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.
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 favorite 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 made 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.