Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gettin' off the Train to Fat City

I eat right (well, mostly). I exercise (a lot). How did I put on 20 pounds since 2005? What have I been doing differently since then?

My GP chalked it up to getting older. But I went from age 36 to (almost) 41, not 25 to 50.

In 2005, I had been on Body-for-Life (BFL) for two years. Basically, BFL involves eating six small meals a day of balanced proteins and carbohydrates, plus two servings of vegetables. It also involves three strength training workouts and three cardio workouts every week. I was also dancing two or three nights a week. I don't know how much weight I lost, but once I started BFL I went down two dress sizes and felt great. All was well.

The results of a car wreck and an unrelated illness in late 2006 and early 2007 no doubt caused some weight gain. The car wreck left me unable to dance or exercise for several months; the illness (an infection of H. pylori and acid reflux) made my stomach so sore that it was painful to eat fruit. I ate wheat products instead.

About that time, I bought the cookbook Eating for Life by Bill Phillips, who created BFL, the diet and exercise regimen I'd been on. Despite Phillips' assertion in the BFL book that he only reluctantly allowed bread, several recipes in the book used bread, pitas and pasta. I made and ate them happily.

By the end of 2007, I was feeling better and doing the same exercise regimen as before. I didn't go dancing as often, though; my job required me to be wide awake. The years 2007 through 2009 also saw some long, cold winters that coated the sidewalks with thick ice. I took fewer walks than before. I was getting less exercise, but still doing six hard workouts a week.

Even though my stomach was feeling better with the H. pylori gone and daily pills for acid reflux, I hadn't gone back to eating little or no wheat. Could that make a difference? Dr. William Davis, cardiologist, thinks so. He coined the term "wheat belly" in 2007, and advises his patients to try going wheat-free for four weeks. An excerpt from his blog:

You've heard of "beer bellies," the protuberant, sagging abdomen of someone who drinks excessive quantities of beer.

How about "wheat belly"?

That's the same protuberant, sagging abdomen that develops when you overindulge in processed wheat products like pretzels, crackers, breads, waffles, pancakes, breakfast cereals and pasta....Wheat bellies are created and propagated by the sea of mis-information that is delivered to your door every day by food manufacturers. It's the same campaign of mis-information that caused the wife of a patient of mine who was in the hospital (one of my rare hospitalizations) to balk in disbelief when I told her that her husband's 18 lb weight gain over the past 6 months was due to the Shredded Wheat Cereal for breakfast, turkey sandwiches for lunch, and whole wheat pasta for dinner.
(emphasis added)

I guess it's no coincidence that big bellies are called "bread baskets" instead of "salad bowls." "Pansa" is the Spanish slang term; "pan" is Spanish for "bread." Instinctively, people seem to think as Dr. Davis does.

Dr. Davis mentions in other posts that wheat can be addictive. Indeed--I can't stop at one bowl of cereal or a couple of cookies.

A few weeks ago, even before my doctor said I'd put on 20 pounds, I stopped eating wheat except on my weekly free day (BFL allows a day of rest from both diet and exercise). I eat fruit, beans, potatoes and rice instead. Result: the bloating is gone. My clothes fit a little better. My belly is flatter. I immediately felt a little thinner. Much of the urge to snack, stuff myself and cheat on BFL are gone.

Much of our digestive system is still a mystery, and theories about nutrition come and go. The best thing to do, IMO, is to see what gets good results for you.

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