I went gluten free for a couple of months and it wasn’t helping me. I was experiencing GI distress and bloating after eating wheat, so I thought that was the culprit. I had tried sprouted whole wheat, sprouted spelt, etc and I kept feeling bloated and having GI issues by early evening. I tried switching to homemade gluten free alternatives, including a gluten free bread recipe from America’s Test Kitchens. This seemed to work at first, but eventually I started having the same problems and I kept gaining weight. I also switched to high quality brown rice pasta and GABA sprouted brown rice. It seemed to work… at first. But then I would have GI issues and have to switch back to white potatoes or white rice.
This past weekend I went to a conference and decided to do an experiment. I decided to slowly introduce white flour into my diet and see how I reacted. I tried a “croissant” (meaning a croissant like thing) from Starbucks, a real croissant from a German bakery, some French mini toasts, and a tortilla from a burrito place. Of all of these I had the least reaction to the French mini toast and the German croissant. It was hard to tell what was causing the ankle swelling because I was in Florida, it was very hot and humid, I was on my feet all day, and I had certain female cyclical things going on. On days I did some moderate aerobic exercise and yoga stretches, I experienced some ankle swelling but it went down quickly. The ankle swelling was generally worse in the evening and I found universally it was tied to excessive alcohol consumption. Overall though, I had no GI issues, only the ankle swelling.
Since returning home, I’ve bought some King Arthur Flour Organic All Purpose Flour and thus far have had no reaction to it. I’d love to eat sprouted whole grains, but my body seems to reject them, passing them through my system undigested. When I converted to the Paleo religion, I believed that white flour was the devil and that eating it would make me sick and constantly hungry. This has not been the case. In fact, I find it quite filling.
I recently picked up an old classic, French Women Don’t Get Fat. The book is dated and some of her nutrition information isn’t exactly accurate (butter is NOT a bad fat). Her message, however, is spot on. She suggests starting out by taking 3 weeks to record everything you eat and when you eat it. Don’t worry about nutritional details, just focus on recording everything. At the end of 3 weeks, look over it. What’s the overall distribution? Even if you are eating “healthy” consider your portion size. That’s where I realized I was having issues. I was eating way too much and way too often, even though I was eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and not a lot of sugar. I was eating until I was stuffed rather than until I was satisfied.
The second phase is to take 3 months to start making dietary changes. Move towards smaller portions, less sugar, and cut down on the things that seem to be problematic (alcohol, bread, sweets, etc). After 3 months, see where you are at and continue this until you are at a comfortable weight.
Her philosophy is that you won’t lose weight quickly nor magically on this “plan”. However it won’t feel like a diet either. She suggests picking a realistic target weight, something that is a good balance of your narcissistic side and your side that enjoys eating good food. Finally, she emphasizes the importance of eating GOOD food. Once you’ve hit the target weight, she suggests you can moderately eat the things you’ve been avoiding. Of course while on your elimination period, you can also eat them occasionally, just less often.
Her recipes aren’t particularly interesting, for French recipes, I’ll stick with my used copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She touts low fat and other nonsense but her recipes do include butter and creme fraiche.
The thing that really makes sense to me is something that we all have known as common sense for most of the time we’ve been a society. If you’re fat, eat less. Eat less potatoes, eat less bread, eat less sweets. There’s no need to exclude them entirely, just don’t eat as much of them. Eat less food, eat less often. Eat when you are hungry and eat until you are satisfied.
If you find yourself needing to eat until full and you are constantly hungry, then there’s something going on. It might be psychological but it also might be physical. I believe if your body is suffering from a deficiency then you may display this behavior. I went to the Dr and had some tests run, not comprehensive, but just a few things. I found out I was B12 deficient. Well, not by US standards, but by European standards, anything around 500-550 represents the lowest end where the first symptoms of deficiency appear. I was at 400. Given how much liver and other B vitamin rich foods I eat, there’s no reason for that. I may have a genetic condition where I am not effective at methylating B vitamins from food sources. I did my homework and found a supplement. Within a few days I felt like a new person. My energy levels were up and my appetite was down. Suddenly I can skip meals again and eat normal portion sizes. My muscle cramping has improved and I can walk comfortably without my toes going numb.
I also suspect that being Paleo for so long affected my estrogen levels. I’ve been on a low estrogen birth control pill for some time and stopped it because I wasn’t sure how it might be affecting my body post-Paleo. Did you know medical studies on mice are typically only done on male mice because female hormones create too many variables and unpredictable results? If you have a condition, it makes sense to be on some sort of an elimination diet.
I’ve gained a lot of weight since going off Paleo. This happens when you “diet”. Don’t let the gurus fool you. Paleo *is* a diet. Sure some folks make it into a “lifestyle” practically a religion. Except for a few indigenous groups with very specifically adapted diets, no one has really studied the long term affects of an extreme low carb diet on human physiology. However, we do know the long term affects of a balanced diet, like the type eaten in Japan, France, the Mediterranean.
Many of my European friends (including my husband) gain significant weight when they come to the US. Is it something in the water? Maybe it’s the way we process our food. Something is causing this. So, my “diet” is to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. To not eat things with “additives”. When food is of better quality and of greater variety, it’s easier to not overeat.
Only in America do we obsess with diets and struggle so much with our weight.
I think the answer is simple.
Eat real food and not too much.
Before you can focus on weight loss, you have to focus on healing your body.
Before you focus on changing yourself, you need to accept yourself. Your desire for change should come from a positive place of self acceptance.