All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Reintroducing Grains

Bread Replacement: A Baked Potato that I ate with some homemade beans and salsa, and some pickled peppers


I'm still off bread.


  • In May, I began a detoxification diet to see whether or not I was truly addicted to bread.  I gave up all cooked foods, and for 30 days ate only whole raw fruits and vegetables.  The experiment ended because I lost 20 pounds and began to look dreadful.  I now believe that I lost so much weight because I could not eat enough raw food to sustain my weight.  With very little fat in my diet, my body was forced to use most of my fat reserves to sustain itself.
  • When June rolled around, I began to add some cooked starch to my diet in the form of potatoes and sweet potatoes, along with a few other cooked vegetables.  My weight stabilized, and I began to feel energetic enough to exercise again.
  • July, I reintroduced my first cooked grain -- brown whole rice. This, along with potatoes, was my staple, but I also began to eat legumes in the form of cooked beans and lentils.  Midway through July, unsatisfied with only rice, I also added oats in the form of oatmeal and a bit of ground flaxseed.
  • August saw me continuing this bread-free diet full of oatmeal, potatoes, legumes, fruits and vegetables.  I've introduced some soybeans in the form of organic miso, very sparingly.  
  • September rolls around, and my intention is to begin adding whole barley to soups.  And that is where I find myself today.


I intend to reintroduce different grains a little bit at a time.

The plan remains the same.  I began by trying to see if I could go 3 days without bread; then this expanded to 7 days, 10 days, then 2 weeks, then a month.  Now, the intention is to see if I can go 1 full year without bread.  I'm about 4 months in.

My intention at this point is to go back to bread after a year.  The whole experiment was simply to see if I was addicted to bread -- I'm still not quite sure what it might mean to be addicted to a food.  I figured I could use some time -- this year of 'down time' -- to try to determine what a food addiction might look like.  I've been reading several books on addiction, and I've been muddling my way through all the new information.  Of particular interest has been Linden, D. (2011). The Compass of Pleasure: how our brains make fatty foods, orgasm, exercise, marijuana, generosity, vodka, learning and gambling feel so good. Penguin, which goes into a lot of the impressive research that has been done on brain chemistry, and is well written and easy to read; but I found Manejwale, O. (2013). Craving: why we can't seem to get enough. Hazeldon. to contain most of the same info and to speak more to my main interest and experience.  It contains more practical info.

At this point, I don't actually believe I was (or am) addicted to bread.  My cravings for it have entirely ceased.  I've built new habits to get cooked starch into my diet, in the form of potatoes and rice and legumes.  I snack on fruit (nothing new there, but it certainly has expanded a lot since I gave up bread).

But there's the rub: we are dealing with my brain, here.  When it comes to addiction, brains can easily deceive themselves with beliefs.  An addiction to bread may be hiding in my brain, and my brain may be telling me that I don't have an addiction, just so that I will give up this elimination diet and go back to eating bread.  Manejwale describes this condition perfectly: 

"The extraordinarily naive perception of immunity is at the heart of addictive behaviours -- and of craving.  It is extremely difficult for people to accept that forces are influencing their decisions without their awareness.  And yet, with craving, that is exactly what is happening."

I only miss bread now because it was very convenient.  Wheat is ubiquitous in our western culture, and it is difficult to avoid it entirely.  Anyone with true celiac disease can tell you that it is a hardship to diligently give it up.  So in a sense, this hasn't been easy.  My wife would like us to eat pasta again, for example.  Many lovely new recipes await us, if I would only eat noodles.  Or couscous.  Or any number of things that include some wheat.  Bread.

I now believe that the cravings I felt in the early days -- the first month to two months -- were not so much cravings for bread but cravings for fat (cheese, butter, eggs, nuts -- i.e. all the things one typically puts on bread).  This craving too has fallen by the wayside as I continue with a low-fat diet.  Also, there has been a tremendous re-education process going on, as I adjust my brain habits and my body metabolism to different kinds of starches, and my kitchen time to new recipes.

This Blog

This entire blog series was originally my way of discovering what there is to know about bread baking and teaching myself about the various grains, because I knew I loved to eat bread and I wanted to learn how to make the best whole grain bread I could.  Part of this journey of discovery about bread is this detoxification experiment, now in its 4th month of a 1-year long experiment.

I still believe in bread -- unlike many of the current fads to avoid all grains (e.g. many paleo diets) or bread (e.g. wheatbelly diet), I simply do not think we as humans (on a planet trying to sustain 9 billion of us) can afford to.  Furthermore, wheat remains our best choice among grains for versatility, calories received per energy expended (food value), and it remains, of all the important grains, GMO free (despite the occasional setback, like when it was recently discovered growing in the US accidentally -- an accident that nearly cost the wheat industry billions of dollars in trade).  So I intend to go back to bread.  Unless it is proved somehow that I shouldn't.

Without the 'deadline' of writing about each loaf I make every couple of days, my writing of this blog has languished.  Instead of doing a lot of different research on grains and ingredients and methods each time I bake, I've been doing a lot more reading for pleasure.  I've been reading some fiction, along with that gentle research I mentioned above, about addiction.  It has been a departure for me to read some schlocky, enjoyable novels.

So the last few months have been on a sort of vacation from blogging.  And I miss writing.  I was probably addicted to writing.

This 'down time' has also given me lots of opportunity for reflection.  Without bread baking, who am I?  If I were not a nurse, what would I be?  What sort of life do I want to live?  How am I happiest?  These are the sorts of questions one tackles if one steps away from the usual and tries something completely different.

Who the hell am I? is the question that most often comes to mind when I realize I am remaking myself, from denying myself the most basic food staple I've always consumed, on up.  More than a few times these past few months I've felt a little lost.

A baked sweet potato, covered with salsa and legumes: my daily starch

I eat a huge amount of food now, and don't gain any weight, because my fat intake is in the single digits, if that.

Notes to Myself
  • Not sure when next I'll blog.  Perhaps I will wait until i have something to say.  That'd be a first.
  • Losing weight was never really my goal, but it happened anyway.  While I no longer am losing weight, a lot of my clothes are for a larger person, and I apparently swim in them.  I still get a lot of the same comment from various people: "are you sick?"  I probably need a new wardrobe -- all part of reinventing myself.