Friday, December 07, 2012
Almost two years ago I went on a short-term gluten-free diet (actually it was free of gluten, caffeine, chocolate, peanuts, soy, sugar, alcohol except for the occasional glass of wine, and a few other things). I called it the Crazy Diet because it was a bear to manage and took a lot of willpower. However, as difficult as the eating plan was to follow, it was the best I have ever felt in my life. I wasn't tired, mood swings were MIA, migraines disappeared, my sleep was better, no bloating or other IBS symptoms... you get the idea.
But as with any type of radical change, these types of diets are not sustainable in the long run. Although I admit that supermarkets and restaurants are making it easier for us to eat this way, there are always those visits to family and friends that make it impossible to be a Crazy Dieter unless we want to be rude and deal with the snarky comments. As a result, after about six months of following the Crazy Diet I was back to eating 'normally'.
The interesting part of going back to normal eating was that I was sick for about 6 weeks straight. I assumed it was something I had avoided during the Crazy Diet that I started eating again that was making me sick. I tried to analyze my diet (I had tracked everything here on spark) to find out which culprit was to blame, but it was nearly impossible since I went straight from eating zero of the potential culprit foods to eating all of the potential culprits practically overnight. Even the doctors couldn't help me, and just recommended I take some over the counter probiotics. It helped a little, but not enough.
I had lost a good amount of weight on the Crazy Diet (10% of my body weight at the time) but over the past year it has started to creep back up on me. I recently joined a gym that has helped me to shift my body weight around so that it's more muscle and less fat, but my weight has stayed the same. Not that it's a bad thing -- I'd prefer muscle over fat, but I was kind of hoping to lose the few pounds I needed to be back to my 'goal' I had achieved by the end of the Crazy Diet.
Then serendipity decided to pay me a visit. I was complaining at the gym one day about how I never, ever get over being sore from working out. The trainer asked about my diet and after listening to my mortified admissions, he said I wasn't eating enough protein. He recommended at least 100 grams per day. So I tried it. And guess what, I feel better.
So what happened?
Here's my theory: In order to get in all of that extra protein I had to add a protein based smoothie daily, which replaced my lunch. No more bread-based sandwiches. Since I was already doing 1/3 of the Crazy Diet again (i.e. the smoothie) I ended up by default adding a few more of the better parts of the Crazy Diet: having a nice sized salad every evening with dinner, and replacing my dinner bread/pasta with brown rice, sweet potato, or a starchy veg (squash, green beens, or corn). Viola. The bloating disappeared, my sugar and chocolate cravings stopped, the weight started coming off, and I am feeling better already. It's only been two weeks but if I say so myself, that's quite an achievement.
In the end I'm thinking it's the wheat. Not necessarily gluten, but perhaps I just don't digest wheat very well. I've been staying away from cheese too (it's a huge hit on calories for very little protein) so that might have something to do with it, but my vote is still on the wheat.
At least I can say the cuprit is not caffeine (I am still drinking coffee every morning). I will gladly give up wheat for the rest of my life so I can savor my morning cup of coffee.