What if you were told that to cure an illness, all you needed to do was to stop eating certain foods? Maybe it would depend on how debilitating that illness was, but I think most people would be willing to try it if it was just that simple. Well, what if that really was all you had to do to cure your diabetes, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis, depression, infertility, obesity, arthritis, or even your child’s autism? Many people claim that it really is that simple, but the thought of giving up grains, something that is embedded in our minds as the foundation of a healthy diet, seems counterintuitive and even impossible. What the heck would you eat if you couldn’t have grains?
When you are facing a life of possible pain and suffering, or early death, you’d be surprised what you’re willing to try. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but when you have your health as a motivator, it gives you a different perspective. Food is enjoyable, but what’s more important…eating bread or being healthy? Trust me, I LOVE bread, pancakes, cookies, cake, and many other foods made from grains, but I am willing to give up all of that to see if I can stop taking medication, feel healthy, and possibly save my life.
The beginning of the end of bread:
I started my grain free journey about four months ago. I realized that it would be difficult and that I was going to crave things, like my beloved Cracker Barrel pancakes. My approach was to allow myself to have a “grain day” once a week. I started with eliminating grains 6 days a week and going to Cracker Barrel for pancakes once a week. If I was craving something else, I would gauge that craving and make the decision to either eat that and forgo my pancakes, or to work through the craving knowing that I was going to get those pancakes on the weekend. After about a month of this, I no longer had the intense cravings that I used to have, and I was able to skip my “grain days.” That doesn’t mean that I have been 100% faithful to being grain free. I have had to deal with parties, and days when I didn’t have time to cook and just didn’t want to take the time to figure out where I could go for a grain free meal (which really isn’t that difficult), so I have “cheated.” I don’t like to refer to it as cheating though, because that implies that I am doing something wrong, and that leads to a discouraging frame of mind. I want to be as positive about this as possible. Frame of mind has a lot to do with how successful or unsuccessful you will be in anything you do!
The longer I am grain free, the easier it is, especially since I am seeing positive results. Based on information I have read about elimination diets (which is essentially what I am doing), you need to completely eliminate the foods in question for at least 6-12 months (without even a single “cheat”) to truly gauge the results. Again, this brings me to the reference of how this is an experiment. My plan is to eliminate grains for at least a year before I consider reintroducing them. Think about it, if the grains really are part of my health problems, it took over 30 years for my body to tell me that, so it will probably take a long time to reverse it if that’s possible. Even one piece of bread could completely mess it up! I don’t want to risk corrupting my experiment results by eating something that might induce the symptoms I am trying to eliminate. This is how the doctors approach food allergies they can’t test for, like gluten allergies and celiac disease. When I had allergic reactions after drinking alcohol and I tested negative for allergies to the usual grains associated with alcohol, the doctor suggested a yeast allergy and said to stay away from yeast for a couple of weeks to see how I felt. After reading about yeast allergies and diets to reduce yeast in your body (which could also be a problem that is closely related to grains, sugar, and processed foods), it is recommended that you stay away from yeast containing products as well as food that will feed the yeast already in your body, such as sugars, vinegar, and many other things, for at least 6 months. I tried to stay away from yeast only for a couple of weeks per the doctor’s orders, but didn’t notice a difference. Maybe that was because it wasn’t long enough or maybe I needed to stay away from all of the other things as well to notice a difference. I still haven’t ruled out yeast being a problem, but since I didn’t have the same reactions when eating yeast products as I did with alcohol, I wasn’t convinced. Also, since then I have consumed alcohol without a reaction.
It took about at least a couple of weeks to notice any changes, but so far I have experienced steady weight loss, increased sense of smell, lower anxiety, no more hypoglycemic incidents (low blood sugar), less intense cravings, and less joint pains.
The most prominent result is the weight loss. I have lost over 22 pounds, without regular exercise. Over the past 6+ years I have tried various exercise programs and dieting, and I have not seen results even close to this! At one point I had an intense weekly personal training routine with an extremely limited calorie diet, and while I lost weight and gained muscle, it was not something that I could maintain. My scheduled did not allow me to continue to work out as often as the trainer recommended and the diet left me so hungry and with such intense cravings that there was no way I could stick to it. I still hadn’t lost as much weight then as I have now. Another time I tried a similar exercise and diet routine with another personal trainer with similar results, but again nothing else I have ever tried in my life has shown the steady weight loss results as I am seeing now. My intent in starting this diet was not to lose weight, but to improve my health. The weight loss is just one result that supports the many theories of why grains are bad. Over the past 3 months I have exercised mainly by doing a walk/run interval on the treadmill for 20-25 minutes as often as possible. I started going 3 times a week, but some weeks it was only once or twice, then I skipped a couple of weeks, and since then it has continued in a similar pattern. Yet, I continue to lose weight at a fairly steady rate. I have averaged a weight loss of about 1-2 pounds per week.
When I first started to lose weight I didn’t really pay attention to it. Since my intention was not to lose weight, I wasn’t focused on that. I only started to weigh myself because my exercise was my attempt to lose weight (to make sure I would fit into my slightly too small wedding dress for when I get married in about 7 months!!) So, I was happy to lose weight and thought it might have been from my workouts, which started pretty intensely. When my workouts diminished and I continued to lose weight, I thought it might just be water weight like I had seen previously from low carb dieting. As I have continued to lose weight, I realize now that is not the case. It took me at least 2 months to be convinced that the weight loss was a result of lowering my grain intake, and it is highly motivating when you are able to completely zip up the wedding dress that 2 months ago was too small to even zip half way! So, even though my true motivation is for improved health, the weight loss really helps to keep that motivation at high level.
You may be wondering what you would eat if you were to try going grain free, and I will help you out by sharing some of my typical meals, and recipes that I have modified. I think I will try to create some recipe pages, so bear with me while I try to figure out how to do that! In the meantime, if you search for grain free or paleo recipes, you will find plenty out there. Unfortunately, if you are looking for substitute recipes for foods you enjoy now, like bread and pancakes, there are a lot of duds out there. I’ll help you out by sharing the ones I have tried that have been enjoyable!
So, if at this point you are considering going grain free, the first step is to either toss, donate, or eat the rest of the grains and grain containing foods you have in the house. If you have it in the house, it will be harder to resist!
Just a reminder, the following are grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, sorghum, buckwheat, quinoa, and millet.
Photo credit: aussiegall
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, scientist, nutritionist, or in any way qualified to give you medical, diet, or any kind of health advice. Please remember that my posts will always be about my opinions and personal experiences. Always seek professional advice before making any diet or medical changes.