In the Beginning – My 3-Week Gluten-Free Experiment – Day 1

As I stated in previous posts, I am formulating a new meal/exercise plan based on my uniqueness; age, gender, physical health and ability, time, motivation, finances (yes, that’s important too) and future goals.  When most people decide to “go on a diet,” most of the previous considerations are not taken into account. 

With the thousands of “diets” on the market, I have not yet come across one which targets anything resembling a personal experience.  You’ll find plenty of plans for those with common medical conditions such as high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, celiac disease, lactose-intolerance, asthma or diabetes but none of them address the entire individual.  I’m proposing to address physical, medical, mental and emotional conditions simultaneously.  Since I’ve experienced occasional digestive problems for quite a while, I’m initially choosing a Gluten-Free approach to evaluate for several weeks.  

I’m not currently able to splurge on a gym membership so I’ll be starting my exercise regimen at home; with hand weights, jump rope, hula hoop, exercise band and workout video.  I had to laugh when I pulled out my selection of videos to determine which one I was going to use.  Three of the four were in VHS format from the late 80’s.  I cringe when I think I used to work out in coordinating leotards, tights and legwarmers.  The sad part is that they are making a comeback!  

I will be following the Biggest Loser series first.  Who knows, maybe I can sell the others on eBay.  The video begins with a 30-minute basic sculpting workout.  It offers two additional levels of intensity to add at your own pace.  I’m augmenting that program with two 15-minute routines using either the jump rope, hula hoop or exercise band throughout the day.  Motivation will be the most challenging part.  Hopefully, my determination and perseverance will overcome procrastination on the days I just don’t feel like moving too much.  I know I’m not alone in those occasional moments. 

Next is the cost factor of new ingredients I’ll need to purchase which I don’t normally stock such as dried beans and legumes (peas, green beans, edamame, etc.), rice pasta, quinoa, gluten-free baking products, condiments and canned items (which can be pricey).  I’ll incorporate these with the typically gluten-free foods I keep on hand such as dairy, lean meat, fish, poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables.  The most important factor in selecting gluten-free foods is to have a plan that incorporates the necessary amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats on a daily basis. 

Having just returned from a six-day trip in the wee hours of the morning, I wasn’t feeling overly enthusiastic though I managed an exercise session.  Fortunately, after scouring the refrigerator for permissible foods without having to run to the grocery store, I was pleased to find I had enough items on hand for the moment.  My meals for the day consisted of yogurt, walnuts, fresh fruits & vegetables, eggs and ground turkey. Two of my favorites were the smoothie and turkey burger (minus the bun).  I’ll still need to shop for fresh produce and lean meats along with some pantry items so that I’m not left salivating over at all the prohibited foods that reside in my cabinets.  After all, I’m the only one on this gluten-free plan and don’t expect my family to suffer through this process with me, at least not for the time being.  I’d have a mutiny on my hands.

Sifting through the myriad of gluten-free related articles and blogs I discovered online, I spotted a post which I found amusing and a bit ominous.   After their name, the person included the following:

  • Born and raised in OR; Currently living in UT
  • Gluten-free since June 2006
  • Also living with Hypoglycemia since 1991
  • Dairy-free for good since summer 2008
  • Started IBS diet and probiotics at GI’s recommendation – Fall 2008
  • Also avoiding: potatoes, beans, crucifers, popcorn, most red meat, coconut milk 😦
  • Started eating a Paleo diet Spring 2011. Love it

At first I wondered what the heck this person ate during the day.  Then I realized I am among friends of a feather and certainly not alone in my endeavor.  On a separate page, most likely in the next day or so, I will be posting a feasible weekly meal plan I can live with and summarize my results at the end of each week.  Daily postings would be boring.  Believe it or not, my stomach still feels heavy even without having consumed wheat today.   I realize I’m looking for instant gratification.  Yes, I’m a bit impatient but excited nonetheless.  This journey is definitely going to take some serious resolve.  Here we go! 

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

The Gluten-Free Controversy Continues…

After all my research and choosing to follow a gluten-free diet for 3 weeks in an effort to alleviate digestive discomfort, I read the following article from HuffPost Healthy Living,dated July 31, 2012:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/gluten-free-diets-and-cel_n_1721467.html

I like to keep an eye on Mayo Clinic reports, although they are not the only resource I investigate.  The study claims that the majority of people adhering to a gluten-free diet either do not have Celiac disease or were never tested for it (like me) and chose a gluten-free diet believing it would help with the common symptoms associated with the disease such as, bloating, diarrhea, headaches and chronic fatigue.

Again, I’m still in the developmental phase of my nutrition/exercise plan, based solely on my individual lifestyle, medical issues, and the like.  I’m not surprised by the article especially where it indicates that those people who tested negative for Celiac disease do in fact experience “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.”  At the end of October, I’ll be able to decide if removing gluten from my diet has helped my digestive difficulties, primarily bloating and an overall feeling of abdominal discomfort.

Check out one of the GF Main Meal recipes below…

In addition to the formulating a 7-day meal plan which I’ll stick with for the 3 weeks; I’m incorporating exercise into my design.  My goal is several 15-20 minute exercise routines throughout the day.  This will help break up a normally tedious hour-long workout and I expect will also help maintain my energy on a more consistent level.

I realize it would perhaps make more sense to be properly tested (blood test and bowel tissue biopsy) before engaging in a completely gluten-free diet however I am not fond of the type of testing required; I don’t care for needles and haven’t had my first colonoscopy yet.  Additionally, gluten-free diets are not designed to help people lose weight which is what I really prefer to do.  My rationalization is that I’d rather deal with the abdominal discomfort issue first and then select a meal plan based on the results of prohibiting gluten from my diet.  The second phase of my goal is choosing foods that will help me lose weight as well as address other medical concerns I have.

First things first; I’m going to enjoy this coming weekend in NC with my family.  Upon my return, the real work will begin.  I have to say I’m looking forward to my experiment.  It’s only for 3 weeks.  I’m ready and willing, albeit apprehensive, to take on this challenge and make my evaluation.  This is the worst time of the year for me to be making dietary changes, with the holidays approaching.  It will be a true test of my fortitude, I can tell you that.  We will just have to wait and see!

“I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.” ~ Author Unknown

Beef and Green Beans (Slow Cooker)

 Ingredients
  • 3 pounds chuck roast
  • 1/3 cup rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 16 ounces frozen slender green beans
Instructions
  1. Cut the roast in to strips about 3/4 inch wide. Trim most of the fat.
  2. Combine the strips of roast, flour, salt and pepper in a greased 6 quart or larger slow cooker. If using a smaller cooker, cut the recipe in half.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix them together.
  4. Cover and cook on low 6 – 8 hours or high 3 – 4 hours.
  5. Serve with rice or pasta.

To Be or Not To Be – Gluten Free

Humans are creatures of habit.  I believe that because I generally wake up each morning at the same time and go through my routine like clockwork.  There is a comfortable rhythm to it and I could probably go through all those motions in the first fifteen minutes with my eyes closed.  What happens when my routine is interrupted?  It seems to throw the whole morning off. 

 It’s the same with any change though.  For the past year or two I’ve noticed changes in my body that, while minor, are nonetheless disturbing.  Did I mention it to my doctor at my annual check-up?  No, because I didn’t feel it was important enough.  I got a clean bill of health after my blood test results came back so why ask questions?  The fact that I feel bloated all the time must be because I drink coffee in the morning.  The reason I make so many trips to the bathroom during the day is because I drink a lot of water.  I feel full after a small meal because I had too much fiber.  I offered many excuses for the reason I wasn’t feeling my best and was slowly gaining weight every couple of years; I was “getting older.”

 Being a creature of habit, I did not want to change my routine.  However, after making mental notes and eventually keeping a journal, I noticed my digestive problems were directly related to either certain foods I ate, when I ate them or how much I consumed.  Before reporting these findings to my doctor, I chose to play detective.  If I changed what I ate, when and how much I ate, I should be able to determine which of the foods I consumed on a regular basis is the culprit.

 My first attempt at discovery was trying Activia brand yogurt.  The claim on their website http://www.activia.us.com/ is that Activia “is made with the exclusive probiotic culture, Bifidus Regularis® (Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010) and can help naturally regulate your digestive system.”  After two weeks, I actually felt worse, so that didn’t work.  Then I tried to eliminate cheese, ice cream and other milk products from my diet to see if I was still Lactose-intolerant as I had been throughout my teens and twenties.  Two weeks later, no change.  My third trial will begin the first week of October when I’m back from a short vacation and more able to carefully assess what I eat and how it affects me.

 This third experiment concerns gluten.  The reason I may be having digestive problems could be that I have Celiac Disease.  “Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001280/

With the help of a registered dietitian, I intend to follow a gluten-free diet for three weeks.  We are developing a meal plan which takes into account information from medical journals, research studies and scholarly reports. 

 I first heard of this disease from a baker on a segment of a Martha Stewart show.  She described how she was diagnosed with Celiac disease several years prior and created a cookbook with dessert recipes which were gluten-free.  Shortly thereafter, I heard one of “The View” talk show hosts speak of her ordeal with the disease.  I thought to myself, this may be the ailment I have.  The only way of knowing for sure without having to undergo formal testing is take the route similar to allergy testing.  I am going to avoid foods containing gluten for three weeks and see if I notice a change.  Then I will contact my physician and advise him of my findings.

 Here comes the difficult part.  As previously mentioned, it is tough to change a habit or routine.  I’ll need to stay positive and focus on how good I’ll feel once I eliminate gluten from my diet if in fact gluten is the cause of my problems.  Personally, the most challenging part will be avoiding bread, cakes, cookies, pasta, salad dressing, sauces and soups plus a few other food products.  That pretty much covers everything I’m used to eating.

 In order for me to feel better, I’ll need to be committed to change.  Replacing foods in my diet with those my digestive tract can handle will ultimately help me achieve optimum health.  I am still not certain I do have Celiac disease.  On the other hand, what could be so bad about revising my diet for three weeks?  If it doesn’t work, I can always revert to my prior dietary habits.

 In the meantime, I’m having fun putting together a variety of meals that I’ll enjoy making and eating.  I am equipped with an arsenal of cookbooks and products specially designed for those who must follow a restricted gluten-free diet.  One drawback to this plan is that it is more expensive.  Foods that are marketed to the “health conscious” generally cost more.  Time will tell if my little investigative plan succeeds and so will my waistline.  I’m hoping for the best.

 “Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”  ~ Victor Hugo