Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Blog: Goodbye Gluten

A week ago, in one gluttinous fury, I bought more breads and pastries from Paris Baguette, a popular Korean Bakery chain, than I ever have in a single visit in over three years of living in Korea. Soon after my kitchen table was piled high with a celiac's nightmare (or fantasy): a collection of bakery goods ranging from a walnut donut ball to a cinnamon bun slathered with cream cheese frosting, all the while slices of freshly baked bread browned in my toaster oven, filling the air with scents of yeasty goodness.

Yet, like so many professional men who don't have enough time, or commitment, to visit the gym every day, my middle was a little bit squishy. I was active enough in my daily life to keep from being overweight. I walked or biked everywhere and spent up to six hours a day standing when teaching. But maintaining an average body at my level of physical activity required reducing my sugar and carb intake. Beer, sugary drinks and pastries were replaced with soju, homemade ice tea, and mixed nuts.

So why was I gorging on pastries?

It was Fat Tuesday! And on Ash Wednesday I gave up one of the most treasured slices of my diet — gluten.

Despite being a devout Catholic, the initial reasons for the sacrifice are less than spiritual. Simply put, I'm a journalist, or at least I was, and dietary stunts make great stories. Great stories get picked up by paying publishers. Paying publishers put articles in real magazines. Real magazines get read. And this looks a lot better on the resume of a journalist stuck in a teaching job since 2010 than three mostly neglected blogs. In other words, I have to put myself back out there, and this is my first major project.

My reasons aren't entirely self-centered, though. I have a brother. He's a younger brother — a very sick younger brother for whom I care very much. Since I moved to Korea he was diagnosed with severe lymes disease, bartonella, celiac disease, and the MTHFR congenital gene mutation. He suffers from a host of symptoms, most notably, occasional, epilleptic seizures. Eating gluten free, however, has helped him mangage some of his symptoms, allowing him to return to and finish college while allowing enough peace to dream about his future. For me, giving up gluten is a way to connect with a brother that nearly four years and over 7,000 miles have, except for the occasional Facebook message, separated. Also, depending on how successful I am, my adventure may open up the world to my brother who would otherwise be confined to the mundane realities of Western civilization.

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