Growing up my mother was extremely health conscious. We hardly ever had processed foods in our house, it was a special occasion when we had sugary cereal, chips, or other junk foods. In fact, when my brother was young he said that every night we had "salad and gross stuff" for dinner. This gross stuff being some kind of baked or grilled meat, fruit and some kind of grain such as rice, cous cous or pasta. I really can't tell you a time I ever saw my mom pull a meal out of the freezer that she had actually bought in the freezer section at the grocery store. She was ahead of her time, preparing what would now be called "whole food" meals, cooking in bulk to freeze and preparing uncooked meals to freeze for a convenience meal later. So although I was still overweight growing up, at baseline, we had a healthy diet.
I first started to notice weight gain the summer after my senior year of high school and before I went to college. That summer I babysat for a family, feeding their children during the day and eating the same foods myself. Their house was completely full of processed convenience foods. We would eat lunch, then a little while later I would be hungry again, so I would have a snack and this vicious cycle continued. By the time I went to college, my clothes were feeling pretty tight and a few months in, I was pretty depressed. Taking the suggestion of my roomate, I went to see a doctor. I ended up doing what a huge amount of young girls do, I started a low dose birth control pill to even out my hormones. During college my weight went up and down over the years and six days after graduation I got married.
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What a shock marriage was! We had to buy, plan and prepare all of our food on top of getting used to marriage and working full time. We resorted to eating out or frozen packaged meals for just about every meal. My weight went up and up and up. I joined Weight Watchers and did have some weight loss, but then the weight loss stopped and I got discouraged and realized that almost all of the food that I ate was packaged, carb loaded and full of chemicals because if it was in a package, it was easy to know the point value. This was when I started to read about organic foods. I then heard about Suzanne Somers from my aunt and uncle, so read her book "Eat Great, Lose Weight" and learned about things like glycemic index. I followed her diet, strict as it was, and began to feel pretty good, even lost some weight. But this diet was pretty difficult to follow when you are eating a lot of frozen prepared foods. She divides all food into a few different categories and explains how to plan your meals so that you are eating the rights kinds of foods in the right kinds of combinations. You absolutely can not mix carbs with proteins or fats in the same meal, which means- you can eat that pasta, but make sure there is absolutely no oil on the pasta, the sauce or even on that side salad. That is not easy.
So I resorted back to Weight Watchers again, keeping in the back of my mind the knowledge I learned from Suzanne Somers, knowing that her diet plan really did help me to feel better. I didn't really see any change while doing Weight Watchers a second time and got discouraged. With the addition of a depo provera shot, my weight crept up higher and higher. In the beginning of May 2008 after some lab tests I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and began levothyroxine. I began to feel better and noticed a decrease in symptoms. Then I found out I was knocked up, and we moved across the country (can you say stress?). I tried to eat healthily while I was pregnant, it also gave an excuse to give in to cravings. Then after my beautiful little Munchkie was born in March of the next year I couldn't believe how big I was, which made me depressed, which made me eat more, which made me depressed, you see where this is going.
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My obsession with The Biggest Looser led me to Jillian Michael's "Master Your Metabolism." Her scientific explanations made complete sense to me and I felt like she wrote the book for me. Her explanation of how to eat foods, what foods to avoid and food's affect on our bodies really got me thinking and so I began her diet plan. She gives a complete grocery list (which I do not want to even begin to tell you how much I spent) and two weeks of meals and snack recipes. I followed it to a T and began to loose weight. The food prep was exhausting though! I had a baby, was working full time, Munchkie's Daddy was in school and just could not keep up with preparing all of the meals. I began to plateau and it was just enough to cause frustration that resulted in me straying from her meal plan. Again, I kept all of her information in my head and continued to try to follow her basic plan- whole grains at breakfast, lunch and snack, lean meats, lots of veggies with some fruits, no carbs after 4pm and nothing to eat after 9pm. However, I frequently gave into cravings and snacked throughout the evening while in times of stress.
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Last fall, I read about a juice detox, as did Munchkie's Daddy and so we began it together. During the two week detox, the side effects were pretty crazy at first- blurred vision, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, cravings, shakiness, but after the the first several days, I began to feel pretty good. I wasn't hungry, I had energy, and I just overall felt pretty well. Then I started introducing foods back into my diet. I ate mostly fruits, vegetables with black beans or hummus for a while and continued to loose weight and feel pretty good. Then as I introduced other foods back in, I began to have cravings again. Munchkie's daddy just doesn't understand these cravings and would always roll his eyes at me. It is like an addiction, I would want something like chocolate cake and it was all that I could think about. I would salivate just thinking about chocolate cake and would not stop until I had some. I tried to do this detox several more times, knowing how good I felt at the end of it, but every time I tried, I seriously could not get the juice down. I would remember how I had to literally gag it down the first time around and could even suck the juice up a straw before I was gagging into the sink.
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This summer I heard about and read a book by Tim Ferriss "The 4-Hour Diet." After reading the almost six hundred of pages full of research and crazy tests that he did on himself- including implanting a blood glucometer and checking his blood sugar with finger sticks several times a day to verify accuracy I tried out his eating plan. I really liked that his plan included six days of strict eating plans and then on the seventh day, it's a free day. His plan includes eating vegetables, beans and lean proteins at every meal. No dairy, fruit or carbohydrates of any kind during these six days. Now, I live on dairy, fruit and carbs. This was extremely difficult to do, but as he said, keep track of what you are craving and eat it on the seventh day. Each week it would take several days to go through "withdrawal" and dealing with the intense cravings that consumed my thinking and by the end of the week I would finally be getting over it. I would start feeling great, having more energy, feeling full, eating less, etc. Then the seventh day would come and I would eat all of those things that I had been thinking about all week- yogurt, chocolate, fruit, bread, cake, etc. When the next week began, I would go through all of those withdrawal symptoms again and sometimes, when I was feeling weak, I just couldn't fight them. With the stress of all the changes in our lives, all it took was a bad day at work to send me straight to my friends Ben and Jerry.
For a while I had been telling Munchkie's Daddy that so many people talk about how much better they felt after going gluten free. I really wanted to try it out and he was extremely resistant. See, when I am on my latest diet, he gets sucked in, somewhat unwillingly. These diets were only the major ones that influenced me the most, but I also tried several other ones inbetween. I knew that when I eliminated carbohydrates I felt better, it's just really hard. I read up on gluten sensitivity and while I do not think that I have anything remotely close to celiac disease, I know that my body does better without something- and perhaps it's gluten. So this led me to decide to try gluten free out. One of the blogs that I read frequently, Deliciously Organic, recently posted about reading the book "Wheat Belly" by William Davis and so today when I had a little bit of free time I bought the book and sat in Barnes and Noble reading.
I was immediately drawn into this book. Dr. Davis is a cardiologist in Milwaukee and came upon his term "wheat belly" after he couldn't figure out why he was overweight while running everyday and eating a diet with healthy whole grains. He says that this kind of belly has been called a beer belly because only big beer drinkers had them. But what is beer made of? Grains- wheat, barley. So he terms it a "wheat belly" because it wasn't the beer causing the belly, it was the wheat intake and so now people of all ages and backgrounds have beer bellies. While I'm only partway through the book so far, it makes complete sense why I felt so much better on the 4-Hour Diet, but then couldn't handle the cravings at the start of each week. It also explains why after giving up sweets each Lenton season I have decreased urges to eat sweets, but as soon as my first bite on Easter, all of the cravings are back. Or why after a sugary carb heavy breakfast I feel lethargic and sick to my stomach for a while, then a couple hours later, am starving. He explains (in a very scientific and a little over my head way) how the wheat of today is nothing like the wheat of even 60 years ago. He explains exactly how wheat has been genetically modified- both in nature and by humans to become something almost unrecognizable. Here are a few excerpts from his book that really hit me.
"Flip through your parents' or grandparents' family albums and you're likely to be struck by how thin everyone looks. The women probably wore size-four dresses and the men sported 32-inch waists. Overweight was something measured only by a few pounds; obesity rare.......The women of that world didn't exercise much at all. (It was considered unseemly, after all, like having impure thoughts at church.) How many times did you see your mom put on her jogging shoes to go out for a three-mile run? Exercise for my mother was vacuuming the stairs......And yet, we're getting fatter and fatter every year." (page ix)
"Many overweight people, in fact, are quite health conscious. Ask anyone tipping the scales over 250 pounds: What do you think happened to allow such incredibly weight gain? You may be surprised at how many do not say 'I drink Big Gulps, eat Pop Tarts, and watch TV all day.' Most will say something like 'I don't get it. I exercise five days a week. I've cut my fat and increased my healthy whole grains. Yet I can't seem to stop gaining weight!'" (page 5)
"An interesting fact: Whole wheat bread (glycemic index 72) increased blood sugar as much as or more than table sugar, or sucrose (glycemic index 59), (Glucose increased blood sugar to 100, hence a glycemic index of 100.)" (pages 8-9)
"I still get shivers when a well-dressed, suburban soccer mom desperately confesses to me, 'Bread is my crack. I just can't give it up!' Wheat can dictate food choices, calorie consumption, timing of meals and snacks. It can influence behavior and mood. It can even come to dominate thoughts." (page 44)
"In lab animals, administration of naloxone blocks the binding of wheat exorphins to the morphine receptor of brain cells. Yes, opiate-blocking naloxone prevents the binding of wheat-derived exorphins to the brain. The very same drug that turns off the heroine in a drug-abusing addict also blocks the effects of wheat exorphins." (page 49) He spends the paragraphs before this explaining that it was found that wheat acts in our brain the same way that morphine would, creating a "runner's high."
"What happens if normal humans are given opiate-blocking drugs? In a study conducted at the Psychiatric Institute of the University of South Carolina, wheat consuming participants given naloxone consumed 33 percent fewer calories at lunch and 23 percent fewer calories at dinner (a total of approximately 400 calories less over the two meals) than participants given a placebo. At the University of Michigan, binge eaters were confined to a room filled with food for one hour. Participants consumed 28 percent less wheat crackers, bread sticks, and pretzels with administration of naloxone. In other words, block the euphoric reward of wheat and calorie intake goes down, since wheat no longer generates the favorable feelings that encourage repetitive consumption." (pages 50-51)
I am looking forward to finishing this book and seeing what his suggestions are. The more I read gluten free blogs I see that those who have eliminated gluten don't really even want baked goods that much anymore because they just don't appeal to them. They are able to create all kinds of gluten free goodies now with the help of other flours, but the desire to eat breads or sweets just isn't there. I think that an occasional piece of cake made from alternate flours or rice flour crackers would help me to not feel deprived, but at the same time, not lead to the cravings that I have such a difficult time fighting.
Does anyone have any input here? I would love to hear what others think.