The struggle of healthy living

The struggle is real. For me it’s always evolving. I see myself getting focused and on track and then the slightest thing will throw me off–moving, occupation changes, the temperature, the seasons (in New Orleans, that means carnival, festival, hurricane, etc.), and so on. Also, just getting older I’m finding out my body doesn’t handle certain foods the way it used to; or maybe it never did but it was easier to deal with when I was a teenager.

For lent I gave up meat/dairy and hard liquor. There were, of course, some exceptions here and there, some cheat days and whatnot, but for the most part I stayed on track. I even got myself on a better exercise regimen, returning to a fitness website/blog I used to follow (Zuzka Light), where I can workout in my living room with little to no equipment. Overall, I feel better and (I think) look better, although I definitely missed my meat & eggs. I don’t have any plans of becoming a vegan anytime soon. But I do plan on making my meals more plant-centered and incorporating more variety in my diet.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been struggling to lose the extra ten or so pounds I gained within the first 5 months of moving to NOLA. There’s just so much good food here, and I definitely don’t walk nearly as much as I did when I was living in NYC or before when I was in college. The exception being walking to and from festivals, which is always offset by the calorically dense foods I’m eating once I get there, not to mention the alcohol.

Some people become vegans and lose weight stupid fast. I wasn’t so lucky. Halfway through lent I looked in the mirror and saw that my arms and legs were getting toned from the high-intensity workouts, but my belly just looked BLOATED. It didn’t make sense to me, I didn’t become one of those “junk-food-vegans;” I was eating awesome plant based meals, good seafood, drinking lots of water, lowering my caffeine intake, and lowering my calorie intake in general. But I had a hunch what it was.

I don’t normally eat much bread. For the most part, most of my wheat consumption comes from baking cookies or brownies, or eating fried foods or a po’boy–but even then, I only did that on occasion. Once lent started, I was always hungry and pretty sleepy, which led to me being pretty irritable. Even increasing my intake of beans didn’t really help, so I ended up buying bread to make sandwiches, munching on crackers, making flour tortillas, and so on.

So three weeks later I had this indescribable pouch sitting on my midsection. I don’t have celiac, and quite frankly I find the whole gluten-free-everything-movement well deserving of a huge eye-roll (unless, of course, you actually have celiac). But I had to concede that maybe I have a gluten sensitivity. The only other time I looked this bloated was after coming back from Taiwan, where in a matter of 2 weeks I gained a good 5-7 pounds. While I was there I ate mostly noodles, dumplings, buns, and fried everything. Common denominator: wheat.

So I threw out the bread, stopped munching on crackers, and made most of my meals with rice or potatoes (at this point I was sick of quinoa). I didn’t try to go gluten free for the second half of lent, because my food choices were already so limited and I wasn’t about to go spend my whole paycheck at whole foods buying gluten free snacks and alternative grains. I did, however, make a conscious decision to limit my wheat intake. Slowly but surely my little pooch is disappearing.

Now this could all be one big coincidence. I mean it takes time for your body to adjust to any changes in your diet and exercise, and maybe my perception of feeling better coincided with my body finally catching up to what I was doing. Maybe it was all psychological. Who knows? But now that lent is over, I’m going to try and make a more concerted effort to see if there’s any merit to my notion of a gluten sensitivity.

The proper way to do this would be an elimination diet for like 2-3 weeks. But…yea…I’m not going to do that. I’m really not about that life of buying stuff specially marked ‘gluten-free.’ And let’s be real, it is festival season, I am in New Orleans, and the smell of fried-anything is enough to bring even the most strong-willed of people to their knees. But since I eat the vast majority of my meals at home, what I WILL do, is make a concerted effort to eliminate wheat in my house and my cooking, which can be really easy to do if I stick to whole foods eating and forgo all the wonderful seasonal beers.

I’ll give it until Memorial Weekend to see what, if anything comes from this. After that I plan to investigate another theory that’s been circulating about and invest in Einkorn wheat flour. Einkorn is an ancient strain of wheat, which supposedly has a different protein structure than the modern dwarf wheat that is found in almost all of our wheat products today. Let’s be real, I LOVE baking too much to give it up, and bean flours and other GF flours are OK, but they don’t give you the same texture that wheat does. Although einkorn could also bake differently than modern wheat, it at least still has some gluten content to it so I can have my chewy cookies once in awhile.

In the meantime, I journey on in this struggle for healthy living. Now that it’s getting warmer, working out and eating more fresh food is less of a struggle for me. Hopefully, I can solidify this as a habit before the weather turns cold and I get overwhelmed by the desire to stay underneath 15 layers and sip on a fatty hot chocolate instead of working out, or, spend hours baking cookies and other sweets to try and keep my frigid apartment warm. Thank god for summer!

BTW: I’m still working on those pistol squats and pushups!