Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bob's 46 Pound Success Story

Bob's wife sent us these great before and after pictures with his permission.  He is still working on more weight loss, but these pictures will give everyone a true idea of what this no grain diet actually does.

Bob, September 2009

Bob today, having lost 46 lb and counting
Congratulations, Bob - you're an inspiration!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Having recently written about eating out vs. eating in, I feel I should qualify this with something that works for us, when we do eat out.  Admittedly it's not often.

When placing your order, you can ask your server to replace the carb portion, whether it's the fries, baked potato, pasta or bread with additional vegetables.  Many restaurants are happy to do this without extra charge.  That way you won't even be tempted and the bonus is that you'll leave the restaurant feeling pleasantly full but not bloated.

If you're in Canada, the health-check menu choices at Swiss Chalet already include this as an option, though at other restaurants you usually have to ask.

Here's another tip I saw online somewhere, and it's one I have used successfully:  when you're not sure whether sugar was used in the preparation of the dish (e.g. when it has a rub or marinade), you can ask whether the dish is suitable for diabetics.  Your server might not know the answer and is likely to ask the chef, which means you'll probably get accurate information. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

A delicious chocolate treat

I have been making the most delicious chocolatey custards in the microwave lately.  They are great for breakfast or as a snack.  You need:

a cup of milk
an egg
a heaping teaspoon of cocoa
sweetener - I use Splenda, but you can use any other low-cal sweetener
vanilla essence (optional)

  1. Heat the milk in the microwave for 2 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, using an immersion blender, mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl or jug.  You could use a regular blender instead.
  3. Blend in the hot milk.
  4. Return to the microwave for 7 minutes at 20% power.
  5. Leave to stand a couple of minutes.
I sometimes overcook mine, in which case I give it a couple of zaps with the blender to give it a custardy texture again.  If your microwave runs very hot, this might happen to you as well.

The role of price

The other day, I came across the following comment from somebody who feels price is an obstacle to eating healthier foods:

The basic problem with people eating healthy is that healthy food is on average more expensive then junk food. You can get a burger mean for around 3 bucks at most burger joints..a healthy wrap? between 5 and 7, with no drink.The same applies in grocery stores. Studies done have proven that middle to lower income families find it financially difficult to eat healthy, although many are aware of the healthy food choices. Perhaps a better option would be to find a way to make healthy foods competitively priced with the junk food.

She may have a point, but it struck me that the underlying assumption is that we are eating out.  In my opinion, as a society, we have put on so much weight, especially since the 70's and 80's, because so many people either eat out several times a week, or they buy foods at the grocery store that have already been prepared (think pizza, packaged meals, store bought dips, and even deli counter coleslaws, potato and pasta salads).

We say we are too busy to cook, but isn't the real reason that cooking is no longer taught to us by our parents or in school and that many of us have become totally reliant on restaurants as a society?

Luckily home-cooking is enjoying a major resurgence and there are unlimited websites and TV shows to reteach the skills that have been lost.  The economic decline of the past few years has also made it more socially acceptable to eat in, and this is another benefit.

One great example of a thrift-driven cooking site is Cook for Good. It shows that:
You can eat healthy, delicious food for an average of $1.13 a meal per person, based on grocery prices from October 2010. Every lunch includes a snack to be eaten when you like. Every day includes at least one dessert, two servings of fruit, and plenty of fresh vegetables. You can take this same menu and cooking plan green for just $1.72 a meal using mostly organic, sustainably grown, and kindly raised ingredients.
Now Cook for Good is far from grain- or sugar-free, so although it's a great site, it's not going to help you get off the grain ride. 

Many of the ingredients that go into a grain-free diet are admittedly somewhat more expensive:  for example a meat dish (especially if you use organic pastured meat) is usually pricier than a vegetarian pasta dish.  However, if cost is an issue, there are still many ways to make it work.  For one thing, a grain-free diet does not have to be meat-heavy - it's still about sensible portions.  Choosing seasonal produce - or better yet, growing your own - is also much more cost-effective than that which is not readily available where you live.  There are plenty of vegetarian options, and if you eat eggs, you will definitely be able to plan cheap meals that don't involve meat.

So in spite of the Cook for Good limitations, I think it's a very informative site for thinking about the cost-effectiveness of preparing all your food yourself.  There is little doubt in my mind that people who eat out regularly not only have less control over the ingredients that go into their daily diet, but they also spend more money overall than those whose meals are home-cooked.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Looking for a realistic New Year's Resolution?

At this time of year so many people vow to join a gym, go on a diet and lose all their excess weight after January 1st, but how many keep it up beyond the first two weeks?  How many actually succeed in losing a single pound?  Tara's story over on Mark's Daily Apple with some unbelievable before & after photos is truly inspirational, and epitomizes what we're talking about on the Grain Ride:
I was miserable. I tried everything to lose weight, but I was just so tired all of the time. I diagnosed myself with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Metabolic Syndrome, endometriosis and depression, which the doctors then confirmed. They put me on Prozac, which made me gain more weight. At my heaviest, I was around 235 lbs. I am a 5′9″ female. 235 lbs is not a healthy weight. When I asked the doctors HOW to lose weight, I was told, “We don’t know. Just lose it. Then symptoms will go away.” So, Google it was.
 And about exercise:
...nutrition is 80% of the battle... you don’t actually have to do as much as the industry would have you believe. ... Hours of “chronic cardio” on the treadmill is actually having the opposite of the desired effect – people are overtraining, injuring themselves and making themselves hungry as hell. (It’s a lot easier to justify a donut when you’ve worked out hard, right?!) I didn’t have to work out hard to see results. 

Before you sign up at the gym or the weight loss program you've been eyeing, you need to convince yourself that you will have a greater chance of success doing it alone.  Sounds unlikely, but it's true.

Don't buy into the conventional hype!

Instead, figure out how much money you would be spending on those New Year's resolutions, and use it to stock up on the right grain-free foods instead (actually, chances are you'll have quite a bit of change left over even after stocking up).  Challenge yourself to 2 weeks without grains, and then decide.

And, at the end of those two weeks, please remember to leave a comment below to tell us how you did.

Read Tara's story...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why grains are harmful

The Automatic Earth is an interesting blog that covers the economy, peak oil, survivalism, food security, among many other pertinent current issues.

Today's post includes an explanation of exactly how it is that carbohydrates make us fat, essentially saying exactly the same thing we are saying in this blog.  In this hard-hitting piece, the author, Nicole Foss, even posits that metabolic syndrome (what happens when chronic sugar consumption leads to chronic over-production of insulin in the body) cannot be treated on a vegan diet, because it is too high in carbohydrates.
We are told that diet-related health problems are the result of eating too much fat and too little fibre, while doing too little exercise. We are told to limit the consumption of fat, especially saturated fat, substitute more carbohydrate and eat more fibre. If we are carrying stored mass that we are not comfortable with, we are told that we should restrict calories, especially fat, and burn off excess through exercise.

If we fail to burn off the excess in this way, we are told that we must be either greedy, or lazy, or both. Moral judgements are very common in the field of nutrition, yet these are uninformed and highly unfair.
The food industry cashes in selling us addictive foods, and then cashes in again by feeding on our insecurities about the resulting health effects, especially weight gain. As over-consumption of carbohydrates promotes a state of chronic inflammation, to which the body responds by producing cholesterol, the pharmaceutical industry can also profit by promoting cholesterol-controlling drugs. These attack the symptom, not the disease, leaving us just as prone to heart disease as before, but poorer. The status quo is highly profitable in all ways. No wonder it has been so difficult to challenge.
Do check out the whole article

If you'd like to know more about the author, Nicole Foss, this is what her bio says about her:
Her academic qualifications include a BSc in biology from Carleton University in Canada (where she focused primarily on neuroscience and psychology), a post-graduate diploma in air and water pollution control, the common professional examination in law and an LLM in international law in development from the University of Warwick in the UK. She was granted the University Medal for the top science graduate in 1988 and the law school prize for the top law school graduate in 1997.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blood Pressure

My blood pressure always was on the low side, but for the past 15 years or so, it has consistently stuck at 110 over 70.

Until I went off the grain ride.  It has been falling steadily over the past four months.  On November 16, I went to Shoppers Drugmart to test my blood pressure and was a little surprised to get a reading of 91 over 59.  This past weekend it was even lower.

This is without any medication or food supplements of any kind.

What about you?  Have you also discovered your blood pressure started dropping after eliminating grains from your diet?

Friday, November 26, 2010

High Protein & Low GI for Weight-Loss Maintenance

A new Danish study following 1,209 overweight adults from 8 European countries over a 26 week period was published in the New England Journal of Medicine yesterday.  They had lost more than 8% of their initial body weight.

It shows that those of us who Got Off the Grain Ride are on the right track for maintaining weight loss:

Only the low-protein–high-glycemic-index diet was associated with subsequent significant weight regain.

A modest increase in protein content and a modest reduction in the glycemic index led to an improvement in study completion and maintenance of weight loss.

You can read the full abstract here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Soup in a Blender

One of the blogs I follow in my reader is Health in Motion.  It recommends a diet that is very similar to our Grain Ride, with an emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruits, and healthy proteins, and has an additional focus on exercise and weight training.

I was browsing back posts for something I thought I had read on this blog a while back, when I spotted this one recommending a super easy, super healthy soup at least once a day:

Simply take your blender and add some basic ingredients to get started:
  • beef or chicken stock
  • any vegetables (broccoli, tomatoes, squash, carrots, zucchini, asparagus etc. or mixed varieties)
  • beans (any type)
  • water (to desired consistency)
  • small amount of cream or sour cream
  • spices to taste (dill, cilantro, oregano, basil, sea salt, pepper, etc.)
Now blend all ingredients together and then put them into a pot to heat under low heat for a 15 minute soup.
For more info on why this is such a good idea, please check out the original post.  I'm sure you'll find yourself browsing the rest of the blog too:  it's filled with great ideas.

Late edit:  You will no doubt have noticed the beans in the recipe.  I do eat pulses and lentils while my husband won't touch them.  I have a strong difference of opinion on this subject with him, because I believe they are very good for you;  besides, the amount of meat and fish being eaten in the world is not sustainable, so I try and balance my protein sources between animal and vegetable.  That said, you should be aware that beans are very carbohydrate rich (even after deducting the fibre content), and their glycemic index is high.  So although I eat them, I keep the quantity low.

Recipe for Healthy Living

Rule #1 caught my attention when I saw this latest submission to They Draw and Cook, but all the others are relevant too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Omelette - Julia Childs' Video

Omelettes are a dish that we make a lot in our house.  We only eat pastured farm eggs, and we eat a lot of them.  They are so delicious and their nutritional value is so much higher than that of eggs you get in the stores.

Every school day, our nine year old heads downstairs on her own and makes herself one.  She does a pretty good job.  If you need a refresher, or if you don't know how to make an expert omelette, this rather dated Julia Childs video is great one to learn from.  Of course it doesn't matter how old the film is;  the technique is pretty timeless:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why we put on weight

Mark Sisson from Mark's Daily Apple has a brilliant chart that shows how the quantity of carbohydrates we eat causes us to put on weight over time.

It explains, to me at least, why so many people start showing a belly as they grow older.  When you eat the Standard American Diet, believing the 'wisdom' of the nutritional experts who tell you to consume 6-8 portions of grains every day, you'll easily find yourself in that 150g-300g/day zone.

On the other hand, when you replace grains, starchy vegetables and sugary fruits with quality proteins and low glycemic fruits and vegetables, it's effortless to stay in that 50g-100g/day sweet spot.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Don't Nutritionists recommend 6-8 grain portions a day?

Yes, they do.  I have spent a lot of time online looking for reasons why.  I didn't find any good ones to convince me I might be missing out on any essential nutrients if I don't eat bread or pasta.  Of course, grains give us a ready source of energy, but what if I already have plenty of energy stored away on my hips and thighs?

Then I realized bread is probably the world's oldest processed food.  So old, that we don't even think of it as a processed food any more.  It is a staple that we take for granted.  It's hard - especially at first - to imagine living normally without eating bread.

I also spent a lot of time looking for the nutritional benefits of bread.  Conventional health wisdom tells us that it's good to eat wholewheat bread.  Certainly, it's better than white bread.  However I have baked a lot of bread myself, and I know that even a wholewheat loaf tastes way better when it has a substantial portion of white flour in it.  Often wholewheat bread is little more than white bread with bran thrown back in.  So you're not eating a whole grain.

As such, there are no essential nutrients in that bread that you need for optimal health.  It took me a while to realize that.

Then I spent time looking up the nutrients of other grains like quinoa, millet, barley and the like.  They are undoubtedly better for you than a similar quantity of bread.  But they also contain a lot of sugars.  That's something to keep in mind.  You might want to continue to eat them in controlled quantities, or you may choose to eliminate them almost altogether, like I have done.   It's up to you.

At the end of the day, weight loss occurs when you use up more calories than you consume.  Carbs give you a burst of energy, and then your blood sugar dips and you become hungry again.  At such times it's easier to reach for a starchy snack with a high glycemic load like a cookie or a glass of pop to make you feel good again.  Portion control is very hard for many people, and most of us are much more sedentary than our ancestors were.  This is how weight creeps up as we get older, especially after we reach middle age.

When you reduce the glycemic load in your diet, you won't experience the ups and downs as much and you won't feel as hungry when your body hits the down.  Ultimately weight loss comes from reduced calorie intake, but by getting off the grain ride, you can make it easier.

Another way to put it is that something has to give in order to lose weight.  By eliminating the non-essential food choices, it leaves more space for the foods that are better for you and which won't leave you wanting to eat more than you need to.

This, in a nutshell, is why I don't agree with the nutritionists who recommend eating 6-8 portions of carbohydrates every day.

Protein - how much is too much?

After you've been off the grain ride for a while, your appetite will shrink.  Ideally, you will be eating lots of healthy vegetables and fruits, and enough protein, but not too much.

When you first eliminate grains and starches from your diet, you might find yourself eating more protein-rich foods.  In the long term this isn't a very good idea, because too much protein over an extended time can lead to kidney problems.

You can calculate your daily protein requirements using an online calculator.  For example, there is one on this site.

My advice in the first few weeks though, is not to worry about this too much.  Your body will be craving carbs, and it's more important to get this part of your eating plan under control first.  It's not the end of the world if you overdo it a little on protein rich foods in the beginning.  Then, in the following weeks, you can focus on replacing those proteins with more vegetables, and, to a lesser extent, fruits, which tend to be higher in sugars. 

Nuts are a good source of healthy fats too. I like to carry a little container of almonds around with me, so I have a quick snack on hand when I'm on the go, and people around me are reaching for cookies and muffins.

Breakfast Nog

I like to make this quick drink for breakfast.  Sometimes I make it at other times during the day as well.  It keeps me full until early afternoon.  It is loaded with protein and the pumpkin puree is low in fat and calories and rich in disease-fighting nutrients

1 cup of milk
1 egg  (we only eat farmers' eggs, as they are packed with many more nutrients than cheap grocery store eggs)
Splenda, to taste (about 1 tsp)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla essence, optional

Heat the milk in a large cup in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender, mix together all the other ingredients.  Mix in the hot milk.

You can drink this immediately, or if you like it thicker, you can microwave it a further minute or two at 30%.  If it curdles, you can blend it at high speed before drinking.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting your kitchen ready

Getting off the grain ride is a lot cheaper than buying into a commercial weight loss plan because you don't have to pay for anything other than the food you will be eating. There are no monthly or weekly fees.

But you need to be organized. Here are a couple of things that will help:

  1. Ideally, get your family to join you. If several people in the same household get off the grain ride together, you'll be able to support each other.
  2. If they won't join you, ask them to support you.
  3. Take a look at what is in your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer. Eliminate everything that isn't allowed: crackers, pasta, rice, frozen meals, jams, cereals, sugar, syrup, etc. Look at the labels: anything with more than 5 ingredients in it is most likely not allowed. If you can't throw them out or donate them to somebody who wants them, you could lock them up somewhere so you can resist them when temptation comes calling.
  4. Stock up on foods that you can eat: almonds, mixed nuts (unsalted, no peanuts), carrots, celery, plain low-fat yoghurt, frozen berries, herbal teas, unsweetened almond milk, feta cheese, lettuce, and quality protein sources such as eggs, fish, tofu and/or meat (stay away from bacon, luncheon meats or sausages).
The Bulk Barn is a good source for nuts. Having a vegetable garden in the growing season is helpful for making quick salads, but in the winter you will have to use different strategies.

Do you have any tips that worked for you? Please leave a comment.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    How to get started - mentally

    The decision to get off the grain ride is the biggie. It will most likely take you a while to get your mind around the idea. Anybody can do it, but it takes some mental prep.

    Tell yourself that this is a way of eating that will not leave you hungry.

    There are different ways to do this. Some people go cold turkey and never stray from the rules. We know of others who stick to the rules for six days, and give themselves a grain treat on the seventh day. Decide which method will work best for your personality type.

    Then, set yourself some goals. Start by challenging yourself to stick it out for two weeks.

    You might want to document your results and the way you feel in a journal.

    You need to be aware that the first five days or so will likely be the hardest, but from then onwards your body will get used to it. You won't be hungry, but you will find yourself craving something from the forbidden list. The way to overcome this is to get yourself a snack from the list of foods that are allowed. Don't worry about calories too much in the first week. Grab a handful of nuts if that helps. Drink a cup of tea. Go for a walk. After about 20 minutes, you'll feel better. Tell yourself that this will pass. It will.

    After two weeks, you'll notice it's easier than you thought possible. You'll also be feeling really good. After six weeks or so, you'll notice that any arthritis aches and pains will be diminished. What a bonus!

    If you've already gotten off the grain ride, let us know: is this how it worked for you?

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010


    We've heard some good ones for not being able (read: not prepared) to give up bread and pasta. One we've heard from several severely overweight people with significant medical problems relating to their overweight is that they are European.

    How does your ethnic background force you to eat foods that are causing your weight to expand? It doesn't. It doesn't matter whether you are European or of any other ethnic background: it's simply a very convenient excuse.

    It's true that humans have been eating grains for tens of thousands of years. So bread and pasta (which is made of wheat) are strongly ingrained in our culture. That pun was intended, by the way. Grains go back so far in our cultural history that they have even taken root in the way we use our language.

    But think about it. You're saying you won't do what it takes to get healthy, because you are not prepared to change your diet?

    Here's a reason that gets a little closer to the truth: You won't do what it takes to get healthy, because you know deep down you are addicted to grains and starches.

    Put another way, if you don't believe you are addicted, what is stopping you from challenging yourself to two weeks without them?

    In the following posts we're going to look at some of the reasons how grains and starches lead to weight gain, and some effective strategies for getting our minds around this very deep-rooted cultural addiction.

    Get on board with us, and you'll find yourself getting off the grain ride.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Get Off the Grain Ride

    It's ironic that just about everybody who wants to lose weight wishes they could somehow suppress their appetite. Yet why is it that so many people are horrified when we tell them how?

    The concept is pretty straightforward: the main concept is to eliminate grains and starchy foods. Fast food and sugar are out as well, but it's usually hard to eat them without grains (wheat products) and starches (like potatoes, beets and even sweet potatoes). 

    That includes whole wheat products, by the way, because for all the fibre they provide, they still pack a hefty punch of carbohydrates.

    It has a lot to do with reducing your glycaemic load.  If you're familiar with the South Beach Diet, or Suzanne Somers' books,  you'll be familiar with the concepts.  However, Get off the Grain Ride won't sell you a product.  This is something you can do at home, by yourself.

    It sounds hard at first, but once you've decided to give it a try, it's not at all hard. Honestly!  There are strategies to make it very doable.  Many of us have been doing it, so we know what we are talking about. And the pounds will fall off.