The Knee Bores and the Cake Addict: A tale of comeuppance

February 19, 2016 at 3:51 am | Posted in gluten-free cookbooks | Leave a comment
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William Davis: forthright and funny and convincing

In the 1990s I was a Research Assistant at the Australian National University. It was a time when some of my older male friends and ex-boyfriends began hitting their forties and whenever I ran into one of them he would start talking about his knee problems from old Rugby injuries. This happened several times within about a month. It was weird. And boring.

I’d be on my way to Chifley Library or The Gods café when suddenly I’d be waylaid by the long, tedious tale of the knee injury, the different methods of diminishing the pain, and the impending surgery. They would be wearing some kind of knee bandage in blue or red. They would go on and on and on about their knees. With youthful callousness I called them (to my girlfriends later) The Knee Bores.

You will be happy to hear, Dear Reader, that Fate delivered me the comeuppance I deserved for being so callous and superior. In due course, albeit in my fifties not forties, I too developed a knee problem, even though I had never played Rugby.

Luckily for me, the Physiotherapist to the Royal Family, Sarah Key, rescued me. I heard her on the radio talking about walking barefoot along Prince Charles’ back. That got my attention. I went straight to the Uni. Coop Bookshop (at the University of Canberra where I was by then) and bought her book, The Body in Action (Allen & Unwin, 2006).

And I can tell you: if you do her exercises, you can save yourself much indignity, pain and expense. I did them, and I didn’t have to have surgery and didn’t have to endure wearing an unsightly, brightly coloured knee bandage either. You can see her videos etc on And her simple exercises work for all the joints and for the back.

You’d think I’d have learnt my lesson about feeling superior to people like Knee Bores. But some years passed and I forgot that lesson. For instance, could I ever become one of those tedious people who rabbit on about being gluten-free, can’t eat anything interesting, and bore everyone about it in restaurants? Not a chance! Or so I thought.

Then I read William Davis’ Wheat Belly: Lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health (Rodale, 2011). Could this be of relevance to me? Surely not!

I found that compared with David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain (see 4 Jan. 2016 blog) William Davis’ Wheat Belly explains the science of wheat and why it is so bad for us more clearly and convincingly. William Davis is a more engaging writer. He’s forthright and funny. He advises ‘a radical wheat-ectomy’. His findings got to me in a way Perlmutter’s didn’t.

When I read Perlmutter’s Grain Brain, I merely wondered idly if he was right? And I hoped he wasn’t – because if he were, this would put a serious dent in my cake-making reputation. A reputation that is formidable, if I do say so, myself. (See, e.g., 5 Jan. 2014 blog.) I was able to put his book out of my mind and continue eating whatever I wanted.

But when I read William Davis’ Wheat Belly, I was compelled to think back to particular times when I felt bloated and lethargic and no longer fitted into my jeans. Like right after trips to the coast after loading up with freshly baked bread and pastries at Dojo Bakery in the picturesque country town of Braidwood, near Canberra, and essentially eating wheat for breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks and dinner.

I don’t usually go overboard like this but there’s nothing like looking out at the Pacific Ocean while eating a meal, often followed by a walk to The Muffin Shop, which of course involves eating yet more wheat and gluten.

Okay, I thought: I’ll give it a try. Nothing to lose except a bloated tummy. I stopped eating wheat and in five days lost two and a half inches (nearly seven centimetres to you young metric people) off my waist. That amount is not possible unless it was bloating because of some substance and in this case it really does seem to be wheat. This is not good news to a bon viveur like me.

But it must reluctantly be admitted that I feel spectacularly well without the wheat. I borrowed William Davis’ Wheat Belly Cook Book from the library and made the basic bread recipe (he replaces the flour with ground almonds, chickpea flour and linseeds – I know – ugh! and yawn! How boring). But it tastes good. No, not as good as Dojo sourdough or multigrain (and don’t get me started on their pain chocolats or salted caramel slices) but delicious after not having any bread for a week or so.

Davis claims that gluten and wheat both have addictive properties due to the exorphins and that gluten and wheat are ‘associated with dementia and brain dysfunction, triggering an immune response that infiltrates memory and mind’ (p. 173). Okay, ‘associated with’ is not causation and research is still preliminary, but it makes me stop and think. Maybe there are more reasons to keep off the wheat than just to fit into my jeans (size 12, if you want to know; size 10 in the US).

So these experiences, analysed in the light of Davis’ research, led me to the unhappy conclusion that all this bad news does seem to be relevant to me, along with the sobering reminder that there is no reason to feel any equanimity about being free of the chance of being one of those gluten-free bores.

And as if the above isn’t bad enough news, Davis believes that most manufactured gluten free foods are also bad for us since they are usually made with cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch or tapioca starch, in other words: carbohydrates, which raise the blood sugar too fast, leading to a cascade of detrimental reactions in the body.

So you have to read labels carefully. I already do that for sugar and vegetable oil and chemicals, so by the time I eliminate gluten and wheat and all those starches as well, I won’t have to go to the supermarket at all except to buy soap and matches.

Will I be like that acquaintance who for years had that terrible disease where you’re tired all the time? (Another friend’s husband calls it Completely Buggered Syndrome.) The person who had it had eliminated so many foods over such a long period that I thought she had probably recovered from the disease long ago and was now suffering from malnutrition.

I won’t be like that, and I promise not to rabbit on about being gluten-free or be boring in restaurants. And the good news is: no wheat, gluten, sugars (see David Gillespie and Sarah Wilson) or vegetable oil in most alcohol!

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