(Happy-Go-Lucky Memoirs of a Foodie and her Peeps)


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

Today, I am changing the name (and somewhat, the raison d'ĂȘtre) of this blog.  It used to be called "The Robinator's Mostly Gluten-Free Foodventures" and was purposed at sharing photos, recipes, and nutritional values of stuff my husband and I created on our own, cooked from other people's recipes, or enjoyed at restaurants.  The vast majority of what we did was gluten-free and aimed at showing the world that being gluten-free doesn't have to be a challenge -- on the contrary, it can be wonderful.  We were doing pretty well at it....however, the whole thing is now being re-dubbed, simply

“The Robinator’s Foodventures”
(Happy-Go-Lucky Memoirs of a Foodie and her Husband)

There'll still be plenty of photos, recipes, and nutritional values of stuff my husband and I created on our own, cook from other people's recipes, or enjoy at restaurants, but the formerly requisite gluten-free aspect is going away.  The adventure is going back to its roots of pure, unadulterated, general fun with culinary exploration of all kinds.  Here’s why....

As I described in my very first post, Hubby and I had been eating gluten-free since about mid-September 2011.  We thought it was the solution for him.  But recently, as outlined in “Why We Decided To Try Eating Gluten Again, and How The Experiment Will Proceed”, we began to wonder if gluten truly was the bad guy after all.  We conducted our little experiment for about a week and a half, and are now confident in declaring that gluten wasn’t the problem.  Furthermore, we think we know what the real issue was, and is.

But if gluten was never the culprit, why did cutting it out of Hubby’s diet seem to make him feel so much better?  That was the thrust of our recent two-week trial.  We though, based on examining trends in how he felt, and noticing plenty of days where he ate gluten but felt fine, that maybe what made Hubby feel icky was all the other junk (chemicals, preservatives, etc.) that far too often come along with store-bought gluten-containing foods….just the sorts of things that we happened by circumstance to no longer be eating when we removed gluten and were forced to cook most meals from scratch.  In the end, the experiment disproved our theory -- it didn’t seem to be the additives, but it also definitely wasn't gluten.  What the test did clearly reveal to us, though, was something we had previously overlooked; something that when we cut out the gluten, we also at the same time started to be very careful with….DAIRY.

We knew all along (even before going gluten-free) that Hubby was lactose intolerant, but for some (stupid) reason never paid it much mind.  The only lactose-free dairy product we utilized was straight-up milk.  We’d eat regular ice cream, pizza, yogurt, cheeses, etc. and not bother with him taking a Lactaid pill.  And we'd certainly never avoid lactose-containing foods altogether….oh, the horror!  J  But when we decided to try living gluten-free, we concurrently ventured to keep a much closer eye on the lactose than we ever had before, and tried to make sure that he was using Lactaid when necessary.  Lo and behold, here are the results of Phase 1 of the experiment wherein we kept strict track of everything he ate and how his stomach felt…..

Click on the chart to enlarge it.
Each column shows a group of foods or a food type that we suspected could be problematic.
95% = the best Hubby will ever label his stomach short of colitis actually being cured.
We intended for the experiment to last longer, but the results showed themselves so quickly and strongly that we feel it's safe to call it done early.  What we found was that the *only* times his percentage went down was when he ate dairy without Lactaid.  In fact, the chart shows improvement while eating gluten, or gluten + chemicals, or gluten + soda, as well as improvement each time he stopped eating dairy without Lactaid.  Dairy with Lactaid had no negative effects.  We also had planned to do the experiment in two phases (one with gluten and no chemicals, the other with chemicals and no gluten), but the experiment also pointed out, sadly, just how hard it is to avoid chemicals, preservatives, and other food additives....and so we ended up testing both scenarios simultaneously.  We tried to eat all natural during these two weeks, but if you consume anything that you haven’t prepared completely on your own at home, you have to assume that as part of the United States food supply, there’s likely something other than the actual food in it.

For me personally during these two weeks, I noticed that I started experiencing greater blood sugar fluctuations (and getting the shakes/hypoglycemic when hungry) -- something that I used to experience once in a while, but that had stopped when we went gluten-free and thereby reduced our intake of processed simple carbohydrates.  I noticed over the two weeks that I was hungry more often and my appetite was harder to satisfy.  I found myself eating more food and more frequently.  I also had less energy overall.  I believe that all of this can be attributed, for me, not necessarily to gluten, but to too much of the time eating too many refined simple carbohydrates, and consequently not enough protein or complex carbs.

As for Phase 2 of the experiment, wherein we were going to see how Hubby did being gluten-free, but still allowing the chemicals and preservatives into his body….we simply no longer feel the need to test it out.  Neither of us wants to ingest any of that junk anyways (even if we “can” without tummy troubles), therefore why should we bother subjecting ourselves to it just for the sake of experimentation when we're going to avoid these "foods" from now on anyways.

A Learning Experience

I don’t think that being gluten-free for these past two months has been for naught.  It was certainly beneficial.  It caused us to carefully examine what we were putting into our bodies, what we needed to be putting into our bodies, and what we absolutely didn’t want to be putting into our bodies.  We learned that whole, clean, and natural tastes way better!  Being gluten-free (where it's virtually impossible to consume refined or processed foods), followed by the experiment of purposefully eating gluten (where the gluten and refined/processed grains always seem to inexorably go hand-in-hand), highlighted important dietary truths -- We now know (not just from anecdote, but from real-life first-hand experience) how and why certain foods make us hungrier, cause us to overeat, create metabolic fluctuations, and make us sluggish....and that when we eat the right foods, our appetites actually decrease, our blood sugar levels moderate, our metabolisms balance out, our cravings become more controllable, and our brains function more effectively (no fog or memory lapses).  We just feel more vibrant in general.

Being gluten-free, by necessity, made us (and showed us how to) willfully pay close attention to what’s in our food.  We saw how wrong we were about how healthy we thought we were eating before.  The problem in this country (if you ask me) is the food supply.  Go ahead, pick up any item off the shelf and tell me how many of its ingredients you can pronounce, identify, obtain without some special license, or create without a chemist's degree?  Chances are, nine times out of ten, that product you grab from the shelf is full of garbage, and unfortunately, in this day and age, the unnatural ingredients too often outnumber the natural ones.  Even some whole foods are going downhill, being genetically modified or otherwise altered from their natural evolution.  So some Americans try to eat clean, whole, sometimes even organic, foods….but then there is the issue of cost.  Why should the better food cost more?

Anyways, short tangent aside, back to how being gluten-free was a good thing even though it turned out to be unnecessary....being gluten-free opened our eyes to tons of new ingredients (most specifically grains and flours) that we otherwise wouldn't ever have heard of, nevermind thought to go out and look for or try.  These are foods that we won't abandon simply because we no longer “need” them, but rather they are things that we will continue to use for variety’s sake.  We discovered new ways of cooking and baking, and gained tons of confidence in the kitchen; not only with putting wonderful meals together, but also with writing our own recipes.  We are thankful for all of this, and we feel more accomplished.

New Parameters

So, as of today, we are changing our parameters.  This blog will be dedicated to journaling our adventures as foodies -- whether that be creating meals at home, eating out at restaurants, trying new and exotic things, or partying with friends.  For the fun of it all, plain and simple.  And while I will not get preachy about it (we are not crazy people on some holier than thou crusade, we aren’t on a mission to convert anyone to any particular way of being, we aren’t trying to change anyone’s opinions about anything, and our choices don’t make us better than anyone else), there are several parameters that, based on all that we have learned, we will endeavor to adhere to as much as possible:
  • First off, no more concern about avoiding gluten, even though we will probably still end up doing so a lot of the time by way of personally preferenced recipe alterations.  (For example, we often omit flour where it's not actually necessary in a recipe, we leave out the breading on chicken parm because we like it that way, we sometimes prefer burgers without a bun....also, I am sure we'll once in a while make brownies with nut flours because it’s healthier and just as delicious, or bake whoopie pies with alternative flours because they're frickin' awesome that way, etc.)
  • Lactaid for Hubby each and every time dairy is involved.
  • Whole, clean, all natural foods and ingredients as often as possible; minimize processed and packaged items.
  • Always as few chemicals, preservatives, additives, and other garbage as we can manage.
  • Basically, if it can't be grown in a garden, raised on a farm, or created without a scientific chemical reaction, we don't want to eat (most of the time -- see below).
  • Limited simple/refined carbohydrates (complex is always better) -- we don't often eat much bread, pasta and the like anyways.
  • And if all of this means making things from scratch that in the past I wouldn't have -- well, I don't have a problem with that at all!  In fact, I like it.
Now, don't get me wrong.  This isn't to say that we will never eat processed foods, or never eat refined grains, or never go out to a restaurant where we don't know exactly what's going into the food, or never eat whatever a friend might serve to us at their own house or bring to ours.  Oh, we will absolutely "cheat" sometimes, just like we did when living "98% gluten-free."   When we're faced with a great-looking dessert, when we flat-out want pasta or white bread, when we're eating out, when we go to a party or a friend's house for dinner.....we fully intend to enjoy ourselves, and as always, we would never expect anyone to accommodate us in any way, nor would we ever think food someone else made isn't good enough for us.  Honey, whatever you serve me, I'm gonna merrily eat it!  Enjoyment and contentment and to each his own....when all is said and done, isn’t that the point of this whole thing?

So, all of that is the last I will say about thoughts, opinions, and parameters.  I don’t plan to mention it again.  I am now getting off the horse, and putting the soap box away.  I am here because I want to share the joy of food with everyone.  That's it.  That's all.

Let’s let this delightful food journey proceed....

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