Arielle Novak is an American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer and an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Certified Group Exercise Instructor. Arielle loves to share her excitement about movement and fitness with her students. She holds additional specialty certifications in indoor cycling, yoga, and dance fitness.

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Arielle's Fitness Blog

by Arielle Novak, Fitness Expert

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I’ll start off by saying I am not a fan of fad diets or weight-loss gimmicks. When I by chance picked up a copy of “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis in November of 2011, I thought I it was another diet book. The wheat-free movement was just another silly fad, right? How could a piece of bread or bowl of cereal be increasing my waistline and giving me a “wheat belly”? How could healthy whole grains be destructive to my body? This went against everything I “knew” to be true. My first impressions were proven wrong by the time I finished the first chapter, and I was compelled to read more. The more I learned about the negative effects of wheat, the more I came around to the idea of eliminating it from my diet.

I have to admit I read the book at the perfect time. At the beginning of 2011, I was overweight and watching the numbers on the scale steadily climb. Physically, I felt lousy; psychologically I felt even worse. My ever-increasing waist-line did a number on my self confidence. As someone who teaches fitness for a living, I found it difficult to stand in front of a class feeling so heavy. How could I be a role model for others, when I was overweight?

My active lifestyle and steady workout regimen were not enough. By the time year-end approached, I had hit my highest weight ever (which meant I was around 25 pounds higher than my target weight). I am not tall (5’3” on a good day), so carrying an extra 25 pounds was miserable.

I had been under the impression that the wheat-free/gluten-free movement was only for people diagnosed with Celiac Disease, caused by an allergy to gluten. I figured that, because I didn’t have Celiac Disease, I didn’t need to worry about wheat. As I read on, I realized I was completely wrong. According to Dr. Davis, many people who are wheat-sensitive may benefit from eliminating wheat from their diet.

Why wheat causes “bagel butts”, “muffin tops”, and of course, “wheat bellies”, was life changing for me. I won’t go into the details about the evolution of wheat or the complexities of insulin production. For that information, I suggest reading the book, as Dr. Davis does a wonderful job explaining the science behind wheat and its effect on the human body.

The short story is that the modern wheat we consume today causes our blood sugar to spike to extremely high levels. This is true whether you eat white processed bread or whole-grain. When your blood sugar level rises enough, you produce insulin, which in turn causes your body to store fat. The higher your blood sugar, the more insulin your body produces. This becomes dangerous if most of what we eat causes our blood sugar to soar.

I was terrified to learn that two slices of bread will cause my blood sugar to rise more than a candy bar! Wheat had been a big part of my life"in nearly every one of my meals. I’d had no clue how unhealthy it was for me. All those sensible sandwiches I ate at lunch had been bloating me, and were steadily contributing to my weight struggle!

In “Wheat Belly”, Dr. Davis suggests a 30-day wheat-free challenge. I told myself I had nothing to lose. I went for it! Days 1-21 were more or less unbearable. I didn’t take well to the challenge. I think I had a wheat addiction!!! I went into detox mode, and it wasn’t pretty! Somehow I managed to keep going. It took a lot of willpower and dedication to get through each day. I had to be creative with old recipes and learn some new ones. I even learned how to make my own wheat free pizza crust with almond flour and flax seed! Even with some new recipes under my belt, it was still an uphill battle.

During week two I dreamt I’d broken down and eaten a bunch of pastries at a buffet table. I woke up convinced I’d lost my wheat-free battle. Luckily, it was only a dream. Once I got through week three, something changed"I didn’t crave wheat anymore! I also noticed a drastic change in my appetite. When I was on wheat, I was constantly hungry. I had an insatiable appetite; one that could only be calmed with more bread and wheat products. Suddenly, the crazy cravings and intense hunger throughout the day had gone away.

I now feel much more in control. It makes sense; I no longer put myself through extreme highs and lows. The wheat that had caused my blood sugar to rise to high levels, felt great in the short term. However, when I crashed a couple of hours later, I’d look around for my next wheat fix. It was a vicious cycle.

During my first month, I lost eight pounds. I couldn’t believe it. I was most pleased with how much better I felt"energized and revitalized. I believe being wheat-free made me feel better than I had in a long time.

After the 30 days, I was inspired! I continued on for an extended wheat-free challenge. I lost another twelve pounds over the next five months. When I made it through six months, I realized it was no longer a challenge, I had committed to a wheat-free lifestyle.

I constantly get asked what my secret is and how I trimmed down. When I say I gave up wheat, I often get strange looks from people. A few are intrigued enough to pick up a copy of the book.

Everyone is different and will have their unique reactions to food, diet, and lifestyle. My best advice is to be aware of your body and take notice when you feel unhealthy. If you know something isn’t right, take action. You deserve to be the best version of you! Consult with a doctor or dietitian if you need more answers about how to live a healthy life. I believe the answers will be different depending on the person. But what was causing me to feel unhealthy was right ...    Continue

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@ 2:57am ET on July 24, 2012
Hi, I like your review of this book and wheat free way of eating, The facts about wheat causing blood sugar to rise really got my attention. I feel so much better when I don't eat wheat, it's just not fair how I love it so =)

@ 11:41am ET on July 24, 2012
Hi! I'm glad you got a chance to read my blog. I know exactly what you mean! I loved wheat : )

Almond flour is my new best friend. I use it in the place of four. It took a little getting used to at first...

Keep me posted if you ever take the "30 day wheat-free challenge"!

@ 1:20pm ET on July 24, 2012
That's insane! I had the dreams too! Lol, they happened in my second week and I was dreaming of pastries and muffins and pizza...I've been wheat free since the beginning of July and for the first time ever, I am in control of my eating experience AND I've lost about 10 pounds :) :) super happy face...

@ 12:52pm ET on July 25, 2012
That makes me laugh!!! I'm glad to know that someone else had pastry and pizza dreams.

Congrats on being wheat-free!!! Losing 10 lbs is awesome!!!

Please keep me posted regarding your wheat-free journey. Also, please share any tasty wheat-free recipes you find along the way : )

Good luck!

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