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About six months ago, Trevor and I decided it was time to change our eating habits. We have a plan for how we want our future to look, and we needed to get our eating habits under control. Let’s face it, we are not getting any younger and if we want to continue to ride and travel then we need a healthier lifestyle. I am not a nutritionist, health and wellness expert or anything of the sort, but I do know a bit about nutrition and health, and I knew it was time to start listening to my inner self that was telling me a change was needed.
I have had stomach issues for most of my life. About 20 years ago, my doctor told me I had an issue with gluten. Back then there was not much information on gluten and the issues it can cause a body. There were no gluten free restaurants, and it was difficult to find gluten free food in your neighborhood grocery store. Over the years I bounced between eating and not eating gluten. Of course, I felt better not eating it, but would still go back to a diet that included it.
Gluten is the general name for the protein present in wheat & wheat varieties such as spelt, kamut, and farro to name a few, and barley, rye, and triticale-a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps food maintain its shape, acting like a glue to hold it together. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t need “glue” holding anything together in my body!
Wheat is found in foods like bread, pasta, soup, cereal, sauces, and dressings. Rye is found in foods like bread, beer, and cereal. Barley is found in malt, beer, food coloring, and soups. Triticale is found in breads, pasta, and cereal. Oats can add many nutritional benefits to a diet, but it is recommended to only eat oats that are labeled as gluten free. This is because oats can be grown alongside of wheat, barley and rye and could have cross-contamination. So, basically all the foods we love to eat, contain gluten.
A gluten free diet is recommended to manage the symptoms of celiac disease as well as other health issues associated with gluten such as: intestinal inflammation & damage, malabsorption, anxiety, depression, iron deficiency, brain fog, abdominal pain & bloating, skin issues, and joint & muscle pain.
The benefits of a gluten free diet include increase in energy, improved gastrointestinal health, weight loss, improved mood & better focus, less joint paint, and overall improved health.
After two visits to the hospital for intestinal spasms and malabsorption, I decided it was a good time to change my eating habits. Thankfully, Trevor will eat anything I cook for him, so he was on board with anything I decided to incorporate, or take out of, our diets. After a lot of research, reading and a consult with my physician, we decided that gluten free, sugar free, and dairy free would be our goal. We also agreed that we would not go completely overboard, and we would allow ourselves “cheat” days if we felt we needed them. We would do our best to eat clean healthy food, lose weight and improve our health.
We started reading labels, went to farmers markets, and found all the gluten free isles at our favorite stores. We watched several documentaries about healthy eating. We began cooking easy, healthy meals that only had a few ingredients. We controlled our portion size and refrained from second helpings when we did not need them. We started juicing and making smoothies. We ate fruit for snacks and tried to incorporate more vegetables into our daily routine. We have tried a lot of gluten free products, some we like, some not so much.
Another thing that I felt was a key part of this wellness journey was to eliminate sugar and processed foods. Now I am not talking about natural sugar that is found in fruits, I’m talking about the sugar in things like candy, cookies, sweets, sauces, juice, and soda. The added sugar in things like packaged and processed foods.
Sugar has so many negative effects on the body. It affects your brain, mood, teeth, joints, skin, liver, heart, and pancreas! Who knew! Sugar gives a surge of dopamine to your brain and the more you have it, the more you want it. But that quick burst of energy you get from sugar, you know the one I’m talking about, that sugar high where you feel so great for a while, almost jittery and anxious but in a fun way. Well wait a bit and then get ready for the sugar crash! Your energy goes away, you are tired, and your body is retaliating! And let’s not forget about the mood swings!
Sugar makes your skin age faster. It damages collagen and elastin causing wrinkles and saggy skin. Sugar also destroys healthy bacteria in your mouth and causes tooth rot and cavities. It causes joint inflammation and can develop into rheumatoid arthritis. It can cause fatty liver disease, kidney damage and kidney failure, inflamed arteries, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. It can also cause type 2 diabetes. Oh, and let’s not forget weight gain. These are all things I would like to avoid, if possible.
Sugar has many names. Common names are corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, raw sugar, fruit juice concentrate, honey, and molasses, to name a few. You need to read your labels and pay attention to the amount of added sugar. Again, Trevor and I decided we would have the goal of eliminating added sugar and process foods, but we would not beat ourselves up if we have some sugar.
By cutting out sugar, Trevor and I hope to lose weight, feel better, have more energy, reduce risk for diabetes, reduce inflammation in our joints, less headaches, improve heart health and reduce risk for heart attack and stroke. We want to be able to ride our motorcycle for many more years without having aching, sore joints at the end of the day.
The next thing I researched was dairy. While there are benefits to dairy, such as calcium, vitamins D & B and protein, you can eliminate dairy from your diet if you get these nutrients from other sources. So, why do I want to eliminate dairy? Lactose intolerance. Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and milk products. Our body uses an enzyme called lactase, in our small intestine, to break down the sugar so we can absorb it. If you are lactose intolerant, you do not have enough lactase in your small intestine to properly break down this sugar and absorb it. The result is that it goes on to the colon, mixes with normal bacteria and ferments and causes things like gas, bloating and diarrhea. Gross right!
Next, I researched the nutritional benefits of fruits, vegetables, and other foods we would eat. I knew I had an absorption issue and my blood work consistently showed low magnesium and potassium, among other things. I also knew I had an issue with gluten, dairy and sugar. I researched what foods would provide me with the vitamins and nutrients that I needed to fix my malabsorption and intestinal issues, as well as keep us healthy.
For us, it made the most sense to follow a gluten free, sugar free, and dairy free diet. So, what do we eat? That’s easy; fruits, vegetables, chicken and fish. Occasionally, we have beef. We try to eat things that are not packaged and processed. A few times a week we will have potato, rice or gluten free pasta. I did a lot of research on juicing and smoothies and incorporated them into our diet. I knew that both juicing and making smoothies would increase our intake of fruits and vegetables and that was definitely something that we needed. I also knew there were things like ginger, protein powder, fiber, and chia seeds that we would also benefit from by adding them in the juice or smoothie. I also did a lot of research on the machines that would use to make the juice and smoothies! I decided on the Breville Juice Fountain Cold, Model#BJE430 for juicing and the Ninja Foodi Power Pitcher System, Model#SS351 for smoothies (and it does a whole lot more!). Below you will find a few different options for juicers and smoothies makers.
For the first month, we were strict with our diet. Breakfast was juice that I made with fresh fruits or eggs with fruit. Lunch was chicken, fruit, veggies, salad, eggs or a protein bar. Dinner was chicken or fish with veggies. If we wanted a snack, we had fruit, a smoothie or a smoothie bowl. Slowly we started adding things like rice, potatoes and gluten free pasta to our dinners. Most of the food we eat has only a few ingredients. By January, the fresh fruit in our area was not great, and spoiled within a few days, and the prices got higher, so I switched to smoothies with frozen fruits. Now that it is starting to get nice again, I will start fresh fruit juicing, which we love!
We also modified our portions! This was one of the easiest things we could do; control how much we ate!! I usually put a big portion of vegetables on the plate, then the meat, followed by a small portion of potato, rice or pasta. We did our best to not have second helpings, unless of course it was more veggies! At restaurants we stopped ordering appetizers and desserts. We made sure we had a vegetable or salad with our meal and we always take home half of the meal and enjoy it the next day for lunch.
The first month was not too bad, I cheated a few times, but Trevor was strict. He has great willpower. I was a sugar addict and craved it all the time, so I had to find things to eat that were sweet and satisfied my craving. Usually, a nice, ripe Honeycrisp apple did the trick. I also make smoothie bowls and put fun toppings and enjoy this rather than eating ice cream, another one of my addictions! Since I was seeing results, it did motivate me to stay away from the sugary junk food. I also love bread, so I would say that was probably the hardest thing for me to give up.
We have found several restaurants that have gluten free menus. We usually go out to eat once a week and we have been able to keep it gluten free and great tasting. I also found a bakery that is gluten free, and it is delicious. They do use some sugar, but I am willing to have that little bit of sugar as a treat! I have experimented with gluten free pizza since this was one of my favorite foods. I have found some good ones, but since I also stay away from dairy, I don’t have pizza very often because of the cheese. As I mentioned earlier, we do cheat occasionally and if we really want something, we have it. I would say we are probably 98% gluten, sugar, and dairy free. I’m good with that!
At first, I was concerned with how we would incorporate our new eating habits with our motorcycle riding. We tend to ride back roads that go for miles and have very little in terms of restaurants. What we found were country stores, diners, and small restaurants and thankfully they all usually offer some healthy food options. Don’t get me wrong, we love diners and will occasionally still have their yummy food, usually not gluten free, but for the most part we are able to find healthy options that suit us just fine. Even convenient stores offer things like hard boiled eggs, fruit, veggies, and salad. I usually pack some protein bars and peanut butter crackers to bring with us for snacks. Although the crackers are not usually gluten free, we are willing to exchange that for the protein and salt that our bodies crave after a long day in the sun riding.
Both Trevor and I found that by cutting out processed foods and sugar, the weight came off very easily. We were not hungry because we were eating clean, healthy foods, getting plenty of protein and vitamins and hydrating properly. We also did very little exercise. I try to walk everyday but once late fall and winter arrive it is just too cold to be out walking. Yes, I could exercise at home, and Trevor and I even went as far as setting up an exercise area in our basement, but as we all know, that is easier said than done!
THE RESULTS……. well, where do I start. We both started losing weight. We have more energy and focus. We are sleeping better. Joint inflammation and stiffness went away. Headaches went away. My stomach issues disappeared, and my blood work showed great improvement!
So, I’m sure the biggest question you all have is…..HOW MUCH WEIGHT DID WE LOSE! I am happy to say, after 6 months of gluten free, sugar free, and dairy free (with occasional cheat days and treats) we have lost a combined total of 100 pounds!!! 45 for me and 55 for Trevor! We feel great and we can’t wait to go shopping for some new clothes! We are back to motorcycle riding season and our joints and muscles are not aching, it’s easier getting on/off the bike, and we have more energy which means more riding!
As we continue this journey, I will be documenting some of the recipes we use for meals, juicing and smoothies. We keep it simple, and we are willing to share our knowledge of healthy eating with anyone who wants more information. As I stated earlier, I am not a nutritionist or health/wellness expert, but I know what good, healthy, clean eating is and we are having great results with it! I have been giving meal suggestions, food prep, and healthy option advice to my family and friends and I love seeing everyone improve their health! We also welcome any suggestions, questions and comments! To leave a comment or question, scroll to the bottom of this page.