[Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this for an old site called Modern Forager and am reposting here since it now has no home.]
This is a continuation from Part I introducing Lorette Luzajic as a part-time food journalist with some interesting commentary on shopping for and using spices & herbs, and her recent experiences writing under headlines like “ I’m A Natural Born Killer ” and “ Life After Bread “.In this second part of the interview the subject moves to cover social stigmas from a female perspective, the real effects diet changes have had in her life and how lessons learned have impacted her future writing projects.
Is it socially acceptable to pile meat and fat on a plate? And do you feel you are you treated differently in this respect as a female?
I’ve always been adamant about real cream in my coffee, but now I’m not guilty about what one unsympathetic date called ‘fat bombs.’ I don’t care if people do look at me funny, quite frankly. It is quite obvious that I’m considerably overweight. But I’ve been eating this way for less than a year, and gained all of my weight mysteriously over the years on low-fat, whole grain based diets with lean meats or no meats at all. It’s clear that my thyroid and metabolism are damaged, and it’s likely I had thyroid problems since kindergarten, and depriving it of the fats and proteins necessary to work properly have injured my furnace. I may always be fat. Meat doesn’t make you fat, however. Look how lean cats are, until you add grain to their diet- the domestic cats. Hippopotomus, elephants, cows- hmm, the vegetarians.
It is grain and sugar that makes you fat. The damage for me may be done. I will not be embarrassed about getting my nutrients, and meat and animal fat are the most concentrated sources of nutrients. I also eat tons of vegetables. I try to avoid all sugar, as I can’t afford ANY with my weight. Without sugar, I feel better, sleeker, more confident and more focused. But just like the next guy, sometimes I feel like a dozen black current wine gums or tonic with my gin. I’m fine with that- it is impossible for me to ever eat any fast food ever again, because all of it contains gluten. So I’m not going to obsess over my monthly bowl of chocolate ice cream. Most days, however, the feast is meat, fish, eggs, spinach, asparagus, apples, berries, carrots, celery, artichokes, zucchini, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, beets, cauliflower, chard, dandelion greens, bean sprouts, chile peppers, fresh basil, mint, cilantro, mushrooms, arugula, romaine, you get the picture. My sin is not bacon- it’s alcohol. I’m trying to drink less wine, knowing I can’t afford the carbs. But I believe we have to enjoy life, you know? I can’t obsess over perfection. I’m feeling amazing and healthy today, drinking less and eating better than ever before.
Can you summarize, if any, some of the benefits you have felt since eliminating refined carbs from your diet? How strict are you about “cheating”?
There is no cheating at all in terms of gluten, though sometimes I have eaten it without knowing. I don’t freak out, but I can tell because I’m tired again for days on end. It didn’t take long after giving up wheat to notice I felt EVEN better lowering all other starches, to the point that a potato or rice is a very small part of my plate, if it’s even included. I’m not religious about it. I just take only a few bites of rice and a lot of the other stuff. In day to day life, sugar is outlawed. If there’s no honey, I’ll take some in my coffee, not much. It’s hard to cheat, because even chocolate bars are all made with soy and I won’t eat that. There’s one I found that does not have soy lecithin, and the sugar is organic (still has its B vitamins that help you process sugar) so that’s nice for a treat. I don’t consider it ‘cheating’ if it’s real food.
The benefits? Hard to believe. Here’s the long list of ailments I’ve had since childhood, gathering more as I went along in life: recurrent bladder infections, as in HUNDREDS over my lifetime. Interstitial cystitis, having to pee about 40 times a day, chronic infections, low immune system, low blood pressure, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, skin pain, skin rashes, chronic feeling that skin is burning, especially in the winter, cold intolerance, always freezing, low metabolism, inability to tolerate heat, chronic fatigue syndrome, pain in knees and hip joints, headaches, addictions, bipolar mood disorder, constant nausea, hair loss, nails falling off or weak, carpal tunnel pain, blurry vision, diarrhoea, nightmares, throat and lung infections, adrenal problems, chronic general pain, low energy, obesity.
There are hundreds of symptoms of grain intolerance that I did not have, or was just starting to develop, but anyone with mystery ailments needs to look at this. From multiple sclerosis to all arthritis forms to any of the mystery syndromes like fibromyalgia, and so on, which I was just developing- try going grain free. All arthritis is inflammatory, and exasperated by malnutrition, both caused by grains. Many psychiatric problems can be linked to low B12- even among meat eaters because grains damage the intestinal wall and you can’t get it into you properly. Grain contributes in other ways to mental health problems as well.
It’s hard to believe I’m not tired anymore, because that was the worst one. I would be exhausted, working a few hours was deadly, my distress was so bad. I never dreamed of this one going away. It got a bit better on thyroid meds, but not much. I thought I had to live with it. Within days of going gluten free, it lifted, and has not returned so far! I haven’t had any bladder infections, which is the most consistent ailment I’ve had since age five. I still have to go 12 times at night, though- I think the damage has been done to the organ. My blood pressure has magically gone to normal. I was pretty comatose, which explained the fatigue, the metabolism, the vein issues. I haven’t had a cold yet or any other infections. My nails and hair are less brittle, though not perfect yet. Even the carpal tunnel is greatly improved- a bonus as I spend most of my time typing! I’m still freezing all the time but not down to the bone like before. No nausea. That’s nice, because always feeling like I’m on the verge of throwing up wasn’t exactly pleasant. Every single one of these symptoms has improved or disappeared. What’s left with, I can live with, but I suspect they continue improving over time!
You mentioned in an article being in the middle of writing a book called The Girl Can Eat, when you realized a lot of the conventional “health food” wisdom was wrong. Are you still writing the book and how has your approach changed?
Well, all the gluten had to come out of it, and what I had so far was largely based on whole grain eating and limited meat. I was still very ill when I was working on this, but thought the longer I stay with whole foods and limit protein, the better I would get. I had no idea that I’ve been allergic to wheat my whole life and that this was the basis of so many of my ‘hypochondriac problems.’ A wheat allergy causes malnutrition, but no one ever looked for it because I’m fat. This is a misconception- you don’t have to be emaciated to be malnourished. The body obsessively tries to hold on to the weight. The fact that all my teeth are falling out should have tipped somebody off to the malnutrition. It’s not like I have poor hygiene. I was convinced a long time ago that I have ‘leaky gut syndrome’ and that all my skin and bladder and thyroid disorders were from malnutrition. But given my weight, this was laughable. Malnourished? And my diet was so healthy- wheat germ, plain fat free yogurt, lean meat, raw 15-vegetable salads with olive oils, bla bla bla.
I look through my old notes and see things like “be sparing with the butter in this soup unless you want a heart attack.” “Substitute as many meals per week as you can with whole grains and rice instead of meat.”
It’s not just about celiac or gluten free now. I’ve done the math. Look up the nutritional content of whole grains and then the amount of those vitamins in meat or vegetables. Grains are nutritional lightweights. Meat and fat are loaded with nutrition. We were scared of them before because we thought the nourishment came with a price- saturated fat. Now I know what every generation and culture has known from the beginning- meat and fat are extremely good for you. It is grains, especially refined grains and sugars, plus new foods like unfermented or isolated soy products, vegetable oils, and plastic foods that cause disease, not meat and fat. Grains are the new kids on the block- and today’s unfoods, even more alien. Disease starts showing up in the skeletons of civilizations that began using grains.
So my cookbook now will be a series of what I hope are funny anecdotes or blurbs to help people adjust to the emotional switch, back to ‘old wisdom eating.’ Anecdotes about the many problems grains and sugars cause. And helpful hints on surviving the circus of naysayers out there. You might need to give up grains and sugars for your health (and I think everyone does, though I can’t tell the world what to do, because for many people, the first symptom of gluten intolerance is cancer. I’m lucky that I’ve been sick for so long and got to figure it out.) So if you’re that person in transition, you might not have a clue what to eat. My recipes have become so inventive and amazing and I’ll be sharing them.
There are many gluten free cookbooks. Mine will be different because it’s partly journal, and it’s not about substituting. Yes, there are tapioca flour pancakes, because sometimes I want pancakes. But I did not buy a bread machine to make my own. I go without, and I’m not suffering. I don’t bake gluten free goodies. I will have a bit of ice cream if I really need a treat, but there’s no need to substitute other grains for wheat. Nor do I really like the term ‘low carb.’ I don’t think like that. I think about meat, fish, and vegetables, at each and every meal or snack. You would not believe how good some of my soups are. But you’ll have a chance to find out, likely about a year from now.
For more info on Lorette you can visit her website, The Girl Can Write. She does freelance writing, has written several books, and does a quite a bit of blogging. You can also check out her food articles on Gremolata.