Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bellies to Balls: Get the Wheat Out!

I look in the bathroom mirror and what do I see? I take a good look at my face when I shave, examining my hair-line, noticing the color of my skin, noting any new blemishes. What can I say, I’m vain. Invariably my eyes drift down to the middle of my body and there it still is, that heavy band of unwanted flesh that seems to persist. What is it and why does no amount of exercise take it off?  It’s my “wheat belly,” so I’ve come to learn.

A confessed lifelong Cookie Monster, I always wondered why it was so difficult to eat just one, as the Lays Potato Chips commercial used to jingle in days of yore. Now I know. And I have to admit I am still in shock.

Our modern day wheat has been so hybridized and genetically modified it’s 46 chromosomes (up from 14 in the granddaddy to wheat called “einkorn”) have it containing exorphins that operate like opiates on the brain, making you want more soon after you are satiated. That’s right, wheat and crack share that in common, along with what has come to light as the sugar or glucose high cycle whose spike and immediate insulin response crash tamper with your energy level all day long. That cycle reliably turns the excess glucose into fat that attaches to internal organs and eventually bulges out into the wheat belly, fat accumulating by the mega-tonnage on our bodies and the bodies of our children.

From the sedentary to the triathlete, no one is immune, with growing numbers of people experiencing major crippling reactions to the gluten in wheat and symptoms that point to or mimic a host of diseases. Those diagnosed with celiac disease are the most seriously affected but the rest of us who have been literally swimming in a sea of breads, pastries and pizzas along with a thousand and one snack foods, and wheat as an additive ingredient in otherwise non-wheat products in bottled, canned and packaged processed foods subjects us to high daily doses of a substance with now proven links to diabetes and heart disease.

The fat around the belly actually comes to function like an organ in itself that begins to spread inflammation throughout the body while small particles of otherwise necessary cholesterol clog up our arteries, putting us at higher and higher risk for strokes and bypasses. Cholesterol once demonized and thought to be the prime culprit is not. It’s the “healthy whole grains,” we’ve been taught to worship at the base of our food pyramid with heavy promotion, not just by a profit-driven food and advertising industry, but the likes of the American Diabetic Association and the USDA.

Okay, okay, how much of this horror story can I subject you to without the question arising: “What’s a lifelong wheat lovin’ person to do?”

First, you might try reading the #1 New York Times best seller “Wheat Belly” by cardiologist William Davis, MD who has recently appeared on CBS Morning and Doctor Oz. In the book, a fascinating read with some entertaining black humor, you’ll get more of the science both already known and new that supports the paragraphs above, along with stories of people successfully treated, (if you can call stopping eating something a treatment). We are talking about studies ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to autism and Alzheimers.

For those of us guys wanting to look good (there’s that vanity thing again) and younger, feel more energetic and live longer while enjoying a high quality of life consuming delicious protein and fat rich foods, Dr Davis includes his favorite recipes.  Ummm hmm, you read that right. Fat rich foods! Turns out our bodies need good fats to burn fat and contrary to convention most of us are actually good fat starved while we think we’ve been doing the right thing by purchasing the food industry’s well marketed low and no fat products.

What’s happened for me since going wheat-free and low grain (rice, corn, barley, rye and most oats) and eating more protein and good fat rich foods? My cravings are gone, my energy is sustained throughout the day and I am in better moods. After a few weeks, I had to give away my old jeans and buy new ones. An unexpected but welcome expense. The biggest thing though is that an irritation in my esophagus that has given me a chronic cough over the past 15 years is gone. As someone who likes to talk even more than write, getting a clean divorce from wheat (as Davis puts it) seemed like more than a fair trade.

Another book I highly recommend is Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint. A former champion triathlete and marathoner, Sisson clearly explains  why chronic cardio exercise can do more damage than good and why we need to mimic the healthy cave man lifestyle the best we can in our modern world. There is even evidence that this lifestyle helps produce more testosterone! Two and half million years of evolution before the “recent” agricultural revolution and more recent industrialism gave us our truly miraculous, self-regulating and healing bodies. Let’s not blow it in one lap!


  1. I heard that Dr. Oz show about wheat and have been tempted to try getting it out of my diet, but I'm not sure I'm ready to take on such a serious addiction! It is good to hear about your experience though. You have encouraged me.

  2. Have been aware of white flour, white sugar, and salt. Kind of known about the importance of good fats, for if we think of our body as an organic machine, then without fat or oils we would seize up like a motor engine. The hard part is that all these bad products are hidden in our foods and we have to read the small print to understand what we are eating. You are what you eat. Sobering!
    Thanks for sharing Randy.

  3. Thanks for this post, Randy. I've been noticing how I use food (especially carbs) for comfort of late, and noticing also how they affect my blood sugar/energy cycles. I think this is where real health care reform starts - people stepping out of the mainstream "buy this and make yourself sick, then buy this for relief from the sickness" paradigm, educating ourselves about what wellness is, and cultivating the self discipline to actually be well. And as I continue to wrestle with food and other health issues, I do take comfort that I'm not alone (going to Overeaters Anonymous is helping,)and that all steps in this direction are good steps, however small they may seem.

  4. Careful with the corn too...almost all of it on the market is GMO and therefore not fit for human consumption.

  5. How timely, I'm on Day 18 of a 14-day no sugar detox (and no sugar means no gluten, and I took out dairy too). Yup, 4 days past the normal 14-day program, just because I've enjoyed the results so much -- many like what Randy mentioned. Anyone looking for great gluten-free recipes, check out Margaret Floyd and James Barry's "The Naked Foods Cookbook." AWESOME recipes, including choc chip cookies for the cookie monster in all of us!

    1. Fantastic Ratika! It is so great to have you report in on your results. That's what really matters, doesn't it? I've had further progress myself, converting even more fat to muscle. People get hung up on a weight focus. Sure, many these days need to lose it. The real progress is converting fat to muscle and muscle has some weight to it...both for men and women. The best guide is the tape not the scale.
      My great book find of late is Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo. One of the most beautifully put together books I've ever seen blending vital info with 120 or more ravishing photographs of simple recipes and food you really want to make and eat that keeps you satisfied and energized. Just bought copies for my sister with digestive issues and my parents in their 80's, one with diabetes.


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