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!


Anonymous said...

Dear Elizabeth,
Just read your blog – I’ve been reading for years about not only the effects of sugar, refined foods, but also the lack of the proper amount of water “Our Bodies Many Cries for Water” and the lack of good bacteria/vitamins, etc. I have a book to give your friend called Patient Heal Thyself by Jordan S. Rubin – who had Crohn’s Disease. He started a company called Garden of Life – which you can get from Whole Foods. My best friend here is in the Health Industry – I just went to the convention in Anaheim this weekend. We switched off of refined foods years ago (however, we do slip up – how can you not with children?) things really changed once they started school. My kids didn’t even know what a doughnut was until they started school – one more reason to homeschool – if you’re of the mind to losing your mind… My kids most of the time think I’m an absolute witch because I’m always telling them they are poisoning their bodies. Thank goodness, at least they don’t like McDonalds or fast foods, but they still crave the sugar. Halloween (the devils holiday where kids go around and ask for the devils food – candy) always kicks off the season of colds, flus, etc. Ever wonder why is starts that time of year? It’s not because the kids are back in school, but because the start sneaking sugar from their Halloween candy – which usually lasts until around Christmas – when they get more candy and through Valentines, when they get more candy and finally the season starts tapering off right after Easter (which is when they usually get the least amount of sugar). Happens every year and every year everyone thinks I’m a loon because I tell them that the candy is what is making them sick and not how cold the weather is.

My kids think I’m a nut because I make them eat whole grains – “all the other kids get to eat white bread!” I just tell them their parents don’t love them as much as I do – I love them enough to torture them with whole grains – what a mean mama! One of my kids accused me of buying whole grain bread because it was cheaper – guess again – it costs 2-3 times as much – I just do it to torture you because I get so little pleasure in my life. I don’t do it to lose weight – otherwise I’d be a total failure as I have twice the butt I used to have – I do it to keep the inside healthy. I also limit sodas – only on special occasions – such as parties – just so I can have a bunch of kids on a sugar high running around my house, ice cream – once a week, etc. My husband is semi on board – he does believe in being and eating healthy, however, he loves to indulge himself as well. I guess I’m a mean wife as well as a mean mama. I usually lose my resolve once a month and reach or send someone in the house for chocolate – FAST!!!

Keep it up – one day when they finally prove how bad sugar is you can say those extremely profound words…I told you so!!

Elizabeth Hotaling said...

Thank you so much for all your information. I will pass on the name of the book to Julie as well as another friend of mine with Crohns. It's interesting your connection to the "candy season" and the "cold season". Sugar definitely affects the immune system. Combine it with the fact that most people aren't getting enough sunlight (vitamin D) and it's a double whammy! Thanks for adding your sense of humor and insight to my blog!

My Year Without said...

I love that you distinguish between refined foods and the other meaning of "refined". Good point.

I, too, used to think of sugar as evil but my new thought is that it's actually the people pushing sugar onto us through marketing and into our foods that are not so good!

Whole foods rock and actually make going without sugar easier somehow.

Great work!

Elizabeth Hotaling said...

You're right! I look at all marketing differently now. I used to love the show The Biggest Loser, but I've been so disappointed in the way the contestants are taught to eat and how, in my opinion, junk food is offered as healthy options. But those are the marketers that pay for the show, I guess, and it's effective for their sales because we buy into it. Anyway, thanks for your comment - it's my hope that through my struggles others may become more aware and think for themselves when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. And I just may use your phrase "Whole Food Rocks" for a title of one of my posts if you don't mind!

Kathy said...

Don't know if my 1st comment went thru. Love the info. Where is the Market you talk about? I see I have alot of reading to do.


Elizabeth Hotaling said...

Hello Kathy - don't think your first comment came through... I'm speaking of the Whole Foods Market in Glastonbury. There are co-ops in New London and Willimantic, but I haven't checked them out yet.

from my motorhome to yours said...

just found your blog, we found out that our son had celiac when he was 13, he's now 28

Elizabeth Hotaling said...

It must have been a challenge to change your teenagers diet but I'm sure the benefits were enormous! Six months ago I had never heard of gluten let alone celiac, now I see gluten-free everywhere! Thank goodness there are so many more products available for people with Celiac and gluten intolerances!

Kelly the Kitchen Kop said...

Elizabeth, sorry to contact you through here but I can't find an email for you on your site and the one I had from a while back bounced.

Can you email me?


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