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Fall 2012 30-Day Challenge: Week 2

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Welcome to Week 2 of the challenge!

We’re hoping that everyone made it through week one without any major disasters. Congratulations – the hardest week of the challenge is over. You might be starting to experience your energy levels rising up and staying normal-to-high for the entire day, rather than dipping like they used to. You might have already started to experience some weight loss. Perhaps you got some PR’s in the gym this week. Overall, the days this week, and all weeks going forward, will be easier to get through, for sure.

It also should be safe to say that at this point, you are starting to realize how many edible non-foods are surrounding you! Home Depot sells chips and candy (all I wanted was  a power drill, and I ended up with 1,000 extra calories of crap. Thanks, Home Depot!), Michael’s craft store sells Godiva chocolate, Wawa sells about 90% edible non-foods, (and also some bananas and hardboiled eggs, if you’re in a pinch!). Even the ‘food’ stores are filled with mostly non-foods. And over 60% of our population is overweight. Hooray for us.  At least you know better now!

Last week we talked about sugar. You might have learned something new, but you also probably came into this whole thing already knowing that sugar was bad for you. No one ever tells you that sugar is good for you. The doctor never recommends that you increase your sugar intake for optimal health.

So, let’s shift our focus this week to something that we eliminated from your diet, but is commonly referred to as ‘heart healthy’, ‘good for you’ and ‘a good source of fiber’. It’s something that we tell you never to eat, but your doctor may recommend you eat every day.

It’s grains.

Being told that grains aren’t healthy is a big surprise to many people, and at first, rightfully so, most people are skeptical.  Today we’re going to address some of the most common questions we get asked about grain consumption. Feel free to pass along this post to your family or friends who ask you the same things!

“But grains grow from the ground, just like vegetables, so why can’t I eat them?”

Grains do grow from the ground, but you wouldn’t ever pick a grain in a field and eat it. Instead, you probably encounter grains in the form of refined grains (refined = stripped of all nutrients and made into a substance used in food science) or whole grains in ‘healthy’ baked goods, which contain toxins (more on those in a bit). When we are eating ‘real foods’ we tend to stick to things that are as close to their natural source as possible. The trip that a grain makes from the fields to your mouth is way too long to be considered a whole food anymore.

Also, we never encouraging blind faith in blanket statements like “if it came from the earth, eat it” without some rational thinking. There are plenty of things naturally occur in the earth, that are toxic to our bodies. Arsenic is natural. So is plutonium. You use your better judgment to skip the toxic foods and only eat the ones that improve your health.

Also, grains turn to sugar in your body. We addressed that last week, so you now know what happens when you eat too much of it!

“But I need to get more fiber in my diet.”

In American, we’ve been told over and over again that we need to get more fiber into our diets. One of the most obvious reasons we have digestive issues is that our nutrition is completely messed up and our bodies can’t properly process all of the harmful foods they are ingesting. Once your body makes the switch to eating real foods, your normal digestive function will return. In the beginning, it might be an uncomfortable to adjust, but once you get a steady stream of good things coming in, you’ll be happy with the results.  :)   (translation = good food in, good poop out)

The majority of fiber you consume will be coming from vegetables anyway, so eliminating grains definitely won’t mean eliminating fiber! Just know that there are no minerals, vitamins, or fiber that occurs in grains that you can’t get from vegetables.

“I don’t have celiac disease, so gluten doesn’t affect me.”

Yes, it definitely does. Just because a bite of a cookie doesn’t have you running to the bathroom, doesn’t mean your health isn’t being negatively impacted by the effects of gluten. Gluten is a protein inside wheat that protects it from being eaten by animals. It’s wheat’s natural defense mechanism.

When we eat gluten-containing grains (wheat, mostly), it causes micro tears in the lining of our intestines, which eventually can lead to some undigested particles of food to pass through the intestinal wall and into your bloodstream. When this occurs, the body attacks the particles because they are seen as invaders. This is an autoimmune response. If this happens chronically (referred to as ‘leaky gut’), you’ll develop nasty symptoms (achy joints, low immunity, increased breakouts of cold sores, arthritis, acne, eczema, psoriasis) and if the inflammation continues to get worse, you’ll may end up with a lovely little autoimmune condition, such as Crohn’s disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, ulcerative colitis, or a thyroid condition.

To clarify: Eating inflammatory foods may or may not be the cause these problems for you, but eliminating inflammatory foods will certainly ease the symptoms or cause the condition to disappear altogether. The gluten in grains is known for a fact to cause local and systemic inflammation, and systemic (meaning, all over your body) inflammation is known to lead to the symptoms and diseases aforementioned. It’s not that a piece of pizza will give you arthritis, but we are willing to bet that your symptoms get a lot better when you don’t eat foods that cause inflammation.

“Why can’t we eat other grains that don’t contain gluten?”

Good question. The answer revolves around phytic acid, which is found in high concentration in all grains, nuts and beans. Phytic acid binds with calcium and other mineral such as iron, zinc and magnesium. Phytic acid basically strips out bodies of essential mineral and nutrients, so we file it under ‘going to make you less healthy’, and therefore, we keep those items off of our ‘to eat’ list. We do still include nuts, with the understanding that they are to be eaten as a snack, and not as the base of your meals. Rice, beans and corn typically are eaten in much larger quantities than nuts, and therefore have a much larger impact on your overall mineral absorption.

Remember, we recommend no grains at ALL on the 30 day challenge. After the challenge, it’s up to you to make educated decisions in everyday life. That doesn’t mean that you’ll go back to eating rice and beans with all of your meals, but it also doesn’t mean you’ll be that person at the table trying to pick the rice off their sushi. After the challenge is over, we enjoy sushi and corn tortillas on occasion, realizing that they are no healthy for us, but they are not as detrimental as the food you’d get at fast food joints.

If you have any other questions about grains, please ask in the comments section! we have a lot of knowledgeable people here who are more than willing to help address your questions.

“People have been eating grains for centuries. How come they are so bad NOW?”

First, there are certain parts of the world in which people still subsist on the hunter/gatherer diets and are pretty much grain-free. They are among the healthiest in the world. The Inuits, who survive on mostly meat and fat, have had drastically low incidences of heart disease and cancer (until recently, when they started importing ‘Westernized food products’. Go figure).

Second, people haven’t always been consuming grains at the rate and in the quantities that we do now. (Same goes for sweeteners. Corn syrup or some type of sugar is in just about all processed/packaged foods.) Obesity due to over-consumption of baked goods and sweets has been research and documented for centuries -  almost everyone seems to be afflicted with it now, and somehow we all forgot what causes it!

Third, the wheat that people have been eating up until very recently (until the 1970′s) is different than the wheat we have now. In a response to the potential inability to feed the growing world population, scientists engineered a new type of grain that produced a bigger yield. What they weren’t concerned about, however, is how this new grain affected the health of humans. Turns out that a piece of whole wheat bread raises your blood sugar levels more than actual table sugar! Click here to read some other facts about this ‘new wheat’.

Other topics to discuss this week:

1. Bringing lunches to work. Do you do that, or do you buy lunch? What do you buy, if you buy lunch?

2. Have you been eating enough? Do you find yourself hungry often?

3. What’s one new vegetable or meat that you haven’t yet tried to cook? (We might be able to give you tips!)


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15 Responses to Fall 2012 30-Day Challenge: Week 2

  1. Liz Earle says:

    I still have to try brussel sprouts, last time I made them they were awful. Any tips?

    • Eric S. Allen says:

      I prefer them roasted until the outside leaves start to char a bit. I coat them in oil and generally just season them with salt and pepper. I find boiled or steamed to be not as good as this way.

  2. Mike Hoopes says:

    Bacon makes everything better…

  3. Alycia says:

    Cut them in half or quarters, then heat up some bacon fat (you save your leftover bacon fat, right??!) or butter until it’s liquid, then use your hands to coat the brussels with the fat. If you don’t use your hands, it’ll be hard to coat them, and you’ll end up using a boatload of fat.
    Then, spread them out on a baking sheet. By this time, many of the outer layers will have fallen off the brussels. No big deal. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar over them, and salt and pepper.
    Bake at 350 for about 45 min or so, and then leave them in the oven after it’s turned off for up to another hour. They should be really browned on the outside. They melt in your mouth!

  4. M. Love says:

    I definitely pack my lunches. I like knowing what I am eating and where it came from. Plus it’s easier for me – I prep them all on the weekend and seem set to go for the week. This week is Paleo Meatloaf and squashes :)

    I am actually surprised that I don’t find myself hungry as much as I use to. I am the hungriest in the morning and seem pretty steady through the day. I really have to get more veggies into my habit though. I can’t wait to try the Brussels sprouts – that sounds great!! And I’ll make some greens too as any southerner LOVES greens :)

    I am making jicamas tonight — it will be my first time. I had never heard of it before this weekend so hopefully it comes out well!

    I also have a confession – I cheated — I was really nervous about trying the sweet potato before my half marathon since I had not tried it before a long run before. SO I panicked and had a bagel. And then I definitely had a beer after the race (we got a free one and I have to say it was AMAZING!!!). So – I’m thankful to be back on track this week!

  5. Lisa P says:

    Going out to eat has not been difficult. I will admit that the desserts around me were hard to see and not indulge but I was able to make it through.

    I have found that I just don’t bring attention to myself my talking about it (paleo) all the time and no one really notices.

    The paleo receipes have been delicious! It took a few days to get the tastebuds “unsweetened” but now I am enjoying the true taste of foods betters

    Happy eatting everyone!

  6. Brianna says:

    I always pack my lunch! A tasty lunch that I have been eating lately is:
    Ground Beef with taco seasonings, avocado, salsa, on top of lots of veggies/salad mix. I almost always have at least some ground beef cooked and ready to eat.

    Lately I have been roasting huge trays of veggies at a time so that they last a while. Its usually Cauliflower, brussels, butternut squash.

    Alycia – one time in the gym you were eating a crock pot dish. I can’t remember everything you said you put in it. I remember you said some type of beef, maybe tomatoes of some sort and capers? Anything else?

    I have added some fruit back in as well and my metcons have felt SO much better :)

  7. Alycia says:

    The crockpot thing I had was Ropa Vieja from PaleOMG: http://paleomg.com/crockpot-ropa-vieja-cuban-style-rice/
    It’s always delicious, with or without the cauliflower rice.

    I just made a 4lb brisket in the crock pot the other night with 1 can of coconut milk and 1 small jar of Thai Kitchen red curry paste – it was the best brisket I’ve ever had! The meat was local and grassfed ( bought from whole foods) and the crock pot is newer, so I’m not sure what made it so much better than every other time I’ve made it.

  8. Peggy says:

    Speaking of brisket, prior to this challenge I stumbled upon Dolan’s Irish Pub on Rte. 130 in Burlington, which, believe it or not, serves grass-fed beef. They are receptive to substituting veggies for potatoes – I ordered the brisket on a bed of kale, mushrooms and cabbage, outrageous! The Ulster Burger, which I ordered minus cheese, served on greens instead of bun, was covered with mushrooms, bacon and a fried egg – delish! Another time they offered a lamburger as the special. They also have a good selection of Irish beer, but that is for another time.

  9. Alycia says:

    Nice to know, Peggy!

  10. Mike Hoopes says:

    Brianna, what fruits are you eating?

    I have eaten paleo since joining and definitely struggled with energy levels, especially during metcons, just had to tailor portion size and foods to meet my needs, I guess. I have been trying to eat lower glycemic load fruits, big fan of grapefruits.

    I think Jon Walka said it best during the prior 30 day challenge, “eat more leafy greens”. Cant go wrong with kale, spinach, etc.I work nights and pack my meals, not a ton of healthy options for us shift workers – leafy greens are basically in every meal i eat/pack.

    • Brianna says:

      Mike, I do eat a lot of greens too, kale and spinach at almost every meal. I have been eating an apple or berries almost everyday at lunch. And then depending on my day I may add another piece of fruit at breakfast, usually berries or an orange especially if I work out in the morning. 4 days a week I teach yoga as well so I need some extra carbs to make it through.

      I didn’t know you did shift work, I would imagine that is difficult.

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