Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Jun

How to Quit Grains

Yes, they’re inextricably woven into nearly every aspect of our society. Dietary staple, cultural icon, sentimental fodder, patriotic symbol: it’s impossible to get away from them. However, just because they’re ubiquitous in our social environment doesn’t mean they deserve a place on your dinner plate. You know the multitude of reasons to quit grains. How about some strategies for kicking them to the curb?

As much as I condone, cajole and attempt to convince people to give up grains for the sake of their health, I’m not oblivious to the fact that dumping grains can be a tough and sometimes lonely slog. It’s not just the cultural thing either. For most people, physiological and habitual forces are the most demanding aspects. You’ve likely heard the term “carboholic” (used mostly in magazines and Oprah confessions for humorous, normalizing purposes), but there’s genuine truth there. Although I’m not equating the ravages of alcoholism and drug addiction with carb cravings, hard science has something to say about the physiological compulsion associated with dietary sugar and carbs (PDF).

Understanding the physical and mental impulse shouldn’t set the stage for making excuses (i.e. the carboholic joke). Though it can take some forethought and commitment, giving up grains is wholly, entirely possible and crucial to both your short-term vitality and long-term health. Ready to jump? Let’s go.

1. Study up and load up (on non-grain delicacies).

Cookbooks (I can suggest a fantastic one, actually), MDA recipes, and countless other sources can prove to you once and for all that there is life after bread. Get thee to the grocery store and stock up on the best, most appetizing Primal goodies you can find. Plan those first weeks out of the Primal starting gate to be as luxuriously delectable and indulgent as your imagination allows.

2. Know what to expect.

As immense as the rewards are, there are issues to contend with. Initially, there may be the carb cravings (usually less dramatic if you’ve already been cutting down for some weeks) and the infamous “low carb flu.” Read up on these and check out other Grokkers’ experiences. It will help you put these passing symptoms in perspective. Beyond the first few weeks, there are more “big picture” issues to address. Because we live in the culinary culture we do, cutting out grains can mean more than changing your lunch. Family barbeques and holiday menus will need tweaking. Maybe you’ll need a script for annoying family members’ digs. Once you’ve made the transition and are enjoying the advantages, I’ll bet you won’t be complaining, however….

3. Get the rest of your physiological house in order.

Think twice about undertaking this if you’re constantly burning the midnight oil, getting no exercise, and your stress level is spiraling out of control. These aren’t the best circumstances to bring to carb withdrawal. Now, this isn’t to say your life has to be perfectly ordered and stable in order for you to be successful giving up grains. Adopting a healthier diet that allows for more stable energy throughout the day can actually help you tame the other pressures in your life. Nonetheless, you’ll likely have an easier time giving up grains if you can go at the endeavor with a little more sleep and a little more emotional focus. If life is too crazy to be contained at the moment, just take it slowly.

4. Plan the logistics.

When you’re rushing out the door in the morning, kids arguing, papers flying and blood pressure rising, you’re not exactly primed to make the most rational choices. Lay out your full day’s menu. Keep Primal foods at the forefront of your cabinets. Make shopping lists and Primal backup alternatives in case you forget to take the meat out of the freezer. Anticipate the stumbling blocks (e.g. party cake at the office or the kids’ playdate) and have something Primal on hand (not a Special K shake).

If you live with grain eaters, divide cabinet spaces and come up with a plan ahead of time. Will you be making meals for them? Work out the details and come to agreements. Keeping the peace will help you stay on track.

5. Make your motivation manifest.

Have a motivation board or journal you turn to. When you’re pining after that coffee cake you’re your mother-in-law brought over, it can both remind you why you’re doing this and how far you’ve already come. (Then throw it away after she leaves.) Use whatever language or imagery speaks to you. A former Marine friend had some interesting phrasing to keep himself on the path – some of the most colorful profanity I’ve ever seen on Post-Its all over his house. No judging here. Whatever works!

6. Do it your way. Take it slowly or go cold turkey.

Although going gradually might help some people, others prefer to pull the band-aid quickly and definitely. Don’t apologize or second guess your intuition. You know how you operate. Eliminate one grain at a time or banish all grains at the outset: the end result is the same.

7. Positive Self Talk

Sit down in front of a mirror periodically and tell yourself you’re “good enough, smart enough and doggone….” Humor goes a long way, folks.

8. Join a support group.

No foolin’ here. In fact, I’d most highly recommend our charming group here. Have you visited the forum? I never cease to be impressed by the good will and good sense offered amongst fellow Grokkers. Make use of their experience. Learn from them. Turn to them. By all means, read the posts, but be a part of the community as well. A kind or encouraging response can make all the difference on a bad day. Besides, they know where to get the grain patch.

9. Pamper yourself.

If there was ever a time to indulge yourself a little, make it these early weeks. Beyond eating well, plan a light and enjoyable week for yourself. Spa visit? Hike in the park? Great Primal dinner to celebrate your new endeavor with friends? Whatever you’ve been waiting to do, do it.

10. Have patience with yourself (and the process).

If you fall off the horse, just dust your butt off and get back on. No sulking, no self-deprecating. Accept it as a temporary divergence and just do the next right thing for yourself. Then go kick an ear of sweet corn around the yard.

Now it’s your turn! What challenges did you face and what strategies, creativity and humor made a difference to your success? I can’t wait to read your ideas. Thanks for reading today.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’m fairly new at the primal thing. About 6 or 7 weeks ago, I dropped most of the carbs out of my diet (including a large amount of soda). I’m not perfect at it – I pig out every saturday somewhere and usually do eat a chicken biscuit or two before I go work out. But my pig out meals and preworkout meals are the only times I eat bread, potatoes, or rice. Thus far I’ve lost 22 pounds (putting me down to 175), without significant difficulty. I did have a little trouble early on with just being hungry all the time and had to adjust portion sizes accordingly. I found almonds to be an excellent way to stave off the worst of the hunger as I was adjusting my portion sizes to the new diet, but I’m tapering off on those now. I feel great and have a ton of energy these days. I have no trouble sleeping and my moods are better. A friend gave me a mountain dew a week or so ago. I tried to drink it, but was pretty grossed out after the first sip – at one point I used to drink a liter of that a day.

    One thing I have difficulty with on the whole primal thing is making sure I have enough energy when I’m working out (hence the chicken biscuits). I usually do pretty close to an hour of kettlebell exercises at least twice a week (that’s a habit I’m trying to establish along with fixing my diet). I’m thinking about maybe replacing the biscuits with some dried fruit or something. I’m also not certain whether it is an issue of getting the right food in before the workout or the timing of getting that food in and I’m not sure how to figure it out.

    I only really got onto this site a few weeks ago, so I’ve yet to buy the book. I started out initially with the Four Hour Body stuff, but it dovetails pretty nicely with what I see here (and the approach here seems more straightforward). I plan on getting the book on my next shopping run, along with some new clothes since the old ones are big enough now that they look like hand-me-downs from an older sibling at this point.

    Will Gant wrote on August 4th, 2011
  2. Someone asked why we went from H/G to Ag? I saw an article that hypothesized that agriculture was started in order to make alcoholic beverages, like beer and wine.

    Wyndie wrote on September 13th, 2011
  3. Having a Budhist moment, I remind myself that an extreme view is probably “wrong thinking” so trying to convert the world to Paleo may not be skillful. I gave up grains while thinking I was being extreme and harsh to myself, but as things started improving healthwise imediately there were no second thoughts about it. no bloat, lethargy and easy weight loss,made the change over easy. Energy even through the day, no post prandial slump, alert thinking, better sleep, ( and then into the OMG moment when things are so good you just want to tell everyone…) so I consider giving up the grains to be the single best thing I have done for my health in the last 51 years of looking after myself… a bit of planning is required to have snack foods, nuts fruits and paleo oriented fast food to hand tide over those habitual times where biscuits or sugar would be automatic. It gets to be natural and soon people notice how much slimmer and vital you are. I find it quite hard to restrain my enthusiassm for this way of life.

    BT wrote on September 19th, 2011
  4. Is chia and hemp seed considered a grain?

    Rhandel wrote on December 2nd, 2011
  5. None of you will be true disciples until you go out and kill an animal and eat it raw or seared over a fire with blood running out the corners of your mouths. Mmmm! Now that’s primal. Cease with all the counterfeit carb replacements.

    Rex wrote on December 8th, 2011
  6. Why all fitness and health sites recommend low glicemic grains like oatmeal, corn etc ? Would anyone clarify this ? I personally lost 46 pounds regularly eating Low GI carbs (grains too) and exercising.

    Lola wrote on January 18th, 2012
  7. I’ve found quitting grains surprisingly easy. I’ve had the odd item here and there – but no more than about three serves over about three weeks. I haven’t had any cravings, and in fact, I get such bad bloating, wind and general stomach discomfort from eating bread and grains that I realise what I’m NOT missing! :)

    Kara wrote on February 26th, 2012
  8. I started low carb last year and I was about 6 weeks in, a little bit of cheating in the form of a biscuit now and again and a bacon roll of those days where I was in a hurry. I was progressing doing a lot of exercise, people kept saying I’m looking great and I felt great I had mega muscles forming in my arms.

    Then I had an unwanted pregnancy(I also couldn’t work and was in chronic pain), the smell of meat made me vomit and I could hardly eat anything, and the only thing that would stay down was carbs. I ate a couple of cream crackers, a carrot and ice lollies to keep me hydrated. I really wasn’t having a good time, I just wasn’t myself.

    I took the decision to not keep the baby and had a procedure. I started feeling better almost immediately. I was HUNGRY and just craved and indulged in cheese sandwiches and giant packets of crisp and pizza I lost most of my gained muscle front being sick and not being able to keep down any sufficient protein.

    Reading this website really makes me feel I can start doing it instead of thinking about doing it and getting depressed. I felt like a bit of a failure even though it wasn’t my fault the pregnancy was effecting my so badly. Finding PB really helps because I don’t want to launch myself back into the crazy exercise routines I was doing and have more time to have fun.

    We are more than the daily grind!

    Haruko wrote on February 28th, 2012
  9. I truly love pasta, grains, bread, and all that kind of stuff…
    Yet, I instantly see its negative effect on me – burning fewer energy, feeling full all day (not a nice feeling), feeling like something sticky is all over me and I can’t get it away… So I just reduced the amount to one such piece in months…
    I fact, almost none. If I take a bite, that’s all, just to taste it makes me satisfied, I don’t need to gorge on it.
    Overall, I’m trying not to stick to any particular taste, hence I can allow myself different tastes all over the day so that I don’t feel that crazy caving. And it works at some point. If a person eats mostly plants, raw food, etc, his receptors become so fine that each time you taste pure clear natural food it becomes more and more tasty and you feel how it energises you… I prefer that before the taste of bread and pasta… :)

    Eva wrote on May 12th, 2012
  10. HI,
    I just wanted to ask if Maize Meal would be considered healthy or does it fall into the Grains category?

    Thanks a million!

    Nicky wrote on June 25th, 2012
  11. Quinoa—pronounced keen-wah—is not yet a staple in American diets as of 2011, but it is quickly moving beyond specialty health food stores and onto chain-supermarket shelves. Quinoa’s health benefits, palatability and versatility have increased demand for this protein-rich seed in the United States.

    Quinoa is often considered a grain, but it is actually a seed from a species of goosefoot plant, which belongs to the same family as beets and spinach. It was first cultivated throughout the Andes in South America thousands of years ago.

    At one time, quinoa was known as the “Gold of the Incas” because Incan warriors believed it gave them strength. Legend says that warriors subsisted for days on “war balls,” which were balls of fat rolled in quinoa.

    Although no longer the stuff of war balls, quinoa remains a superfood, providing nutrients that other whole grains lack.

    Lisa Matsunaga, a California State University, Long Beach, graduate student who is preparing for a career as a certified dietitian, called quinoa a good addition to anyone’s diet.

    “Quinoa is one of the few vegetarian protein sources that contain all essential amino acids,” Matsunaga said. “It’s a complete protein. Since quinoa is one of the few food sources that contain complete proteins, it’s a great food for vegans and vegetarians.”

    Matsunaga added that quinoa is high in protein, fiber, potassium, vitamin E, iron and magnesium, among other vitamins and minerals.

    Read more: Ancient Grain, New Trend |
    what do you think about this product?

    susan loeffler wrote on September 13th, 2012
  12. I went cold turkey on grains and sugar (ANY sweetener, really, but since I didn’t have a sweet tooth, that wasn’t difficult) for almost 2 months without any real thought. Easy. No cravings, no longing for past deliciousness, no guilt or defensiveness (even though my husband doesn’t agree with the whole thing. And then …

    I had a request from friends to make a pie when we went for a sailing lunch, and I did it because my pies are what I was known for and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I haven’t taken the time to research non-wheat flour methods of making crust (if there are any) so I did it the standard way. And I had a piece. And ever since then (a month ago), I’ve had constant daily cravings for crackers, bread, sweet stuff, you name it. I didn’t have a sweet tooth before, but somehow I have one now. Ever since that day: I’ve gorged on chips and salsa at our favorite Mexican restaurant, ordered pizza, ate sandwiches with bread, desserts, even candy — which I DIDN’T LIKE BEFORE.

    Very demoralizing. No idea how that happened, but now I have to fix it.

    Anyway, we eat out very rarely, but the few restaurants we go to have fortunately always had non-grain-involved meals. I like Red Robin for the fact that you can get a burger there on lettuce instead of buns. They even call it the “high-protein” version. Bless ’em. And they’ll hold off on any sauces if you ask (since there’s no way of knowing if they have sugar in them).

    Anyway. This has given my the backbone I need to get back where I was. Thank you.

    JuliaW wrote on September 14th, 2012
  13. I’ve lost 16 following the primal diet as well as possible. I don’t eat grains anymore and my appetite is right down-must be because my body is finally getting the nutrition it needs. I believed all the lies about healthy wholemeal before I found this site. My body fat is down several % and my muscle mass has increased. I’ve just turned 30 and I’m in best shape of my life. I want to mention though that when I used the forum on here some people were not at all helpful or supportive. There were lots of condescending, sarcastic and downright rude remarks made to me for not totally understanding the diet straight away, even though I’d mentioned I suffered depression. A few people were helpful but the overall tone was the “smug know it alls hostile to newbies” Mark claims he doesn’t want the site to feel like. Perhaps the forum needs a bit more monitoring/moderating to ensure it is a supportive, friendly place.

    Caitlyn wrote on December 30th, 2012
  14. that’s 16 pounds.

    Caitlyn wrote on December 30th, 2012
  15. I want to start with gain-less diet…but grains are integral part of our diet and I am not sure how to start. I am vegetarian …can some one tell what kinds of foods people are eating with out grains. I don’t want to stress too much about this, i want make it as easy as possible for myself. Also we eat a lot of lentils, beans , are those considered grains?

    Anil wrote on March 23rd, 2013

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