Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Excess Baggage" or "Refined Foods Are The Devil"

I have excess baggage. I’m not talking about the emotional kind; that’s another issue. And I’m not talking about designer baggage either. I’m talking, again, about my under-eye baggage. Yep! They’ve come back. I awoke one morning two and a half weeks into my three-week sugar fast and there they were, perched atop my cheeks all bulbous and bulging.

Although I refuse to relinquish sugar of all under-eye-bag-causing responsibility, I can’t give it 100% blame either. You see, when I go sugar free I also go flour free. A slice of bread has four grams of added sugar, most cereal is about 50% sugar, and pasta and white rice are processed in our bodies similarly to sugar, so I also give them up when I go sugar free. Although I hadn’t eaten any of those things when my bags came back, what I had done differently was to add more grains to my diet, in particular, wheat (bulgur and shredded wheat to be exact) and within three days I looked like I had gone eight rounds with Rocky Balboa! So I did some on-line research and self diagnosed myself with Celiac Disease, or at least gluten intolerance (see link on right for more information). While I was at it, I diagnosed at least seven friends and family members as well. I fired off e-mails with links to this debilitating condition urging my loved ones to seek medical attention immediately! Most of them blew me off and I think I just irritated the rest.

Even I didn’t take my own advice to get tested by a doctor. As soon as I eliminated wheat from my diet, the bags began to shrink. One day I may find out exactly what is causing my “baggage”, but for now, I’ll just avoid wheat products, which is a bummer as there are health benefits from whole wheat grains. I'm finding that avoiding wheat products is just as hard as avoiding refined sugar though! Just think what’s made from wheat. We most commonly find it in the form of refined flour (wheat minus the health benefits). Pancakes, bread, pizza dough, cereal, pasta, crackers are just a few refined-flour products.

Which brings me to the word "refined". When I think of the word “refined” I think of someone or something that has all the best traits: the cream of the crop, upper crust, top notch and all that. Someone that has refined his skills is someone that has improved himself by removing all bad habits and tendencies and is left with only the good. The word refined is a positive word to me but not when it comes to my food! In refining food, basically, everything that makes it a food is removed (like nutrients, fiber, and taste). What’s left after refinement is a product that is the basis for processed foods, long shelf life, disease and illness. It becomes empty calories and an anti-nutrient, robbing our bodies of the ability to absorb and utilize necessary vitamins and minerals. It also causes hormonal imbalances causing cravings to eat more food. OK, so it also gives bread and pastry that light airy quality that melts in our mouths. This could be considered good, because when we lose our teeth due to poor nutrition, we won’t have to worry about chewing!

So I’m back to the vanity issue of under-eye bags. They have led me on new and exciting paths though. Here are some of the paths of which I’m avoiding or charging forward on:

1) I will no longer take the path of diagnosing friends and family members with illness and disease. As much as it interests me and I believe I’m right, I sometimes have to admit that my attempts at world health through nutrition aren’t always appreciated (yet).

2) I am all about whole foods now. I am focusing on real, whole, nutrient-dense foods and I’ve found a place that fills me with joy and excitement and it’s called Whole Foods Market. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for my husband and family, the closest Whole Foods is 45 minutes away so I won’t easily be able to spend my days perusing the isles instead of completing my wife and motherly duties.

3) I am looking into schools in which I can get a degree or certificate in naturopathic or holistic nutrition. Besides the fact that I get totally jazzed learning about nutrition, I think it will give me some credibility if I ever get tempted to wander down the path of medical diagnose again. Plus, I’m hoping it will give me a reason to spend time at Whole Foods Market: in the name of research, of course.

4) I’m considering changing my blog name from “Sugar’s the Devil” to “Refined Foods are the Devil”. As much as I’d like to be more refined, when it comes to my food I’ve decided it’s best to be a little rough around the edges.

I hate my under-eye bags but I’m looking at them in a much different way now. They are an outward sign that something is wrong with my diet but a far lesser sign than say, weight gain, diabetes, sjogrens disease or arthritis! They may also help me overcome my temptation to indulge in my favorite treat in the whole wide world: homemade chocolate chip cookies, the epitome of refined food. Before biting into a cookie, I will instead hold it up and under my eye. After all, that’s where it will ultimately end up. If I still eat it after that reminder, then I deserve all the baggage I get!