You might suspect certain foods make you feel bad, but imagine learning that 18 foods (!) make you feel awful. That’s what happened to Gail Michalski, a sales coordinator in Hamilton, Ont. As a competitive boxer, she felt her fitness recovery wasn’t where she wanted it to be, despite a very, very clean diet. Since a major nutrition overhaul and discovering her food allergies, she says, “I have made so many other positive changes over the years. Now at 30, I can say I feel as healthy and strong as I should. It is empowering to take responsibility for my health. I would not have changed a single thing. I only wish I had found the path sooner.” Here’s how she achieved her #BHmoment, by turning her diet around:
What made you go to a naturopath to change your diet?
“I was 24 years old, and I had been highly active in boxing for four years but I was noticing that my recovery was terrible. I was tired and wiped out and even though I ate well and I was very active. No matter how clean my diet was, I did not feel fueled. [A year later,] a good friend referred me to a naturopath and everything changed.”
Why was it important for you to change your diet?
“I felt like I was missing out on life because I never felt 100 per cent. That did not make any sense to me. I was young, healthy and active. Why did I feel so terrible all the time?”
What was your diet like before?
“My diet was meat and vegetables. I was consuming yeast, wheat, chocolate and having the occasional beer, which [I now know] all have ingredients to which I am allergic. Yeast is even in chicken broth.”
How intense was it to change your diet?
“When I received the list of things I am allergic to, it was quite shocking – 18 foods. Most were interrelated, but on the list were wheat, yeast, dairy, peanuts, cocoa and chocolate, along with items like barley. And there are random items like lemon thrown into the mix. […] It was sobering to realize how yeast is in absolutely everything. However, taking such an abrupt and rigid approach paid off very quickly.”
What was your diet like after you discovered your allergies to so many foods?
“My diet became pretty paleo-friendly, with [a focus on] chicken, vegetables and fat. To be honest, it was pretty boring. I can’t even look at a chicken now, much less eat one. […] I was so highly allergic to everything in the beginning, it made going off plan so not worth how sick I would become, and I would be sick for days.”
What did this new way of eating teach you?
“I learned how important it is to stand up for myself in the context of my health. I think a lot of us are conditioned to take what a doctor says at face value. After all, they are a doctor. I know my body and I know when something is not. I did not stop until I was heard.”
When did you start noticing changes physically?
“Things started to change within a week to 10 days. The most notable of the changes was sleep. I’d had insomnia for 25 years.”
How did the new diet affect your body?
“Physically, I leaned out. I did not have a ton of weight to lose but my body composition became balanced. It was as if I had a perpetual bloat that just vanished almost instantly. […] All the medication I was taking as a 20 something became unnecessary: Anti-depressants, strong prescription pain medication for cramps, antibiotics for my skin and let’s not forget the prescribed sleeping pills. My body now works as it should. I take no medication and food is now my medicine.”
What is your biggest tip?
“Always have a plan. Bring your own food for lunch or when you will be out for long hours. And read labels, always. There is no quick fix. Just like your time in the gym, you have to earn your time in the kitchen to get positive results. Finally, learn to love it. It is about the journey, not the destination. I personally hate cooking but I meal prep every single week, without fail. Find the time and make it work for you.”
So, is this your diet for life?
“I am still making changes and I will continue to make them as needed. Remember, discipline is the difference between what you want now versus what you want later. Decide what is more important and make it a priority which sometimes means saying no to other people and putting yourself first. Eating well is like brushing your teeth, you do it every day for long term health, not for immediate gratification.”