Thursday, February 28, 2013
Back in January, I read Wheat Belly by William Davis. I'd heard it was good, and I've always been particularly sensitive to carbs, so I thought it would be interesting. At first, it was. It talked about how wheat has been altered over the last 100 years, and showed correlations between wheat and many different health issues. By the end of the book, however, the wheat issue turned out to be just a gimmick for the promotion of a diet similar to late-stage Adkins. The author didn't just advocate for the removal of wheat, but for all gluten-containing foods, all processed foods (with or without wheat in them), and all dairy except cheese. He also recommended limiting other carbs (rice, beans, quinoa, starchy veggies, etc) to bare minimums - no more than half a cup total per day. I went into the book expecting to find info on a wheat-free diet, not another variation on the low-carb thing. Very disappointing.
Some of the things the author said in the first half of the book were interesting, though, so I decided to try my own experiment in February. My scale had been stuck for 2.5 months, so I figured it couldn't hurt. I decided to go flour-free (NOT wheat-free) for the month. This meant that I could eat wheat in grain form (bulgar), but not in flour form, not even the whole-wheat flour variety. This basically meant no pasta, bread, cereal, crackers, granola bars, or most baked goods.
Now, I don't eat a whole lot of that stuff anyway. The hardest thing to give up was whole-wheat pasta, which I really love. It was also a bit annoying that my Girl Scout cookie order came in only a couple days into the month. Grr. They remain unopened in a drawer at my husband's work so that they couldn't tempt me. For the most part, though, it wasn't a difficult experiment. I replaced the flour-based products with other carbs (rice, beans, grains, potatoes), and in the interest of neutralizing other factors that might influence my results, I kept everything else the same as it had been in prior months. My carb percentage, average daily calories, freggie consumption, processed food consumption, restaurant use frequency, and exercise levels were exactly what they've been for months now. The only thing that changed was my flour consumption.
So, how did it go?
- For the first ten days or so, I did actually have some withdrawal symptoms, which surprised me. For how little I eat flour anyway, I didn't expect to have an addiction to it. I persisted without eating any flour, and after the symptoms went away, I didn't crave it again until a week ago, after I let myself have a small slice of cake the day I hit 100 lbs lost. One exposure to flour, and the cravings came back. Interesting.
- The cravings were particularly bad in the beginning of the month because of Girl Stuff. I always crave cereal, crackers, granola bars, and other highly-processed flour-based foods during that time. Instead of eating those foods, I fed the craving with processed non-flour carbs (ie Baked Lays and French fries...). While those aren't the best foods - I never eat well when that time is around - they didn't feed the perpetual cycle of hunger the way my normal cereal-and-crackers do, and I ended up eating less on those days. Success!
- The scale dropped 4 lbs this month. It hasn't moved that much in a single month since last June, and it hasn't moved at all for the last 2.5 months. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. Of course, it dropped all that in the first three weeks of February, and hasn't budged since. Maybe the stall-out has something to do with that slice of cake on the 21st, or maybe my body just reacts favorably to big changes like this for a short time and then stalls out (I've seen that before). I don't know. Either way, I was glad to lose those 4 lbs and hit the 100 lbs lost line, even if I would have liked to lose a bit more in the last week of the experiment.
- My skin issues and sleep issues, which the book claimed would fix themselves with the removal of wheat, did not change in the slightest. I also didn't lose significant inches around the belly, which the book also said would happen. Maybe this is because I didn't cut out all wheat (though really, I had bulgar all of four times this month), or maybe it's because those particular claims in Wheat Belly were bogus.
I don't plan on being flour-free for the rest of my life. I like some flour-based products a lot, and frankly, it's just plain inconvenient to plan meals around a flour-free lifestyle when the four other members of my family still eat the stuff. In March, I'm going to eat whole wheat pasta and my Girl Scout cookies and slices of cake at the many, many family birthday celebrations this month. I WILL continue to avoid cereal, crackers, granola bars, and most bread, but I will NOT be flour-free in March. I want to see what happens to the scale when I add flour back into the mix, see if this stall-out really is related to that cake or if it was just a coincidence. If my weight continues to move downwards, great! If it continues to be stuck, I think I can handle trying to go flour-free every other month or so in order to keep it moving.