A few months ago I caught myself mindlessly eating one Saturday afternoon. Six frozen waffles smothered with Nutella and peanut butter later, I realized that I wasn't even that hungry. The waffles just tasted good, so I kept eating them. I noticed this mindless eating was common for me on weekends and evenings after Joon was in bed--especially while grading papers. Frozen waffles, crackers, cheese, tortilla chips, cereal, you name it...I grazed non-stop. I was consuming calories like I was an ultra-runner, and I justified my eating with my running habits. I didn't notice a change in my weight since I have a high metabolism and I run a good deal, but I did notice that I was feeling sluggish. However, I chocked this up to being a working mom. Some weeks later I was at a dinner meeting with colleagues from the Nebraska Writing Project, and two of the teachers at my table began talking about how one of their families went gluten free. The two engaged in a chat about how much wheat has changed in the last 50 years and discussed the book Wheat Belly. Intrigued, I asked for more information and later that night purchased the book on my Kindle. About a month later, I purged our cabinets and freezer of wheat and decided we'd try this gluten free thing.
The bulk of this book is devoted to explaining the evolution of wheat over the last several hundred years and its impact on Americans' health. I won't bore you all by going into detail about the book, but the most fascinating element of the book was the explanation of the addictive properties of our modern day wheat because it explained my mindless eating and constant cravings for carbs and sugar. I wanted to see if going gluten free would curb this bad habit.
It was a difficult decision to purge the wheat (it still is!) because honestly, there are so many common products that have wheat as an ingredient. The obvious culprits are breads, cereals, pastas, and crackers, but wheat also has snuck its way into salad dressings, soups, condiments, candy, etc. We had a few grocery bags of food to donate to the food pantry by the time I was done cleaning out our cabinets. We replaced our bread with gluten free bread that we only eat every now and then. Our pasta was replaced with corn pasta. Our cereal with Chex. But the biggest change I've seen is in our snacking--no longer are we munching on processed crackers, cookies, or chips. Now we eat nuts, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, meats, cheeses, and the occasional veggie chip/rice cracker for our snacks. All of our snack foods are now more wholesome foods. And guess what? My mindless eating has diminished. I no longer feel constantly hungry either. Don't get wrong, I still want to eat cookies (for the most part, packaged gluten free cookies really suck), and each time I drive by a donut shop, I resist the urge to pick up a few. Eating out is difficult--especially fast food. I did find an app called Find Me Gluten Free that is super handy, but for the most part, we just don't eat out. We're not super crazy about this and expect our friends and family to cook gluten free for us, so we have indulged every now and then when traveling...but we've paid for it with stomach cramps and frequent trips to sit atop the porcelain god.
While it's sometimes a hassle, this gluten free thing has helped me to become a more conscious eater who has traded processed foods for more wholesome foods.