My wheat free diet (update)

Instead of a What I Eat post I’ve decided to just write a post on how my wheat free diet is coming along. It’s been a little over 6 months since I figured I might have wheat intolerance. Through a lot of trial and error during that time I am now fairly sure my body just doesn’t like grains all together as well as too much starch and sugar. Here’s what I tried and what (didn’t) work.

For those who don’t know a quick recap. I have been following a largely low carb diet for almost two years now. I noticed my stomach reacting unfavorably to bread, pasta, potatoes and too much rice. So I cut them out. However, last year I started working out more and so my body needed some extra fuel. I decided to try oatmeal for breakfast in February and let’s just say it didn’t go too well. I had oatmeal every day for a week and it led to bloating and a whole array of other nasty symptoms I don’t care to specify. My mother than suggested I might be wheat intolerant and so I started experimenting with eating non wheat product.

First I tried mostly wheat replacements: spelt, rye and gluten free breads and pastas. I ate them on a regular basis, along the guidelines of Dutch government recommendations. Alas, my symptoms remained. I tried it for 6 weeks and I improved a bit, but the bloating and overall feeling of fatigue remained. So in April I decided to go low carb (sort of) again, and that if I want to eat something grain based I make sure it is not made with wheat. Eating wheat will cause me to either become very sick for 24 hours (it is as if I have food poisoning) or I will just feel really really bad: I get tired, have headaches and am listless.

In June I decided to try and substitute regular refined table sugar with honey and agave nectar. My sweet tooth is imminent and especially late in the afternoon, when I am on my way home after a long day at work I get peckish. I travel by train so I have to pass several food stores that only sell crap food and have to combat the scents of all that deliciousness that people carry on the train. So I decided to bake my own sweet snacks to prevent going for Snickers bars and M&Ms. It sort of worked, but as my stress levels rose towards the end of the school year, so did my appetite for all things sweet. Add in all those social drinks and dinner get togethers that come with the end of the school year and leisure summer activities and my hard work was almost futile.

Needless to say I gained a few pounds in the past 3 months or so. It’s not too bad. My clothes still fit, but those non-stretch jeans have gotten a bit tight. That’s not all: my heck-it’s-vacation-I-don’t-care attitude that came with summer break led to some old symptoms rearing their ugly heads. For the past two weeks I was feeling drab: fatigued, listless, headaches, stomach cramps. I figured it must be the adding up of weeks of eating whatever I liked. Most of it still healthy, but that extra ice cream, social sandwich and not wanting to be a nuisance to company or simply refusing to pay over 15 euros for a salad filling enough at a music festival came at a price.

I know what I have to do: get back on track. And that means eating real food, meaning as little processed as possible, and small meals throughout the day. I now also know that most of my cravings and some of my problems are also stress related. I ate some really bad food during summer break, but never became sick like I did (twice in two weeks time!) at the end of the school year. I am not sure what to do about that. Teaching simply is a stressful job. As the year progresses and it’s the same old, same old at the end of every school year. So any tips on how I could deal with that are helpful.

Here’s what I’ve set to do right now:

– Reduce sugar intake. This one is simple: if it’s not coming from fruit or veggies I won’t be eating it all throughout September. I will then allow myself the occasional sweet snack. These snacks will than have to be baked with sugar and wheat substitutes.

– Allow one cheat day for weekends. This can be drinks with friends, dinner at my parents’, or a chocolate bar or whatever tickles my fancy that weekend. You have to be kind to yourself!

– Meals: yoghurt with fruit and nuts (no honey or agave nectar) for breakfast, veggie or fruit as a mid morning snack, leafy green salad with healthy protein (fish, meat or cheese) for lunch, veggie or fruit as a mid afternoon snack, dinner consists of veggies and protein. If I’m having fatty protein for lunch I’m having lean protein for dinner or vice versa.

– READ: I bought a stack of books on food from Amazon this summer. So far I’ve only read two, but I intend to read them all and educate myself more so I can make better choices.

– Work out: due to my feeling drab the past few weeks I slacked in the gym department. I did work out regularly over summer so I am still fit, but not at the same level as I was before summer. Dance classes start back up next week and I am intending on enrolling in an extra class that is new to the schedule. I am not sure whether I will stick to my weekday Body Combat class, but I will have to see how it all works out.

I’ve already gotten back on track in the food department: all week last week I ate according to the diet that I know works best for me and poof: gone are the fatigue, the headaches and the listless feelings. This week I am working on getting back to the gym so that all I have to add are dance classes and I hope to feel on top again by the end of September. Then it’s just a matter of sticking to the program, which I know come winter time is alright. Come spring/ summer it will be harder as work becomes more stressful and more social activities take place.

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