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.
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.
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.
- 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!