs), thinking that was the cause of peace. Instead, it’s the gluten. Or lack thereof.

I did feel a bit better on the South Beach. I think. I barely remember. But I do remember that it was easy to follow. I needed everything written out for me those days. And it called for no processed foods and no grains the first two weeks. Without knowing it, I was cutting out gluten. I lost weight, I started to feel a release from the headaches.

But I couldn’t stick with it for too long. The worst moment was the night I could only walk on my hands and knees because of the sciatica pain, and the pain pills were hurting my stomach so much that I threw up for only the third time in my life. And I had no other choice but to eat some saltines crackers for dinner that night, because it was the only thing I could keep down. But in the back of my head, I was thinking, “But I’m on the South Beach diet! I’m not supposed to be eating carbohydrates!”

That was it. I realized what I was doing to myself. I went back to eating macaroni and cheese and processed foods. And the pain grew worse, and my headaches persisted, and I spent a year and a half in a pain-wracked body, just wishing for some energy.

Fast forward to now. Four months without eating gluten, and I already feel better than ever in my life. Finally, finally, I have the boundless happy feeling of exercise. Biking the Burke-Gilman trail, bouncing in the pool, gliding along Lake Union in a kayak, rollerblading Greenlake, walking in my neighborhood at night, regular yoga classes—I’m doing two of them a day. At least. Turns out it was the gluten that kept me laying on the couch every afternoon, wanting to be well but not having the energy for it.

And my body is changing. I’m not eating any less. In fact, I’m sampling all the foods I’m making for this blog, and I’m not scrimping. If it’s gluten-free, I’m trying it. But in spite of that, the weight I’ve carried around all my life is starting to fall off me, without me trying. Why?

Well, more and more research is showing that the traditional definition of celiac disease is far too narrow. Traditionally, you could only be a celiac if you had trrible diarrhea and couldn’t put on weight. But now, studies are showing that some celiacs can’t lose weight. No matter how hard they work or try to diet, the weight just stays on. It’s a function of the damaged small intestine, the way that body reacts to gluten. The way my body reacts to gluten.

Hm. Yet another blessing. Losing weight without trying.

But I think it’s something deeper than that for me. You’d think that more than ever, I’d regard food as a poison. With all this hidden gluten, you’d think I’d suspect every morsel of being a potential assassin. But I don’t. In fact, it’s the other way around now. Because good food, gluten-free, is the only way to heal myself. Food is the only cure. I love that. And now, more than ever, I know the old adage is true: I am what I eat.

And now, I only want to fill myself with goodness.

I love great food, food I’ve prepared myself with the best ingredients. Food I can feed to my friends and they will love it, and somehow the laughter ringing in our ears is part of the taste of it. Food I can photograph and write about, and share it with you.

When food is an elixir, a joyfulness, a sensory pleasure—and especially when it’s the path to health—I don’t eat too much of it. I taste it, fully. And then I’m full, quickly.

Befriend your food. Accept it. And watch it change your life.


There's not much of the South Beach diet I follow rigorously anymore. But I found the book on the floor of my laundry room, in the pile of give-aways I'm taking to Value Village. And I remembered this recipe for quiche cups with egg whites.

In the endless quest for an interesting breakfast, this one isn't bad. I changed their recipe around a bit to make more taste, and the proportions are mine. So call it a blend.

one 16 oz package of egg whites, gluten-free of course
sauteed vegetables, whatever appeals to you
sea salt
cheese of your choice

* So I sauteed some zucchini, wilted spinach, soft green peppers, even softer tomotoes, and some jalapeno peppers I had sitting on the counter. This recipe is great for the vegetables you should have used but haven't yet. They don't have to be pretty. Make sure to use great olive oil and sea salt.

* Pour the vegetables into a bowl, and add as much good cheese as you want. Last night, I added about 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add the egg whites.

* Ladle portions of this goopy mess into a muffin pan. (For those of you who are celiacs, you have to buy new baking supplies after the diagnosis. You don't want residual flour in this.)

* Cook at 425 degrees for about half an hour, until the quiche muffins are puffy and crusty.

They'll store in the refrigerator for days. A fast breakfast for those squeezed mornings.


At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna, I am so close to crying right now. I am a skinny malink, but I hate food, making food, even thinking about food. I am no anorexic; my brothers and I are all built the same: wiry, muscular. I ahve just never enjoyed food. They say most people eat a lot when depressed, I can't eat at all when I'm down. To read about being a place where you love your food, and you fill yourself with just good food. I envy you; I woudl so love to be where you are, but for all that I know that Point B is there somewhere, I am so mired on A, and I can't even imagine what the path between the two could be like.

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


I understand. I really do. I've been at point A most of my life, except for bursts of intense sensory pleasures that make me feel guilty afterwards.

It's so much better over here, though.

You must come over for dinner sometime soon. I'll cook for you and we'll laugh while eating. Okay?

At 6:28 AM, Blogger Freckle Face Girl said...

That was such an inspirational story. You have been through a lot. Unfortunately, I think most of us have a love-hate relationship with food (at least I do). It is nice to hear that there is a way to break free from that. Thanks!

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about tuesday, before the meeting? Emailing you.


At 11:42 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


Thanks for commenting. I really do think that everything in the world is about love, not hate. Including food. (I'm trying to learn to love lima beans, even...)

At 10:49 PM, Blogger Niki said...

So much of this resonated with me. I've always been not skinny. Not fat, but definiely not slender, and when I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome a few months ago, it suddenly made sense why I found it so easy to put on weight and so difficult to lose it. PCOS sufferers are generally insulin sensitive or resistant, which means we put on weight as soon as we eat carbohydrates. Like you, I came to the conclusion that the low-carb thing worked for so many people bc there are so many women out there with polycystic ovaries (25% of the population. Although only 8% have the sydrome).
I know that by cutting my carb intake I feel so much better and the weight is coming off without having to do much besides eating lots of meat & veggies and doing some walking. I definitely eat well; in fact, better and more thoughtfully than I used to pre-diagnosis.
Just today I had to grab a foccacia for lunch, and you would not believe how badly my body is reaction to this influx of carbsl I feel the post-lunch sluggishness and need for sweet, sugary snacks that I used to have all the time.
It's amazing how much your hormones can affect your life, as I'm discovering by having to live with this life-long no-cure syndrome.

At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I found your website! I've suffered for years trying to lose weight to no avail and have actually done a gluten free diet for a while but could never find anything to back up the weight gain with gluten sensitivities so I thought I must have been mistaken. I'm willing to do a lifetime of the gluten free diet to feel better and look better!

At 5:22 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I think you should spread your theory US wide! I too went on the Atkins diet around 4 years ago, and felt fabulous. Of course I eventually went off the diet. 2 years later, I was diagnosed with Celiac.

ps... i love your recipes. Thank you.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Samaber said...


My diagnosis went the same way! I had been working out constantly and practically starving myself, and I wasn't losing a pound. I was exhausted, had terrible headaches, and the cramps from my endometriosis were so painful I spent days curled up in a ball! Then I was doing research on a site for endometriosis-sufferers, and I found out that many people found they felt better after finding out they had celiac disease. I tested negative for the blood test, but by the time I got the results, I had already given it up and felt a million times better. And I never looked back!

At 8:39 AM, Blogger ~M said...

Hi Shauna,

How many muffin quiches does this recipe make? Also, would it still work without any dairy (cheese)?


At 10:33 PM, Blogger Crystal said...

Shauna, this is the first time I've ever heard of a celiac/weight retention connection... I realize this is an older post...I can't believe I've missed it for so long.
I've been so sure these last three years that I couldn't POSSIBLY have celiac, just an intolerance, since I'm a little pudgy, and always have been.
Time for the test. Thank you for the wake-up call.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Diva Secrets said...

oh my gosh! i have had the same experiences! i have tried every diet and always failed miserably! all my diets ended with a binge and sickness. i have been anorexic a few times and i always felt so great when i wasn't eating anything... turns out i have celiacs! my headaches, sleepiness and nausea is gone!

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Katerina said...

Thank you so much for writing what you write. I also got a trigger that brought celiac. It was a bad food poisoning that lasted a good 3 days. I was musdiagnosed for a year after a coloniscopy as IBS and my doctor told me that i was young and just to live my life. Unfortunately i couldnt do that since i always felt horrible (extreme bloating, extreme fatigue, diziness all the time, neck pains, unable to lose weight etc.) in fact my doctor didnt want to test me for celiac cause i wasnt skinny. After a year though, i diagnosed myself with celiac. I did blood tests three days ago and then completely stopped eating gluten. I didnt even get the results back but i know that i have celiac. I have never felt so much better in my life. I enjoy my food, my tummy is flat (yaayy clothes fits again!!!!), and im losing weight! I know my intestine is still healing and it does slightly bloat when i eat but ill be patient with him:) after all, this is mych easier than i ever imagined:) thanks again!!!!

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I am so happy to have found this site. Nine years ago I was told that I had a digestive problem, but was never told what to do about it. I was 26 at the time, over the years I have suffered with terrible stomach pain after eating as well as bloating. I recently stopped the gluten and have become serious about clean eating and the feeling is fantastic. I can now recognize what bothers me. .. I was a pasta junky being raised on it , it became the easiest to eat ! Now it's protein, veggies and fruit. Fresh is the way to go. Thanks for your incentive to keep it going. I feel great! Jane:)

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Megan said...

Megan- in response to your posts-

Women with endometriosis are 2x as likely to have celiac disease compared to the general population. However, 80% of women with endo are allergic to wheat. You only need to be careful of this distinction when in Europe as they remove the gluten from wheat products or when drinking certain vodkas or spirits distilled from wheat.

In addition, women with either of these conditions are susceptible to Candida –Complex, basically an overgrowth of yeast in your system due to the endocrine and/or immune disorder. So you may not be able to lose weight until you get the candida under control- at least that was the case with me. Candida is difficult, you have to give up all forms of sugar among other things and take anti-fungal tx but it is well worth the effort. I obviously had all 3 and am nearing the end of my candida treatment and I have never felt better in my entire life! So you may want to try a candida cleanse and diet.

Good luck

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna,

I just found your blog while searching for gluten-free websites. I have been recently diagnosed and it has actually been the best thing that ever happened to me. I have never felt better in my life and can (finally) pinpoint the cause of my nausea, bloating and stomach pains. I have quickly shed the weight around my middle. I absolutely LOVE food - and I love to hear that you do too. Most of the websites I've found are people complaining about how hard this is - if this is what it takes for me to feel better, I'll never complain again. Thanks for looking on the bright side!

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so happy to find this site! I have had numbness and tingling on my right side, starting on my left now. Following an mri of my brain, white spots were found all over my frontal lobes. Its not like MS, and I discovered celiac disease may cause them. I've suffered my whole life with "nervous stomach", bloating, gas,gerd,diarrhea/constipation, headaches.I had bloodwork last wk. Does anyone else have neurological problems?

At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh these are sooo good! I just made them and they came out perfect and moist! Thanks so much for the fantastic recipe! My non-gluten family loves them!

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna - My sister just recommended your website to me a couple of days ago and although I haven't had a chance to dig around too much, I find it funny that I stumbled upon your story about The South Beach Diet. I had been very successful in losing weight on that diet almost two years ago now, only to gain it all back. I decided to start the diet again about two months ago and have found myself not feeling as good as I remembered. Well... I've had other issues that have led me to wonder if I have a gluten allergy/intolerance, or even celiac's, and i'm getting tested today!!!! It was probably a clue that i should get tested when everyone in my family tested positive for it though. I like your site so far... your passion is obvious!

At 7:34 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I know this blog was written a few years ago but I just came across it. I was diagnosed with celiac disease a few weeks ago and it really frustrates me! Your story inspired me! Since I was diagnosed I have been having benging episodes bc I do not feel full after I ate my salad(which is my go-to) and bc of the benging I have my ups and downs about how I am feeling and have gained about 2 pounds! Yuck. Do you have any advise for me? I am setting up an appt with a nutritionalist bc imy body can not breakdown purine which is found in meat and other food products. Thanks..

At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Cassie said...

I LOVE this blog article. you are soo inspirational. mys story is pretty similar with just a few changes. When I hit puberty at the age of 12/13 I went from being the wiry, so skinny you could see the outline of my ribs even though i ate all the time, ballerina to being the chunky heavy girl who's eating habits had DRASTICALLY improved, exercise had improved but continued to gain weight with no hope of losing it. I gained over 96 lbs in 1 year as a sixth grader. My peditrician saw absolutely nothing wrong with this. Then fastforward to Aug 2005 the day before my junior year in high school starts. I am driving to work and had a horrific car wreck completely totaling my car and landing me in the ER with luckily nothing too seriously injured. I raised up from the bed and my pillow was covered with hair (not one or two strands, you couldn't see the pillow from how much hair was left on it. My pediatrician then blamed it on behavioral...and said i was pulling my own hair out. This wasn't true so we went in search of a new doctor. 5 doctors later I have now been diagnosed with PCOS and a "gluten sensitivity that is most likely Celiac". After having been on the Gluten free diet since late June 2010 I've now lost 22 lbs without trying (50 more to go til my goal weight!), have not had a single menstrual migraine, my insulin and cycles have both leveled out and I feel wonderful. It has been completely life changing. :-)


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