I stopped eating grains in June of 2013 to see if I could improve my health by changing my diet. It was my nutritionist’s idea and I was finally desperate enough to listen to her, even though grains had been a major part of my diet for decades.
I stopped eating oatmeal for breakfast and brown rice at dinner. I said good-bye to rice pasta and corn tortillas. At least I didn’t have to go through bread withdrawal; I’d given up wheat products years before, when I discovered that gluten was making me tired and depressed.
I started feeling better immediately. My constant fatigue lifted and my limbs felt lighter. The heaviness that made the smallest task seem like a challenge lifted, and suddenly it was easy to do things I had avoided before.
I became a new woman in no time at all.
My awareness of the effect grains have on my body and my energy makes it a lot easier to avoid eating them. The only real problem with giving up grains is that I miss them. When it comes to food, I like variety. No grains means very few starch options, and there are days when I think I’ll scream if I have to eat another sweet potato.
So I suppose it’s natural that, after four months without grains, I was wondering if maybe I could have just a little, now and then, without suffering ill effects.
Friends came to town and we decided to take them to a local Ethiopian restaurant.
In the past, we had enjoyed our Ethiopian meals served family style. A big tray lined with injera bread, piled with spiced meats and vegetables is set before you, along with a basket of more injera cut into strips. You use the bread to pick up the meat and vegetables. Savory dishes served as finger food; what could be more fun?
Traditionally, injera is made entirely of teff, a tiny grain grown in Africa. Most American restaurants make their injera with some wheat flour added, but Nyala offers injera made from teff only. I knew I couldn’t eat injera with wheat in it (gluten is not my friend), but 100% teff might be OK. I decided to give it a try.
By the time our food arrived, I was pretty hungry. I dug in with the others, using the teff-only injera to pick up the spicy meat. As I ate, my stomach growled. At first, I thought my empty stomach was just behind the eating curve. But by the time the meal was nearly done, I was even hungrier than I’d been before. With every mouthful I took, I got hungrier and hungrier and hungrier.
It reminded my of the book The Phantom Tollbooth. Milo is served a meal of Subtraction Stew. The more he eats, the hungrier he gets. He is told that in Digitopolis, people only eat when they are full.
As a kid, I thought this was a hysterical idea. Experiencing it for myself as an adult, I didn’t like it as much.
I had started out hungry, not full. And I hate being hungry.
I came away from that meal acknowledging that grains, especially grain ground into flour, makes me hungry. I eat food so I’ll stop being hungry. I’ve recognized in the past when something like fruit juice or caffeine increased my appetite and made changes as a result. But this was the most direct and immediate example of a food making me hungry that I’ve ever experienced.
I could be upset that my attempt at having just a little grain was a failure, but I’m not. I’m grateful to realize that grains cause me this problem. For years, grains were a big part of my diet, and for years, I struggled with my weight, because I was hungry all the time. I didn’t know then that the food I was eating was causing the problem, but I’m glad I know now.