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HUCKABY: My new diet: hold the gluten

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

May we talk?

Thanks. They say that confession is good for the soul and I have one to make. I have done something that I vowed I would not do. I have succumbed to the latest fad. I have gone gluten free. I have never felt better.

Well, not in the past two years.

Let me explain.

When I was diagnosed with cancer nearly three years ago, I was besieged with advice about what to eat and what not to eat. One lady offered me vitamin water that she guaranteed would cure my cancer in three weeks — as long as I bought said water from her. Other people simply wanted me to get well and went to great lengths to get their nutrition plans into my hands, even if they couldn’t talk me into putting those plans into action.

Honesty compels me to admit that I was skeptical of all those plans — and when the doctors were telling me I could count my time left on this earth in weeks, I wasn’t about to spend those weeks starving myself of the foods I had learned to love.

My cancer is not cured. It is still there, lurking in my bones, waiting for a chance to explode and begin, once again, to expand exponentially with each day. Thanks to the treatments I have been receiving at M.D. Anderson and the thousands of prayers I receive daily, my cancer has been contained for 20 months now. My primary problems lately have been fatigue and incredible pain in all my joints.

Now I told you that to tell you this.

Three weeks ago I gave in to my lovely wife Lisa’s pleading and cajoling and decided that I would try a modified version of what author Rick Warren and his team call the Daniel Plan. The plan has spiritual elements, too, but today I just want to tell you about the physical part of the plan.

The plan calls for a ten day “detox” in which you eat no glutens or dairy or sugar. You are also supposed to stay away, as far as humanly possible, from processed food. I decided that I would try that — not for 10 days, but for 40.

The philosophy of Warren and his associates is that we are slowly poisoning our bodies by filling them with unnatural amounts of chemicals and additives and failing to heed the sage advice, “everything in moderation.”

Don’t hear something I’m not saying. I am not telling you to try this or to give up anything that you enjoy. I have always avoided being told what to do like the plague and have never had any patience for the food evangelists of the world. I’m simply reporting what I have done.

As I write this I am on day 17 of my “fast.” I am serious. Not a single glass of sweet tea or a Co-Cola for two-and-a-half weeks. I also haven’t had anything fried or anything processed or a bite of bread — not even on Super Bowl Sunday. I have taken to eating chili and soups made with ground turkey and even turkey sausage, which I have always insisted isn’t sausage at all.

I have eaten a ton of fish and chicken — grilled, baked and broiled, but not battered and fried. Did you know you could buy gluten free spaghetti? It’s made out of rice, I think. I have consumed mass qualities of melons, citrus, and bananas, as well as almonds and fresh veggies. I have eaten collards and turnip greens, which I like, and spinach, which I tolerate. I haven’t consumed a single bite of kale. A man has to draw the line somewhere.

What do I drink? Water, with a slice of lemon.

Do I miss my sweet tea? Oh goodness, yes. Do I miss washing down a pack of peanut butter crackers with an ice cold Coke every now and then? Of course I do. I also have cravings for hamburgers and milkshakes and Miss Sharon’s buttermilk pie from the Sweet and Savory Cafe.

So why do I continue to torture myself? It’s easy. In 17 days my weight has dropped from 226 to 211 and my body measurements have gone from 49-47-44 to 47-41-42. Now there are 15 pounds and a combined 10 inches less of me to love. Yes, I have increased my exercise output as well. I walk a few miles each day.

Best of all, I am pain free. Yes — I said pain free, for the first time in two years. I can do without a little sugar and bread for a while longer.

I am not telling you to try this. I am not one to tell others what they need to do. I’m just like the blind man that had his sight restored by Jesus. “I was blind, but now I see — or, more accurately — I hurt really bad, but now I don’t.

A man does have his limits, however, and when my 40 days is up I will add back a few of my dietary vices in moderation. And for the record, this diet plan will be suspended whenever I walk in the front door of Henderson’s Restaurant, which I plan to do one night this week. I drink sweet tea when I eat fried catfish, and I don’t care what Rick Warren says.

Some things are just plain worth hurting over.

Darrell Huckaby is an author in Rockdale County. Email him at darrellhuckaby.net.