Wheat around the Waist? . . . That’s Crazy

 This is the abridged version of my article that ran in a local newspaper five years ago. Lately, friends have asked me how I was able to find my “before-children” figure, as they call it, when my children now had children of their own. I have been promising to give them information for months now. So, here is that article, and an update to the situation at the bottom.

 The call came on a crisp, fall morning from a girlfriend clear across the country, on her cell phone, on a Monday. My heart stopped for a millisecond as I flashed on broken bones or some worse tragedy.

Luckily, her voice was excited—a happy shrill that pierced my ears; but the words… reports on wheat … gluten … and lost 10 pounds in three weeks, still registered.

Used to be, this last statement would have me springing to my feet saluting the flag. I dabbled in some diets over the years. Remember the cabbage soup diet? The grapefruit pain of a diet?

Baby weight piles on at any age.

My friend’s concern was baby weight. She had baby Paul very late in life, and though I assured her that baby weight piles on even in your twenties—mine still clung to my hips and thighs, though the pride of my loins was 24 years old and already talking about getting married—she insisted that pounds were harder to shed at her age, and that she would lose the fat before baby Paul turned 10. She had three years to go.

After much soul searching, and viewing the e-mail of her before and after pictures, I decided to investigate the claim that gluten, a component of wheat, was responsible for many of us boomers’ weight gain, especially around the waist, hips and abdomen. I discovered that in some circles, the phenomenon we women politely refer to as bloating, is known as—loosely termed—the gluten gut.

 I discovered gluten is pretty much in everything we eat.

Two weeks after taking up the gluten-free challenge, my project sails billowing nicely, I made some startling discoveries. Turns out the strips of soy beef—fake meat as my husband calls it—that I lace in some casseroles to give everyone else the idea that they’re eating meat, had gluten in them. So did my favorite licorice candy—go figure.

This was war. I hauled my big guns to the supermarket—my patience, and a pair of reading glasses. Standing in the grocery aisles so long that people thought I worked there, I deciphered ingredients on labels. Next, eyes glued on my computer monitor, I read up on everything I could grab on the innards of wheat.

What doctors say.

Gliadin, one of gluten’s main protein fractions, is one of the reasons gluten-sensitive people react. It damages the villi and microvilli, small folds on the intestinal wall that massively increase the surface area of the small intestine to ensure efficient and rapid absorption of nutrients.

Doctors at the Insulite Laboratories report that gluten also results in the production of substances that can increase food cravings leaving individuals unaware of the reason for their desire to binge, or why these cravings become out of control so quickly. These substances known as exorphins, like hydrolyzed wheat gluten, have been found to prolong intestinal transit time thus contributing to weight gain. The effects of exorphins on the brain tell a person to keep eating, especially gluten and carbohydrates, which can lead to appetite disorders that routinely accompany food-related illnesses.

 I wondered if malabsorption could be the reason I had little energy yet always felt hungry. Gluten ingestion might also explain my love affair with carbohydrates, so I read on.

More about the grain.

I learned that wheat, touted as the grain of excellence, gained popularity over the centuries, and is now being sprinkled in just about all processed foods, even lending its charm to more modern chemical compounds such as taste enhancer MSG.  Gluten performs as an emulsifier, a stabilizer and a thickener, and even graces beverages to provide body. In fact, wheat’s rock-star status has blinded us to other wonderful grains such as acorn, amaranth, millet and hundreds more, as I learned on .

Luckily, gluten-free food is much easier to find today than it was twenty years ago. After many forays to the market, I can attest that there are whole sections in most major food stores devoted to the gluten problem, thanks to the Celiac Foundation and numerous other sites.

Four weeks after embarking on a gluten-free diet, I had dropped six pounds—enough to motivate more research. While in the supermarket, I made friends telling them about my project. One gentleman questioned a persistent rash on his arms his dermatologist had been treating for two years. “She had me cut out chocolate, orange juice, cheese, wine and a whole bunch of foods I like.”

More Research.

That’s when I began researching other possible outcomes of a gluten-full regimen. I found wonderful websites that shed light on how people, who used to treat many of their physical ailments with pharmaceuticals, are now leading balanced, healthy lives simply by having removed gluten from their diets.

You will find that problems and their solutions are as diverse as sleep disorders, high blood pressure, autism in children, arthritis and schizophrenia. . At this point, I remembered a co-worker who had to watch her diet due to high blood pressure. “It can’t hurt to try,” she said; and she did.

Sure enough, I found a site that could shed light on the gentleman’s rash. , also a wonderful place to order gluten-free products. Needless to say, my supermarket acquaintance was ready to take the no-gluten idea out for a spin.

When the Holidays came along…

I pushed on through the holidays, which was not as easy as I had thought it would be. When I walked into the food store and found my favorite fruitcake on sale and all the festive goodies smiling back at me, it was difficult not to cave. Rolling up my sleeves, I decided to bake my own merry goodies.

By the way, I found great recipes at: . They have everything you need and more, from making your own flour to all sorts of delicious treats.

Six months later, still gluten-free, I had lost 16 pounds, even during the harsh weeks of winter.

There was no stopping me now, especially that my husband agreed to hop the gluten-free train. He had no weight problem, but as he put it to his buddies, “My wife has so much energy. I have to do this if I’m going to keep up with her.”

As I stood in front of the fruit and vegetable stand, a man asked, “Excuse me, can you tell me in which aisle are the coffee grounds?”

“Sorry, I don’t work here.” I spotted surprise in his eyes. I hoisted a shoulder. “Research.”

Never going back!

As I caught my image in the mirror behind the leafy greens, I smiled. I looked good—twenty-two-pounds-lighter good. As for my friend across the country, she had lost more since, kept it off, and was ecstatic. The man with the rash … he’d reconciled with all the foods he had thrown out of his life. “The damn thing’s gone. I can wear short sleeves again.” My co-worker had lessened her blood pressure told all who would listen. As for me, more energy and a smaller waistline—crazy or not, the big smile in the mirror told me I was never going back.

 ***

Update:

I thought 2012, would be a good time to add the following updates to let people know that I have gone from a size 12 to a size 4. And, along with a smaller waistline, I’ve gotten back some of the balance I had lost.

However, baking has been difficult to learn. I have been baking since I was eleven years old, pies, fancy puff pastry, breads, and cakes of all sorts… Cooking and baking without the wheat flour, which is veritable glue as well as an emulsifier, took me a long time to master—a couple of years that I’m at it now, actually. Although it has paid off.

At first, my children were insulted, especially my youngest son, that I was baking their favorite treats with ingredients that weren’t giving the same taste or texture they had enjoyed all their life. The fact that my famous knack for baking and cooking became wobbly with my loved ones, began a real test of the ties that hold us together. No joke. Determined to get my status back, I went through several varieties of flours and thickeners. Tapioca, rice, millet, all flours I tried. I found coconut flour gives a terrific rich flavor, especially mixed with guar gum and Quinoa Flour. As a result, all these years later, I can now make perfect non-gluten pies, the pie crust being the hardest test of all. Used to be I would keep the non-gluten pies for myself and make the gluten ones for the family. Now, they eat the non-gluten ones first, and the others just go to waist. So, safe to say I have mastered the techniques. The drawing below is a courtesy of:

I have added a video here where you can get a quick recipe for bread. It is handed out on Youtube.

Against the three million people in North America diagnosed with Celia’s decease, a severe allergy to gluten, 18 million more are diagnosed with some form of sensitivity to gluten in their diets. So as you can see this is not a light batter—matter.

Therefore, I have decided to post every now and then, a successful recipe that anyone might just take and grab; and though I will not be able to answer all your questions, I will try to provide links for those I cannot answer.

 

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2 Comments

  1. You’ve definitely got perseverance. I think it’s great that you’ve learned and adapted to this sort of diet so well. My husband has a lot of intestinal issues, and though he doesn’t have Celiac, he might possibly be sensitive to gluten. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the patience or discipline to overhaul his diet, and I’ll admit to not being much better. Good for you! That’s some impressive results.

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    • It’s best to do it as a couple. My daughters did it with me for a long time. Now my eldest is still with me on it, although my youngest daughter finds it difficult to maintain. Again, it depends on the spouse and how willing he or she is willing to cooperate.

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