Another Lent has come and gone.

Although I can’t say it’s been cakewalk all the way, I can still affirm that, unlike last year, where I went on some some sort of a manic sugar eating craze as soon as it was over, this year has been an extremely positive and rewarding experience.

Much like my first ever Lent observance challenge, this one will have had a profound impact on my life. I will come out of it having made yet more permanent changes to my diet.

What was so different about this year’s challenge that made it so gratifying?

Well, instead of just plain ruling out certain foods and completely eliminate them from my usual diet, I challenged myself to find ways to REPLACE them with very similar ingredients, which led me to create an array of super exciting new recipes.

I actually made it FUN!

The rules, this year, were as follows:

  • No grains. Whatsoever. No exception. (see list here)
  • Any and all forms of sugar that aren’t from natural source (i.e. fruits) were prohibited. Even stevia, honey, molasses and maple syrup were not to be touched. The only exception to that rule was vanilla flavored protein powder, which contains stevia as a sweetener.
  • No red meat or poultry (fish and seafood were ok)
  • No alcohol. Again, no exceptions. No, not even for cooking… or baking. Well, ok,  there was this one tiny little exception. Pure vanilla extract would be made with alcohol. AND grains, for that matter. Still, I had to allow it. Had to.
  • Absolutely NO junk food, of course, including anything deep fried (yes, that also included sweet potatoes fries!)

While all these items were off limits, instead of just living with the interdiction and be frustrated, I found ways to work around it. Whenever I would get a craving for something “forbidden”, I would find a way to make it so that I could have it.

For instance, I had “chocolate cake” at least once a week, in the form of this Chocolate Buckwheat Cherry Instant Bake. I just left the agave nectar out, and frankly, it’s not even necessary…

I also had pancakes, only I made them grain and sugar free.

Oatmeal? Highly feasible. Just use quinoa instead of oats, add a little bit of amaranth: Craving satisfied!

I made decadent chocolate cookies, super delicious banana muffins and even a heavenly Apple Ring Cake.

Of course, I didn’t only eat dessert, breakfast and baked goods. I also had to cook dinner, sometimes! And cooking without grains got me to expand my horizons and really think outside the box…

That’s how I came up with these awesome Cauliflower Fritters and this “better than the real thing” Grain Free Tabouleh

Now that it’s over, I don’t feel the need to start eating grains again. In fact, I feel super good and don’t crave any of the foods that I had tossed aside for this challenge.

Does this mean I that I will never eat grains again? Absolutely not. I will still have them, in moderation. I won’t get out of my way to include them in my diet.

I decided to keep avoiding gluten for the next 6 months, just to see how my body will react. I think that eating SOME grains sometimes will help me monitor my body’s reactions better.

In fact, I did have grains, alcohol and refined sugar (too much of that, I admit) on Easter day, and felt really sick at night. I felt extremely bloated and tired.

I was also super swollen, so much so that I couldn’t even remove my rings anymore. My legs were definitely swollen too.  Hello water retention! Do grains cause water retention? My stupid pitting oedema condition sure was back in full force. Not what I would call agreeable.

In the end, I think that the way I handled this Lent observance challenge is exactly what made me succeed at adopting a healthy lifestyle for good in the first place: instead of plain ruling out certain foods, just work around the “interdiction”. Find better and healthier alternatives to satisfy your cravings. And have fun doing it.

And whatever you do, never go it 100% rigid. You have to allow some room to play!Just don’t look at it as you can never have cream cheese icing or mayonnaise ever again in your life. Just think of it as you won’t have it as often. It’ll only make you appreciate it all the more when you do get to have it!

Oh, before I go, I’m sure a lot of you are wondering…

Did I lose weight? Not that I know of. But I feel much lighter, much tighter, and much better! Plus, I now have a whole new world of recipe making to explore!

Like this Grain Free Asparagus and Cheese Quiche… Oh yeah… creating grain free dough and crust is my new addiction.

Stay tuned for that recipe. I promise I won’t keep you waiting too long!