Early the next morning, miraculously enough, I was picked as a contestant on Survivor, and so off I went, pain and all, into the Outback. My Australian adventure was nothing short of life-altering. It was an incredibly rich, rewarding time—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Not surprisingly, it was the most physically grueling experience of my life. I was also given the most wonderful opportunity to investigate how my body works. Though exhausted on every level, I felt awakened. I learned how to live off the earth, to respect its boundaries, to work and bond with strangers, and to get by without any creature comforts. I also learned what mattered to me most, and what I relied on in extreme circumstances. One other remarkable thing happened to me Down Under, too: For the first time in about three years, I felt no pain in my stomach.
I remember thinking on multiple occasions, "Even though I haven't showered in thirty-nine days, I feel clean and pure." I was fairly certain that this sensation had nothing to do with my skin or hair or scent, and everything to do with my internal system. I was completely detoxified—without pain, without cramping or bloating, without any intestinal symptoms at all. I felt like I had before I had checked into the college infirmary so long ago. That person seemed to be nearly forgotten.
Shockingly, it took starving in the outback of Australia to feel like myself again. I remember joking that "I must be allergic to the United States." That was not the case.
I had lost about twenty pounds, but though my belly was empty, I left Australia full of answers. I left knowing that without God, I had nothing; that my family was the most incredible source of support; that I never again wanted to be away from Tim. I left knowing that for the past three years, my body had been fighting something that I was eating at home, and that if I didn't take it upon myself to figure out what that food was, no one else would do it for me.
Once I was back home, the scope of my quest narrowed.
Energized with the sense that I was on the trail of the culprit at last, and with a clean slate, I decided to reintroduce one item at a time back into my diet. But after thirty-nine days in near-starvation mode, I was absolutely ravenous, and I wasn't about to give up my favorite foods without a fight. Soon, despite my best intentions, I had returned to my pre-Australia diet, and the consequences were dire. After the relief of having had my gut repaired, now I was suddenly feeling worse than ever, spending day after day in my room, unable to get out of bed, except to race to the bathroom.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and this horrible time finally clued me in to the cause of my long illness. I noticed that the moment I ate a starchy food, all the symptoms returned, and with even more fury than before. I went on the Internet to research what this reaction might mean, and soon after thought I had discovered the cause: Wheat! Out it went from my diet.