How Eliminating Wheat From Our Diet is Changing My Family

Amazon ImageBack in the summer of 2012 I read a great book called Why We We Get Fat, And What to Do About It.  It was eye opening.

I won’t review it here, but suffice it to say it changed how I looked at weight gain with its simple idea:  weight is gained by consuming too many easily digestible carbohydrates.

When I thought about it, I recalled that almost all of my periods when I actively sought to lose weight were times I severely cut back on carbohydrates.

Made sense to me.  But it wasn’t until I read another book called Wheat Belly that I made the connection on how to not only lose weight, but how to keep it off.

Now, I should confess, in the grand scheme of things I was not the largest guy on the block.  Sure, when we lived in Taiwan I felt like a giant, but that was mostly due to how thin most Asians are.  But every time we would travel to the USA I would notice just how large Americans were becoming.  We were overseas most of the time from 1990 to 2006, and in that time we could easily note the expanding girth of our fellow Americans.

Nevertheless, beginning in October 2011 I began to use the traditional means of losing weight…through counting calories and attempting to burn more (via exercise) than I consumed.  I used two nice apps on my iPhone to this end.  And I did indeed lose weight.

After reading Why We Get Fat, however, I decided to change things up a bit.  I eliminated those easily digestible carbs (fruit juice went first).  I continued to lose weight, but there was still a pretty large range in my weight’s ups and downs in a week.

Sometime in the fall of 2012 I heard about a book called Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health.Amazon Image
It is written in the same vein as Why We Get Fat, pointing out the impact of wheat especially  on weight gain (along with other very negative consequences of wheat).

Wheat Belly is written by cardiologist, Dr. William Davis.  Davis’ book asserts that modern wheat is a hybridized creation with little relationship to ancient grains humans have eaten for more than 8 millennia.  He contends that it is the changes to the DNA of hybridized wheat that have caused the alarming weight gains across the globe, not to mention problems with diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions (along with other problems).

My point here is not to convince you of the veracity of Davis’ claims.

It is to tell you what has been the result of my own move to remove wheat from my diet, and the impact that has had on my health, and that of my family.

Highs and Lows

First, a bit of back story.

I started running in 2006, and have done so since then, usually 3 times a week for 3-5 miles.  I love it.  But amazingly, in spite of significant calories burned, I actually continued to gain weight, at least until October of 2011.

Now, you might think that is because I lacked the will power to not eat more calories than I burned through exercise.  Fair enough.  Most of us have believed what the health community, including the federal government, have told us since the 80s, and that has been at the core of their message.

One thing that has actually held level in the past 15 years, including during the time since I began running in 2006, has been my cholesterol.  Despite exercise, and having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of anywhere from 26 to 31 (I was at 31 in October 2011 when I got serious about weight loss), my cholesterol stayed in the range from 226 to 246 for 15 years.

My doctor had never felt I needed medication for cholesterol, but it concerned me that exercise had not helped lower the cholesterol.

And a lower BMI, which I had when my first cholesterol reading of 236 startled me in 2001, apparently wasn’t a factor in my cholesterol level.  Truth is, there is a family history of heart disease.  My entire effort at exercise and weight control has been my effort to chart a different path than that of my father (who was not obese, or even overweight, but did die of a heart attack in 1994).

Bye Bye to Bread (from Wheat at Least)

So about 3 months ago now, I began to make a conscious effort not just to limit carbs in general, but to intentionally eat more protein while doing my very best to eliminate wheat.

The first thing I began to notice is just how prevalent wheat was to most of the things we Americans consume every day.  From biscuits to bagels, from flour tortillas to whole wheat bread, or from cookies to cakes, wheat, in one form or another, is a pretty standard part of our diets.

And eating pizza?  Well, you can’t have pizza without crust, and it is virtually all made from wheat (in fact, the increase of gluten in hybridized wheat is highly valued).

We haven’t purchased a loaf of bread in three months.  We eliminated pancakes from store bought pancake mix, and haven’t intentionally made anything at home using wheat flour in the 3 months.

At restaurants, I have not eaten rolls or cakes.  Pretty much any time we eat out, I attempt to eat something other than wheat flour products if I can.  Corn bread, corn chips, corn tortillas are found in most Texas restaurants, and though they have carbs, they don’t typically have wheat flour (yes, I know that corn bread can).

We also discovered Bob’s Red Mill.  No, we didn’t move to Washington state, but we did discover that Bob has a nice red mill, and his products are sold in our Amazon Imagefavorite grocery store.  We found out how good his corn bread mix is, and it doesn’t have any wheat flour.

We did try a few gluten free mixes of various types that we found really less than acceptable. Now, if one of our family was indeed gluten intolerant, we would go that route, but that is not the reason we were removing wheat from our diet.

What we have found to be very satisfying, and which we have essentially substituted in our diet is an ancient grain called spelt.  We have used spelt flour to make  muffins, brownies, pancakes and biscuits.  I actually find the taste of spelt flour to be fantastic, and because it is an ancient wheat (i.e. not hybridized), items Amazon Imagemade with it have a familiar consistency as items made from modern wheat flour.

What About The Changes?

I started this with the idea of focusing on spelt, but the longer I have worked on the post the more I realized it is really about the changes that I have made and continue to make.

It has been fun to watch weight stay off.  The only thing I am attempting to totally remove is wheat in all its forms.  I have continued to eat other carbs, but perhaps more moderately than before.

The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat

Even more interesting has been the impact on my wife by eliminating wheat from our diet.  She didn’t intentionally decide to do the no-wheat thing, but she followed me in.  And one of the immediate results was that she suddenly began to be able to sleep through the night.  For literally several years she had woken up  in the middle of the night.  Amazingly, within a week of going wheat free she started sleeping through the night.

But what about the things that matter for me (yes, of course my wife matters)?  I mean, what about the impact on my health?

That’s where it has been really fun.  I feel great.  I eat virtually anything I want, and don’t add pounds.  Why?  Because the wheat is what is whacking out our metabolism?

And my cholesterol? It has dropped to 211, the lowest it has been in 15 years.  My doctor is ecstatic!  I am too.

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by Thad on January 7, 2013 · 14 comments

in exercise,life

  • Kristen

    As an avid athlete in my mid-40′s, there is some junk around the trunk. And as a former carbaholic, I really appreciate this candid review of going wheat free. I never really realized how much carbs weighed me down, made me tired, and the random skin rashes. I
    “checked-out” Dr. Davis’s book a week ago and can attest that in one week alone, with no wheat, I feel exponentially better already. I believe if you simply read the history of what wheat used to be vs. what it is now….anyone would want to change their diet. And the wheat belly flaxseed wraps are really good! I never realized how bloated I became with even a flatout wrap vs. the flaxseed wrap let alone a Subway wrap. I love to cook so am really pleased with both books actually and how much better I feel in just a week wheat free. Thanks again for your post. Even as an athletic type, I have had pre-hypertension because it runs in the family however, wheat free has really lowered my numbers…in just a week.

    • Thad Puckett

      Awesome! It is amazing what can happen when you make some relatively easy adjustments! Best of luck!

  • Sicorra @TacklingOurDebt

    We are starting on eliminating wheat from our diet as of today. Our bad reactions are bloating, which I’ve known for years for myself, and I’ve stopped before and then started eating the stuff again. I need to stop eating it once and for all.

    I did a lot of baking last year with almond flour and loved it but it is quite expensive here.

    • Thad

      Good for you. I notice the bloating too now, and as much as that Girl Scout cookie looked good to me in the break room a minute ago? It isn’t worth how I would feel if I ate it.

      Spelt flour is our answer, but it is not for everyone, especially if the need is genuine gluton free.

  • Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin

    I’m going to check these books out. Thank you for the knowledge. I typically don’t get bread carbs after noon.

    • Thad

      I think you will enjoy them. Very eye opening.

  • J Bell

    I wonder if a modified version of this would produce any results?
    It is kinda hard to avoid all wheat when so much of the food over here in Asia is noodles :-)

    • Thad

      Well, it would depend on a few things. Since I doubt you have celiac disease, you could indeed eliminate as much as you can, and I think you would find real benefit. There are other types of noodles (rice noodles for instance).

      What I have found is that when I go a few days with literally no wheat products consumed, my stomach hurts when I finally do have some (and I have come to recognize the feeling). The other thing I have noticed is that I feel a mild “let down” as in “down in the dumps” the day after I have wheat because, as Wheat Belly points out, modern wheat actually does have an endorphine like effect on our brains, and when that is depleted the next day (and not replenished) I feel “down”.

      With that said, I do confess I am a “social wheat eater”, meaning if a group wants pizza or something I’ll eat it, but it comes with a hurting tummy every time.

  • Dale

    I’m doing the same thing and feeling better all the time.

    • Thad

      Isn’t it great?

  • Holly@ClubThrifty

    I haven’t read the book but I wholeheartedly believe that easily digestible carbs are a huge weight gain culprit. I have always maintained a healthy weight since my mid 20′s and I do it by not eating a lot of carbs.

    • Thad

      I recommend the book, both of them actually. It is far more than just weight that is impacted. Well being really.

  • Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank

    My brothers ex was a celiac and so we all learned really fast that almost everything we consumed had wheat or wheat products in it. Even things you would never have thought of like soy sauce!

    The poor think pretty much just ate just meat and veg :(

    • Thad

      Dr. Davis points out just what you said, that wheat tends to show up in the most unlikely of foods. His contention is that the reason for that is to build in the euphoric feelings caused by wheat (they are genuinely there…caused by a endorphine like response from the brain to wheat).

      Thankfully no one in our family suffers from celiac disease. It sounds dreadful.

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