Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Going "Grain-Free" One Step At a Time

A friend recently decided to go "grain free" in hopes of losing her extra pounds and improving her health.  Over dinner one night, she asked me how I went grain-free so easily.  Her question was such a good one, I thought I'd post it here, along with my answer, in hopes of helping others.

How I Went Grain-Free

After suffering with every-other-day migraines for years, I took the leap in Jan 2010 and decided to drop wheat from my diet.  It felt overwhelming at first - it seemed like everything in the house had wheat in it!  After hyperventilating in my pantry for a few minutes, I stopped and made a game plan:

Step 1 - Drop Obvious Wheat Sources -
I immediately stopped eating bread, cereal, and noodles but ignored all of the processed foods that had minute wheat in them.  This was a big change for me - I mean what better way to stretch a meal than add pasta?  I had to rethink my meals and keep vigilant during my shopping trips. 

When I made the switch, I went through my cupboards and tossed all of the OWS.  Well, I didn't actually throw them out - I gave them to my ex-husband - but you know what I mean!  Out of sight, out of mind.  Then I rearranged my cupboards so the deletion wouldn't be so obvious.

Results - I lost 20 lbs and the headaches disappeared within the 2 weeks.  Woot!

Step 2 - Drop Rice and Corn
Seeing those sorts of results made me push on.  As the weeks passed I realized I was depending more and more on corn (corn tortillas) and rice (rice noodles) to bulk out my meals.    As my intake of these two items when up, my "tummy issues" increased too.  If wheat was causing headaches, could the other grains be messing me up too?

So, I stopped buying these items, filling their space on my plate with more fresh fruit and vegetables. Frozen vegetables saved my life during that time - a 1 lb bag filled out our plates with limited effect on time or my wallet.

Results - Tummy issues calmed down almost immediately and the weight continued to come off.

Step 3 - Drop Minute Sources of Wheat -

As winter started to turn into spring, my migraines returned with a vengeance.  After some research and investigation of the few processed items in my fridge, I realized that my body was becoming more and more sensitive to even the smallest amount of wheat found in soy sauce, fish sauce, etc.

I spent a weekend scouring my kitchen, tossing anything that had even the smallest amount of gluten in it.  Ingredient lists were scoured and products investigated online until I was sure those few remaining items in my kitchen were safe for me to eat.

Results - Headaches were banished once again!  Victory!!!

The Next Step - Going Paleo:
As I told my friend - I consider going grain-free a "gateway drug" to switching to the Paleo Diet:
  • A few weeks after going completely "grain free", I dropped dairy (I've proven that I'm lactose intolerant). 
  • A month later I stopped eating beans - my tummy thanked me. ;-) 
  • As time went on, I slowly pushed more and more processed foods out of our diet...mainly because I wanted more of my money going towards farmers rather than the huge food corporations who's minds were more on money than our health.
What about you?  Did you go "cold turkey" or go the "incremental" path like me?  Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Kind of incremental. I found out I have celiac disease so I quit wheat, and I was hardcore from day one. I threw out everything with a trace of gluten in it. I heard about the idea to omit grains altogether about a year later. But once again, as soon as I got the idea in my head I went cold turkey. Even after omitting gluten I was still mostly miserable (I had a lot of health challenges) so I was ready to do anything with promise of health. Well it worked. Every condition I suffered cleared up in time. It took 100% compliance to keep my conditions at bay so I knew that I had to go all the way paleo to make this work for me. I suspect that people with fewer health problems wouldn't need to be so strict about it or so quick... maybe.

  2. Thank you for this post! I can see a total Master Plan for converting my hubby. I've already begun step 1. He's giving up OWS for two weeks, I think because I've nagged him so much. :)

    I had the great fortune to stumble across Primal as part of my pursuit of a workout schedule that was well-rounded but not overly time-consuming (I have kids, and summer is coming).

    I eased into Primal a little bit gradually. I first found Mark Sisson's site, Mark's Daily Apple, started using his workout recommendations and he was right on the money for what I needed. As I got more interested, I read more about nutrition, and what I read made me realize that I *had* to change my eating, and my kids' eating. Quickly. So, I did, and I'm much happier for it! The kids will be, too, once they get over the new Only Healthy Snacks rule, lol.

  3. Thanks for your comments! It's interesting to see people's different methods.

    @Mamacita - Good luck with getting your kids to go Primal! Mine are 80% there - they'd be more but they spend every weekend at their dad's and he's not willing to cut the wheat out of their diets.

  4. I was already grain- and dairy-free due to food allergies, but it never occurred to me that beans (even after soaking them 24 hrs. in an acid medium, via the WAPF method) would become an issue. When I found Paleo, I dumped the beans, and life has become so much simpler and easier to manage!

    I tried beans again recently, and I turned bright red--a sign of anaphylaxis. No more beans EVER.

    People ask me what foods I'm allergic to, and I tell them it's easier to list what I CAN eat: most fruits, most vegetables, meats, fish, and eggs--I'm allergic to everything else, so Paleo fits right in. Now I have a name for the way I have to eat.

  5. When I initially decided years ago to get away from the standard american diet I was raised on, it was incremental as a whole, but cold turkey with each ingredient. The more ingredients I eliminated, the easier it was to eliminate others because a lot of nasty ingredients like to hang out together.
    When I decided to go grain free, it actually stemmed from going low-carb and reading some paleo blogs, so I had already eliminated a lot of bread, rice, and pasta. I don't have celiac or IBS so I don't bother about trace amounts in things like fish sauce as they don't bother me, and I will have an occasional drink. I guess technically I'm not 100% grain free then...but in general, I avoid them.


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