Doesn’t this look tasty? It is a lemon tart – not only is it gluten-free but grain-free. I made it as part of our Beltaine or May Day feast. Spring seem to be making a stronger appearance here in the North-North East and on April 30th we celebrated by blessing the fields, soon to be planted, and our animals. We also had our first fire pit of the year and enjoyed this amazing tart (see recipe info at the end of the post)…there is also fun contest info at the bottom of this post – so don’t miss that! Here comes another long one…I can wait until you get settled…:) OK, here we go.

Over the past few years I have tried a number of modified eating plans. I don’t use the D-word “diet”, because it alludes to something you do for a short period of time and then after go back to an un-healthy way of eating. “Lifestyle Change” doesn’t quite fit here either, because I already lead a pretty healthy lifestyle. For me it is not about “healthy” – it is about optimum health, about feeling the best I can and as someone who has been “tired” most of her life and can be “moody” – both to the point where it is sometimes a hindrance, I am always looking for the magic bullet to put everything back in balance. I believe food can heal, so put those two together and you have a person who has been tweaking her way of eating here and there for optimum health, for the past decade, at least.

This is not an easy post to write. I have shared a lot with my readers about my life on this blog – my thoughts on food, health, food politics and even religion over the past year. But talking about body image and health struggles are not so easy. There are just as many things wrong with our society’s demands on people to “fit in” as there is with our food system…and don’t even get me started on body image. But these are all things we struggle with in some way.

When I posted on my facebook page that I was going to be doing the 4-Hour Body “diet” for a month, people were very interested in the whys, the hows, etc. I started posting photos of many of my meals to give people examples of how to eat this way. I did not start this eating plan to lose weight. Well, it wasn’t my main motivation in any case. My main motivation was to detox from grains and sugar and this “slow carb” plan seemed very sensible. I will state for the record that I don’t agree with everything in the book and I am not a Tim Ferris advocate. I just like the simplicity of the food plan – no “white stuff” (grains, flours, potatoes), no sugar and no dairy (although I was allowed one TBS of cream in my coffee in the morning and I didn’t give up my daily kefir).

These past few months have been interesting. Despite raising chickens, I stopped eating eggs because Roberto and I are trying to start a family and have been unsuccessful thus far. I heard from several different friends that food allergies or sensitivities caused problems for them conceiving. I was told by my doctor to not eat gluten (a known sensitivity I have) or eggs. So in order to make up for the lack of eggs (and I eat a lot of eggs), I started eating more grains, a food group that I have had issues with my whole life. For several months I ate this way. My strength started to wane, I was tired all the time, my body felt like lead most days and my moods were not as good as they should have been. I was easily overwhelmed which is not a good thing in my busy life. I do happen to trust my doctor with my health, and yet sometimes doctors aren’t 100% right and your body tells the real story. I think that was the case with the eggs and I am glad I listened. I started eating eggs again, having 2 with dinner one night, and the next morning I was feeling better. Then I started the 4-Hour Body plan.

I took all my measurements the day I started the plan because I have “problem areas” just like everyone else. I heard a great many people successfully lose weight with this plan, I had put on a few extra pounds gorging on grains, and so I figured it would be fun to see if I lost those stubborn pounds I have had my whole life, in addition to the extras I gained from the grains.

Monday marked my one month period…and of course the sheet with all my measurements? Gone. I was very upset about this. I felt that I had worked really hard this month keeping away from grains, starchy foods and sugar (of any kind, including fruit) and I wanted quantitative results. Someone said that maybe that was the Universe’s way of telling me the numbers don’t matter, it is how I feel that matters. I must say that I do feel better. But like many, I have struggled all my life with body image, and when I look in the mirror, my brain does not give me an accurate representation of what my eyes actually see. So for me it is important when monitoring change to have something real and tangible to go on, because I can always convince myself that I feel better.

Regardless of all of that, a few important lessons came out of this experiment:

1) Do not entrust your husband with important papers, like measurements, just as an example…lol

2) On Saturdays, according to the 4-Hour Body guidelines, I was allowed to eat anything I wanted – a “binge” day. Which is why I say my experiment were “almost” grain free. My “binges” were raw or cultured dairy products, soaked buckwheat pancakes, breads made with quinoa or oats and potatoes for the most part. Oh and ice cream, and I realized those things had no negative effects on my body or mind when I introduced them back in. So going forward I will continue to eat buckwheat, quinoa and oats.

3) The only foods I really really missed were my buckwheat pancakes. Potatoes came in second and dairy products third. That surprised me, because I am crazy about cheese, but it is the truth.

4) Soaking my grains before eating them makes a world of difference. I have talked before about why I soak grains for digestibility. During those few months I wasn’t eating eggs, I was eating a variety of gluten-free breads and baked goods that I did not make, and therefore were not soaked, and I believe that was the real detriment in all of this.

5) Eggs are vitally important to my health. There are certain foods that my brain and body just love, that helps me stay in balance emotionally and physically – one of those foods are eggs, another is buckwheat.

6) Exercise is a must for me. The balance between hard physical work (in the form of strenuous farm chores, or exercise) and lots of healthy fats keep me sane and joyful.

7) My body is the way it is and I am at my ideal body weight. This is the hard one, and one that I will have a hard time remembering the lesson. Like I said, I have been tweaking for decades, I have done low carb, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, South Beach, low-fat, WAPF, and now 4-Hour Body. When I was a teen, I was an exercise addict to the point that it wasn’t healthy for me and even with all that, I have never ever had a flat stomach or a tight ass. I know what you are saying – few people do. I know that too, but it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with the fact that I don’t. I may have legs like tree trunks (one of the things I love about my body and something I have worked hard for this last year), but I have been conditioned through books, TV and movies to believe I should have a flat stomach and a tight ass and I fight that conditioning every day.

8*) The way I have eaten over the past (almost) 2 years, using the guidelines of the Weston Price Foundation (for more info read the PDF Healthy4Life) and applying Michael Pollan’s 80/20 rule to those guidelines helped me to lose 10 lbs in 2009, keep it off and maintain my weight for the past 2 years. A feat that no other way of eating ever has, and it has sustained me through rigorous weight training, kettle bell programs and the physical demands that running a small homestead requires. When I stick to that, the majority of the time, I feel awake, happy and strong. Some days I don’t, but I am not perfect and probably never will be! I have to remind myself that I am not Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even Sarah Connor, but that doesn’t keep me from trying to be the healthiest and strongest I can be.

9) That said, I do believe that different things work for different people. I wish I could tell you that we are all programmed the same way, and you could just learn from my experiments, and what your magic bullet is, but I can’t. But one thing is for sure– whole foods, local foods, seasonal foods, non-GMO, non-packaged, non-processed and non-industrialized foods are best for everyone. But the ratios of carbs to fats to proteins may vary. I also believe, although I have had many argue with me, that if we eat the food our ancestors ate most of the time, we will feel better.

So what will I eat going forward? I will eat what we grow on the homestead and meats and veggies from local farms. I will be sticking to the Weston Price Foundation Guidelines. I will be sticking to buckwheat, quinoa and oats in the grain department. I will enjoy healthy fats. I will joyfully eat and drink full fat dairy. I will eat potatoes. I will gorge on berries, especially when they are in season. But I will limit my starchy foods to 1-2 servings a day at most. Some days I might not have any. And I will eat eggs to my heart’s content* I will also continue exploring my various cultural heritages through food.

What my readers can look forward to:

1) More Let’s Get Cultured! posts on making cultured dairy products at home
2) More homemade (and lacto-fermented) condiments
3) Experiments in grain free desserts and baked goods
4) More Gluten-Free and Grain-Free recipes
5) Egg recipes!

*Before I stopped eating eggs, I got my cholesterol tested (so did Roberto). My general doctor described our results as “perfect”. She said it was clear we ate well and took care of ourselves. This is on a diet of 2-3 eggs per DAY, full fat dairy, other animal fats, butter, etc. But I will state for the record that the sources of our foods are good quality – grass-fed animals and pastured animals, organics, non-GMO, local and sustainable, etc. To me, that is what makes all the difference.

Gluten and Grain Free Lemon Tart
From The Spunky Coconut (the pie crust) and Simply Sugar & Gluten Free (refined sugar free lemon curd – the only think I changed was substitute honey for agave) – if you like Amy’s Lemon curd recipe, you are sure to love all her other recipes! The Foodie Blogroll is giving away 8 copies this month – so please go check it out!

Also, don’t forget the Leftover Queen Awards and Giveaway going on until May 15th! I want to hear your tips -what are some small things do you do in your kitchens that make you a “Leftover Queen”?