In 2012, I went gluten-free.
I tossed out every slice of bread, every crumb of cookie and even went so far as to throw out my healthy granola.
I grinned a mile-wide and waited for rays of health to beam down on me.
And then I went to Whole Foods.
I stocked up on gluten-free bread, cookies and granola – replacing every single food item that I just tossed in the trash.
What goes missing must be replaced, right?
But here’s the thing. I didn’t feel better. The rays of health didn’t beam down on my head. I didn’t lose weight. My headaches were still there. My digestion was still a mess.
This gluten-free this is a crock!
Why Do People Go Gluten-Free?
We can all agree that highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners and rampant amounts of sugar are not helping our waistline or health.
And many gluten-filled foods check all 3 of those boxes – they’re highly processed, doused with artificial sweeteners and contain lots of sugar!
Food companies are geniuses – they’ve created a whole line of products just for us!
You don’t really have to throw out those cookies – here are some gluten-free ones, instead!
5 Reasons Why Going Gluten-Free Kept Me Puffy
1) Filling up on nutrient-poor food
I was buying gluten-free foods in the health food aisle, thus I was eating healthy, therefore I was healthy. *go me!* Err, maybe not.
Gluten-free products are typically made from a non-gluten grain base, such as rice, corn, potatoes, sorghum, tapioca or millet.
Let’s be clear -- these are not nutrient-dense foods. And neither is wheat, rye, oats or barley.
2) Back on the blood sugar roller coaster
I was back on the dreaded crave-then-binge-sugar-cycle.
When we eliminate cookies, breads, muffins, crackers and desserts, we quickly regulate blood sugar and are able to step off the blood sugar roller coaster.
But savvy companies and marketing teams make it easy to replace these treats with sugar-filled gluten-free varieties, and now we’re back on the coaster.
3) Artificial Ingredients
The bane of our existence – artificial colors, sweeteners, unhealthy oils, gums -- oh my!
Flip over just about any boxed item and you’ll be bombarded with ingredients fit for a college-level science class. Not to mention that 80% of packaged items have added sugar!
This holds true for both gluten-free and gluten-containing packaged food items. Just because it’s sitting in the health food aisle and is labeled 'gluten-free', doesn’t mean it’s doing us any good!
But, let's not write off all companies -- Canyon Bakehouse, for example -- produces quality gluten-free breads. Their bread is made with extra virgin olive oil (not canola), organic agave syrup (not corn syrup) and is absent of artificial sweeteners.
4) Justify more
*Me eating donut hole* "Don't worry, it's gluten-free, have 3!"
Calories do matter. If we’re filling up on gluten-free foods and are justifying eating more because “they’re gluten-free” – we have a math problem.
More gluten-free treats = more calories = more inflammation, less weight loss, more blood sugar issues.
5) Feel Restricted
Are you a moderator or an abstainer? Gretchen Ruben is my favorite habit guru. She explains the difference between a moderator and an abstainer, and how knowing yourself can help you form better habits.
- Moderators like to be able to have a little treat every now and then. They don’t like feeling deprived.
- Abstainers are an all or nothing personality. They either want none of something, or all of something.
Box of cookies analogy : Moderators can have 1 cookie each day for 1 month. Abstainers eat the whole box on day 1.
If a moderator feels restricted on a gluten-free diet, they may have a tough time finding balance.
Oppositely, an abstainer may enjoy the freedom through restriction that comes from eliminating gluten and gluten-free processed foods.
If you have Celiac disease or have a gluten intolerance, eliminating gluten is a must.
I feel better without gluten. I can tolerate some by accident or a meal out – my digestion may suffer, my face may break out, and I usually get a headache. Clearly not ideal, but not a life or death situation.
As a long term solution, I say let's “eat real food”.
And everyone’s definition of “eating real food” is different.
Finding Your “Real Food”
For some people, especially those with autoimmune conditions, consuming either gluten or non-gluten grains causes inflammation in the form of achy joints, headaches and digestive issues.
For some people, non-gluten grains like rice, oatmeal and quinoa are tolerated and don’t cause gluten-free binges.
Just about everyone can benefit from replacing gluten- or non-gluten sugar-laden treats with fruit.
Or, when a hankering for bread hits, incorporate starchy vegetables like a sweet potato or butternut squash. These vegetables contain more nutrients than a gluten-free pastry or bread.
If you’re eating your definition of “real food”, a cookie (GF or not) won’t break the bank. But, don't fool yourself (like I did!) into thinking gluten-free substitutes are keeping you healthy!