01 September 2013

Gluten free and all...

Wow! I have signed into my blog after years. Feels great to be back. I don't know why but I decided to blog about the Gluten free stint we did last week, when there are so many other things I want to write about. 

Ok. So was the gluten free whatever successful? Yes & No. But wait, what is Gluten and why is gluten free a big deal? Gluten is a protein found in foods like wheat, barley, rye & semolina. When you ingest gluten, your blood sugar level increases rapidly. Unless you plan to expend this sugar derived energy quickly, your body will think of a way to remove this glucose from the bloodstream because it is corrosive to tissues. Enter Insulin. Insulin does what we actually don't like. It triggers the conversion of excess glucose to visceral fat which we fondly refer to as love handles and paunch. So moral of the story - gluten is not a good guy :-)

My Tennis adoring husband who I doubt has read almost all books written about/by Tennis players purchased Djokovic's Serve to Win: The 14-Day Gluten-Free Plan. We decided to try it for a week. Let me explain why I think for me, the diet worked and why it did not.

What didn't work:

1. Craving for Chai - There is no room for caffeine or dairy in this diet. Djokovic recommends tea, but if you are not from India, then you don't know what the hell you are talking about! Sorry herbal & green tea lovers. Tea with sugar and milk and ginger/masala - that's the only tea I care about.
I am not really a coffee person and after hearing all that crap about Starbucks (they used toilet water to make coffee somewhere in China and that their food is rife with chemicals), I can safely say I wont be going back. (touchwood!). Degree kaapi is delicious but making it everyday is a pain only. I sorely missed my tea. So much that on Day 4, I went ahead and had a cup.

2. Craving for spice - Now if you happen to grab a copy of the book, you'd be in tears by the time you finish it. The Spicy Soba noodles (a picture of which I posted on FB) may be the spiciest recipe in the book. And that 'spicy' is like when Mexican restaurants call their enchiladas spicy. By Day 2, I was craving for Melagu Rasam and Porial.

3. General sluggishness - I felt sluggish throughout the week. Not weak, only sluggish. It's true - when you focus your will power in one area, regression is most likely to occur in other areas. Since my diet was healthy, I felt it was alright to sleep after lunch and skip my evening runs. We did however go for long walks. 
Djokovic says his gluten free habits have increased his stamina and made him more flexible. I can't say if I had the same experience because I never put my running shoes on.

4. Disturbed fruit intake - This is kind of weird because the fruit basket was empty by Friday. LOL. Normally with my breakfast egg sandwich, I take an apple and a pear or munch on berries. I couldn't do that with this diet. The breakfast Power Muesli and the cooked Gluten free Oats are amazing and super filling. I was not able to accommodate fruits later on during the day. Same with water- I felt I could not keep an eye on how many glasses I was drinking. But I guess my sluggishness is to be blamed for this.

5. Hole in the pocket!!! - This diet, at least in the beginning is not pocket friendly at all. Everything is organic, no dairy, gluten free, low sodium - basically Go Nuts. But it does leave you satisfied that you did your best when it came to fundamental ingredients. The gluten free condiments that you buy will last for weeks, so you can subtract that cost the next time you shop.

6. What to do with the already purchased regular food? Tough call. The fate of these foods will depend on the outcome of your diet.

What worked:

1. Gluten free is tasty - I will never buy regular pasta or bread ever again, mainly because in gluten free the taste/flavor isn't compromised. In fact, only after I ate a slice of gluten free bread, I realized I was enduring the taste of the regular whole wheat/grain breads. With a slice of cheese and an omelette in between, they are ok, but I don't think I'd like them plain. Gluten free pasta cooks faster than regular pasta and tastes better. But take caution in eating these. They may be gluten free but they are still sugars.

EDITED TO ADD: My weight from before breakfast had increased by 1.5 pounds or less on the days I had gluten free food (no dairy, no caffeine). On Day 5, when I had regular pasta for lunch , my weight increased by 2 pounds.

2. The yummy nut butters - This was a revelation! They come in varieties - almond, peanut, cashew, macadamia, hazelnut etc. They are amazing on a toast and you can add a spoonful to your oats bowl. If you are not a big cheese fan, you can kiss all those skim milk cheese slices goodbye and use these butters (sparingly of course) on your breads.

3. Almond milk (unsweetened), Avocado and Dark chocolate - Unsweetened almond milk is amazing. It has a mild creamy texture and it must definitely be great in smoothies because of the nutty flavor (I haven't tried yet). I tried the sweetened version and almost threw up. Avocado - what can I say? I'm happy when I see this fruit. Avocado - you are creamy, greeny and buttery and you are great with my lentil soups and you have a lot of good fats in you. Dark chocolate - no explanation needed. Ok.

4. The recipes in the book are easy to prepare - Djokovic probably has a team of personal chefs that cook for him. Yet, his recipes take not more than 30 mins to prepare and the final product is pretty tasty. 
The only thing is where can we find more recipes like these? Recipes that are not cumbersome.Recipes that use the already purchased (& expensive) gluten free items.

5. Mindful Eating - This may be the biggest takeaway for us and it has changed the way we eat forever. 

We were one of those couples that used the dining table only as a work station and never used it for eating. Gobbling up morsels of food while watching a movie or a TV show was second nature to us. Most of us want this pleasure of getting entertained while eating to linger on for a few more minutes, so we decide to go for another serving, not realizing that we were satiated long ago. We eat more than we require, more than our body is able to process at that time. That 'full' feeling when your stomach walls have to expand a bit more to reconcile with the amount of food you've eaten - it's not the world's best feeling.

It need not be gluten free or vegan or vegetarian. Try to eat at least one meal a day with your spouse/family at the dining table or wherever it is you like to eat sans any distraction from TV or other electronics (can't read either, no cheating!). Focus on your food and chew slowly. You'll be surprised by how quickly you feel satiated and how light you feel even after feeling satiated. You may even discover that your spouse actually eats like Cookie Monster. Nothing like that in our home. Just saying.

I had the nerve to come up with a diagram to explain the benefits of mindful eating. Please see below.

So there you go -  that was my gluten free experience. Hope the diagram didn't scare you to an extent that you are considering 'unfriending' me now. It's just that I believe that our eating choices & habits decide not only our health and future, but also the wellness of everyone around us. If in my 50s, I don't have half a dozen pills to swallow with every meal and doctors aren't sticking needles and tubes into me, I'll know I have succeeded.

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