Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Discovering my wheat sensitvity- The day that changed my food life forever

I made a huge, huge discovery the day I figured out that I had a wheat sensitivity.  I had been circling in endless yo-yo dieting and overeating for about 40 years.

Once I realized that wheat was both a trigger for overeating and was making me feel ill, I was stunned. I remember standing in the kitchen and almost passing out as I thought back to about age5-6.

My whole wheat food history flashed before my eyes and it became crystal clear. I must have stood in the kitchen a full 10 minutes. Just frozen. Thinking.

Here's how it went:

The 1970's-2011- I eat the Standard American Diet, and I started Weight Watchers in 1998. I just got my hypothyroidism all balanced  (with thyroid meds) out after a round of auto-immune disease.

I lose, I gain some back, I lose again, I gain it all back plus 10 pounds. Now 70+ pounds overweight. I'm short, about 5 1", so 70+ pounds is a lot on my frame. Trying to count point, track calories, exercise, and even walking a half marathon. I was hooked on Skinny Cow Ice Cream, 100 calorie packs, and healthy whole wheat cereal. (that gives me the heebie-jeebies right now..)

Anyhoo- in mid 2011, I was determined to get back to goal weight and then maintained. I knew there were lots of people maintaining their weight and I vowed a quick, silent vow to make it work for me-  no matter what. I'd add what worked, I would removed what didn't.

It was almost like I was passing through some sort of portal. I was walking or driving down a path and I would not be returning. Crystal clear that I would problem solve this no matter what. Remove any barrier.

I was about 8-10 weeks along on my Medifast- Take Shape for Life program and it was working well. Weight was coming off, I felt great. The lean and green meals were tasting awesome, and spices too. In a way that food did not taste to me in Weight Watchers. That part was great- protein, veggies, etc. I could see how eating lean and green meals was going to work in maintenance.

So, I'm making a cauliflower crust pizza around July 2011 -from Sandy's Kitchen Adventures website- the recipe is here and it dawned on me what the problem might be. I was being very mindful about what lean and green recipes tasted the best. Everyone raved about the substitute pizza crust. This recipe is a favorite for people on Medifast. ( I don't eat cheese or egg beaters any more, but I did then)

I'm making Sandy's recipe and I think "What is is about regular pizza that triggers binge like eating and what is it about this pizza that does not?"  Cheese- maybe, I could overeat on that, but not now. Pasta sauces- no. Pizza toppings, no. Pizza crust..........  radio silence...... what's the main ingredient?? wheat!!!!

California Tree frog
So I stand there in the kitchen, grab the kitchen counter and just start thinking- I over ate on pizza at age 5-6 or so, I could over eat on lots of bread/wheat type items my whole life. Cinnamon toast, boxed cereal, super hungry after a bagel. I even had a counselor tell me that I might have a wheat & sugar sensitivity and I should think about eliminating both (like an allergy). Not to mention the bloating and other things that happened when I ate wheat....

That was it. In that moment, I realized that the counselor was right, I had been wheat (and sugar) sensitive and that wheat would not be making it back into my diet. Well knock me over with a spaghetti noodle!  It took about 8-10 weeks of eating a very strict diet to even get to the place where I could start thinking critically about this sort of thing.

It was a life changing moment. There's more to the story... I'll tell the rest soon. I know a few of my regular readers have had a lot of success with eliminating gluten and wheat from their diets. Glad I'm not alone.

I think its kind of cool that Sandy's pizza crust will forever be in my weight transformation story. And,it's super cool that I was able to find the clarity to reach that point. What a gift! Very powerful.

What worked (very clear cut)

1. Eliminating wheat and gluten and most processed sugar from my diet

What didn't work ( very clear cut)

1. Eating wheat and gluten and grains and most processed sugar


  1. Yep, ditto here. I am/was a total wheat addict. Where some people's fav food was chocolate, mine was shortcrust pastry. Anything on shortcrust pastry. Then scones, pancakes.. anything make with flour. Puddings, cakes, pizza. The funny thing was that I thought as long as it was low fat, it was kind of OK. I am happiest away from wheat and find the substitute recipes don't send me off on an eating binge. Funny that :)

    1. Same here! The mornings I would eat waffles or pancakes. The whole WW advice to eat low fat. Major stuck in a huge circle with that, wheat, sugar , and sugar substitutes. Glad we both figured it out.

  2. Your words may very well spark an epiphany for someone who stumbles upon your blog, Karen. Great post. :)

    1. Thanks, Norma. Now that I'm more educated on the whole wheat thing- I'm sure that there are others that could benefit ( over weight or not) from being grain free., or eliminating most grains. Those who can bring back oatmeal or sprouted bread do.

      There's so much crosss reactivity that I didn't even try. I do want to have a food sensitivity panel done at some point so I can fine tune my food template.

      I've got my blood work graphs - obese, loosing ,and Paleo to show. I probably saved my life by switching off wheat. New post within the week.

  3. I'm glad that wheat doesn't seem to affect me and also glad that you found what really, truly works for you. That's so important!

    1. Diane, I'm glad too. One of the realizations was that , except for the counselor , no one else suggested it.

      I was half mad that I waited so long to take that good advice and half happy I did not need to take that 6-8 whole grain serving advice any more.

  4. I feel this post! I got down to a lower weight but never my goal until I let go if the wheat... It's stunning how less SICK I feel day to day. I wish I could eat wheat (I love bread!) but I like this feeling better!

  5. I wonder...Cereal has always been my fave binge food. My gut is bloated and hurts by the end of everyday since I was a kid...just seemed normal. I feel an epiphany coming on!

  6. What you wrote is true for SO MANY people, they just do not realize it.

    My recent round of food study (blood test) showed I have a real problem with baker's yeast. The only type of wheat products I ever used to eat had baker's yeast. I know I have a problem with additives also used in wheat products. Wheat (itself) did not show as a problem. I had stopped eating wheat long ago, and noticed the same things you mention, my cause was just slightly different. Solution is the same.

    Avoiding additives has helped me eliminate a lot of problems.

    I also wanted to mention I am sure I have seen studies where babies avoid foods that bother them. But as we get older, we actually crave the foods that bother us. And then we fall into the vicious cycle of eat it, feel bad, eat some more (in hopes of feeling better), feel even worse, eat some more (thinking it will make us feel better), etc. A never ending loop with secondary conditions and weight problems all rolled into one.

    very good post.

  7. Karen
    great post as usual--the word mindful is key here.

  8. Thanks for sharing part one of your story ;) That is interesting about the wheat... I have friends are reading that book about "wheat belly". I don't eat a ot of wheat (when I'm being healthy..ha), but when I do eat it, I'll make a note to see how it makes me feel and see if it is a trigger for me.

    I love self discoveries and epiphany moments!

  9. I got the Wheat Belly book for Christmas a year ago and found it very interesting. I haven't changed specifically to eliminate wheat but I do find that eating wheat makes me want more. Kind of by accident, I've mostly eliminated it from my day to day eating.

    When I started WW in 2002, I was right there with everyone else looking for the low fat/low point substitutes and I consumed many Skinny Cow/Weight Watcher ice cream treats and many Vitatops. I'm really happy that my tastes have changed and those things don't even taste good anymore.

  10. I just happened to stumble across the wheat free thing when I was googling cures for heartburn and reflux that I was having terrible problems with. I was going through a whole packet (10 tablets) of antacids every day!! And mark's daily apple was in my search results. As I started reading I realised all of my other symptoms I was being harassed by was also due to wheat. I then remembered that a friend of mine had done this 'weird' wheat free diet and so it all came together and that day I started my new way of eating. All my symptoms vanished overnight!! And the weightloss is a handy side effect that concreted it all in my mind.

  11. Great post! I am avoiding wheat and sugar currently. I have only had largish amount of sugar twice this year and one was a TRIGGER for me. Thankfully I was able to fight through it. I have had little bits of wheat here and there and so far they have not been a trigger for me. I am still limiting it though.

  12. Low carb diets always worked best for me. Then I read Wheat Belly last fall, followed by The End of Overeating, and had my light bulb/epiphany/come-to-Jesus moment, too. Been about 95% grain and sugar free since 1/1, and have never felt better, and lighter. So far down 24.6 lbs., which isn't bad for a 61 year old broad! :)

  13. As always, your posts are such motivation for me. Keep writing!!

  14. Karen, another great post! I've always suspected this about wheat for myself over these last three months but your post solidified it for me. I've been experimenting on myself and learned I can only eat very limited amounts of wheat, otherwise my binge triggers light up like a Christmas tree and I have to white knuckle to keep from eating more and more. Even vegan pizza crusts with no cheese on the pizza, just veggies and fresh sauce, would set my triggers off. Whole wheat wasn't much better either. Reading your post here made me reflect... totally applies to me as well. I'm fortunate that I can eat certain grains like oatmeal and never have any issues or urges but wheat -- total different beast for me. Thank you for this and helping to confirm in my own mind. :-)

    1. Alen- I wish so much that I had discovered how much wheat played a part in my overeating and overall health. Each 10 years that passed, wheat caused more and more inflammation. I'm about ready to post photos of what my face looked like on sugar and wheat. I do not look like the same person. Joint pain, swelling, weight gain. Whole wheat cereal was a vehicle to eat many bowls with lots of Equal, whole wheat pancakes a vehicle to have lots of syrup and margarine!, healthy whole wheat cookies with chocolate chips- vehicle to eat chocolate chips.

      Wheat, sugar, soothing with food- perfect obesity trifecta for me. :0

      I can tolerate some rice flour- that I know. I may be able to tolerate oats. The cross reactivity with oats, corn, etc is extremely high. Once I read the Refuse to Regain book- It was crystal clear.

      I think the more we can talk about how wheat affects us - obesity, binge eating, even just joint inflammation and overall health- the more impact we'll have. I believe going wheat free is totally underused in weight maintenance and in weight loss and avoiding binges, too. Glad you read this post and it helps to cement in what you've found to be true for yourself. That's key.

      Thanks for stopping by. Congrats on the Binge Buddy web app. I'm going to try it out over the weekend and do a review.

  15. Karen, this post and your "aha moment" me smile. Isn't it amazing when something happens and an epiphany like that has the power to change a life?
    I do not have any food sensitivities but I recognize your experience of being stunned by a realization. I had a similar one about a year and a half ago, when I started reading a blog for the first time. It was Lyn's and she made a statement in passing. Suddenly, 50 years of aggregate memories regarding my eating patterns had an explanation. Had THE explanation. I have not binged since then. It was no longer functional...
    I am reading your blog in reverse order and am benefitting from your wisdom and your positive outlook and approach.