My Healthy 2020

Eating Gluten-Free Is the Only Way I Don’t Feel Crummy All the Time (I’ve Done It for 20 Years)

updated Apr 14, 2020
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Credit: Design: Kitchn; Photo: Janet Schubert

“If someone honestly has an allergy or wheat sensitivity, sometimes they don’t know how crummy it’s making them feel (achy, tired, rundown),” explains Christine Lima, a college professor in Massachusetts who’s lived a gluten-free lifestyle for 20 years. “If they really gave gluten-free eating a good try, they would realize they feel so much better in ways they never attributed to the gluten.” For her, healthy means eating gluten-free because she was diagnosed with celiac disease. She’s skeptical of those who say they’ve tried it but only half-try it. “I don’t think it’s one of those things that you can half-do.” I talked with Christine about what it means to be 100% gluten-free and how it’s changed her life.

20 people, 20 stories of what healthy means for them in 2020.

My Healthy: Gluten-Free

  • Name: Christine Lima
  • Location & Occupation: College professor in Massachusetts
  • What Is Gluten-Free: “It’s a way of eating that eliminates gluten — or diminishes the quantity of gluten eaten to a very, very low level. What exactly is gluten? Gluten is a type of protein in wheat. It helps foods hold their shape.”
  • How Long Being Gluten-Free: 20 years

What does “healthy” mean to you?
Feeling good. If I feel awake and able, then I can conquer the world. 

I can so relate to that. What does feeling good mean to you and your overall well being?
It means that I’m able to keep up. It means that I’m not starting my day exhausted. If I feel good, I feel that all of the responsibilities I have are doable.  

What eating style helps you feel your healthiest?
I went gluten-free due to a celiac disease diagnosis I got in college. Gluten is a protein that is in wheat, barley, oats and rye; and my body can’t handle those proteins because I have an immune system reaction to that protein. When I eat that protein, it’s the same as my immune system responding to a virus. 

I eat other types of carb sources like rice, gluten-free oats, alternative flours (tapioca, rice flour, potato starch). I still eat bread, bagels, and english muffins; they’re just made with alternative flours. I also eat plenty of vegetables and animal protein.

What were your goals when you made that change?
I was incredibly sick, low in weight, and couldn’t sleep through the night. I was dehydrated and my body wasn’t absorbing any nutrients. It was like a switch was turned on all of a sudden and I knew something was really wrong. For me, celiac disease came on later in life. For some, it happens when they’re little kids. For whatever reason, it happened to me in my twenties. When I made the change to a gluten-free way of eating, I wanted to feel better all around, and not achy, tired, and tied to a bathroom. 

How did you start eating gluten-free? What motivation pushed you on?
For me, celiac disease was diagnosed through a blood test. Since I was so sick, I just started eating gluten-free the next day. I saw a couple of dietitians and tossed everything in my kitchen that was not gluten-free.

I felt so much better immediately. As soon as I was eating gluten-free, I was able to sleep; I had no diarrhea; I just felt better all around. Imagine if you had the worst virus for three months straight and all of a sudden you start to feel better. That’s what pushed me on. 

What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I follow this food plan 100% of the time. When I’m out or traveling, it isn’t always easy, but it’s so important that I have to put myself first and make it work. Celiac isn’t something you can cheat on if you really want to feel better. I don’t cheat ever — as cheating would make me very sick — and I’m proud of that. 

Credit: Lauren Volo
One-Pot 30-Minute Zoodles and Meatballs

So what does keep you going? Lifestyle and habit changes are famously hard to make and keep. Do you have a secret?
Remembering how crummy I used to feel keeps me going. I was really, really sick before being diagnosed with celiac disease. I don’t ever want to be that sick again. And now I have a baby to care for, too. I needed to maintain my health through the pregnancy (which was high risk for issues other than celiac disease) and now he depends on me for everything. I need to be in tip-top shape to keep it all working.

What’s the one food you love the most?
Grilled steak.

If you were to recommend going gluten-free to someone else, what is the most important piece of advice you would give them?
It’s worth it. If you have celiac disease or a severe wheat allergy, strictly adhering to a 100% gluten-free way of eating will make a world of difference in how you feel. It’s tough but so worth it, if you stick with it. 

Thank you, Christine! Follow her at @Iownapaint on Instagram.

What Is a Gluten-Free Diet? Start Here.

My Healthy 2020: 20 People, 20 Healthy Choices

Every January people make changes to improve their health. But which ones actually make a difference? We’re sharing the stories of 20 people who changed their lives for the better and stuck — thanks to choices that are individual, diverse, and sometimes wildly different from each other. Read their stories here throughout January. We hope they inspire your own journey to finding your own, unique, individual healthiest 2020.