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I Tried A Diet Without Sugar, Gluten, And Dairy For Three Months

There is more to a diet than whining! (Although there's a lot of that too.)

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Hi, I'm Michelle! I just turned 40 last month and run operations at BuzzFeed. I'm a competitive athlete and eat healthily, besides a weakness for cookies.

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See what happened in the video here:

View this video on YouTube

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Despite my healthy lifestyle, I recently learned I was borderline pre-diabetic with an A1C number of 5.7. So when my coworker decided to do a BuzzFeed Video about people trying to reverse high A1C numbers I jumped at the opportunity! Over three months, two coworkers and I worked with a registered dietitian and nutritionist to follow customized diets.

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In a nutshell, my diet was no dairy, gluten, or added sugar. I also had to eat tons of green things. Over the course of three months on this diet, here are some things I learned...

People really wanted me to cheat.

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For some reason, when people hear about a diet they suddenly become the biggest pushers in the world. I would like to think that this doesn't happen to people who have more serious medical conditions, but if it does I am sorry on behalf of everyone!

Going dairy-free did wonders for my skin.

I happened to give up dairy two weeks before the diet started. Going dairy-free was daunting because I drink a latte every day. I also lift weights, so I like to eat whole milk yogurt and drink chocolate milk for calories and protein. By the time the diet started, my skin was glowing and all the little dry skin bumps went away.
Michelle Kempner

I happened to give up dairy two weeks before the diet started. Going dairy-free was daunting because I drink a latte every day. I also lift weights, so I like to eat whole milk yogurt and drink chocolate milk for calories and protein. By the time the diet started, my skin was glowing and all the little dry skin bumps went away.

Adding walnuts to my pesto instead of parmesan cheese was an awesome hack to give it more flavor.

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Pesto is a great addition to meals to make them flavorful. Basil is a green so IDK probably healthy. Fat is not an issue for me, so I make a simple pesto with basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, and walnuts. I added pesto to plain things like chicken breasts to make them delicious. Pesto in an omelet is also surprisingly good.

Salad is not a garnish.

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I always eat everything else on my plate before salad and then I'm like, "I give up. I am full." It turns out, salad can be quite delicious. Now I make sure to eat it first before everything else.

Spices are my friend.

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It was easier to cook at home to stay true to this diet, but my cooking style is a bit on the bland side. I got familiar with cardamom, cumin, cayenne, coriander, garlic, and my entire spice rack. Spices make things taste richer and make everything better.

Soy sauce contains gluten because why would it not?

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I know the diet said no gluten, but I really don't think I have a gluten allergy. For the most part, avoiding gluten meant not eating cakes, cookies, and pasta. But to stay true to the diet, I tried tamari, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, and coconut aminos. For me, tamari was the way to go. TBH, I cheated and used soy sauce when I went out for sushi because sometimes you just gotta live.

Literally everything in the world has added sugar.

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I learned to read labels. A lot of surprising foods from potato chips to dried fruit contain added sugar. I also learned that my favorite brand of dried mangos had no added sugar, but the bag was considered two servings worth of mango. I used to eat the whole bag in one sitting, which is an entire day's worth of carbs. When I did feel the urge to eat something carby, I kept myself to one serving.

Planning ahead and carrying snacks made me less likely to cheat — and less likely to starve.

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I took a kite surfing class and they said to bring lunch because there would be limited food options. I brought two chicken legs in a little baggie. I might have felt silly, but I was grateful at lunch time. I now carry bars with me at all times. Most portable food has loads of carbs so I feel better being prepared.

When I cheated, my tummy would hurt.

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Even with the best of intentions, it is easy to cheat both accidentally and sometimes on purpose. It might not mean that I have an allergy, but a scoop of ice cream on my birthday almost didn't seem worth the tummy ache.

People kept asking me why I was on a diet.

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I got really used to explaining to people why I was on a diet. It is sort of surprising that people would ask that question. I explained A1C and that I was working with a dietitian to see if I could improve my numbers by eliminating some items. Yes, it might run in my family. Yes, stress can be a contributing factor. Yes, I exercise regularly. No, weight is not the only factor. No, it is not really any of your business.

Three months sounds long, but it is totally doable.

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When I agreed to do the video I had no idea we were committing to three months. It does make sense because A1C measures glucose attached to hemoglobin and those cells live about three months. For the first four weeks I was super committed and unwilling to waiver. By two months, I fell into a short depression that there was so much time left. Then something magical happened and I stopped worrying about it. The diet just became normal and I didn't worry about an end date. In retrospect, I am glad it was three months because now I think it is a more viable lifestyle for me moving forward.

Final thoughts...

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My A1C had tested at 5.7 twice leading up to this video. At the end of three months, I thoroughly convinced myself that the diet would have no effect and I felt hopeless. Then I got my test results and my A1C result was 5.2, well below the borderline. There could have been other factors behind the reduction, but here is what I think: Dairy is not something I need in my life. Gluten is something that I can live with as long as I don't binge on bread. Sugar is the devil and I can't be trusted around it, but when I fall off the wagon I just have pick myself back up and put down the Peanut Chews. I really love Peanut Chews.

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