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!