Wheat Belly does Europe!

Long-time Wheat Belly follower, Donna, describes her 3-week jaunt through Europe . . . sans wheat! She successfully navigated her way through rich European breakfasts, lunch, and dinners, not getting tripped up even once. (Wheat Belly followers here since the beginning may remember Donna’s fabulous shrinking tummy transformation that she posted for us way back.)

When my husband George and I decided to take a three week trip to Europe to celebrate our 25th anniversary, one of my first thoughts was “How could I stay true to Wheat Belly while visiting France and Italy? Baguettes, croissants, pastries and pasta everywhere?”

Before leaving on our trip, I had been a faithful follower of Wheat Belly concepts for more than 18 months. I was afraid of undoing my new lifestyle with a mere glance at a Paris dessert tray. I did not want to blow my success of achieving good weight, freedom from body aches, greater energy, and fantastic lipid profile.

I learned early on from the Wheat Belly book that becoming a fat burner, rather than a sugar burner, would make my life easier when it came to my appetite and relationship to food. Since I could go for 5-6 hours, even much longer, without truly being hungry (unlike in the past where I would tear through the cupboards in desperation if I went that long), I knew I could be successful traveling.

In cities such as Paris, there are tempting loaves of long, crunchy bread that I previously would have died for, but my bread obsession has disappeared since following Wheat Belly. I now know what wheat can do to my body and none of it is good. Over time, my mind got retrained. I look at bread as if it’s part of the table, like the silverware, since the waiter insists on bringing it, but it holds no interest. I would look at Paris treats in the windows as I would look at cute animals at the zoo–fun to look at and take pictures of, but do not touch! Just taking photos of the fancy food displays to share with my friends later was enough to keep my mind legal and not tempted to commit any Wheat Belly felonies!

One great thing about European hotels is that a breakfast buffet is included in the price of your room, unlike in America. Buffets can be mine fields, though, unless you go to breakfast mentally prepared. The typical buffet includes everything from smoked salmon and cucumbers to chocolate cakes and tortes, with tons of carbohydrates and sugar. There is yogurt in little glass jars, rows of colorful juices, bowls of fruit, eggs, sausage, and assorted cereals. Most buffets in France and Italy had a similar spread so, after one hotel, it’s easy to navigate the next one. I stuck with hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon, bacon, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a small piece of fruit. I was afraid to try the scrambled eggs since hearing that some restaurants in the States make them more fluffy by adding flour. This type of breakfast kept my blood sugar stable. We walked and explored for hours each morning and I still did not feel hungry by noon.

Did I ever feel like cheating? Surprisingly, no. Even with my husband sitting right across those tiny French tables, eating his cereal and milk, I had no desire for off-limit foods. I didn’t give my husband the “evil eye” for eating things I wouldn’t order and he didn’t mock me for my choices. I did grimace to myself at the huge bowl of oatmeal he’d get in Italy, though, knowing he’d be ravenous in a few short hours.

We discovered an outdoor market in Florence that had table after table filled with various types of chocolate. I nearly dove onto one table, it was so enticing. Fortunately, I found a merchant who made their own 90% dark chocolate. We had run out of my stash from home, so it was good timing. Florence may have an original Michelangelo and countless other artistic treasures, but I will always remember how beautiful those chocolate treats were displayed! Chocolate art trumps marble art any day in my book.

You can find good meals, but it is helpful to pack snacks before you leave home. There will be times when there is no healthy food available or you may not eat out until later in the evening, which is the custom in Europe. I came armed with extra-dark chocolate bars (90%) and some Brazil and macadamia nuts. I also brought little packets of Artisana coconut and almond butter. My Whole Foods store also had little servings of pistachio and macadamia nut butters made by Wildnerness Poets.

Navigating lunch and dinners was not as exciting as the chocolate stands, but most menus offered a wide range of entrees. For lunch, I mainly stuck with salads, and dinner was fish or meat, along with grilled vegetables topped with olive oil. My husband tried various pastas and pizzas in Italy. Everywhere around us at restaurants in Italy, people were eating their own individual pizzas–not small either, about 12″ in diameter. Have to admit they looked delicious, but I saw many wheat bellies all around me!

During one of our walking tours in Rome, I asked our guide whether they had a problem with obesity in Italy. She said there has been a huge increase in childhood obesity the past five years or so, since more moms are working and fewer people are making home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients. Junk food is more widely available. We saw a group of school kids in Rome sitting next to ancient ruins while on a field trip. I looked to see what they were eating and, sure enough, half the kids looked overweight and were eating huge bread-type sandwiches. I guess it’s not just an American problem.

I decided my leeway would be to have wine every night, which I only have when we go out to eat in America. I justified it by saying we were going out to dinner every night, after all, so why not? Besides, who can go to Tuscany and not try the local wine?

Three weeks was a long time to travel and behave while eating, but I felt no trouble keeping to Wheat Belly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the menu or to ask them to prepare an entree the way you’d like. Also, if you’ve followed the Wheat Belly way of eating for several weeks and are now a fat burner, you will have no trouble with excessive hunger. This makes it easy to avoid temptations. Freedom from hunger every few hours frees you: your mind is on your surroundings and how much you are enjoying them, not on your next meal or rumbling stomach.

I now know that I can go on other trips in the future and won’t come home a bloated whale! No Paris pastry pudge on this girl, thanks to Wheat Belly. By the way, I did not gain any weight, but my wheat eating husband gained 5 pounds from pasta and pizza. Thank you, Dr. Davis, for Wheat Belly. It followed me from Paris, to Milan, to Lake Como, to Venice, to Florence, and finally Rome. Now, I’m afraid, it’s time to get back to cooking!

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Boundless

    > … walking tours in Rome, I asked our guide whether they had a problem
    > with obesity in Italy. She said there has been a huge increase in childhood
    > obesity the past five years or so, since more moms are working and fewer
    > people are making home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients.

    Once they figure what the real cause is, there is going to be some diplomatic fallout, because the mad scientists who created the main agent are primarily located in a single country.

    Anyway, great post. It demolishes two weak retorts to WB:
    1. You can’t travel and eat the WB way.
    2. How come the Euros aren’t fat too.

  2. Jill

    Except that Europe doesn’t use genetically modified foods. I am wheat free and to my delight was able to eat bread in Europe with ZERO symptoms that I experience in the states. Which really proved to me that it’s all about the genetic modifications. Too bad for this traveller, as a croissant in Paris is really quite a treat. With that being said, I’m happy to be off of bread, as it was quite addictive for me, but on a special occasion, like a European holiday, it’s nice to have that option.

    • Boundless

      > Except that Europe doesn’t use genetically modified foods.

      The EU may ban “GMO”, but that only blocks foods that have been subjected to explicit gene insertion (the industry’s narrow definition of GMO). Wheat, so far, is not GMO anywhere, by that definition. What modern semi-dwarf hybrid wheat is, if you’ve read the WB book and this blog, is a genetic monster created by recklessly random gene insertion.

      That said, older strains may be more common in the EU, and it is common for bakers to age the dough.

      > Which really proved to me that it’s all about the genetic modifications.

      That proves that you are sensitive North American wheat in NA food products.

      Even going heirloom, you’re still consuming a high-glycemic gluten-bearing grain, something humans do at their peril. Type II diabetes, a totally optional ailment, existed prior to 1960, before the advent of modern toxo-triticale (as did cancer, which may also prove to be an optional glycemic-fueled ailment).

        • Boundless

          > Please clarify!

          Be happy to, but can you quote what it is you want me to clarify?

        • He’s saying that prior to the introduction of “techno” wheat in the 60’s, Type ll diabetes, as well as cancer did exist (as well as other maladies)……so heirloom strains were’t doing us any favors!

  3. Nan

    Thanks so much for your post. My husband and I have been wheatless for about 3 months. We’re going on a cruise in 4 weeks and I am greatly encouraged by your words. I know I will have many choices onboard and can avoid wheat. Thanks again!

    • Bea Pullar

      Last year I traveled overseas for 10 weeks. The easiest part was on the two 2 week cruises. The head chefs made a point of checking the menu with me before every lunch and dinner. On coach tours the tour director spoke with the chef at each hotel or restaurant to ensure that I did not eat anything with wheat. In 10 weeks there were only 3times when they made a mistake.

      BTW I carried a meal replacement – a diabetic formula iso-whey product – which I rarely needed to use at a set menu lunch. Plus I always carry almonds or other nuts. Before I was converted to Wheat Free I used the unflavored diabetic Iso-whey product almost every day, but now I carry it in my handbag just in case I have no alternative – which tend to happen when I visit someone and then stay for a meal and are not able to offer wheat free. I know Dr Davis is not in favor if iso-whey – but this one does not have wheat, and it is not high in sugar and keeps me out of trouble – especially when traveling.

    • Boundless

      > Red Fife is an heirloom variety that has not been hybridized.

      You hope. You can be pretty far downwind of a field of Monsanto Menace, and still get your genes corrupted.

      But even if it is an unsullied heirloom, it’s still a high-glycemic gluten-bearing grain. Eating such grains has always been a mistake for humans. Consume at the levels your grandparents did, and you still be subject to all the utterly optional ailments they had.

  4. tony

    3 years in row to Paris – at least one Baguette per day; croissant w/ chocolate filling and real butter every AM. French bread at every meal along with white or red wine. Not a single issue with eating French wheat – came back after 10 days or so and my weight was the same as when I went over. With one exception, it was as if I never ate wheat.
    The exception had to do with eating in an Italian Restaurant in Paris – a wonder bistro, phenomenal red wine and a meal of Italian noodles liberally sprinkled with grated Romano and Parmesan cheese flooded in olive oil. Within three hours of that meal, my gut/intestinal system was an absolute utter wreck. I’ll spare you the gory details.
    I’d say French wheat and baguette making differs from Italian wheat and noodle making :D Also, FWIW, when we got back from Paris, I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in eating baguettes made in US. None.
    go figure, I can’t. YMMV

  5. Alice

    This is a very interesting post. Thank you Donna. I do have one tangential question. Flour is added to restaurant eggs in the states sometimes?? I did not know that. Horrors. I like to eat an omelet at Bob Evans; I wonder if it has flour in it.

  6. Kristin Simmon-Lowman

    I am so glad to read this. I will be travelling for 2 weeks in the south of France and in THAILAND, which I fear because of all the rice. But I will stick with chicken and fish in Thailand and veggies, though I know an occassional meal with rice is not too bad. I plan on bringing lots of Quest bars, nuts, Chocoperfection, and the nut butters are a good idea. Nice post!

  7. bill

    Travelling is quite a bit easier without
    wheat and other carbs. Just as Donna says, you can
    concentrate on the surroundings more since you
    aren’t concerned all the time where your next meal
    is coming from.

    No insulin spikes after eating and no blood sugar
    crashes. More sustained energy. Who wouldn’t
    want to travel like this?

  8. Marci

    I agree that it can be done. I travel to Sweden regularly and they also love pastries. But you can find many “gluten-free” items, such as soups, which work and lots of herring and cheese! I go to the grocery store to load up on nuts and cheese and eggs. I have cooking facilities, unlike most visitors.
    They use food labels similar to ours, and list carbohydrates.

  9. Uwe Pleban

    After 35+ years in the US, I moved back to Germany about 2 1/2 years ago and now
    I’ve in Hamburg. After reading Wheat Belly in January 2013, I cut out wheat entirely, and gradually lost about 12 kg (more than 25 pounds) over 3 months. I am 6’1″ (186 cm), and went from 92kg (202 lbs) to 80 kg (176 lbs) without any special exercise – the weather in Hamburg was bad enough to keep me from biking, so I used walking to keep in shape. My weight has now stabilized at around 80 kg, give or take a pound.

    One of the advantages here in Hamburg are the many outdoor markets with amazingly fresh produce, fish, meats, and cheeses. I eat bread sparingly, but only rye and spelt (there are special bakeries here that specialize in those types of bread). No more pasta, pizza, rice, and the like. In general, I eat what I like, and I eat a lot. It has worked surprisingly well.

    In general, I consider the food and water in Germany to be considerably better than in the US. It is easier to live healthily here, in my opinion. Big Food is not (yet) as powerful here, and GM foods are often not legal, although that is changing as well.

  10. Ann Huth

    Dr. Davis … HELP ! i have alot of bottles of beer in my fridge. i use to use them in cooking.
    can i STILL do that as i am now 100% wheat belly compliant OR… do i have to give them away ?
    beer makes a wonderful stew in the crock pot added to a piece chuck roast. lol
    i dont want to mess up my new way of eating as i have been on this now for 6 months and i will never go off it.
    i dont have any wheat sensitivity or allergies or anything like that but i dont want to mess up a good thing either.
    please advise me on what to do.

    thanks very much

    • Boundless

      > … i have alot of bottles of beer in my fridge.

      So did I when we started. I gave it all away (with warnings, of course).

      • Ann Huth

        YES i understand you CAN’T drink it….. but i want to know if you can COOK with it !
        i’m ONLY interested in COOKING with it.
        i want to know if it would have the same affect on you if you are cooking with it.
        i hope Dr. Davis will answer me.

        • Neicee

          The alcohol will burn off in cooking but the core ingredients of the beer will remain. I’ve cooked with wine with no problems, but I’ve not cooked with beer that often. That said, if it’s made from wheat grains you’ll get a grain induced product, if the beer is made from rice it’ll carry the same character as rice. High glycemic loads. I wouldn’t but it’s in the end, your choice.
          I have to add, I have dumped tons of food that since they were opened I couldn’t even pawn off on one of the food banks. I remember a 25 lb. bag of pinto beans. Had always kept one in case of a blizzard where trucks and the supply routes were interrupted. Outdoor cooking with propane tanks can save you if the power and gas are cut during the winter or times of natural disaster. Unsure what to do now other than rely on frozen meat and veggies.

          • Ann Huth

            OMG ! why on earth did you get rid of pinto beans ?
            I eat beans every day usually about 1/4 cup. i make them from scratch in the crock pot…. they are a staple for me.
            i eat no bread and NO grains, NO sugar and NO pasta of ANY sort. but beans are OK. unless of course, you cant tolerate them. i saw nothing in the book that said absolutely NO on beans. but… i didnt use to follow the book. it was only after i had been on this changed eating plan that i discovered that someone had written a book on what i was doing. i read with amazement all the things i had already discovered on my own in the book. one day i just decided to get rid of all the crap in my diet so i just stopped eating all that stuff…. and the doctor is absolutely right about everything. i’m skinny and dont need to lose weight… i just wanted to feel better…. now even my eye sight has improved. lol
            but…. i wondered about cooking with the beer. Last year i got rid of all the bad stuff….. but the beer.
            but what you say makes sense so i’ll give it away.

          • Neicee

            Beans are legumes. If I were vegetarian I’d probably consume them. Yes, they contain some pretty good amts. of potassium, folate and other important nutrients with a whole bunch of carbohydrates thrown in. I really like my flat little tummy and when I’ve even taken a small bite or two it’s no longer flat. I do best with meats, veggies, nuts, great oils, and perhaps a very small amt. of fruit….I still will use a half cup of basmati rice for Asian dishes, for two people, but the beans were delegated to the never/one bite or less category.

          • Ann Huth

            WOW ! everybody is different… i understand about the beans.
            if they dont work for you then you did what you had to.
            i think beans keep me thin… if not for them i might eat more high calorie foods. but…. for me this new way of eating was to feel better not to lose weight.
            very interesting about the beans though….. i guess because i always eat them… i just thought they were fine for everyone else. lol

  11. Jo

    I’ve been getting symptoms from eating bread and have been avoiding it well before reading Wheat Belly. Having travelled Europe a lot I found that often eating locally made bread had none of negative effects that I experience elsewhere. I think the extra processing in wheat and bread is causing many problems. I’m not entirely sure it’s just about carbs,. I think for many it’s more about where you are getting your carbs from. Gluten free products often make me just as sick as ‘normal’ bread.

  12. Lesley

    I’ve been to France as well. I know that bread is a staple in their diet. But the French are not overweight. Why? What has gone on in our body that hasn’t happened in the French; or are they using wheat that differs from ours. Any thoughts!

    • GaryM

      The myth of the slender French is just that. France is 15% Obese and 32% overweight, with obesity doubling in the last 15 years. Growing obesity is a major problem there.

      Whether in New York or Paris or Timbuktu,
      No wheat will pass through my lips, and should not, you.
      I will not eat it as a wrap, in pasta, or even a cracker or two.
      It holds no interest for me to chew.

      • Neicee

        After reading the article and the comments it seems to be a microcosm of the U.S. and it’s ills. Many get the reason for the epidemic of obesity, others don’t. Loved the comments by ‘Elderlyfox’. It’s sad they’ll probably not wake up either, just like here. Having visited homes of ex-pat Frenchmen here in the U.S., I always admired their luncheon menus….braised meats w/broth sometimes (or prepared meats sliced very thinly), well prepared veggies, a small salad with vinegar/oil dressing and an outrageous dessert – always with a couple small glasses of wine. American menus included potato or pasta salad, some great meats and a huge bun. Beer more often than wine…..?

        Thanks for posting the article.

  13. Alice

    I’m curious to know what the second picture is, the one that is a broken link right now.

    • Boundless

      > … what the second picture is …

      Bacon and eggs on a plate – even has ALT text saying so.

    • Chris Chelten

      Alice, the broken link is meant to show Donna in Venice. Since it’s broken we may never know what it showed, but it was likely Donna in St. Mark’s Square, perhaps with the WB book as in the first photo. Maybe. :)

      • Donna

        I did include a photo of myself in Venice, holding the Wheat Belly book cover and I think that’s what the “blank” photo with question mark in the middle is supposed to be. I tried to post it here in my comment and it would not work. I took a photo of myself in all six cities I visited, thanks to my husband who was a willing participant!

        • Dr. Davis

          Odd: the Venice photo shows on my computers.

          Yes, I abbreviated, Donna. Your trip was so wide and wonderful that I had to provide the abridged version!

          • Donna

            You put more than I imagined you would Dr. D! No complaints here, that’s for sure! I was just curious, also, what photo was not showing up as #2 photo on my computer, either, since several people mentioned it ….a mystery….

  14. Bruce

    My wife and I went through Germany and the Czech Republic for 3 weeks a few years ago. Ate the bread, and the pastries and the potatoes and beer,,,so many beers. Got on the scale when I got home and lost 5 pounds as did my wife. Of course we were also very active and we were walking everywhere. Also, not much snacking. Usually just the 3 meals a day.
    Maybe I should start that diet again here. :-)

    • Donna

      There may be something to the no snacks, walking phenomena…..I, too, found I was only eating the 3 meals (lunch usually on the small side) a day, no snacks, and walking, walking, walking everywhere, morning, noon and night! We rarely sat around. At home we tend to stay put on the sofa at night, watching our favorite shows, whereas in Europe, we could just walk out our door and continue exploring the cities we visited. But, having said that, I did not gain and may have even lost a few pounds eating no wheat and watching my carbs, and my husband was doing the exact same activities and gained weight by eating more wheat and grains than he does at home…At 6′ 6″ that man can usually eat a ton without gaining and that was the only difference in his habits–many more carbs!

      • Bruce

        I’m thinking pretty much is was the activity. We would leave the hotel at 8 AM and not get back until midnight most days. Maybe a half hour of American TV dubbed into German to cool down after my shower, then to bed. The bread we ate was usually a roll with breakfast along with the cheese and ham. Lunch was a sandwich of some sort or some soup and a salad. Dinner was pork and potato and a small salad. I’m not a big fan of dumplings so did not usually eat those. I’m kinda of neutral on desserts anyway and would usually have another beer if I needed something else. I’m 6’7″ and the weight did come off.

        • Donna

          Bruce, that is great you didn’t gain any weight. Maybe you’re younger than my husband then? He’s 66 now and maybe the metabolism isn’t what it used to be. (He was 6′ 7″ too! But he has shrunk nearly an inch…..)I can’t really understand why he gained a bit, other than we don’t usually drink except when we go out to dinner and he likes beer, while I drink wine.. I’m not talking big amounts 1 or 2 drinks per day for him, a glass of wine, for me. I did wear a pedometer because I do believe the more you move your body, the better for weight control, even though many people on here are happy to say they do not exercise.

          In any event, he is rapidly taking off any pounds he gained because I only cook Wheat Belly appropriate meals at home for dinner!

          I guess some people can eat more carbs, breads in Europe, and get away with it, but I had no desire to mess with the best thing that’s happened to me in decades, health-wise!

          • Bruce

            A little younger then your husband, but not much. I’m 59 now and the Germany trip was 6 years ago. I think the activity was the main helper in the weight loss. Our German friends would blame their weight gain on “sweetys”. So I think keeping sugars away is a good idea in any diet.
            Of course the weight came back on after returning home. Am working the WB diet now, but it is still a slow go for me.

  15. Amanda

    I’m sorry about what I’m going to say but it sounds like a lot of you are still highly ADDICTED to wheat, you don’t want to let it go, that staff is so powerful, just like crack…yuck

    • GaryM

      So true. Just say no! People think “well, I’ll just have this kind, or that kind, or eat it only on Sundays, or if I mix it with X or Y” or some other controlling ritual like the alcoholic who “waits untile after 5pm.” You may think you feel fine, but there is crap going on on the inside. Why bother!

  16. kevin

    There are plenty of obese people in France – I live here.
    True, there are far fewer obese people here than in the UK or USA, but industrial rubbish is moving towards domination in the supermarkets.

    • James

      I can confirm that since I grew up there, left the country in 1997 but do come back at least once a year. The “old” ways are quickly vanishing and even though many French people complain about the “invading” culture and presence from North-Africans and other folks from Arabic descent, they are not fully aware that France has been culturally colonized and utterly dominated by the US, a process that got into full gears during the last 20 years and manifests itself in the daily work schedules, food types and nutritional habits, language changes, urban plannings, arts and entertainments, etc. It is a little sad to see such blindness but that’s how it is now.

      Since going wheat, grain and sugar free, I have not yet traveled there. But from my experience of the country, it is VERY easy to have a more “primal” diet in France, especially one based on animal foods since most restaurants proposed a meat or fish dish with some side veggies. A few years back, my wife was a bit sad that she could not find more vegetarian restaurants easily but today, we think different because we adopted a more “primal” lifestyle and if / when we’re hungry, we feel like some good grass fed chunk of meat or wild fish cooked in tons of butter, how could we be sad about it ? :)

  17. Rachel

    I’m an American who’s lived in Europe for almost 5 years (2 1/2 years in the UK, now over 2 years in Italy). The guest-blogger, Donna, is exactly right – you can easily be wheat-free over here.

    About some of the other comments above, I’d like to throw in my two cents’ worth :) …

    There are certainly overweight people here, but there’s no comparison to the U.S. I have never seen a Honey-Boo-Boo type kid (or mother) in Italy (did see some in the UK, but still not on the order of magnitude we have back home). But this very visible and definitely difference is not because of WHAT they’re eating, it’s how much. Italians eat pasta every day and yet you absolutely do not see the kind of obesity here that you do in America (and if you have only been to Florence and Rome, and are sure you saw plenty of obesity, remember those are huge tourist cities and if you pay close attention to the obese people you see there, you’ll find they’ll generally be speaking English, with either American and British accents). So I have to honestly say that I really disagree with the idea that there is just as much “wheat belly” here – there simply isn’t.

    I’m convinced this is partly because people walk a lot more (which is partly because they’re mostly in cities and partly because gas is $10 per gallon, ugh) , but also, and far more importantly, a plate of spaghetti in Italy is about a third the size of a plate of spaghetti in the U.S., and there is no giant basket of butter-drenched garlic bread as an appetizer (in fact there is no butter-garlic bread at all, that’s an American invention – a wonderful, delicious one that I desperately miss, heh). Desserts also are significantly smaller – Europeans would be shocked if you set in front of them some of the abominations we Americans call desserts :)

    None of this makes Europeans smarter, better, or more civilized than us, oh trust me it doesn’t – it’s simply habit and culture and, never forget…MONEY. Everything costs at least twice as much here. I spend 150 euro a week (almost $200) buying fresh whole foods for me and my husband, who are both small/normal-weight people, and I cook every single meal from scratch, and yet our grocery bill is a lot more than it ever was in the U.S. Also, where I live in Turin, a city of over a million people, there are exactly four McDonald’s…and that’s it for fast food. Literally. Unless you count all the little kebab stands, but even there, the biggest meal you can buy is half the size of the biggest meal you’d get at a Burger King in Texas, and yet it still costs twice as much when you convert to dollars.

    In other words, Italians would go broke trying to eat enough to become morbidly obese, which can be done so very very cheaply in the U.S., plus it is not logistically convenient or even possible to chow down on fast food here because it straight-up doesn’t exist, and so…they don’t eat as much or as unhealthfully. Again I say this is NOT because they’re smarter or have inherently better “taste” in cuisine, just as, contrary to the belief of certain Europeans, it’s not evidence of some inherent American stupidity that so much more food, and more processed food, is consumed in the U.S.. It’s just that humans react to their environment and to costs, and they form habits over many generations based on those factors, and different results occur.

    One other thing, for those that wonder about a trip to Italy, the Italians are very much into the gluten-free thing. You’ll find many restaurants that advertise gluten-free pastas on their menus, and there are entire sections at the grocery store for it. My Italian friends tell me that children are routinely tested for gluten intolerance by the age of 5. Also, I’ve discovered that pasta is not nearly as important a part of Italian cuisine as I’d always thought. It’s just one course, usually a small first course, that you can skip entirely because a genuine Italian meal includes a second course, which is meat and/or vegetables. I’ve had no problem being completely wheat-free while living here (when I want to be – I do still eat some pasta and pizza, just for the experience, and because it doesn’t make me sick).

    One last thing, about seeing Italians in Italy eating individual 12-inch pizzas, this is true, but it should be pointed out that these pizzas are paper-thin and generally only have a few ingredients on them. There is no such thing as “meat-lovers” or “thick crust” pizza here. :)

    There’s also no decent Mexican food but I won’t start on that because it just makes me cry. lol

    • Bruce

      This is what I was talking about in my above post. I was in Northern Italy about 20 years ago, and discovered that they eat very little pasta. The meat was very good as was the fish. Usually a veg with the meat. Dessert was usually smaller then what we are used to, and way less sweet. As in our visit to Germany, lots of walking, very little snacking as it is not available everywhere like here, and enjoying a plate of food, as opposed to a heaping mound of food that we expect at a restaurant here.

    • Neicee

      Rachel, wonderful information. Thank you, and a question? Can you tell if the pattern for what overweight issues there are if it’s tied to socio economic conditions as is the case here? I see more and more recent immigrants here that within 5 yrs. or so have ballooned to obesity levels. They can’t seem to get enough? Within certain populations I see high usage of food stamps, which seems to follow the predictions that mostly fat/obese people are poor? The old Italian/Sicilian groups I grew up with in the SF Bay Area were not overweight until old age. Now, just like everyone else they’re all needing a return to their dietary roots. The Asian groups are now mixed here, depending on which paths they chose to follow – fast food, microwaved dinners, and lots of sugar or the tried and true way of eating lots of veggies/seafood w/rice. Every ethnic group here has been a target for the SAD diet and resulting in Big Pharma getting rich.

    • Donna

      Rachel, yes, the pizzas had very thin crusts! What a great post you wrote. I did want to point one thing out, though. I definitely was looking at groups of Italian school children when I mentioned many of them looked overweight. These were not tourists, but local kids on a field trip. Now, I cannot generalize for an entire country and only mentioned it because our tour guide said that there is currently an epidemic of obesity in Italy. It might not be as prevalent or severe as in America, but it seems to be a growing trend, at least according to her.

      I did see the multiple courses on every menu with pasta as it’s own course. The waiters thought I was very weird because sometimes I would order a plate of grilled vegetables as my appetizer (it wasn’t listed under appetizer or first course).

      I would still say that wheat is wheat and there are components in it that are unhealthy, whether you live in American or Italy. It causes undesirable responses in your body and some of the effects might not be apparent for years. My 85-year-old mother eats very small portions and is not overweight by any means, but she is full of inflammation. I have no problem avoiding wheat entirely. As soon as I quit eating it, my body aches (and I felt like I was 85) have gone away entirely!

      Thanks for writing about your experiences! It’s one thing to travel to cities abroad and another thing to actually live there!

    • Dr. Davis

      Terrific insights, Rachel: Thanks for weighing in!

      In particular, I was unaware of the sharp price differential.

  18. Judith

    I have a question not really related to this European topic but haven’t figured out how to use this site effectively.
    I was impressed with the Fettucine Alfredo recipe with shiritake noodles. It will be a while before I will be near a whole foods to get some. In the meantime, I grow spaghetti squash and use that with its net carbs of 3.91 per 1/2 cup as a substitute. I think that will fit in nicely with the max 15 carbs per meal guideline because I never eat any veggie that has more than 10 total (meaning not net) carbs per meal as it is. I’m trying to get my brother and his wife convinced this is the way to go. When his A1c got up to 13, his doctor got his attention but I can guarantee he’s still eating pasta. At Christmas, I’m going to lay the Protein noodle lasagna on him to help get him to see the culinary light at the end of the tunnel. Brilliant to use chicken slices to sub for noodles. I also use small curd fat free cottage cheese as a sub for ricotta so all of that will work. That way I can “afford” the fat in the Italian sausage.
    I ordered Dana’s book, I’ve admired her and know her work is very high quality and dependable. Her book DOES have the net carbs info for each recipe on the Amazon “Look Inside” function.
    Final comment. I no longer use balsamic because of the sugars. And, since apple cider vinegar has been reported to help manage blood glucose better, in Ddiabetes Csare, I use that exclusively.

    • Deb

      If you have an Asian grocery store near you, they have Shiritaki noodles in the refrigerated section and fairly inexpensively.

  19. Cynthia

    I went on a hiking tour in France and Italy last fall for a week and had no problems avoiding wheat – I was worried that all the delicious bread options would be too difficult to pass up. No so. Every day each of us in the group would buy a picnic lunch for ourselves. I ate delicious cheese, sausage (though very salty), apples, plain yogurt, dark chocolate (85%) and nut mixes. In the evenings back in town, we’d eat at amazing local restaurants – I even managed to avoid eating a fondue by ordering a raclette dish instead – and I LOVE cheese fondue. the melted cheese over potatoes was to die for. All that hiking and fresh air and not a pound gained. Drank lots of wine too and never had a headache or feeling of a hangover (no sulfates?). It can be done!

    • Donna

      Great post! I am interested in the idea of sulfates in wine causing a hangover…In the states, I can easily feel hungover from just a few glasses of wine, whereas in France, I would wake up and feel completely normal. Interesting! Glad you stuck to avoiding wheat! It’s no great loss once you’re used to it and realize there are other delicious options!

  20. JillOz

    Hi Dr Davis,

    Just curious, lots of people have by now lost a lot of weight on the Wheat Belly way of eating.

    Has anyone written or asked about loose skin, or skin that has not shrunk along with their waistline?
    Because that can be an issue, especially on The Biggest Loser type of shows.

    • Barbara

      Good comment Jill! I was wondering about the same thing. The loose skin seems to be the only drawback in my 5 months on WB diet. So far, I have lost 25 lbs. and feel wonderful. Now that the weather is nicer, I have been walking at least 1 mile per day and using weight exercises on my arms to “sculpt” them. Facial and neck skin need some shrinking too!

      Does anyone have any additional suggestions? Seems a shame to have gotten so many positive results only to look much older because of sagging skin. While my skin is much softer and has good color, it is the wrinkles and sagging that I want to help diminish ASAP!

      Am I not drinking enough water? Am I just impatient waiting for the skin to tighten?

      • HS4

        I don’t know how well this works but you might want to look into facial acupressure. It can tighten facial muscles, make eyes appear larger (for those that need this!), reduce lines, etc… There are books on the techniques and if you google the phrase you’ll get a lot of hits, some with DIY instructions. I’ve only just started a few exercises and while I can say my face looks a little better each time I do the exercises I don’t know yet how long lasting they are or if they’ll help the chin/neck area.

      • JillOz

        There are actually herbs to help this. Gotu Kola is one of them, but you’d have to consult a naturopath or do some Internet digging on how to use it correctly, I looked it up years ago, and don’t remember the link.

        Good luck, and if you find some info please share here!

        • JillOz

          Barbara, yoga is also very good for this sort of thing, there are postures suitable for all sorts of conditions.

    • Wheatless in Seattle

      Jill, thanks for the link. I loved the comment…:approach food the way Pope Gregory’s glutton would: with pleasure-seeking abandon”. That’s how I approach my meals these days! I’m appropriately hungry at mealtimes, but not in between, and I know that I’m preparing tasty, healthy meals for myself and friends. Who wouldn’t enjoy all the delicious food from WB Cookbook?!? I don’t really consider portion sizes anymore. I just savor my food until I’m full. I’m pretty sure my portion sizes are smaller these days because of all the fat.

      • JillOz

        Excellent!! So nice to be able to savour food.

        I’m finding my sensitivity to hunger and fullness is gradually increasing, which I’m pleased about. Hope it develops further!

        (Still a bit sugar-freaky!)

  21. Denise

    I have been curious about loose skin as well. The best way to tighten loose skin is to drink lots of water, moisturize your skin and do some sort of resistance training exercises. I am hoping all that helps me as well as others. :-)

    • JillOz

      Just cos it smells nice doesn’t mean you have to eat it!! Enjoy the fragrance as you would a perfume. Take a good hearty sniff and bask in it!

  22. rainbow

    What a great post! I’ve always been afraid to travel in Europe, because I’m gluten free, now following South Beach while gluten free (so similar to Wheat Belly…I just ignore the limitations on saturated fats!)…now I’m afraid no more! Thank you for a wonderful post.

  23. Hi wheat-free people .. I’m an acupuncturist in Corvallis Oregon, and I am avid in seeking gluten free alternatives & lifestyle. Diet is a huge concern and often overlooked when it comes to illness & disease, and I am just so delighted to have discovered this site! In regard to the above comments on what to do, to help tighten loose skin from excessive weightloss – acupuncture/pressure, massage, strength-training can have a significant effect. Also … The ageLoc Galvanic Body Spa by Nuskin is PHENOMENAL for addressing loose skin/cellulite issues. It isn’t sold in stores, but directly from the company through distributors. There by, creating a one-one communication and support system. I just wanted to share what I have found that works wonders! Here is a link – http://www.ondria.nsproducts.com/Ageloc-galvanic-body-spa. Good luck to all on this journey to health and wellness!

  24. Rebecca Blankinship

    First of all your recipes are much too complicated for a woman that must work 8-10 hours a day, and second the ingredients are way beyond my affordability. Can’t any diet not include so much work and so much cost?