Have you heard about the gluten-free diet? Silly question. Of course you have. Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past couple of years, you absolutely know about it and probably know many people who are on it, tried it or are saying they want to. Maybe you’ve even tried going gluten free yourself.
One of the reasons you hear for trying a gluten-free diet is weight loss. With wildly popular books like Wheat Belly on the market, many people believe that going gluten free will make them lose weight and lose their bulging bellies. Is it true? Is this the miracle weight loss remedy that the media, your friends or family are making it out to be?
My Friend (relative, coworker…) Went On A Gluten-Free Diet And Lost Weight. Should I Try It?
What a good question! Should you try a gluten free diet to see if it’ll make you lose weight? Here’s the issue, as I see it. Gluten, in the form that most people are eating it today, is found in some of our society’s worst, most health-destroying foods. Think about it. What are the things MOST people are eating today that contain gluten?
Cookies, cakes, muffins, bagels, donuts
White flour cereals, pasta and breads
Now, what usually comes along with these foods besides the refined wheat? Loads of fat and/or refined sugar.The majority of people today get the bulk of their calories from processed foods made primarily of refined white flour, sugar and fat. The rest of the calories in the Standard American Diet typically come from animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, which most of the time comes along with refined white flour products (pizza crust, burger/hot dog buns, egg McMuffins or bagel sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, meat and cheese filled sandwiches, breaded fried foods like chicken fingers, onion rings, fried fish, and so on).
When people go on a gluten-free diet, what do they do? Usually one of two things.
- They cut out all the gluten containing foods they were eating before and just eat more of the remaining meat, eggs and dairy and may add more vegetables to fill the plate.
- They cut out all the gluten containing processed foods they were eating before and replace them with processed
gluten freeversions of those same unhealthy foods.
Now I will suggest that the people who are losing weight by going gluten free are losing weight NOT because they cut out gluten, but because they are eliminating a lot of calories from not only refined flours but also the refined sugar and fat that usually goes along with it!. They end up consuming less calories and as a result lose weight. So did the gluten, per se, have anything to do with the weight loss? Probably not.
Going on a 100% gluten free diet in today’s food culture is difficult. Gluten containing foods are EVERYWHERE. What often happens to people when they adopt this diet to try and lose weight is they get stress and an empty wallet in return. They get enticed by that expensive gluten-free foods isle in the grocery store. And even if they do end up losing weight, they generally don’t end up with much better health.
Is It Really A Gluten-Free Or A Low-Carb Diet?
Whether it’s intentional or not, the gluten-free diet often ends up looking just like the high protein-low/no carb diet.
So does the weight loss come from the gluten or the lack of carbs? A low/no carb diet does make people lose weight, no doubt about it. Why? Because it is often a low calorie diet. When you drastically reduce or eliminate one of the macro (calorie containing) nutrient groups (there’s only 3 – protein, fat and carbs) you often reduce the calories you are consuming. You force the body to use fat as fuel, which it doesn’t do efficiently and as a result undesirable side effects occur (like constipation and bad breath). Your diet still contains loads of saturated and trans fats and cholesterol, and way more protein than the body needs, which stresses the liver and kidneys.
Can you eat a gluten-free diet that is 100% health promoting? Absolutely. Learn about healthy gluten free eating here. It looks like a slightly modified whole food, plant based diet. And if you have known health issues that are affected by gluten (such as Celiac, Crohn’s disease, colitis and IBS) then removing gluten from your diet might be an important first step. I would argue, however, that for weight loss specifically, instead of jumping right to gluten free, you try this first. If after adopting that kind of diet, you still are experiencing health issues, removing gluten just might be the necessary next step.