Mari Milani

FullSizeRenderby Mari Milani

I grew up in a large Italian family, with many traditions that revolved around food, such as Italian pastries on Sundays and Holidays, homemade weekly pasta dinners and of course the staple of all staples: daily, crusty, Italian bread. I never understood why I became sick around the holidays? My grandfather, who was a pharmacist, would prescribe all sorts of remedies. Even at a young age, I knew the names of several medicines. Doctors told my parents that I had a virus, a stomach bug, and then, they said that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). At age 20, I was finally diagnosed with an Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) called Crohn’s Disease (CD). I was never told how to eat; the doctors just prescribed medicine to “treat” my CD. It is no wonder why, at age 33, I obstructed, perforated and almost died of peritonitis. My family rushed me to Saint Barnabas Med Center (SBMC) where a surgeon removed 18” of my small intestine, part of my ileum, and my appendix. I was admitted to SBMC weighing 104 lbs and left topping the scale at 88 lbs. Needless to say, I was very sick! From there, and for the next 2 decades, I was put on antibiotics, IBD medicine, as well as steroids to treat my CD flare-ups.

When CrossFit Caldwell was under construction, my husband, Paul told me about the owners, Martha and Craig. I decided to check out CrossFit Caldwell and within 60 minutes of talking with Martha and Craig, I signed up and bought my first “CFC tank t-shirt”!! Whoohooaa!! After taking a few classes with Martha and Frank, I was hooked. Then came the 45 Day Paleo Challenge – I was probably the first in line. I was determined to set a new goal, eat clean and change my life. I was on my way – looking up and posting new recipes and pictures of my food on the 45 Day Challenge FB page. For the first time in years, I felt amazing!! I felt strong, no canker sores (common with IBD), no cramping and no diarrhea (sorry gotta keep it real). I had more energy than ever before. I didn’t even get tired during that midday, 3-4 pm slump.

When the challenge ended, all hell broke loose. Like before, I incorporated grains back in to my diet. This sent my body on a downhill spiral. I went to my IBD doctor. I was so frustrated!! I started losing weight again. I was afraid that all I built and strived for working with Martha and Craig at CrossFit Caldwell was going to be lost. My doctor put me back on steroids, ran all sorts of tests, including tests for parasites and infections. Test after test, my doctor could not understand why I was having a very serious Crohn’s flare-up. I explained to my doctor that for the past several weeks, I participated in the CrossFit Caldwell “Paleo Challenge”. During this challenge, I eliminated certain foods, like grains, legumes, sugar and dairy. This led my doctor to order blood tests. My doctor wanted to rule out Celiac Disease.

As a result of this blood test, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, besides CD. I told my sister Beth, a Registered Dietitian. First, Beth explained that I had to eliminate grains containing gluten, such as wheat, barley, and rye. Based on my history, Beth also turned me onto the FODMAP’s – an acronym for foods that contain carbohydrate that I may also be sensitive to, such as dairy, and legumes. Beth told me that one of the easiest grains to digest was rice. So slowly, I added rice back into my diet. As soon as I did, I started again with the cramping and diarrhea. Last, Beth suggested I look into the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which I also noticed on Danielle Walker’s site www.againstallgrains.com, where I was getting most of my recipes for the challenge. Beth explained that beside my Crohns Disease and Celiac Disease, I am allergic to certain proteins found in grains, and I have food sensitivities to many of the FODMAP’s. I became completely grain free. Now, I eat a custom-tailored version of the Paleolithic Diet. If it weren’t for the CrossFit Caldwell and their 45 Day Paleo Challenge, I would never have known that I was allergic to proteins found in whole grains. Now, the real challenge, how to plan, shop, cook, and order food in restaurants, but most of all, how do I turn those wonderful Italian family recipes into wonderful grain free recipes.

I want to thank all the Coaches at CrossFit Caldwell for being so supportive, understanding, encouraging, and loving to me through this discovery. CrossFit has made me a stronger woman – physically, mentally, and emotionally. CrossFit Caldwell has helped me to be a better athlete, to be patient with myself, and to listen to my body. CrossFit has given me new friends, who care and cheer me on when I think I cannot continue. CrossFit Caldwell has helped me appreciate my new healthier self and for that I am truly blessed.