Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gluten Free Diet = Weight Loss? is how the typical conversation goes when I tell people I have Celiac Disease:

Me: "Oh (fill in name here). I would love to eat your delicious looking (insert gluten containing food here), but I have I Celiac Disease and I can't eat it. But thank you."
The Gluten Eater (or GE): "What's Celiac Disease?"
Me: "Celiac Disease means I'm allergic to gluten...." (usually interrupted)
GE: "Oh, I've heard of that. I heard (insert celebrity here)/or I have a friend who went on that diet. They lost a TON of weight when they went on The Gluten Free Diet. I've been thinking about it. What do you think? Should I go on that diet."
Me: "Do you have Celiac Disease or are you gluten sensitive?"
GE: "No, I just heard you can lose a lot of weight on that diet."

And that is when I usually when I burst their bubble. I explain to, what seems like everyone and their brother lately, that "The Gluten Free Diet", like most people refer to it, is not like the Cabbage soup diet, the Master Cleanse or the silly Grapefruit Diet that all of our mom's were on at one time or another during our childhood. It is not a fad diet that will cause you to lose mass amounts of weight OR the "magic pill" of weight loss. Eating gluten free is something that yes, can be healthy, but is extremely hard to adhere to and should only be followed by those who have Celiac Disease or are gluten sensitive. Eating Naturally G-Free cuts out most processed foods and relies mainly on fruits, veggies, fresh lean meats and quality low processed whole grains like oats, quinoa and brown rice. Yep - that is really healthy and most people who have went from a unhealthy diet to the Naturally G-Free diet will lose weight. BUT (there always is a big but), when you add in all the packaged and convenience gluten free foods like pizzas, chips and frozen dinners, the G-Free diet and be very unhealthy. If a person were to just cut out processed and fast foods in a non gluten free diet, and eat more fruits, veggies, lean meats and whole grains they could lose weight too.

As early as 20 years ago, Celiac Disease was basically unknown. Thousands of people were misdiagnosed with IBS, Chron's Disease and other digestive diseases. Those who were correctly diagnosed had to struggle to pave the way for today's Celiacs so we could navigate the grocery stores and find gluten free foods without reading EVERY food label before it went into the cart. When I was diagnosed 10 years ago, I basically had a panic attack every time I went into the grocery store. If I wanted to try new foods, I had to bring a list that my doctor gave me of all the 18 letter words that contained gluten. There were no cute little packages screaming "GLUTEN FREE" at me. I had to do all the research....and it sucked. After an hour in the store and 3 lonely products in my cart, I would just go back to the foods I knew were safe and grudgingly looked forward to eating the same thing again that week, and again and again! And for a foodie like me that was very discouraging. I wanted to eat food just like everyone else dammit! But it was so time consuming to find NEW foods that were safe for me. 

Skip ahead to 2011. You can't go anywhere without hearing about Gwyneth Paltrow's gluten free cleanse and seeing hundreds of packaged foods exclaiming that they are now gluten free. 1 in 133 people in the US has Celiac Disease. We are a huge population with a pretty serious issue. If we eat the wrong foods or eat foods that are labeled incorrectly, we pay for it for days. Celiac's got sick of being sick and demanded that companies label their foods as gluten free or containing gluten. When companies started listening, people who had no idea what gluten is started paying attention. "Well if they are taking gluten out of a product, then it must be bad for me." To Google they'd go and see all the symptoms that Celiac Diease can have. Stomach issues, gas, bloating, headaches, fatigue. "I have all those symptoms. I must have Celiac Disease. I am going to stop eating gluten." Nevermind the fact that they are eating fast food multiple times a week, living on soda and not getting enough sleep or exercise. Yep - you're HAS TO BE Celiac Disease that is causing you to feel like crap. And don't go to a doctor to confirm your diagnosis. Start a drastic diet instead. (That was a joke - please don't comment that I am being sarcastic). Combine that with Elizabeth Hasselbeck writing The G-Free diet, stating that after a drink she doesn't take her Celaic Disease seriously and endlessly forcing the fact that she lost all her baby weight by being g-free down everyone's throats....And the Gluten Free Diet "fad" was born. UGH!!!!

Seriously...following a gluten free diet can be very healthy, if you have Celiac Disease and work with your doctor to make sure you are getting all of the Vitamins and Nutrients that you can't get in the foods that you can't eat. If you are just doing the gluten free "thing" to lose weight, I'd highly suggest trying a different approach. If you eat gluten free and don't know what you are doing, you can end up deficient in many different vital nutrients that your body needs. Instead eat a healthy diet of fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains and exercise and you'll lose weight - guaranteed!