One Wheat Free Week in Devon

IMG_4748This is what my column should have been called instead of the shite working title that’s right there in print in the paper, next to that big picture of my face so there’s no mistaking that that slurry came from the annals of my brain. I’m blaming the lack of wheat for it. For all of it. For EVERYTHING.

*wildly gestures and flounces from the room*

Ok, I overreacted. Being wheat free has actually been a little bit brilliant. I know, I know, I’ve changed. I’m just a bowl of quinoa away from wearing kaftans to the supermarket, maybe dishing out a little reiki in the queue.


The decision to ditch the wheat started with me but the husband mercilessly rejected the idea a long time ago and I just couldn’t spend any of my precious remaining days on earth cooking different meals for everyone so the wheat stayed. Some randomer later suggested that C might want to cut down his gluten intake to reduce heartburn and suddenly it was the best idea since a seeded, gluten free bloomer. I’m not bitter, I guess I won in the end.

Migraines have darkened my doorway for most of the last 20 years.  I’ve always professed that they’re stress based and that I have no food triggers but over the last couple of years they’ve worsened in intensity and frequency and, y’know, life’s just too fecking short to be in pain so often. Apparently I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed though, it took a doctor suggesting I might want to try beta blockers to control them before I even remotely considered trying to change my diet.  But I’m here now, ready to commit. Is this what growing up feels like? It might be.

So we did it: ditched the gluten. And we’ve survived a whole week-it might even be a bit longer now, we’ve so seamlessly adapted that it feels this has always been the way. We’ve both been prancing about in front of the mirror a lot ‘look how un-bloated I am/how un-dimply my arse is/how clear my avocado addicted face is.’

But I’m not here to brag about my peachy bottom (that might be the most British I’ve ever sounded) but to entice you into this weird little wheat free wonderland. Imagine, if you will, me looking menacing and beckoning you with weird looking spindly fingers. Like Rasputin or something.

I realise that’s not an enticing image so here are some perfunctory tips for getting through the first few weeks, after that it just sort of becomes part of your life.

  • You’ll want to empty your cupboards of everything. Don’t. There’s lots in there you can still use. Just ditch the wheat filled pasta and glorious ‘real’ jaffa cakes. You’ll miss those.
  • You’ll start eating a lot of salad. Then you’ll want to spend all of your money on books by clean eating gurus so that you can eat anything but salad. You might even read all the inspo whilst eating a crappy cobbled together salad that you accidentally threw some out of date croutons on because you forgot. I did this. Save your pennies for the extortionate wheat free bread – there’s enough inspiration on this thing called the web. It’s magical and free, start there. Perhaps with Deliciously Ella, Gluten is my Bitch, Helmsley and Helmsley – yeah, I bought ALL THE BOOKS too. It was unnecessary but it made me feel studious and legit – if you’re going to go for one I’d suggest Helmsley first. This week Rosie posted some delicious looking grain based recipes too, see? Internet. IMG_4740
  • Prepare to discuss your bowel movements with anyone who’ll listen. It happens.
  • Most of what you normally eat can be de-glutenified with a few small tweaks – the free from aisle of your local supermarket is like a magical mystery larder (don’t eat the biscuits though, they’re of the devil, make your own sweet treats).
  • Rice flour makes a much better, glossier gravy than its wheaty brother. Found this out by accident.
  • I got really carried away and made elaborate veggie filled extravaganzas which were so far removed from our usual meals that it was a bit of a leap too far for us and caused the husband to pull weird faces. His voice said ‘mmmm delicious’ but his face said ‘get this evil foodstuff out of my face.’ Actually, if we’re being honest, his mouth said ‘it tastes like cardboard’but I maintain that the brazilnut and avo pesto was DELICIOUS. This cautionary tale of domestic woe highlights that the real key to the whole thing, to making sure you really stick with it, is to take small steps in the right direction. Make a few sustainable changes here and there and you’re much more likely to keep going with it until you see a real change.
  • Oh and don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wheaty wagon, you won’t combust.

It’s the biggest lifestyle change we’ve made in a while and so far it’s proving to be worth the marginal hassle of having to plan meals more efficiently. It turns out it’s much easier to eat gluten-freely now than it ever has been.

I still irrationally detest people who say they’re wheat free. No reason.  But I haven’t had a whiff of a migraine in about a fortnight so that bit of self-loathing can stay. Stay tuned for ramblings on such wonders as cauliflower rice (it’s just grated cauli, yes?) and courgetti which sounds weird but enticing. I made those three ingredient pancakes at the weekend too. Used the wrong pan so they look like scrambled eggs but it’s a start.

Any amazing wheat free recipes I should try? Are you thinking about doing it but can’t be arsed to leap yet? Do these questions make you feel like you’re under interrogation from a spindly fingered but not at all bloated weirdo?

Answers to all questions gratefully received.

Easy Peasy Chocolate Cake
  • I have to say I try and avoid having too much bread at lunchtime because it causes me to fall asleep at my desk in the afternoons – that horrible feeling of “OMG how long have my eyes been closed for and has anyone noticed?!” x

  • We’ve seriously been thinking about experimenting with “clean eating” soon. Simon has constant tummy problems and I’m always tired and bloated and we’ve convinced ourselves this could be the solution. We keep putting it off though. We keep thinking about maybe starting when we move into our new home as once we’re house owners we’ll be proper grown ups and will suddenly be able to do it!

  • Love it! Cutting it out has definitely made me less sluggish and my skin is loads better. Long may the migraines stay away.

    Sophie Cliff

  • If you can make a gluten-free caramel wafer *then* I’ll consider it 😉

  • Cauliflower rice is SO CLEVER. Just hide it under the curry or the chilli and you will never know!! Even Ben eats it without moaning. I can recommend ‘Get the Glow’ by Madeleine Shaw too. The homemade granola in the Deliciously Ella book is awesome if you haven’t tried it yet xx

  • i want to try it but i also keep feeling that I should really cut down on the my excessive consumption of all things sugar, and I honestly don’t know that I could do both, but just doing one feels like a half measure. not that i’m a person of extremes, at all.

  • Aisling

    I’m celiac so… well, I don’t really agree with going completely gluten free without being diagnosed by a doctor. I don’t see why anyone would WANT to complicate their life in the way I am forced to. Really, most people just need to not eat a LOT of bread products. I mean, overeating anything will make you feel crappy. Eating more veggies and meat and less carbs will make you feel nicer. No need for a gluten free label.

    In addition to that, you’re not actually supposed to give it up completely if you don’t need to. Giving it up completely can result in liver problems. Basically I eat gluten free so my intestines don’t bleed and I can live each day without pain. But later I will likely have a whole host of other digestive problems.

    PLUS you mentioned the free-from aisle.. everything there is so bad for you. SO much extra sugar, even in basics like pasta. I only eat it out of convenience.

    SO… yeah, Idk. I don’t mean to bash your wheat free week, because I think it’s fine to detox in moderation! You just have to be reeeealllly careful. I think there’s this misconception that those of us who cannot eat gluten are somehow healthier, but it’s not really true!

    Aisling | aisybee.

  • Talk about right post, right time 🙂 I am currently beginning on my solo healthy journey and am looking at the primal blueprint book that was gifted to me last week! Wheats and things are the first out so this post is fab thanks for sharing how you guys are doing so far and for the website ideas, will definitely share these with a work friend who is currently ill with her stomach and has been diagnosed as gluten intolerent.
    Looking forward to hearing how you get on with the gluten free journey 🙂 I am expecting great recipes from you – no pressure 😉

  • Sally Crangle

    Loved this Michelle! I had terrible stomach pains a few years back now and had to have like a million tests (no jokes!) they all came back pretty inconclusive and that it was nothing serious and the doctors basically told me to look at my diet. I’m a routine gal at heart and by simply varying what i eat alot more i’ve seen a massive change. It’s something so simple that i can’t believe i’d over-looked it all of these years. Whilst it won’t be right for every one to totally cut out gluten what i do love about the clean eating trend and all of that jazz that’s all over the shop lately is that it’s making people aware of how food makes them feel and that it can make a difference. And it’s also making people look at what they are putting inside them which is never a bad thing!

    And hey, if it’s easing the migraines for you then huzzah!!! Those things are HORRID!!!!

    Happy weekending xxxx

  • Kerri

    I’m all ears for this journey of yours. Well, I’m all eyes, but you know what I mean. As a fellow migraine sufferer, I’m thinking you are on to something here. Just reading all about your migraines makes my head start to twinge… like when people talk about nits and you start scratching.

    I’m debating a diet change too, but more towards a vegetarian/vegan diet – I’ve yet to fully decide where I want to take it. I’ve been feeling pretty great with the running and I feel like I want to take this healthy living to the next level as such. Something like that, or I’m going through a quarter life crisis. Either or.

    Looking forward to hearing about your wheat woes 😉

  • Katie

    I’m so pleased to hear it’s working 🙂 Migraines are the devil incarnate (I am VERY grateful not to get them, but my BFF has chronic migraine 🙁 ) and anything that means you besting them (while also getting a perkier bum) has to be a winner xxx

  • That post lunch slump is HORRIFIC! You’re just one binned sandwich away from joining me on this adventure, I can feel it.
    M x

  • It feels like a huge thing to just suddenly ‘eat clean’ but I promise it was nowhere near as awful as I was expecting, a few tweaks here and there make all the difference. And there’s so much lovely, fresh stuff around in the summer which definitely helps. It’s worth a go to tackle the tiredness and the bloat, I was kind of amazed at just how much of a difference it made to my overall wellbeing.
    Having said all of that, it definitely seems like a new home adventure….
    M x

  • Cheers to that! Migraine benefits aside, I do feel much better in general and am a bit embarrassed I didn’t get there sooner.
    M x

  • Done it. That’s it, up there. Just wrapped in the old wrapper for show. You in?
    M x

  • I’m excited about the cauli-rice actually. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write…
    The granola is on my weekend to do list.
    M x

  • Sugar is our next battle…husband is an all or nothing kind of guy (you’d like him I think!) but even he is doing baby steps with the sugar thing. Some mountains don’t need to be climbed. Or something.
    M x

  • Thanks for your comment Aisling, it’s really interesting to hear from a coeliac on this, I’m sure we faddy wheat ditchers are kind of annoying!! I haven’t yet come across anyone who’s said not to give it up completely though so that’s new to me. Both husband and I feel a million times better having done so – it plays havoc with his heartburn and my head and both have been advised by the GP.

    Having said that, everything in moderation so it might be that we re-introduce bits of it slowly some time in the future to see how our bodies react.

    For now I’m just going to enjoy not having crippling migraines three times a week and take it from there.
    M x

  • The websites I’ve linked too all have some AMAZING recipes, definitely whizz them to your friend – she doesn’t have to live in a taste void!

    I would absolutely recommend making small changes, the cumulative effect has been brilliant for us – both general health wise and in terms of the headaches/heartburn. Look forward to seeing how you get on….and yeah, I’ll try hard not to disappoint on the recipe front!!
    M x

  • As always, you’re absolutely right – why don’t more of us think about the effect of what we’re popping into our bodies left right and center? I’m a definite convert but the husband has turned into something of a gluten free evangelist! Cutting down one simple(ish) thing has made SUCH a difference.

    So glad you’re feeling better too, being in pain so much is just about the worst.
    M x

  • So thanks for the head scratching, that was kind of you!

    The migraine thing – I’ve never even remotely entertained the possibility that it could be gluten induced, I was adamant they were stress related, posture related, eyesight related, unicorn related but I can’t really hide from the fact that cutting down the wheat has made a HUGE difference to me so far. And naturally you replace it with all the good stuff you can find so we feel like that awful awful couple who used to run that show I can’t remember the name of (great story!) the one where they help brides shape up for their weddings? Awful show, awful people. We feel like them but with less awful.

    Vegan seems like one hell of a quarter life crisis. I’d say don’t do it…but I have no reason. You should turn your hair into a rainbow and buy a sports car too.

    The wheat woes can fuck off.
    M x

  • It really is, I was skeptical but it’s all good so far. And the arse thing is a bonus.
    M x

  • Lisa and Stella

    I hadn’t considered gluten being a factor in my migraines as my latest intolerance test came back only mild. But, once the doctor put “possible fibromyalgia” on my notes and I started looking into that, gluten is a dirty little devil that makes symptoms worse. Weather remains my biggest trigger but your promise of an un-dimply arse is now making me take the gluten-free road more seriously! 😉

    Ground almonds are a lush, though expensive, flour replacement, Udi’s bagels are wonderful though I did have to troll them on Twitter last year for discontinuing their mince pies, and, 3 very important words…Kelkin Jaffa Cakes xox

  • I’ve done gluten-free in the past and felt much better. However, I actually suspect that it’s yeast I have a problem with. I’ve been merrily eating pasta for the last few weeks, but no bread until yesterday when I pigged out on it. I can’t remember the last time I felt so ill. I’m blaming the bread for it all. Still feeling as weak as a kitten.

    PS. Want a copy of Get the Glow? Happy to send it on for postage xx

  • Not ideal that you feel grots but so interesting that you can pin it down so clearly to the yeast! That sucks.
    And yuhuh I would! Is it good?

  • It really is and I just didn’t realise how much of a knob it was before now. I do feel miles better generally and no headaches. Worth a shot.
    And I’m going to find those jaffas and devour them.
    M x

  • Feeling much better today after pretty much fasting yesterday. I’ll avoid yeast for quite a while, I think!! (Although a special case may have to be made for experimenting with wine.)

    Get the Glow seems to have more every-day ingredients compared to H&H. I find it very hard to eat out or grab quick meals when doing gluten-free/paleo etc so have gone to Slimming World instead. I realised yesterday that I haven’t had any nasty pains around my liver since I started, so yay! Drop me an email with your address and I’ll pop it in the post (2nd)