This is part 1 of a 3 part series entitled “So You Want To….”.
After having success in my own wheat free journey, I thought I would put together a quick guide to wheat elimination based on how I approached it.
I have have several people approach me in the past couple of weeks asking what I did to lose all this weight. They want tips, suggestions, and anything that may be able to help them. So I am putting this together for them.
In Dr. Davis’ book “Wheat Belly”, he has his own take on it. I highly recommend you read his book if this is a direction you are considering for the long-term. In the meantime, if you are looking to try it out for a month just to see what kind of results you can get, read on.
1. Survey. Survey all of the foods that are in your diet now. Bread? Pasta? Sauces? Convenience Foods? What do you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Sit down and write out a list. What is usually on your grocery list? This list is going to help you plan. Survey your habits. Do you snack at work or home? Do you take walks at work? Write out what a typical day looks like for you.
2. Prepare to Purge. Once you are done surveying your habits, look in your cabinets and pull out everything that has wheat in it. Put it on the table. What do your cabinets look like now? Now imagine you are a person who suffers from Celiac Disease and you cannot have ANYTHING that has wheat in it. In any form. Wheat is possibly hidden in some of the processed foods that are still in your cabinets. Look out for “Starch, Food Starch, modified food starch, and dextrin” on the labels. Pull these out too.
You probably noticed if you are anything like I was, that your cabinets and fridge might look a little bare. The hard part is coming up shortly. This was just a bit of the reality check to see what was in your food at home.
3. Plan. What am I going to eat now? This is probably your next question. If I can’t have all of these things, what is there to eat? Food. Lots of delicious food. The reason I had you survey what you eat is so that you can keep things simple and find appropriate substitutions. What is an “appropriate” substitution? Something that will give you the feeling of what you used to eat, without it being exactly the same, and without finding a lot of “gluten free” substitutes (more on that later).
Do you eat sandwiches? Use extra lettuce to wrap up your sandwich ingredients instead of bread.
Do you eat pasta? Use spaghetti squash or zucchini as noodles instead. There’s a really cool vegetable slicer that will turn summer squash into twisty strands.
How about tortillas? This is one place where I choose differently than Dr. Davis does in his book. He says to avoid even corn tortillas. While I understand the overall goal of this, I also know that there’s some comfort in being able to eat similar foods as what you were used to.
Here’s my take: When you are trying to give up wheat and create new eating habits, it helps to have something familiar. Corn tortillas (gluten free and with as few weird ingredients as possible) can help any Mexican-food loving person give up wheat. Just don’t eat them for every meal. I would have cheese quesadillas made with 2 corn tortillas when I got home almost everyday the first month I was wheat free.
Note: These tortillas do not behave the same way as wheat ones. They get crumbly. To fix this problem, spread a small amount of butter on each side and heat it on a pan on the stovetop on each side. This helps them be more flexible.
So on that note, what about Mexican food? Well, here’s where you may need to make a lot of changes if you do eat a lot of Mexican food. Since there tends to be a lot of tortillas, you will have to avoid those. Rice, beans, veggies, and meat are all ok when you are getting started. Be careful not to go overboard, and avoid the chips.
What about breakfast cereal? I am not a cereal eater for breakfast, so this was not something I had to worry about. However, I did eat a lot of oatmeal, which I did give up eventually. For now, look for gluten free cereals at the grocery store and call it good for the first 30 days. Eat only 1 serving a day. I will write a post about going Paleo, which will get rid of the rest of the grains in your diet, and I will share a few of my favorite recipes.
4. But I don’t have a lot of money. First of all, the more “gluten free” labeled products you avoid, the more $$ you will save. We eat mostly whole foods that we buy on sale. Unfortunately, if you are a coupon cutter, there are not coupons for produce typically. The way we get around this is shopping the sales. We shop at 3 different grocery stores to get the best deals on meats, veggies, nuts, and fruits. We also buy high quality coconut oil and olive oil when they go on sale. This is true for when we would eat cheese as well.
This is where we had to make the most adjustment in our habits. We used to say, “hey, I want to eat this food this week, let’s go buy it”. We would then go to the grocery store and pick up our grocery list based on our “wants”. In order to get the most meat, cheese, and produce for our money, we had to change how we shopped.
Nowadays, we look at the sale ads from our 3 favorite stores. Here in Colorado, we shop at Sprouts, King Soopers, and Albertson’s for most things. We do go to Target for things like applesauce, almond milk, and peanut butter. Once we see what’s on sale, I look in our fridge and freezer to see what we have left for meat and produce. I make a list of the recipes and meals I will make using a combination of what’s on sale, and what I have on hand. Sometimes, I need only 1 extra ingredient that may not be on sale, and so I will write that one down too.
When meat goes on sale, we stock up (enough to fit in our normal sized freezer), and pre-portion it into the serving size for 1-2 meals for our family. Then we freeze it. This helps us have variety, and we are not dependent on just what’s on sale. Albertson’s and sprouts typically has meat go on sale, so those are our go-to places for that.
The other option is looking to see if there are any food co-ops like Bountiful Baskets that you could be a part of for your produce.
It takes time to develop these habits, so do your best with what you have, but get rid of the wheat.
5. The Purge. This is the hard part. It can be done in 1 of 2 ways depending on your financial state and your family. The first way is to get rid of all of the wheat-filled products by throwing it in the trash or giving away what can be given away. The other method is to eat the rest of the wheat stuff, and only purchase non-wheat food from now on. Once the wheat stuff is gone, then start your 30 days. We chose to start our wheat free journey by doing a little of both. Since it was near the holidays, we donated what we could to a local food bank, threw away a few things, and then our son got to still eat what was left. You have to do what’s right for you, but don’t procrastinate. Start ASAP.
6. Getting through withdrawals. Dr. Davis’s book talks extensively on the withdrawals. They can range from extreme hunger and headaches, to exhaustion, brain fog, crankiness, joint aches and pains, and flu-like symptoms without a fever. They do pass. I promise. Drink lots of water, eat high quality fats, maybe a little bit of dark chocolate (just for fun, 1 piece only), and push through it. You can do it.
7. Before you start, inventory yourself. How are you feeling now? Energy level, aches, pains, weight, etc. Hop on a scale if you want to lose weight. This part is a little painful, but the reality check is important on so many levels. Also, take a photo of yourself. I use the tall mirror in the locker room at work to photograph my progress using my camera phone. I also am part of a free Colorado program called Weigh and Win that weighs and photographs me. They also pay me money for losing weight.
Are you ready to start? I want to hear from you! Comment below if going wheat free is part of your plan for 2014, and let me know how the journey is going!
Have a blessed day,