Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wheat Belly

I have an amazing husband.  Seriously.  Last year I hinted that I would like an Elf on the Shelf even though it was just us.  I not so subtly asked him if he would find the Elf everyday if I hid it.  He politely turned me down and that was that.  Then, last weekend, his co-worker and her husband came over before we headed to a Christmas party and she brought me a present.  (That I know Josh helped her pick out)  :) I would like to introduce you ELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was so excited.  Seriously.  Josh and I spent the entire time at the Christmas party coming up with name ideas.
What pressure it is to name this thing!  There were two main criteria. 
1. We used the go to fill in the blank from the movie Elf.
"________ the Elf, what's your favorite color?  Some were immediately crossed off if they didn't flow with this phrase. 
2.  It had to be easy to pronounce for our future children.  After I named him I did realize I was probably taking away a fun thing for my children and perhaps someday we will change his name to whatever our kids want it to be.  So, maybe #2 was silly, but it was part of our decision process.
After much deliberation, our elf now has his magical powers to visit Santa each night and his name is Marky.  He is named after my favorite actor, Mark Wahlberg. 
Marky the Elf, what's your favorite color?  Flows from the lips quite nicely, I'd say.  As for kids?  They should be able to say Marky just fine!
I was caught off guard with this gift and I was not prepared for the creativity needed to do amazing things.  All the little kid ideas on Pinterest are great, but I don't have any of the necessary accessories to execute them.  No army men.  No Superman figurines.  No dollhouses.  Furthermore, I don't have any of the "junk food" needed to do fun food items.  No goldfish to make him fishing, no marshmallows to do numerous activities.  Yikes.  Pressure. was. on.  So, I looked up "adult" elf on the shelf ideas.  Whoops...shouldn't have done that.  You dirty, dirty, people!  No, I am NOT going to put my elf with a bunch of naked Barbies.  No, I am not going to have him puking or pooping.  I mean, really.  What would Santa (not to mention Jesus!) say?!  Shame on all of you! 
So, we're pretty much on our own and I think so far we've done great.  More importantly, we are having a blast!
The first day Marky joined us at the table for dinner and he was wearing a present for Josh.  That man likes a new ugly sweatshirt/sweater any day. 
Day 2 Marky joined me on my yoga mat.  He does a pretty amazing downward dog if you ask me!
I thought I would be the one hiding him each day, but to my surprise I woke up this morning to poor little Marky stuck in a mouse trap!  We check our garage every morning for a mouse and several days a week we are successful in murdering one.  So, this was especially funny and appropriate based on our daily hopes of never finding a mouse in the house.
Josh is on call this weekend and unfortunately had to work all day today.  Part of my day was spent doctoring up Marky and when Josh gets home he will find him in a cast from the mouse trap, his leg elevated and watching a Christmas movie. 

Maybe we are a little weird, but I think having an elf adds to the Christmas season and I say, just because we don't have kids doesn't mean we can't have one.  I was right.  We are having so much fun!

All that has absolutely nothing to do with Wheat Belly, but I felt I needed to start with something fun and lighthearted because it's downhill from here.  Wheat Belly.  Have you heard of it?
It's a great book!  I read nutrition related books all the time.  It's why I haven't gotten around to reading the final two books in the Divergent series. I tend to be drawn to nutrition books and I enjoy learning about all they have to say.  This one, I didn't find on my own, though.  Let me back up a bit...

A few years ago we had dinner at my grandparents house and my grandpa shared he had recently found out he has a genetic disease called Ataxia-6 Cerebellum.  As you age you begin to lose your balance frequently and as it progresses your speech starts to slur and you can be hard to understand.  He shared this because it is passed down.  That being said, my Dad has a 50/50 chance of getting it.  Obviously, if my Dad doesn't have it I'm in the clear.  If my Dad does have it, I then have a 50/50 chance.  When my grandpa first shared this I didn't think much of sense worrying until I find out if my dad has it.

Fast forward to this past October.  I went home to KC for my grandma's funeral.  After the service there was a luncheon at the church and I sat next to my grandpa's sister.  Turn out, she also has the disease.  She is in a wheelchair and I found her quite difficult to understand due to the effects the disease has on her speech.  It hit me that she wasn't that old, but her symptoms had aged her tremendously.  My grandpa on the other hand has done tons of research and while there is no medicine to help, he has learned that many people say if they adopt a gluten free diet their symptoms dramatically slow or improve.  My grandpa shared this with us a couple years ago when he switched to a gluten free diet and aside from me noticing all the weight he lost I again, didn't think much of it.  That is, until this luncheon in October.

I drilled my grandpa with questions a few days later at dinner and came home to Josh with many questions.  After discussing it and thinking about if for a week or so, I made the decision to quit eating gluten.  I know, crazy, right?!  My initial hesitation was due to my already "needy" dietary requirements.  I mean, you know when you have kids and people make those online sign-up sheets for meals.  There's that section for special requests/dietary needs.  Can you just imagine:

Vegetarian, low sugar, allergic to crab, lobster, walnuts, please don't bring any desserts, and one more thing...make it gluten free. 

Yikes.  I'm that girl.  BUT, it truly is for a medical reason.  No, not Celiac's disease, but I'm not just joining the bandwagon of Paleo/Gluten Free eating.  (Though, you should all read this book and at least cut back your gluten intake!)  I may have a potential medical reason for this, but after reading the book, so do all of you.

Let me explain.  Dr. Davis argues through various studies his beliefs as to why wheat is making all of us sick.  He blames wheat for obesity, diabetes, some cancers, migraines, high blood pressure, and yes, my super rare potential disease.  How is this?  Well, he says wheat attacks every one's body differently.  So, for the Celiac sufferer, it obviously attacks the intestines and causes severe stomach issues.  For others, it may cause headaches.  Others, possibly me, it can attack the brain. Obviously, intestinal issues present themselves immediately, where mine would be progressive and shown as I age. 

The whole "progression as I age" was my final deciding factor in my dietary decision.  You see, Josh tends to tease me for my vegetarian, organic, low sugar ways.  (Though secretly I know he doesn't think I'm crazy since he still partakes in Meatless Monday!)  Anyway, I kind of thought when I got home from KC and brought this up he would say I was nuts.  But, after hearing me out, he agreed, it wouldn't hurt anything to go ahead and cut wheat out of my diet as a precautionary measure since it is progressive and won't present itself until I'm older.  (In my case, initial balance issues can start as early as not very old!)  I debated about waiting to see if my Dad has it to then give it up, and at first that was my plan.  However, the more I read and the more discussions I had I realized it really would only benefit me to go ahead and start.  The same co-worker who gifted me with Marky also has Celiac's run in their family.  They have a little boy and they have done research that says if you do not expose your child to gluten their chances of developing an intolerance later in life significantly diminishes.  He is 1 1/2 and they abide by a gluten free diet for his sake.  We had them over for dinner and I brought it up with them and after a bit, her husband said something that make it all "click".  He said, "Trish, you run, you do yoga, you eat healthy and do everything to take care of your body.  If all it takes is to give up wheat to maybe help you not be in a wheelchair, why wouldn't you add that to the list?"  Good point. 

I'm not going to do a whole summary/review of the book.  It's good.  Read it.  You will learn a lot.  My grandpa read it.  My Dad read it (and has been gluten free since) and now I'm almost finished with it. Here are two main things I do want to share though so you don't think I'm totally insane.  First, Dr. Davis shows many studies that have been done that show your glycemic index rises MORE when you eat wheat than when you eat sugar.  Say what?!  I believe him and I find that it appalling that this information is not more mainstream.  What I don't completely agree with is his views on sugar.  He is super against wheat and not so much sugar.  I stand my ground and still think a diet low in sugar is the way to go.  It's not that he promotes sugar, but he's very clear in that wheat is worse than sugar and I'd prefer to keep them at the same level.  It's not my book, but just wanted to get that out there.  Second, you may be wondering why wheat is so bad.  I was the same way.  I mean, all the food people have been telling us to eat 100% whole grains to have a healthy diet.  I believed them and ate them frequently.  The beginning of the book shares how the wheat we eat today is MUCH different than the wheat our great grandparents ate.  Depressing, I know.  Here we go again.  Eating genetically modified food without even knowing it.  Here are a few excerpts from Wheat Belly about the wheat we eat now:

One of the practical difficulties solved during the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center's push to increase yield is that, when large quantities of nitrogen-rich fertilizer are applied to wheat fields, the seed head at the top of the plant grows to enormous proportions.  The top-heavy seed head, however, buckles the stalk.  Buckling kills the plant and makes harvesting problematic...Norman Borlaug, is credited with developing the exceptionally high-yielding dwarf wheat that was shorter and stockier, allowing the plant to maintain erect posture and resist buckling under the large seed head....Dwarf wheat today has essentially replaced most other strains of wheat in the United States and much of the world thanks to its extraordinary capacity for high yield.
-p. 24

Dr. Davis acknowledges he doesn't blame the farmers for adapting to this genetically modified wheat.  It grows faster, is shorter and easier to harvest.  However, he also states, "over the last 50 years, thousands of new strains of wheat have made it to the human commercial food supply without a single effort at safety testing."

Hmm...and we wonder why Celiac's disease is on the rise, child allergies are rising, there are more infertility clinics than ever before...the list goes on and on and I buy into it.  At least, enough to continue reading and researching.  Again, remember, the main point of this book.  Wheat we eat today is not the same wheat that "naturally" grows.

I could write and write about the book, but you should just read it yourself.  :)  My official "last meal" was on my 30th birthday at the beginning of November.  I had already cut down on my wheat intake for about a month, but I ate one last pizza for my birthday lunch and that was that.  It's been over a month and I'm still going strong. I've only had one time that I wanted to cheat.  I made some chili and cinnamon rolls.  I made Josh some lovely, full of gluten, gorgeous cinnamon rolls.  Then, I made me some gluten free, all crackly cinnamon rolls and they were yucky.  I drooled as I watched him devour his.  However, I survived and live to tell the story so I suppose it wasn't all bad.  Actually, it's been easier than I anticipated.  I think part of that is because a year or so ago I realized that I was eating too much pasta/carbs in response to giving up meat and I made and effort to cut back.  So, I already had balanced a bit, and now, I just eliminate it altogether.  At home it's much easier than when we eat out.  I do my best, and I'm so thankful I don't get sick immediately if I happen to eat some gluten.  For example, when we go out for Mexican I make sure to choose corn tortillas and I get veggies with salsa, but do I really know if there's no gluten?  Nope, I don't, but we don't eat out THAT much and I still say if I do my best it's better than not even trying.  Let's be clear on one thing, too.  If I go to Chicago, I AM going to eat some Mama Depandi's Pasta and that's just that. 

If all I have to do is give up wheat in order to keep Josh from having to push me in a wheelchair because my balance is so bad I'm all about it.  If in a few years we discover my Dad is Ataxia free, then we will celebrate!  (Testing is super expensive so we are just waiting to see if symptoms develop)  In the meantime, after reading this book, I certainly know I will not have hurt a thing, rather, I will have only helped myself, by giving up gluten in my life.  I realize I also could give up gluten and still end up in a wheelchair.  However, my grandpa is an example of someone who appears to have definitely slowed the progression by altering his diet.  He's in his seventies and you would never know a thing by hearing him talk or watching him walk.

Oh, and if you're wondering.  Yes, I'm more confused than ever on how I will ever feed my children. 

*I feel I should add that I'm not saying gluten free is for everyone.  I think it's worth reading about and educating yourself, but as always, it's about balance...  maybe just make an effort to reduce your gluten and see how you feel!


I'd love to hear your comments!