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Monday, August 25, 2014

'ideas about food' // my gluten-free review

I think we all have "food ideas" or, better yet, "eating philosophies. "  Like it or not, the way we grew up eating, the things our parents said about food/eating, tend to shape our ideas about food that stick with us into adulthood.

I grew up with the following ideas about food:
1. You ate everything on your plate.  (Especially when you are a guest at someone's house!!!!)
2. You ate all your veggies before you could leave the table.  I swallowed a lot of peas whole with giant gulps of milk.  Veggies were kind of a "have to" not a "good for you/want to."
3. Breakfast was important.  You always ate a big, hot breakfast.
4. You ate at mealtime, which occurred three times a day.  Any "snacks" we got were usually procured at friends' houses.
5. We really didn't eat "dessert." We did get a small "treat" in the evening, though.  Like a couple of cookies -- so I guess that would have been dessert?  Therefore sugary snacks and dessert has never been a "need" or a "issue" for me.

I did not grow up in a house where snacks were carrot sticks or anything was organic.  With four kids and one very, very modest income our family survived on a meager grocery budget by many times sacrificing "natural" for "processed" as it was the cheapest route many times.

We drank Kool-Aid all summer long.  You remember the little packets you would dump in a jug with a ton of sugar.  That kind.

I didn't have any parents having heart-to-hearts with me about why I should eat healthy.  I don't remember my mom looking at food labels.  (Maybe she did???)

Food was kind of a non-issue.

Food was meant to fuel our bodies and then burned off by lots and lots and lots of activity.  We didn't really talk about food.  It was put on our plate.  We did NOT get to be choosy.  We ate it the meal that was put in front of us and that was that.
In some ways this was awesome.  We learned not to be fussy.  We didn't obsess about food in any way. We were not constantly asking for snacks.  I grew up to be a woman who doesn't pick at my food - I enjoy it with gusto!  A person who is not fussy or wasteful.  Who is adventurous in what she eats.

Also, none of my siblings grew up to be overweight.  In fact, I am probably the last of my sibs to jump on the healthy eating bandwagon.  My older brother and his family are anti-processed foods, anti-caffeine, anti-chemicals in general, and have even recently bought a farm in order to raise their own beef and chickens, and, of course, have a great big garden to grow their own produce.  My sister is a very healthy eater, even moreso now that she has four kids.  She is a label reader and does her best to buy healthy, delicious stuff for her big fam.  My little brother - well, he may as well work at the local organic grocery store.

As for me?  I guess I've never really been a health food nut.  I am more of an exercise nut. I have been hopelessly devoted to working out (including running, yoga, lots and lots of cardio at the gym) since the age of 17.  Even before that I got a ton of exercise, spending every free moment outside hiking/walking.
Here was my problem: I felt for so many years that I could eat anything I wanted because I worked out so much and was maintaining a healthy weight.  I had no problem with how I looked so I ignored how my body FELT -- bloated, painfully gassy at times, and often constipated (sorry for the over-share, but I am sure I am not the only person who has chronically had these issues.)
Now, in my early thirties with two children watching me, I feel like I should probably be a little more conscious of the things I am putting into my body.  Clearly there is a reason that I have spent most of my life with tummy issues.  So I have recently had to face facts about how I eat and ask myself the hard questions:

Is half a pizza in one sitting really appropriate fuel?   Is it okay for me to indulge in giant amounts of pasta (and Gossip Girl!) when Hubby goes out of town on just because it is easy and I LOVE it?   Is beer -- while delicious -- worth the full/bloated feeling I get after only one?  Is (*cough* every once in a while) eating a whole package of Oreos over the course of two nights necessary or okay?  Is it in my best interest to feed myself, my spouse, and my kiddos a bunch of processed foods that do not have much nutritional value just because it is cheaper/easier, when there are more natural options that are just as delicious?

I honestly don't want food to be a huge issue in our family.  I think my parents did a great job of not making eating a huge deal - and teaching us to enjoy food!   I don't want to lecture my kids about "good fats" or encourage them to only eat half of their meal at restaurants because that is what "skinny people do" or discourage dessert (ever.)  I want them to be able to enjoy eating all foods (they don't have any allergies that we know of yet.)  I love eating and cooking and hope my little ones always have a positive relationship with both of these things.

Food is nourishment.  It is fuel.  It can be fun!  Eating can be a visceral experience.  But...it can (and should) also be a mindful one.

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All that being said...
For the past three months I have been gluten-free.  (Okay, well, 95% of the time...I had my share of "cheats" - mainly at special events throughout the summer.)

The idea was to try it for the summer and see the effect on my body - and mind!  (Some research reports that a gluten-free diet can lessen anxiety and depression...and I always like to check out natural treatments!)  I also thought it could have a positive effect on my tummy, as many people who follow gluten free diets do so because they are 'gluten intolerant'  (it strongly disagrees with their tummy - as opposed to having celiac disease, where gluten is basically rejected by the body.)   I wondered if perhaps I was 'gluten intolerant.'

So I took the plunge and gave up gluten June 1st.  Since then (besides holidays and special events) I have been avoiding gluten.  I have reduced my pasta and bread intake drastically -- sticking to rice, oats, potatoes and quinoa.  Most baked goods are no-no's so those were removed from my diet as well.  I did try baking a few things using gluten-free flour...definitely not as enjoyable so mostly I just avoided anything baked with flour.

Honestly, it wasn't hard and it wasn't horrible!

The thing about following a GF diet is that there are plenty of good alternatives.  Plus, because there are so many "safe" items that I enjoy (rice, wine, most cheeses) that I didn't have a problem finding something yummy to eat wherever I was.

Here is one list I found that was helpful in wrapping my brain around gluten-free eating...just make sure to mentally add "wine" to the list of beverages:
//source//
After my foray into gluten-free eating here is what I have to report:
  • I lost 3 pounds - was not trying to lose any weight so that was a nice surprise!  I believe that someone really desiring to lose weight could do so on a gluten-free diet...although this is not why most switch.  The focus is more on healthy eating than cutting calories.
  • My tummy does feel SO MUCH BETTER.  Since going GF, I have not noticed any horrific stomach pains.   No sudden need to go to the bathroom.  No excessive bloating.
  • My skin looks better.  Probably no one else would notice this, but I have fewer breakouts.  Kinda awesome.  Plus, because I am putting so many more good foods into my body I have much more of a glow I think.  Eating more healthy snack options, such as fruits and nuts and drinking more water.  So basically...
  • I just eat better overall.  I don't know that it is the "gluten free" component per se.  There were a few times when I ate large servings of rice or quinoa (both gluten free) where I noticed an immediate gas/bloating issue.  So I would gather that my body simply does not agree with eating any large portion of any grains.
Will I continue to be gluten-free?  Yes and no.  My plan is to remain gluten-free during the week, and be very conscious of my portion sizes of other grains.  On the weekends I will allow gluten, but, again, in small quantities.  I also find that red meat occasionally gives me issues (especially ground beef) so that will be consumed sparingly as well.  I find I ultimately feel best (and consume fewer calories) when I stick to a fish-only diet.  I don't think I am alone in this.

I want my "eating philosophy" to be a simple one : "Eat healthy foods in appropriate sizes."  You know, with an indulgence here and there! :D

So....

Would you consider going gluten-free?  

What "food ideas" were taught to you growing up?Which ones have stuck with you, be they healthy or not?    Which are you now teaching to your kids?