I have always been curious about food and its effects on my well-being. But practicing yoga helped me to tune into my body. I noticed how certain foods affected my practice and how my mood correlated with what I ate. My energy crashed when I ate certain foods and remained steady when I ate others. Certain foods made me feel bloated and sluggish and others made me feel light and energized. I started to wonder… Can food really be that powerful? Is food the real medicine?
After a period of riding around on the unpredictable rollercoaster of eating whatever food I wanted, I went all in trying to figure out my optimal diet. I experimented as a vegan for six months. Despite my intense discipline, I felt like “crap.” I lost too much weight, my skin was gray, and my energy levels were at an all time low. I felt weak and tired all the time. Family and close friends told me how “unhealthy” I looked. It blew my mind because I knew several people who were vegan, and they were thriving. Their skin was glowing, their eyes were bright and they looked strong and healthy. I wondered some more… Is it possible that people can thrive on different styles of nutrition? Maybe vegan isn’t what works for me?
This is when I began to realize that nutrition is highly individualized. Everybody is unique. Some people thrive on a Paleo diet. Some people feel great eating vegan and others are healthy vegetarians. Some have cured awful ailments by following the carnivore diet. I personally found that I love Keto. We must do the work, through trial and error, to find a way of eating that works best for our individual bodies.
After discovering that a vegan diet wasn’t for me, I began to seek other alternatives, with even greater determination.
In 2013, I started to hear the buzz that wheat was bad for you. I found the book, Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis. I read it cover to cover in two days. Dr. Davis explains that wheat is different today than it was 50 years ago, calling it “the world’s most destructive dietary ingredient”. Wheat has been genetically modified and hybridized to a point that we can hardly call it a real food anymore. And many of us are polluting our bodies with it.
Astonishingly, I realized that most wheat increases blood sugar more than table sugar. Constant spikes in blood sugar increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance–a common precursor to diabetes and overall poor metabolic health. After “seeing the light,” I gave up wheat completely!
Within a week of eliminating wheat, I stopped feeling bloated and gassy. I had more energy. My mind felt clearer. My headaches stopped. My skin started to look brighter, and my overall well-being seemed to improve. I didn’t feel “sluggish” anymore! That was the first time I realized that what you DON’T put into your body is just as important as what you DO put into your body!
More Fats and Less Dairy
Shortly thereafter, I read another game-changing book, Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter. He explains how wheat and sugar can cause degenerative brain diseases. And the “evil” fat, which we have been taught to be so scared of, is actually the best food for our brain! Let me be clear; I’m referring to healthy fats such as avocados, olives, olive oil, salmon, macadamia nuts, grass fed meat with the fat, grass fed butter, and more. Interestingly, soon after I incorporated these fats into my diet, my sister commented that my memory was improving noticeably.
Feeling inspired about what I WASN’T putting in my body, I came across a fascinating book, “The China Study” by Colin and Thomas Campbell. After learning more about dairy, and the hormones and antibiotics that lurk in conventional dairy, I eliminated it from my diet as well. I have never felt better! Extra weight fell off, my skin cleared up, my bowel movements became regular, and stomach aches disappeared. I began to thrive, and my friends and family noticed too!
Feeling great, I found myself in a conundrum about six months into my new way of eating. I was visiting Italy for 3 weeks and I intended never to eat dairy or wheat again! How could I travel to Italy and NOT eat the bread, pasta, and gelato?
I chose the YOLO approach with certain principles. I ate wheat or dairy ONLY if it came from a quality store or restaurant that used local, quality ingredients. We visited deep local areas to find a quality pizza place rather than a busy “Americanized” pizza joint on the corner that was advertising to all the tourists.
How did the experiment end? To my great surprise, eating both quality dairy and wheat in Italy didn’t affect me much at all. “What the heck?” I had to find out why these foods that had caused me so many issues before weren’t a problem on my vacation. I learned that the FDA is very lenient with food additives and food modification in the US. Genetically modified wheat is used to make pasta and bread. Dairy cows are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. In short, the wheat and dairy I was eating at home in the US was way more processed and much lower quality than what I ate in Italy.
This gap in quality extends to more than just wheat and dairy! Compare the ingredient list of a product found in the US vs. that same product in Europe and you’ll find quite a difference. Why are there so many more ingredients found in our labels?! Many of the extra ingredients are harmful chemicals and additives. Furthermore, most of these toxic substances are banned in many other countries.
I learned to be a “label hawk.” While companies may be allowed to sneak all sorts of additives into their products, they aren’t allowed to lie about what’s in it. It’s all there on the label. We have a bright line in our family: we don’t eat anything that has obscure ingredients.
I feel responsible to set the example for my family and ensure that I protect all of our precious bodies by only buying and eating quality food with ingredients I know. I’m so frustrated with the tricks Big Food uses like having five different and confusing names for sugar on the label to hide all the excess amounts, labeling a food as “all natural” while it contains very questionable ingredients, and keeping trans fats under 0.5 grams so that they don’t have to list it on the ingredient list. I feel it is my responsibility to inform and help as many as I can.
No matter what you discover about your own best diet on your personalized nutrition path, the research strongly suggests that EVERYONE can benefit from eliminating wheat from their diet. For those seeking to thrive, eliminate liquid sugar, processed food, and flour.