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Weight Management and Celiac Disease: Wrapping it Up, Gluten Free Style

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There’s been a lot of ground covered over the past couple of weeks regarding managing your weight on a gluten free diet, and how celiac disease can affect weight control.

In Part 1 of this series, I revealed how I was a cheater at the gluten free diet. In Part 2, we covered some physical and psychological reasons why you may experience weight loss or gain with celiac disease/gluten intolerance. In Part 3, we reviewed some action you can take to lose weight/fat if you choose, on a gluten free diet. In Part 4, we covered strategies for gaining weight in a controlled and healthy manner if gaining is your goal.

The upshot of all this is that whatever you goal is as far as weight and/or body composition, you can achieve it.

And really, achieving those goals in within reach for all of us.

You choose a goal, make a plan to get there, and execute.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

In reality, it may not be quite that easy.

But it doesn’t have to be terribly hard. You can achieve what you set your mind to. You choose a goal-whether it’s to reach the top of those stairs, lose 20 pounds, fit into a smaller pant size, do 10 push ups, squat a bunch of weight, or run a marathon. The only thing stopping you-is you.

We need to get out of our own way. To set aside the preconceptions of our abilities. To shatter the expectations that others may have of us.

For today-choose one thing. Make that one thing your goal for this week. I was talking to a client yesterday, and her goal this week is to bump up her water intake to 3-4 liters a day. That’s a great goal-measurable, achievable and realistic. When that one thing becomes habit and no longer takes work, then you set a new goal. With time, all of these things add up, and you’ve changed your lifestyle in a maintainable way.

In my post on the gluten free diet as a lifestyle, I talked about the definition of “diet” and how it may be more beneficial to wrap our heads around the word/concept in a different way. This is your life. Live in it now, not with “if only” and “should have”.

What’s your goal for this week? Don’t be shy-post it below! When you put it in black and white, it becomes real. Go get ’em!

Weighty Matters: How to Gain Weight on a Gluten Free Diet

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Whew! Part 4 is here.

As a quick recap-In Part 1 of this series, I revealed how I was a cheater at the gluten free diet. In Part 2, we covered some physical and psychological reasons why you may experience weight loss or gain with celiac disease/gluten intolerance. In Part 3, we reviewed some action you can take to lose weight/fat if you choose, on a gluten free diet. Finally now in Part 4, we’ll tackle the issue of gaining weight.

For many, celiac disease or gluten intolerance can cause an unplanned and unwelcome loss of weight. The difficulties in absorbing nutrients from the small intestine can lead to malnutrition, even with the best of diets. After a gluten free diet has been initiated, the healing process can begin. However, this may take some time, and will be dependent on many factors, including the severity of the intestinal damage.

Eliminating gluten, and being very careful and aware of cross contact and hidden gluten is the first step. If gluten is not eliminated the damage will continue and no healing, and therefore absorption, can occur.

Keep in mind that other food intolerances may be found in conjunction with celiac disease. Lactose intolerance is very common. Personally I am intolerant to soy. Shelly Stuart mentioned her corn intolerance in Part 3 of our podcast series. (She also touched on other issues that may cause continued intestinal distress after eliminating gluten such as parasites-obviously we recommend you follow up with your doctor for a comprehensive review of what may be causing continued symptoms.) Definitely check in with your doctor to make sure there are no other problems that may be causing you to have continued impaired absorption.

You can also ask your doctor about supplements that may speed along the healing process. L-glutamine and probiotics are worth looking into. I think a good gluten free multivitamin is never a bad idea, and talk to your doctor about fish oil. Of course-the most important thing is making sure you are getting optimal nutrition from your food.

In gaining weight, we are looking to add calories that will give great nutritional value as well. After all, you wouldn’t run a high-end Ferrari with low test gas, would you? So don’t expect your body to be able to give you healing oomph! and performance on crappy food. We’re talking about lots of good food.

Here’s 5 steps to help bring your weight back up where you want it:

1) Start your day with a good breakfast.

No, I’m not your mother, but I sound like it don’t I? Seriously though, breakfast is the most abused meal. People forget about it all the time, or have a coffee and call it good. That won’t work. Prepare ideas ahead of time so you can get going with minimal time and effort. Here’s my egg bake that I cook up on Sunday and have for the week. And here’s a portable “pancake”. Heck, some chicken if that’s how you roll. Greek yogurt, string cheese, fruit, smoothies (Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free has an awesome Green Smoothie recipe-I’d add some protein like hard boiled eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese or protein powder and you’re good.) Shelly Case just wrote an article on breakfast foods on the Be Free For Me blog. My recommendation is that you try to have a decent protein, carbohydrate and fat source in the meal, which brings me to….

2) Have a decent protein, carbohydrate and fat source in each meal.

Now don’t throw up your hands, I saw that!
This is not rocket surgery.
Once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy to do, and doesn’t take extra time at all. Here’s an example:

For breakfast, I have some of my egg bake casserole (protein from egg whites, veggies from spinach and tomato), some gluten free oatmeal (carbohydrate) with berries (fruit carbohydrate) and slivered almonds or flaxseed (healthy fat.) If you’d like listings of more ideas in each of those categories, here’s a list of my top 10 gluten free carbohydrate sources.

3) Eat every few hours.

There’s no magic to this, but if you are trying to get in extra calories it’s often easier to split them up over the day, rather than stuffing yourself like Thanksgiving turkey. And instead of stuffing yourself you can…

4) Sneak in extra calories.

Eat calorically dense food that doesn’t make you full. Examples of this would be olive/coconut/your favorite oil, nut butters, and nuts or seeds. Basically healthy fats-they pack more calories per gram than your carbs and protein. If you can’t do nuts, check into sunflower or pumpkin seeds. I haven’t tried it yet, but Shirley over at Gluten Free Easily has used Sunbutter in some of her recipes. It’s a sunflower seed butter.

Along with that, drink some calories. The exact OPPOSITE of what I wrote in the article about losing weight. Protein shakes with some added fats (chocolate protein and peanut/almond butter shake, anyone?), milk, almond milk, hemp milk, etc and so on. If you need to, a couple shakes or smoothies a day would be a fine way to get in extra nutrition. In no way did I look at all of these to see if they were gluten free, but Smoothierecipes.net has an extensive database of drinkable calories.

5) Like a good Scout, always be prepared.

Never let yourself get hungry. Never let yourself be without something gluten free and good to eat. Here’s my top 10 portable snack foods. Also consider premade or homemade protein bars/brownies. Larabars are low on protein, but tasty as heck. Zing Bars are a staple in my house for traveling.

Regardless though, my go-to-fail-safe-can-even-take-it-on-a-plane-without-getting-patted-down is a empty shaker bottle with a scoop or two of protein powder, and a bag of nuts. My friend Kim also just reviewed some gluten free jerky I’m going to have to try, although it’s more stinky than protein powder and nuts.

Keep something with you-in your car, your purse, your pocket. (Hey-is that a Zing bar in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?)

So there are some ideas to get you started! Keep in mind-as your gut heals, you will begin absorbing more nutrients. When you heal, you may find yourself gaining weight much faster than you intended, so keep reassessing where you are and where you want to be.

What are your thoughts? What have you done to put weight back on? What challenges have you faced? Share them below and let’s help each other out!

Weighty Matters: How to Lose Weight on a Gluten Free Diet

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Weight issues. You see it everywhere. Commercials on TV “Eat pizza and still lose weight!”, in magazines “take this pill and lose fat effortlessly!”, and in life-someone telling you about the “detox and I lost 20 pounds!” The upshot is that any weight lost with a “get thin quick” scheme will be rapidly regained. Sometimes even more fat/weight is gained then was originally lost.

In Part 1 of this series, I revealed how I was a cheater at the gluten free diet. In Part 2, we covered some physical and psychological reasons why you may experience weight loss or gain with celiac disease/gluten intolerance. Some of those factors are out of your control-others are within your control. In this part, we’re focusing on actionable steps you can take. In other words-what can you do about it?

In the celiac world, I’ve seen many posts on forums about people who have gained weight-either before going gluten free or after. It’s not unique to the celiac/gluten intolerant population by any stretch-a review in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010 reported that 68% of the United States population is overweight or obese. That’s completely staggering. The health consequences can not be overstated. I touched on them briefly in my post on Gratitude, Awareness and Prevention.

Losing fat isn’t complicated, but it’s also not easy.

Regarding celiac disease/gluten intolerance and weight, although there are some specific areas that deserve special consideration, there is one overriding principle that always is the primary issue. Calories. Doesn’t matter how you count it, track it, or measure it, calories are the most important factor when it comes to weight management. Of course the quality of calories matters, but the number one factor is amount. Amount of energy you are taking in, versus amount of energy you output through activity. Every single successful weight loss program has people tracking calories in some way, even if it’s a very subtle way of doing it.

  • Counting points? Yup, that’s a way of tracking calories.
  • Counting portions? Si, senor.
  • Counting macros? (Grams of protein/carb/fat) Oui!
  • Using a portion “plate“? Yes ma’am! (By the way-these things are way cool and I wish I had come up with them. Elegance in simplicity.)
  • Measuring/weighing your food and keeping a daily log? Of course-and my personal favorite because it’s the most precise. (I like precise. As precise as possible.)
  • Eating your protein and veggies first, and then if you have room adding something else? Indirectly that will reduce your caloric intake.
  • (Ok-there’s one method that doesn’t really count, and that’s intuitive eating, and will be the subject of another article.)

The major principle to notice is that these methods all have you tracking your intake, in some way. Some just “trick” you into doing it and may be more appealing to your individual personality.

Caveat

One caveat-all these are estimates at best. Without blowing up our food in a calorimeter before we eat it we don’t know exactly, and there’s always some error. But it’s a great starting point. With everything, you start somewhere, track it so you know what you’ve done, and then you can adjust based on your personal real world results.

Doing some kind of tracking of calories is especially important when you have a disruption of the normal function of the gut, as is the case with celiac. As I touched on in Part 2, there are important hormones involved in appetite, hunger and satiety (the sense of being full) which can be affected by the gut not functioning normally. With this, our signals of hunger and fullness may not correlate to what we need to maintain our weight.

It’s like this-for someone with a normally functioning intestinal system and normal weight, the senses of hunger and fullness can fairly accurately help someone maintain their weight. (If they listen to these cues, which again goes beyond the scope of this particular article.) If these signals are off, the sense of hunger may be higher. I have seen people commenting very frequently how hungry they feel all the time, especially when first diagnosed as the gut is still healing.

Math vs. feeling

If we can’t depend on our hunger/fullness, we need to do the math. And truly, relying on hunger cues to maintain your weight is very reasonable, but much less so when you are losing weight. Losing fat means eating less than you need to maintain your current status, which logically means you will feel hungry sometimes. And that’s OK, and should be expected, and not freaked out over. If you want to lose fat, and expect to never feel hungry, you’re wrong. Despite what any magic pill may want you to believe.

Keeping track of what you eat doesn’t have to be complicated. After a little while, measuring and tracking becomes second nature, and not hard at all.

Here 5 steps you can take NOW to make it easier to control your weight.

1) Don’t drink any calories.

This sounds so simplistic, but it’s completely true. A 500 calorie coffee drink will do very little to nothing to make you feel full, and give you a whole bunch of nutritionally empty sugar calories. Same goes for juice. Yes, juices have some redeeming qualities, but you are much better served by eating a piece of fruit. More fiber, more satiety, chewing, and the vitamins. Just chew. (Hmmm…”Just Chew” T-shirts?)

2) Add a vegetable to each meal.

Many of us don’t come close to getting in 7-9 servings of vegetables a day. The good news is that a serving of vegetables isn’t very much-half a cup in most instances. You can put that away easily, and it will help you feel full. I do quite like the idea of adding food in the form of veggies when you are dieting because it minimizes the sense of deprivation-you’re ADDING food!

Yes, it’s nutritionally dense, low calorie food, but it makes your plate look full. That’s a win/win. Perception is reality, peeps. If you think you don’t like veggies, try some new ones. Eat the ones you like. Don’t cook them into a mushy mess. Eat them first to “get them out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of my meal” like my fiance. I don’t care. Just eat them. Fruits too-but focus on veggies first.

3) If you feel hungry, drink a big glass of water and then reassess.

Many times we mistake hunger for thirst. Give it a try next time. I’m also a big fan of brewed teas-they give a lot of flavor, polyphenols and antioxidents, and no calories. (Don’t add a bunch of sweetner-defeats the purpose.)

4) If you have a snack, include a protein source and a veggie.

Examples:

  • Deli turkey (Boar’s Head is gluten free) wrapped around baby carrots-makes you eat slowly also.
  • Broccoli or sliced peppers dipped into cottage cheese or greek yogurt (you can add seasoning as well to your dip)
  • String cheese and snap peas. Combines the crunchy and creamy cravings.
  • Here’s a list of my Top 10 portable gluten free snacks

5) Move more.

All the little things really do add up. Take the stairs, park farther away, take a lunchtime walk at work, walk the dog, window shop, just move. Organized exercise is great-but it doesn’t make up for 12-15 hours sitting on your duff. Move.

If you are saying “But I don’t want to keep track of what I eat” I have this to say to you.

How much do you want to lose fat and be healthier?

When you make that decision, you make time, and make the effort to do what is important to you.

What are your thoughts? What have you done to make weight control easier? What challenges have you faced? Share them below and let’s help each other out!