Gabriela Leskur | Wednesday, October 14, 2015
I am a dairy-intolerant cheese connoisseur. I am a gluten-intolerant pasta aficionado. I am accidentally Paleo. This is my story.
Anyone who knows me would probably tell you about my love of cheese. They’d say, “Oh, yes. I know Gabriela. She’s pretty cool. And she loves cheese.” As an example of my cheese devotion, I give this anecdote: I oft would be caught purchasing a bag of cheddar cheese cubes from the Huddle Mart and devouring the entirety of the bag before the day’s end. Also, random and what I thought was an unrelated fact, I oft felt terribly nauseous.
Don’t ask me how I got through almost a full 21 years of life not connecting the dots and doing the math. Cheese equals sick. Pasta equals sick. Pasta and cheese equals double sick.
Feeling unwell after eating was the norm for me since at least high school. I remember in the afternoons, leaving my choir class and heading to the nurse’s office due to overwhelming nausea. But I explained it away due to antibiotics I was taking or stress or the flu or etc. Then, my freshman year at Notre Dame, I understood true pain when I ate North Dining Hall pasta stir fry for almost every meal. Within 10 minutes of eating, I would feel light-headed and would need to lie down. An avid napper, I began to accept this as my pre-nap ritual, not fully comprehending that I was harming my body. It seems by brain cells were being used elsewhere.
Eventually, I learned to lay off the pasta stir fry, but the problem didn’t go away fully. It got to a point last year where I felt so sick after eating, I stopped going to the dining hall. I almost stopped eating all together.
It was only after this most recent period that I realized that all the way I was feeling wasn’t normal and shouldn’t be a norm for anyone.
An appointment at a Functional Medicine Institute and a few test results later, it seemed as if the problem and solution were simple. Problem equals dairy and gluten. Solution equals don’t eat dairy and gluten.
And that, my dear friends, is how I became accidentally Paleo (and by Paleo, I mean the Paleo diet, which is restricted only to foods early humans would have eaten — so no grain or dairy).
As I arrived on-campus for RA training this August, I began to make my transition to a dairy-free, gluten-free life. I wasn’t too intimidated by the transition, but I found soon enough that eating this way could be difficult. The RA training meals were pre-made and often included very few items that were both gluten and dairy free. I found myself forced into eating salad for at least one, sometime two, meals a day. This became frustrating.
But being accidentally Paleo hasn’t been all bad.
Since becoming gluten and dairy free, a few positive surprises have popped up along the way. First, friends have become very protective of me and my ability to eat. If a restaurant or meal don’t have anything I can eat, friends come to my rescue, offering up alternatives or standing up to a chef on my behalf. Second, Notre Dame’s dining halls are more gluten and dairy free friendly than I thought. Fresh vegetables, potatoes, rice, and meat await me every day. Additionally, the Huddle Mart is stocked with awesome snacks that I can eat without feeling sick.
All in all, though I miss cheese and bread and cheesy bread, I’m happy to go most days without the urge to vomit. My life is no longer a love story between me and cheese, but it is my story nonetheless.