I have recently been trying something new with my diet and food: Gluten-free.
A little about my diet would be that I don't follow a diet.
I've never been on a diet.
I don't really do diets.
More after the jump....
And not sure I could actually follow one if I even wanted to; I just love food so much! For me, the small pleasures in life involve food, be it a gourmet meal or my favourite treats (mini eggs) and desserts (pie). These things make me happy, and I savour them when I allow myself to enjoy them.
That said, I try to eat healthy, get lots of nutrients in each meal so that I don't feel as bad when I do splurge on treats and less-good-for-you foods. I don't always eat perfectly healthy but my general rule of thumb is to eat what we'll call 'generally healthy' during the day throughout the work week, and treat myself to something sweet (if anything), in the evenings. Weekends are often much more liberal as I'm not packing a lunch and snacks and sometimes eat out.
While in the Mayan Riviera last month, I wondered to myself if I'd be able to last the week without eating gluten. Now this is coming from a girl who loves whole wheat pasta, bagels and wraps. Frequently. However, I told myself I'd try it, for a day or two, see if I felt better or at least could manage without eating those things.
Turns out, it's not so terrible and it's not so hard and while I've 'treated' myself to some gluten-laden treats here and there (burgers!), ultimately, I'm staying true to this gluten free lifestyle thingamajig. I've been eating tons of veggies and meat and when I want carbs I reach for quinoa, brown rice (cakes) and sweet potatoes.
While down south, as a snack in the afternoon I would have steak, guacamole and tomato salsa (as seen above) every. single. day. Delish! I did not need the chips to go along with my salsa and guac, I simply dipped my steak.
Another big change I've taken, which isn't that big but is making a big difference is my sugar intake in three simple steps: peanut butter, my morning oatmeal and milk.
Normally I eat light peanut butter, but I recently switched over to all-natural, organic PB. If you know me, you know I'm a feen for PB. I could eat it out of the jar. I love it in the mornings. I put it on toast, on a bagel, in shakes, on chocolate, whatever. You get my point. Switching to natural PB has surprisingly been an easy transition and I'm completely hooked...on now eating that from the jar. The other day I only had my old stuff on hand and tried it and couldn't eat it. What?!
Secondly is my morning oatmeal (plan rolled oats from the bag--I'd do steel cut, but that takes too long since I'm making this at work in the morning) that I normally was adding berries and pure maple syrup or agave nectar to. The amount of syrup wasn't too much--or was it?--but I have since found that it was spiking my insulilin levels and causing me to crave sugar all day long. I have recently switched over to cinnamon in my oatmeal and while somewhat plain at first, I really like it now.
As far as milk goes, I'm a milk addict. It's my favourite drink and sometimes if I don't get enough, I'll go through what I like to call 'milk withdrawls' and get headaches--I know, it sounds crazy. That said, I recently switched over to almond milk, just to try and see if it would satisfy me the way regular milk does. It took some getting used to, but now I love it and haven't bought regular milk in over a month. The bonus is that it's about 30 calories per cup and I always buy the unsweetened so there is no sugar.
So between those three things, over the past three weeks I have noticed something huge: I am no longer craving chocolate. I don't even have a taste for it.
I LOVE CHOCOLATE (so much so, I had to write it out in caps. See what I did right there?).
I crave chocolate everyday. I want a sweet treat all the time. When I don't feed that craving, I feel deprived; I'm able to withstand, but it sucks. So for almost two weeks I went without chocolate but my period was coming (tmi, but relevent) and that always means much stronger cravings for chocolate in the week leading up to it. And honestly, in that week, I let myself eat chocolate if I want it, typically, I don't cut myself off or forbid it. I'm not talking a crazy over indulgence, but perhaps a small treat every night (versus once every few nights). So this was the real test, would my taste for chocolate come?
I went through the entire week leading up to youknowwhat without a single chocolate craving. Fabulous! I have a chocolate stash at my apartment, there are mini eggs in my fridge, and I'd look at them and not even be tempted. What is going on here?
My theory is this: you know how when you consume less sugar, you crave sugar less? Well, I'm thinking all the sugar I was consuming in those three things--without really realizing it because they aren't 'treats'--is no longer in my system, therefore I'm no longer craving more sugar. When we reduce our sugar intake, we want less sugar. We are satisfied but more natural foods and don't need that sugary rush.
For example, the other night it was warm so my boyfriend and I went and got ice cream sundaes (my request). To be honest, I wasn't craving ice cream, hot fudge or anything sweet really. The warm weather hit me and I wanted to eat that because that's what you do in warm weather, right? Nope, that's silly, but anyways, I ate the sundae--which was obviously delicious--but felt guilty because (1) I broke my chocolate-free streak, and (2) noticed the next day I was craving various forms of sugar (and hadn't been for weeks). I felt so guilty and got back on track. It was hard, and I did have some mini eggs that evening but surprisingly I couldn't finish the small bowl I poured for myself. Honestly you guys, this does not happen. I will go back and fill my small bowl a couple times with mini eggs, but not finishing the small bowl I started with? Progress.
Another example, last night while at the grocery store, I noticed that the 1L cartons of chocolate milk was on sale--the 1% version. I picked up two cartons, with excitement, for $2 and went home. I poured myself a glass and my initial reaction was, 'Ugh! Too sweet!' I never think anything is too sweet. Ever. Progress.
I'm not telling you to go Gluten-free. I'm not saying this is the way you should live. I'm simply saying this is the way I'm living right now, and the benefits in my cravings alone--or lack thereof--are worth it. Do I miss gluten? Not really, which surprises me, to be honest. I let myself indulge when I want to (typically once or twice on the weekends; usually with a burger) but I find it's very easy to get around it. It's not like you are giving up carbs as there are so many alternatives to bread and pastas such as quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc. I love bread, but I don't really find myself craving it since giving it up. Additionally, there are many bad foods you can still eat without gluten (haha!).
I never thought I would give up gluten, but what really inspired this was an article a friend posted on Facebook about Gluten being a big contributor to belly fat. Since that's my biggest body hang-up, I thought why not give this a try, and see if it makes any difference? I haven't really noticed a change in my body (going gluten free + working out) at this point, but it's early and internally, I feel better (less heavy, if that makes any sense? I'm pretty sure I weigh the same).
I hope this helps anyone thinking about going Gluten-free or reducing their sugar intake. Personally, anything that I can do somewhat easily that is healthy and makes me feel better, I'm down. I like living a healthy and active lifestyle and feeling alive and energized (is that cheesy?). Eating well and exercising make me feel good--even when I want to eat badly and not exercise. Going Gluten-free is one way I'm trying to live a healthier life.
* Thanks for reading, if you made it this far, I know this was really wordy, but I wanted to include all my thoughts thus far. Please note I'm not Celiac nor do I have a Gluten intolerance. I'm not an expert on this and only in the past month started trying out this lifestyle. If you're interested in going Gluten free, do some research, see what the benefits for you could be and let me know how it goes.