Friends: My 31-day almost grain and legume-free diet is complete!
Last Wednesday was my last day, but I’ve been quite busy since then. So much to catch up on! First, let me tell you my results and thoughts on the diet.
The last grain-free baked item I made was pumpkin muffins with coconut flour from the Cooking with Coconut Flour cookbook by Bruce Fife, N.D.
Coconut Flour Pumpkin Muffins
Being these are from a cookbook, I’m not going to post the recipe. I can tell you that they’re made with just coconut flour, no other flours, and they taste AMAZING! Very moist and flavorful, yet hard to tell they contain coconut flour, or even that they are grain-free. I highly recommend getting the cookbook and giving them a try. I had one that I broke taking out of the pan with some cream cheese. It was fantastic! I’d definitely make this recipe again, even on my regular diet. I think I might like it more than wheat flour versions. YUM!!
We were busy getting ready for our trip to the city on Wednesday, so we ate lunch at Charlie Brown’s Steak House again. I had just salad bar that time; I loaded up on veggies, cheeses, and hard boiled eggs. It was fabulous. Glad I didn’t order anything else, I was stuffed from the huge plate of salad. I didn’t eat much else that day, too busy and anxious about my doctor’s appointment. Plus we wanted to go to bed early to be well-rested. That didn’t work out so well, but I got at least 5 or 6 hours, which is about all I get most days anyway.
Wednesday’s Almost Grain Free Diet Menu
I hit my goal of an even 10 lb-loss this month on Wednesday morning! I was happy about that. Do I think that going semi grain and legume-free made it happen? An emphatic NO. In the past, I have lost weight at the same pace on a higher carb diet that included lots of grains and legumes. Weight loss is and always will be the result of expending more calories than you are taking in (or digesting). I lost weight weight because I ate in a caloric deficit and watched my sodium intake most of the time. I do not believe that what I ate or didn’t eat was the only thing that influenced my loss, although, eating foods with the highest thermal effect (cost of digestion) will always burn more calories than foods that take little to digest, and I’m sure that contributed to my deficit a little more than usual, but not much. I replaced most of my carb intake with fats, and fats are the easiest macronutrient to digest, unlike carbs and protein. I’m not exactly sure of how many calories I had each day as I wasn’t counting, but I’d estimate around 2000 or less on grain-free days, and who knows how many on stray days.
Do I think this is a good diet for weight loss? Sure, if you like eating grain-free, go for it. But like I said, weight loss happens from creating any kind of deficit. I also didn’t do any additional exercise other than daily living, shopping, cleaning, etc. I was trying to keep off of my leg to let it heal. By the end of the month, it was feeling much better, but I think after this weekend I backtracked a bit. I’ll get into that in my next update, though. I’d also attribute my leg feeling better to losing water weight, which always makes my joints, especially my knees, feel better.
I noticed almost immediately that my appetite was stable and I was far less hungry in between meals than usual. Fats and protein promote satiety much more than carbs do, so I will chalk my decreased appetite up to my reduction of carbs, grains in particular. After returning to my regular diet last Thursday, I’ve noticed that I’ve been hungrier than I have been most of the rest of the month. However, I also ate mostly large meals this month, which always makes me feel fuller and more satisfied than smaller meals. The past -5 days I have been grazing and eating multiple times a day instead of just 2 or 3 times a day like I was doing during most of the grain-free challenge. We’ll see if I can establish the same satiety with meal modification on my regular diet.
My Energy Level
I don’t know if it was diet-related or not, but I found myself extremely fatigued all month long, even without vigorous activities. I was waking up after only 4 or 5 hours sleep–wide awake–almost every night! I naturally wake up after about 6-7 hours of sleep, but during this diet I was sleeping less and less, then I was very, very tired after being awake for only 12 hours. It was SO frustrating!! I think my sleep pattern is back to normal since returning to my regular diet, but it’s too soon to make that call. I’m definitely sleeping much longer without interruption. If my sleep was affected by this diet, I’ll never do it again, but I have no way of knowing that for sure. It could have been a coincidence, so I wouldn’t blame it on the diet at this time. It was definitely a downside of the past month which I hope to never repeat.
No Bread Withdrawals
I eat bread, pasta, or cereal pretty much every day, so it surprised me a little that I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I might on days that I went without it. Maybe I subconsciously knew a cheat meal or a stray day was right around the corner so I didn’t sweat it, but I really didn’t want it that much. Not enough to weep for it or break down and have some. I was perfectly content with the grain-free breads I was eating in between. I didn’t experience any flu-like symptoms that are often described by people that reduce their grain consumption; I felt pretty indifferent towards it. I even prepared sandwiches and pasta for Dustin without becoming insanely jealous. Sure, I would pass by bread in stores and think about it, but it didn’t cross my mind most of the time, and I think that’s pretty cool! Even on stray days I wasn’t really craving anything in particular, so the transition from stray day back to grain-free was easy peasy.
Why I Did This Diet Experiment
As I mentioned before, I did this for fun and out of curiosity. I didn’t do this as an elimination diet, but I did plan to take note of any digestive changes I might have experienced, just in case. I wasn’t anticipating a semi grain-free diet to bring any sort of relief to my symptoms as I still kept everything in my diet, I just reduced it. I mainly wanted to see what grain-free living was like on an everyday basis. And I found that it’s livable, but not exactly convenient. It takes time, planning, research, and dedication, none of which I am interested in being dedicated to for the rest of my life just for the sake of not eating a food group that I am very fond of.
I didn’t do this just for weight loss, it was a nice side effect, though. I didn’t do this to jump on any bandwagons or to convert to a lifestyle of restrictive eating. I was simply curious about it, so I tried it out a little and I’m glad I had the experience for the majority of the month. I don’t believe it’s any healthier than a diet that includes grains and legumes, but it can be a healthy lifestyle. It’s a personal preference, one that I’d never choose without medical reason, but just like any other diet, it all comes down to WHAT you are eating and HOW MUCH of it. You can achieve a healthy balance with many food combinations. Doing what works for YOU is really all that matters.
What I Liked About This Diet
Being I was doing this mainly for fun and creativity purposes, I really liked experimenting with grain-free breads and other baked goods. It’s a lot of fun letting the creative juices flow in the kitchen, especially when you have a limited range of ingredients at your disposal. I felt like an inventor at times. At times, I loved how challenging it was to come up with tasty substitutes to my favorites and trying new things that I ordinarily wouldn’t. Even though I omitted many of my usual foods, I got the chance to try new ones, which is always delightful!
I had fun planning menus, recipes, and shopping lists. In the process, I found several new blogs to visit, acquired a few great cookbooks, and discovered a few great recipes.
I enjoyed shopping for grain-free ingredients—it gave me a valid excuse to putz around the grocery store reading labels. And just like my regular diet, I tried to eat only things that I truly liked and nothing that I didn’t like. You only get a limited number of meals in your lifetime, savor each and every one of them by enjoying what you are eating.
Losing a few pounds wasn’t such a bad side effect, either!
What I Didn’t Like
FAR TOO LIMITED! When it comes to food, variety is my favorite flavor. I don’t like diets that eliminate entire food groups or restrict carbs, unless medically necessary, of course. There are so many wonderful grains out there—not just the wheat family—and I really can’t imagine life without them or legumes. I certainly don’t believe grains or legumes are unhealthy, the exact opposite. I believe that grains and legumes are a very healthy part of a balanced diet.
I really disliked how inconvenient this style of eating is at times. I found myself skipping meals because I didn’t feel like preparing meat or another salad or another egg. I don’t like to eat a lot of meat, so my options were limited. I couldn’t just pour a bowl of cereal or a slice of bread with a piece of cheese or even grab a KIND bar because they contain rice puffs, so I found myself eating fruits and nuts as meals because I wasn’t in the mood for my other options. There were times I just wanted to make a bowl of pasta with some veggies and call it a day, but that wasn’t an option, so I’d eat an apple and go to bed. It really sucked sometimes.
My options were extremely limited when eating out, too. The only safe options were plain vegetables and salads and meat or fish, and even then, it’s a gamble not knowing exactly how they prepare foods and what might contaminate it. I’m sure I unwittingly consumed trace amounts of grain products at some point, but I wasn’t on an elimination diet so it wasn’t a huge deal if I did.
This can be a pretty pricey diet. Fruits, veggies, grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, dairy, and healthy fats add up quickly, especially when you are depleting your fresh produce supply every other day. Grains and legumes are cheap, filling, and healthy in the right context. $2 worth of grains goes a lot further than $2 worth of salmon, unfortunately. I can’t imagine a grain and legume-free diet sufficiently feeding billions of people all over the world. It doesn’t seem practical or humane, especially if you are only trying to eat grass-fed meats and eggs and wild-caught seafood. For these reasons, I think that grains and legumes are an important part of humanity and I am thankful for them.
I really didn’t like not having bread or pasta or beans or rice or oats or corn in my life on a daily basis, even though I didn’t necessarily miss them all of the time. I didn’t like it not being option. Now, if I choose to not eat any grains or beans for the day, I’m ok with that, but when it’s “now allowed” I tend to reject that sort of confinement. Of course, this was my choice to not include them for the month as an experiment, but I wouldn’t follow a diet philosophy that deliberately frowns upon grain and legume consumption. It’s completely unnecessary, especially knowing that the healthiest, longest-lived people in the world have diets that are plant-based, including grains and legumes. It’s really hard to argue with the experience of a person that has healthfully lived 100 years or so.
My Medical Symptoms
I mentioned in several posts that I didn’t experience any noticeable changes in my digestive issues or other symptoms, and that was still true up to the very end. This wasn’t a strict elimination diet, though, so if any improvements were going to happen, it would take 1-2 months or possibly longer. I didn’t expect to see any changes in my symptoms on this loosely-structured grain-free diet, but it would have been a nice side effect.
I knew from the get-go that this wouldn’t be a permanent lifestyle change. I went into this with my reservations and I came out with the same ones, except about how it affected my appetite. I was pleasantly surprised to tame my hunger, but I really don’t feel like I under-ate, either. I ate a decent amount of calories, probably even more than I estimated. I was quite liberal with my fats, lol.
While I wouldn’t convert to this style of eating on a permanent basis, I definitely would take some of the things I found to be effective and foods that I enjoyed and simply incorporate them into my regular diet. Grain-free breads? Maybe. I have two whole cookbooks to bake my way through, so I’m sure I’ll find some keepers along the way.
I’m so happy—relieved, even—to be back to my regular diet. The month went by quickly, I wish I had gotten to try all of the recipes I had planned, but there’s no reason why I can’t make them anyway, right? Expect to see new additions to my regular diet, as well as the return of my old favorites. It feels good to be back to “normal.”
I want to tell you all about my doctor appointment and our fun day in NYC, but that will have to wait for tomorrow’s update!! Feel free to ask me any questions about the grain/legume-free diet!Like this post? Share it, e-mail it or print it:
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