On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, I weighed 203 pounds.
On August 5, 2011, I weighed 142 pounds.
World’s best diet, or something else? As a kid, I went through the same bike phases as everyone else I knew. I had kids bikes, then a few hand-me-down BMX bikes, then a road bike, then a ‘hybrid’ bike–a slew of non-memorable rides from non-memorable manufacturers. Shortly after college, I bought an aluminum, full-suspension 26″ mountain bike from Target–and I distinctly remember the chainstay-mounted sticker that read “Shimano Equipped.” While I’m not usually very prone to marketing efforts of that nature, for whatever reason, I saw “Shimano Equipped” as a sign of quality, and bought the bike, intending to start cycling recreationally. The 40 pound, spongy department store bike did not trigger a flurry of cycling passion, however, and soon enough thereafter, it was sold on Craigslist. The upside: I sold it for more than I paid for it. The downside: my foray into cycling was over for a few years.
In the fall of 2009, I bought a Trek Fuel EX 5.5 (aluminum, full-suspension 26″ mountain bike). It too was Shimano equipped, although it didn’t proclaim the same on the chainstay. For an entry level full-suspension mountain bike, it taught me worlds about riding, and ignited a passion to start riding again. Over time, I’ll provide a more complete chronology of bike riding, but to shorten this introductory post, suffice it to say that I started riding in earnest in 2010, and came to find a local bike shop that I now know and love. When I weighed myself that Thanksgiving Day, I was really, really disappointed by the weight I had put on. A combination of work stress, raising the world’s most beautiful little girl, a slowing metabolism associated with the early 30s, and a diet that hadn’t changed since my teenage years was to blame. And so I decided to change my exercise, my eating, and my state of physical health. With more intensive riding and exercise, coupled with dietary changes, the weight started flying off.
Into the Spring of 2011, I was still losing weight with alacrity. I joined the weekly group road ride at my preferred LBS, and grew faster and faster. Weight continued falling off, strength was building, and all was well with the world. But in mid-Summer, 2011, something strange started happening. I was at a weight I was happy with, but I couldn’t maintain it–I kept losing weight no matter what I ate. And my burgeoning strength and cycling stamina started reversing itself–riding at a pace that was comfortable in July was simply not possible by the end of August. This weight and stamina loss was coupled with some relatively significant digestive distress. I’ll spare the gory details, but suffice it to say that whatever was going in my body was coming out relatively quickly. I went to my regular doctor and to a GI specialist. They did blood tests, scoped my GI tract, and did a significant amount of hand-wringing. At the conclusion of the hand wringing, they told me that my issues were due to stress, and I needed to manage stress better. I was suffering from extreme anemia (scientific sidenote: normal hemoglobin levels for men are at least 13.5 grams/100ml, and in September, 2011, my hemoglobin was 3.9grams/100ml). The doctors put me on iron supplements and told me that if I didn’t get the anemia under control, we would need to take more extreme measures. Of course eating a big load of iron didn’t control the issue–it just pushed my stomach further into distress. I would go on a long ride and then ‘refuel’ with a big load of pasta covered in cheese and then drink a beer or two. On rides, I was eating carbohydrate bars and after rides, I was having a wheat protein shake. Even still, I couldn’t maintain weight.
I’m lucky enough to have a very wonderful, supportive wife who was going crazy worrying about these issues. She happened to discuss it with her chiropractor–who immediately asked if I had been tested for any food allergies. I had not, and no one had ever asked about it. As it turns out, I have a gluten allergy and a dairy allergy that have developed in adulthood. All of that beer, cheese and pasta I was consuming? All of the gluten-based carbohydrate bars and wheat protein shakes? Those were the worst things I could be doing. The good news? After adopting a gluten and dairy free diet, my health has improved markedly. My hemoglobin levels are now within normal limits, without any supplements. My weight is relatively stable. My energy and stamina are returning. And everything is being done without any medication. So an offhand comment by my wife’s chiropractor turned out to be the breakthrough I needed to find out why I was ill. It is terribly, terribly frustrating to contemplate this and wonder why my doctors never raised this as a possibility–my symptoms read like a gluten allergy textbook.
Finding dairy and gluten free meals can be challenging. My work schedule is such that I have to eat out. A lot. Part of what you will be reading about on here is practical discussions of life as a celiac. And part of what you will be reading about will be reviews of cycling and outdoor gear, and some hopefully epic rides. Riding against the grain is about life without gluten, and about biking outside of convention. Now, it’s time to ride.