We’re Gluten Minded: The Professional Couple

Paul and Charity

Names: Paul and Charity Oremland

Location: Ballard, Seattle, Washington

What do you guys do for a living?

Charity:  I work for a local non-profit overseeing the performance and compliance of transitional and permanent affordable housing units. I have been with my organization for over six years. I volunteer serving meals to homeless youth and am going through the application process to become a court appointed special advocate.

Paul: I write software for a living, which can have an adverse impact on your health if you’re not careful. The norm in the software industry is to be overweight, sedentary, and lethargic. I’m actually pushing right now to get a standing desk at work and have made a makeshift one in the meantime.

What do you do for fun?

Charity: In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husbuddy (Paul), our pup and friends. If wine is involved, I won’t complain!

Paul: I love to run. Previously, I was a pack-a-day smoker for about a decade. I tried to quit, unsuccessfully, about half a dozen times. So I started running. I figured that running and smoking wouldn’t be particularly compatible. I have been a non-smoker for the past four years and my health has never been better.

In 2010, Seattle hosted the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon for the first time. Back then, I had never run more than four miles. But I enjoy a challenge and tend to be very disciplined so I signed up for the half marathon and began training. Since that first race, I’ve run several other half marathons and 10Ks as well as a 200-mile rely race called Ragnar.

 Why are you gluten minded?

Charity: I never dreamed of going gluten-free. I was having chronic health issues, but I had been eating gluten my whole life, so how could it be an issue now? I even started to see my health problems as normal. Is it that odd to sleep with a bottle of Maalox by your bed at night? Eight months ago, Paul asked if we could try the paleo diet for 30 days. He was very clear that if the paleo diet didn’t help we could go back to how we were eating. It didn’t take long to see that gluten was a real issue for me.

Paul: It’s funny because our initial decision to follow the paleo diet didn’t have much to do with paleo philosophy at all. I wanted to eliminate corn as I was convinced that it affects not only the obesity rate but our global and national economy. Removing corn is difficult as it is in nearly everything! In Spring of 2012, we were introduced to the paleo diet by a few friends. We thought they were nuts, but the more I researched it, the more it made sense.

What was life like before you stopped eating gluten?

Charity: I felt sick, bloated, constipated, gassy and uncomfortable almost every night. I slept with a bottle of Maalox by my bed. I ate Tums like candy. I had to sleep on my left side because that was the only way I could get comfortable. I had heartburn most evenings and turned to drugs such as Prilosec for relief.

Paul: By the Spring of 2012, my wife was having severe heartburn every day and migraines several times a week. She frequently woke up sick in the middle of the night. This wasn’t new, but was getting progressively worse.  She was seeing doctors for her migraines and was on many different meds which weren’t helping. In July of 2011, my wife had been working with a personal trainer who put her on a sugar-free diet. During that time, she didn’t have any migraines. I had been nagging her to cut out refined sugar permanently, but she wanted none of it.

How did life change after you stopped eating gluten?

Charity: Every single symptom went away. Because the paleo diet also eliminated other foods, I still couldn’t admit that gluten was the issue. However, after trying foods with small amounts of gluten, I quickly realized it was the culprit. Even spelt flour, which has less gluten, would upset my stomach.

Paul: It’s hard for me to attribute changes solely to gluten because I also dropped refined sugar and legumes at the same time. Still, I lost about 15 lbs and noticed that my tendonitis decreased significantly. I am not bloated all the time and I have set PR after PR in my races without changing my training at all. It just became easier to run and recover from training. Charity’s health issues disappeared: her migraines subsided, the heartburn, IBS and bloating went away and she began losing weight.

What is the most challenging part of the gluten-free lifestyle?

Charity: Staying in is easy. I love the challenge of finding gluten-free recipes for my favorite foods. Eating paleo further limits the ingredients I use for baking. I tend to focus on nut flours, coconut flour, and arrowroot flour. It takes more time, effort and testing to get the same results you can get with an all-purpose gluten-free flour. But it is absolutely doable!

However, when we’re out at a restaurant, I would love to have bread at dinner or a bun with my burger. It is nice living in Seattle because there is more of an awareness around gluten minded living. Many restaurants are marking items on their menus as gluten-free and listing possible substitutes.

Paul: Giving up pizza was probably the most difficult part and it’s hard to make a good paleo pizza crust. I was never a big pasta eater so I don’t really miss that.

What are some gluten-free websites or resources you value?

Charity: My favorite website is Against All Grain. The recipes always work and are tasty. I love the author’s photography and the care she puts into creating recipes.

Paul: Mark’s Daily Apple and Whole9.

What are your favorite gluten-free recipes?

Charity: Cashew waffles!

Paul: Mmmmm…the pumpkin cheesecake that my wife makes!

Do you have any words of wisdom to share with the gluten minded community?

Charity: Be an active voice online! This is such a unique way to be a support and encouragement to others.

Paul: Don’t trust the “tribal” knowledge around food and nutrition. Don’t just take what people say about gluten (or anything for that matter) at face value. Do your research. Also, know that everyone’s body is different. Understand your own body and how it reacts to food.