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updated: 2/27/2012 2:08 PM

No pain means a huge gain for journalist

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Pasta is not a required daily food group.

Oops. It seems like I've operated under false premises for years.

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Let's face it, I like my starch and carbs: pasta, crackers, cookies, rice, bakery goods. More pasta. You get the picture.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I first got the nutrition plan that the folks at Push Fitness wanted me to follow. The five daily meals didn't trip me up. I'd been a daylong nosher for years. But, they want you to eat foods you can identify -- as in identify the "source food." Meat. Vegetable. Fruit. Etc. (You mean that's what a carrot looks like in its native habitat?!)

Years ago I'd cut out pork, cheese, bananas, avocados, alcohol and legumes of any ilk because doctors said they exacerbated my migraines. Nobody said cut out pasta. Or chocolate. Or Fritos. Or drive-through food. Or Cap'n Crunch.

The Push folks said "shop the outside aisle of the store." Yeah, I'd been there before. Briefly. While en route to the Double-Stuff Oreos. But I followed orders, and I purged my cupboards.

At first, cutting out those foods I'd relied on was a shock. What do you mean "cook"? I "cooked!" If it came in a box and fit in a microwave I was all over it like white on rice. But the stove and I were not on a first-name basis.

Then a funny thing happened. I like to call it "change." At first it was subtle -- I had migraines for five days in a row, for instance, then dropped to four days or went two days without one. That might not seem momentous. But when you've lived with chronic, irresolvable pain, for decades -- any turn for the better is HUGE.

Soon I counted the days I'd experienced without migraines. I cannot recall the last time I lived that way: days in a row sans migraine. Aside from the obvious benefits of living pain-free, it means not pouring powerful drugs into my body to eliminate those debilitating headaches.

I'm shocked by two things as a result of being conscious of what I eat: how much I've learned about nutrition and my own body. To wit: sugar triggers my migraines. And all that pasta and starch I was eating? Because it's high on the glycemic index it causes a temporary spike in blood sugar, then a crash. That also causes migraines.

My trainer, George Gersch, has often had to drag me kicking and screaming into a world of listening to my body. It's not the fastest thing. It's not the easiest thing. It takes more thought. It means treating food like fuel, not as part of a sensory experience or just an afterthought.

But I've got to say, I'm actually starting to like the lessons I'm learning, and now I find myself looking aghast at all the packaged, processed food in stores. Very, very little of it winds up on the conveyor belt when I'm checking out. I'm truly becoming a Source Food Girl.

And that stove/oven? Well, we're still not BFFs, but at least I now know where it lives.

• Catherine Edman is the cooperative advertising manager for the Daily Herald. She spent 19 years as a reporter at the paper, frequenting many drive-through windows on the way to cover night meetings, before joining the advertising staff in 2009.

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