Could wheat really be bad for you?
While reading BoingBoing the other day, I happened across a post claiming wheat is addictive, responsible for many health problems, makes you fat, caused the Holocaust, etc.
Some of the claims are really out there. But let’s assume for a moment that there might be a grain of truth to his assertion that wheat is bad for us. Certainly at my last job I gained weight when I switched from yogurt for breakfast to the free bagels they were always giving us.
That’s where I start thinking he’s on to something — those bagels never once made me feel full. But the yogurt? Always. The bagels contained more calories than the yogurt and less nutrition. So why did I keep eating them? I’m not really sure. I tried switching to healthier breakfasts, but the temptation of bagels was difficult to resist.
I decided to make a pact with myself: avoid wheat for 30 days and document the results.
Why 30 days? A short TED talk by Matt Cutts explores this simple concept: try something new for 30 days. It can be anything, from training for an athletic event to writing a novel. It can also involve removing something from your life — like wheat.
Additionally, the BoingBoing post specifically mentions that four weeks without wheat should be enough to convince yourself that wheat isn’t wonderful.
There were two main factors I was looking for in this experiment: weight and the more difficult to quantify general “feeling.” Theoretically lowering your blood sugar should cause both weight loss and lethargy. Giving up something as addictive as morphine shouldn’t be pleasant either. But there was also the possibility that I’d “feel” healthier if wheat is linked to inflammation and joint pain.
Here’s the ground I set for myself rules:
- No wheat. This means no wheat-based breads, tortillas, beer, etc. The food selection process would be based on a combination of common sense and reading labels.
- Try to maintain my caloric intake. I didn’t want to skew the results by intentionally “dieting” here. I decided to throw away flour tortillas and buy corn tortillas, get sugary (but fresh and in season) fruit for snacks, drink wine instead of hefeweizen, etc.
- Continue existing exercise routine. of light-moderate cardio for 30-45 min/day.
- Allow myself a one meal exception for the entire 30 days (a pizza event I already had planned.)
Results: First 10 Days
Yesterday marks 10 days since I started the wheat-free experiment. I didn’t eat any wheat during this time; I also ate a lot more corn-based products than usual.
Here’s the results.
Weight: a bit tricky to judge. Even though my scale has wifi (what a strange world we live in!) I haven’t been as rigorous as I should have been at weighing myself at the same time every day. Still, I think there’s enough data to say with certainty that I haven’t gained any weight.
Feelings: just as predicted, I’ve been feeling really lethargic as one often would on a low-carb diet. Although unpleasant, it also gives me hope. After all, I’ve been going out of my way to NOT cut carbs; if my blood sugar is causing this reaction there must be another reason for it.
Addictiveness: every now and then I find myself craving a pizza or a sandwich, but once I remind myself that I can’t have it the feeling moves on to another food. So I’m having a little trouble buying into the idea that wheat is as addictive as morphine when I’m able to avoid it so easily.
So far, these results are marginally promising, but not very conclusive. I’m going to monitor my weight more thoroughly for the next 10 days and see if there’s any meaningful results.