Sunday, October 21, 2012

"The Skinny on 'Gluten Free:' ten years of dietary evolution."

So every year for a New Year's Resolution I usually aspire to lose twenty pounds. 2012 was the year that I've come the closest to that goal. Did I eat less and exercise more often? I would definitely say that the tried-and-true regimen "kickstarted" my progress down from my mid-twenties working professional weight to the normalized BMI that I'd been chasing since college. However, I attribute the overall weight loss to one significant change that I've made in my diet.

In 2006, I was hospitalized on the Panhandle of Florida with a moderate case of "gastroenteritis"- which basically (according to my memory) meant that I had consumed too many highly processed foods, (fresh frozen fruit smoothies- who knew?!) and after a few days of these "healthy" 24oz breakfasts (thank you Smoothie Cafe!) my body started leaching toxins into my body, and I had something akin to Toxic Shock: where my heart raced at 180 bpm sitting down, I was dizzy and Bass Pro Shops made me go to the hospital at the start of the second half of my shift. (Did I mention that it was Tom's birthday?) So Tom drove me to Sacred Heart Hospital (where they pray over the intercoms, and it's very comforting!) and they X-Rayed me and after about four hours, I had been treated. It was there that a doctor first mentioned the Eat Right for Your Blood Type book and some other titles. I remember being surprised- I should actually read these? And thrilled, because these seemed like helpful answers to the questions of my dietary needs, something that had haunted me since high school. I discovered that as the "oldest bloodtype" (O-Negative) that my type hadn't evolved enough to process processed foods. Is there truth to this statement? All I know is that this DEFINITELY applies to me. I realized that I'd been eating the "Paleolithic Diet" since '02- mainly meat, veggies and fruits: all basic 1-ingredient foods. Rx from the Doctor? No more refined or highly processed foods, or I might be hospitalized again. Bummer.

Back in 2002, I had seen a dermatologist who said that I should stop eating dairy to help clear up my face. After three months of this idea, I was never able to process dairy again. (I broke "free" from the pull of the GOT MILK? media campaign which suggests we be the only species to continue drinking milk after birth periods.) Rx from the Dermatologist? No dairy now, or at least minimal dairy, for the rest of my life due to a developed (but natural) intolerance.

So I've adapted my diet, excluding large amounts of dairy, and processed foods, while limiting my sugar, and sticking mainly to: meat, vegetables, fruit and carbs.

In 2010, Rachel and I trained for the 3-Day for the Cure, walking in the ballpark of 550 miles. Many people encouraged us with comments such as, "You two must be losing so much weight!" but in truth, we both lost about 2lbs each during the sixth months. The mistake we made the first time, was to make sure that we didn't become overly dehydrated, or dizzy, so we ate/drank back the amount of calories that we were burning with Gatorade, protein bars, nuts and fruit- all "seemingly healthy" snacks! In fact, on Saturdays, we were eating over the 1,000 calories that we had burned over ten miles or so, by eating lunch at Panera!

So when we trained for the same endurance event in 2012, we knew our body and caloric limits. We burned more calories than we were eating, but in a healthy way, maintaining our hydration and energy levels, by eating smarter and less that we had in 2010. We lost more weight, (I was around 7lbs lighter in July than I had been in January of 2012) and after the 3-Day was over we both committed to continuing our physical training with the Couch to 5K programs.

At just about this time, I welcomed two Chinese high school students into my house and my diet made a drastically different change. I was introduced to rice noodles, rice, authentic and healthy sautéed vegetables and more. While my running times disappeared with my new guardian duties of making nightly meals, and cleaning, my weight continued to drop with the combination of my new Chinamerican diet and one new major dietary change: I found Gluten Free bread.

Cue "the Great Dietary Change of 2012" ---I have now severely limited my intake of gluten based products, dropping and maintaining another 5lbs off of the 7lbs I had slimmed down to. None of my pants fit anymore. I now weigh the same amount as I did in college. I no longer use the term "food baby" on a daily or weekly basis when referring to my swollen or bloated bread belly.

Should everyone do this? Let me clear. I haven't cut all carbs out. I've replaced wheat noodles with rice noodles, wheat bread with gluten free whole grain bread (Udi's is a great brand), whenever I can. Have I noticed a difference? Between training, my Chinamerican diet, (which I am very full, happy and satisfied about) and the "Gluten light" diet change: I have noticed my afternoon energy levels increase, my waistline decrease from a size 10/12/13 to a 6/8, and my overall weight drop about 12-13 pounds this year, so I plan to make this a permanent change.

You may have noticed many other people making this change too. Some, for health reasons: Celiac disease, allergies, health awareness grows, more and more people have been calling the government to demand new labeling for genetically modified wheat and corn (which has been shown to agitate or harm individuals as it becomes harder to digest). As we watch these changes being made, it's important to take a true look at true ingredients in the things we are consuming, and letting our kids consume. Sometimes fresh fruit, when blended with ice, can have invisible toxins from pesticides that literally cause our bodies to go into shock. Even healthy vegetables, when not washed with a fruit/veggie wash, can harm us. So when I can't afford organic- I make sure to wash, wash, wash!