Gluten Free: It’s Not a Diet

Gluten Free: It's Not a Diet

This article is from the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of The Wellness Advisor® magazine.
Subscribe to get the print edition here.

Gluten-free diets are all the rage. And if celebrity endorsements mean anything, then going against the grain will give you more energy and help you lose weight. But there’s more to gluten than meets the eye.

Gluten 101

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and therefore, in a number of foods, medicines, dietary supplements, and lip balms. In recent years, the increased incidence of Celiac disease combined with a surge in consumer awareness of Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity have resulted in an increased demand for gluten-free foods. With more gluten-free foods on store shelves, consumers are scratching their heads and wondering if they too should avoid gluten.

And, in a society that loves to place the blame on specific food ingredients, gluten has become the new bad kid on the block. What’s so bad about this protein? If you have Celiac disease, gluten causes an immune reaction that can damage or destroy the villi in your small intestine, leading to a number of symptoms and complications. The only treatment for Celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. In addition to Celiac disease, some people have gluten sensitivity – an intolerance to gluten that results in an adverse reaction.

Gluten-Free Weight Loss?

There is no scientific evidence indicating that gluten itself impacts weight in people who do not have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity (and actually, weight loss is a symptom of Celiac disease). So why are some people claiming that a gluten-free diet has helped them lose weight?

Wheat accounts for a large portion of the gluten we consume. And wheat is everywhere including in cookies, crackers, breads, cakes, dressings, and sauces. While there is no magic to avoiding gluten, cutting gluten out of your diet means no more cakes, cookies, and crackers; so you’ll cut down on your total calorie intake. In addition, for people who overeat, cutting calories and losing weight will make them feel better and more energetic. And sometimes, the easiest way for people to lose weight is to cut out certain foods. Doing so takes the guess work out of portion control and gives you an easy “out” if you are tempted by a delicious pasta dish drenched with cheese sauce.

Weight Loss Tips That Work

Since there is no magic to avoiding gluten, and a sandwich tastes better when you don’t have to take the bread off and eat it with a fork, why not incorporate proven weight loss strategies into your life? Doing so will give you the best of both worlds, and you’ll be more likely to stick with a program that doesn’t deprive you of your favorite foods.

Effective weight loss strategies:

Drink up. One recent study found that dieters who drank two 8-oz glasses of water before meals, three times a day, lost about five pounds more over a 12-week period than dieters who didn’t use this simple strategy.

Pump up the volume. Start your meals off with high volume foods including broth-based soup, vegetables or whole fruit. These foods will fill you up so you eat less at mealtime. Plus, you’ll get the added benefit of more fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Add protein to your diet. You’ll burn more calories digesting protein and it helps keep your hunger pangs at bay better than fats or carbohydrates. Plus, you’ll get the added benefit of hanging on to your metabolic machinery—your lean body mass—if you consume quality protein throughout the day. Aim for at least 20 grams at each main meal and incorporate protein-rich foods into your snacks as well.

Change your environment by making healthy foods convenient and visible, and less healthy foods inconvenient. Put cut-up vegetables and fruit at eye level in your refrigerator and cookies behind closed cabinet doors.

Choose smaller packages. We tend to pour more out of bigger bags, and while they cost less, is it really a value if you are getting more of something you don’t really need in the first place?

If you bite it, write it. Studies show that if you wait until later in the day to record everything you’ve eaten, your effort to record will have less of an effect on behavior change. If you write it as soon as you bite it, you’ll be more likely to say “Hey, no more, I think I’ve had enough”.

Lastly, stay positive. Research shows that people who believe they can do something and surround themselves with others who also believe they can do it, are more likely to achieve their goals. If you aren’t there yet, apply the old adage “fake it till you make it”. Tell yourself you can and will lose weight, always talk positively about your body and eventually you’ll start believing your words, and your thoughts will drive your success.

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Post Author

This post was written by Marie Spano who has written 7 posts on The Wellness Advisor.

Marie Spano is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and one of the leading sports nutrition experts in North America.  She has helped professional, Olympic and college athletes maximize their sports performance and extend their careers by integrating an individualized sports nutrition plan into their training program.

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2 Responses to “Gluten Free: It’s Not a Diet”

  1. Laree Bratz April 17, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    As usual, another great write up. Keep up the good work, we do all appreciate it even if we don’t always post comments to say so.

  2. The Wellness Advisor April 17, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Thanks Laree!