How did I get here?

How did someone who previously thought the idea of eliminating an entire food group from one’s diet was a crazy idea decide to consider cutting grains and sugar for an entire month?

Are grains and sugar problematic?

Back in December, my sister sent my mum and I an email, to let us know that she had recently cut grains, sugar, and processed foods from her diet. She just wanted to give us a heads up in anticipation of the Christmas gorge-fest that she wouldn’t be eating certain things. She’d decided to cut wheat to see if would affect her asthma, and to cut sugar for weight and health reasons. I’d never thought she had any reason to lose weight, but I knew that over the years, her weight had fluctuated, much like my own. I could relate to wanting to drop a few pounds.

She said she had eating this way for two weeks and she couldn’t believe what a difference it had made already. She’d lost several pounds and her breathing was noticeably better. I told her I was looking forward to hearing about how it was going when we were all together at Christmas.

When we saw each other a couple weeks later, she did look great. Surprisingly, her new eating habits didn’t seem to have a major effect on what the rest of us ate. I tried to be sensitive to what she could eat, but she insisted no one make a fuss over her. I noticed she ate very few potatoes over the holidays, and no bread or tortillas or anything, but she definitely indulged in some sweet, creamy liqueur and potato chips during the festivities – so I felt like her “diet” wasn’t impeding on the food-related good times of the season.

I later learned that she was following the Primal Blueprint, which I wasn’t familiar with. My mother- and sister-in-law are both gluten intolerant and into Crossfit, which often comes along with an enthusiasm for the Paleo diet. All I knew about the Paleo diet was that I didn’t like how meat-oriented it seemed to be. And the idea that we should be modeling ourselves after cavepeople really didn’t resonate with me. After all, we’re not out there hunting and gathering all day. We’re sitting at desks in front of computers. It didn’t compute.

…Or maybe dairy isn’t so innocent?

Anyway, around the same time as my sister “went Primal”, I visited a good friend of mine who lives in another city. She’d stopped eating dairy the year before to see if it would help with her acne, which she’d had troubles with since being a teenager. Turns out, her skin looked absolutely fabulous. She had also taken up running and had started taking a lot better care of herself: getting lots of sleep, improving work/life balance, and eating better. I wondered if it was something that might work for me, too – I’ve become really frustrated lately that I’m 30 and still have moderate acne.

Or then again, maybe it’s the meat?

Then the mother of another friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer and started looking into how to optimize her diet to fight cancer and promote healing. As my friend was telling me about this, I heard of the “China Study” for the first time – which basically links high protein intake through animal products to all sorts of chronic health problems including cancer, heart disease, and obesity. Turns out there is a whole movement devoted to promoting plant-based nutrition.

Conflicting concepts

So – in the span of a few months, I heard about several people cutting out entire groups of food, with each diet promising amazing results. I felt conflicted. Sugar, I could absolutely believe had no redeeming qualities. I’ve never been a huge meat-eater and haven’t eaten red meat in more than 10 years. Dairy was a hard one to think about giving up, though. Plus, I had heard that a lot of the vilification of dairy didn’t necessarily apply to Canadian milk, which is free of artificial hormones and antibiotics. But grains — we mostly eat homemade whole wheat bread, quinoa, and oatmeal, with some pasta and storebought tortillas — could they seriously be so bad?

All in all, I sort of thought that the idea of giving up an entire group of food seemed crazy, unless it was causing you a bothersome problem – as it does with gluten intolerance.

But…. about a month ago I was looking for new and less chemically-intensive ways to treat my acne on the forums, when I noticed that a ton of people saying that eliminating gluten was the key to eliminating their acne. So I emailed my sister to ask if she’d noticed whether cutting gluten had made a difference in her skin.

She wrote back saying that it had, and she thought sugar was a big part of it, too. This prompted a longer exchange of emails, during which I became interested to see if Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint was available from the library. It was, and so I checked it out.

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