Why Gluten Free Is Not A Fad Diet

Gluten Free Not Sugar Free

Gluten Free Not Calorie Free

Dear random people who are considering going gluten free in order to lose weight,

A gluten free diet is not a fad diet, or at least it shouldn’t be. Those of us who are celiac, gluten intolerant or required to remove gluten from our diets for other serious reasons do so because we have to. As a celiac, if I eat gluten I am going to become very sick pretty quickly. I’ll have terrible stomach pains, I’ll feel bloated, I”ll have lots of gas, I’ll probably get a headache, all of my energy will be gone, I’ll have diarrhea. My head will get foggy. I’ll feel like crap and this could last for a few days. I’ll also be putting myself at risk from osteoporosis and various cancers. That’s why I don’t eat gluten. Why don’t you?

Why you probably won’t lose weight on a gluten free diet

  • Gluten Free doesn’t mean sugar, fat and calorie free. You don’t seriously think just because something is labelled as gluten free that it’s healthy do you? A double chocolate fudge brownie is still a double chocolate fudge brownie whether or not it’s made from gluten containing ingredients.
  • Some gluten free products actually have more calories than their glutenous counterparts. If you choose gluten free cake, bread or crackers you may in fact end up getting more calories than if you’d chosen non gluten free cake, bread or crackers.
  • Many people following a gluten free diet, especially at the beginning, find that they have nutritional deficiencies as they aren’t getting all they need from the food they’re eating. Calcium, B vitamins, iron, vitamin D and magnesium are among the most popular. It’s not enough to just go gluten free, you have to be careful about what products you’re eating and ensure you’re getting enough essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals in your diet.
  • Nowadays you can find plenty of unhealthy, high calorie, sugar filled gluten free products similar to those you find which aren’t gluten free.  If you find yourself unable to avoid such products now, why would you suddenly be able to control your urges simply because the chips or cakes you found are made from lentils and rice rather than wheat and oats?

Please don’t think of a gluten free diet as a weight loss diet and don’t take the gluten out of your diet if you don’t have to. Simply not eating gluten is in itself not going to help you magically lose weight. Strong will and moderation is. Reduce the amount of processed food you consume, limit the amount of carbs, sugars and fats. Whether what you eat is gluten free or not eat a healthy, balanced diet and get out and do more exercise. Going gluten free isn’t your answer. You’re lucky you can eat gluten, I wish I could.

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  • Well said!!

  • Thank you!

  • I agree with the article in principle. Yet the curious thing is, since going gluten-free (to cure my constipation), I have indeed lost weight. Yes, I do eat GF cake and biscuits in moderation and GF bread. I wasn’t trying to lose weight – it was a pleasant side-effect. GF living reduced my cravings for naughty foods I guess. And best of all I no longer suffer from constipation. Wow.

  • Interesting, Clive. I’ve heard from many people who put weight on after going on a gluten free diet (I guess mainly because they are celiac and are finally getting nutrients again) but rarely those who have lost weight.

    I could definitely see how someone could lose weight as a result of having less available snacks around. I used to work in an office, for example, which was always filled with various chocolates, cakes and cookies. If I were back in that situation the option to nibble everything in sight wouldn’t be there anymore. 🙂

  • After five weeks of being gluten free (on the advice of a personal trainer), I have lost 13lbs. Cutting out gluten as Laura (2 Jan) points out, it means cutting out all processed foods. My diet is much more varied than it ever was. I use brown rice, quinoa and a huge amount of dried pulses, plus fresh fruit and veg, fish and chicken and lots of spices. It does take some commitment, time and planning as all food is cooked from scratch and dried pulses have to be soaked for 12 hours but I do have more energy and it’s also saved me a lot of money. It’s extreme but a ‘normal’ Western diet of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner plus thickening agents put into any ‘low fat’ product means that most people are eating far, far too much gluten even if they’re not intolerant.

  • Thanks for sharing, Laura. That’s great that you lost 13lbs! Do you think that you lost the weight simply because you are following a healthy diet or due to the fact that what you’re eating is gluten free? Many processed foods are out on a gluten free diet but there are still plenty of gluten free cookies, cakes, muffins, etc for those of us on a gf diet to consume. I think it would would be a challenge for someone to lose 13lbs if they were eating these types of gluten free products. Personally I don’t think it’s gluten that people need to stop eating but rather huge portions, high fat foods and snack foods. It’s also challenging to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients/vitamins you need when on a gluten free diet which is why I woud never encourage anyone to enter into it simply because they heard it would help them lose weight.

    I would love to hear how other readers feel about this issue.

  • Great post. Too many people hear “gluten-free” and think fad dieters. Thanks for writing this.

    And trust me, those gluten-free donuts and cookies I review on my blog do NOT help me lose weight. 😉

  • Sorry but GF is not a fad diet. I have gained weight because you never have the “bite” in the diet. So many times when eating out I say no to something and they never think to offer an alternative. They just take it all out so I wind up hungry and then eat rubbish afterwards. And don’t get me started on Is this GF? Yes! Are you sure this is GF? Yes! And then my steak comes with onion rings on top!

  • I too did lose a little weight when I first had to go gluten free. I put it down to the fact that back then (2005) there was far less naughty gluten free foods available, and even the breads available then i couldn’t stand. So I was pretty much preparing freshly cooked meals all the time rather than being lazy and opting for ready meals (as there wasn’t any!) However now that there’s plenty of delicious bread and things like frozen pizzas and lasagnes available I am sometimes a little more lazy haha x

  • Amen! Fad dieters make the world very unsafe for people who have to eat gluten free. The manager of the restaurant I was made sick at a few days ago didn’t realize that it’s such a sensitive disease. She thought that a tiny amount of flour, or using the same fryer or dishes was okay. Fad dieters perpetuate these myths.

  • I have a gluten intolerance, and since cutting out gluten I have noticed a sharp decrease in my appetite, I am moderatly active and I am concerned I am not getting enough calories, esp because I am trying to lose weight. I wonder if I am mentally associating food with the terrible feeling I would get after eating gluten or if this is an actual side effect. Has anyone else experienced this since going gluten free?

  • Leah, perhaps if you weren’t getting all the nutrients/vitamins from your food prior to going gluten free but you are now, this could be why you are feeling fuller faster and are experiencing a decreased appetite? I’ll put a shout out to see if anyone else has felt this way..

  • I’m celiac and follow an extremely healthy diet eating no processed foods at all except for Lara bars. I eat virtually no sugar. And I have gained 5 pounds over the last year since my diagnosis. For celiacs it seems common to put on weight and have a new “set point” now that our bodies are absorbing nutrition. I have found it very frustrating that I also was so tired over the last year that I have not been able to exercise much, probably contributing to those five pounds. I am hopeful that I can start keeping a food diary and work out more and get those five pounds off so I can get back to my pre-diagnosis weight. SO. I am with you feeling annoyed that gluten-free is pitched as a weight loss diet when it often is the opposite for those of us who medically must cut out gluten. But . . . I can also see how cutting out all those processed foods would help non-celiacs lose weight.

  • Oh yeah, no decrease in appetite! That is not my experience.

  • Leah, its taken me a long time to get rid of a decrease in my appetite, and I still struggle. I can’t eat gluten, dairy, or soy. I also suffer from GERD (prob the culrpit w appetite) so no tomatoes, caffeine, or alcohol. Sometimes if I exercise I may be turned off from food. (Especially if I’ve eaten peanut butter that day). On the whole, I can control it with my diet, but if I don’t eat enough, I fall into a cycle of being so hungry that I can’t eat. (Weird).

    You also may have started eating something new or just more of an old food that’s causing you to lose your appetite. Be careful about variety – i.e, its easy to start eating rice at every meal (cereal, crackers, as part of dinner). Also, as you eat whole foods, your body can now recognize when its full and what it needs for fuel. If you’re not eating the recommended amount, def consult your doctor. But look over your diet for the last week and see if anything stands out. The big question is if you feel weak/tired with the amount you’re currently eating?

  • PS, there is a food diary app (we call it a mobile food coach) launching this month that I co-founded called Thryve. It was designed for exactly for this purpose and is free. You track what you eat and how you feel. It helps you find trends and what might be causing problems or making you feel great. Thryveco.com. I’m not the best writer, so I used my design skills to help our community 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing, Sasha! I think most celiacs put on at least a little weight going gluten free since our bodies are finally getting the nutrients/vitamins etc that they were starved for before. I hope you manage to reach your goal to get back to pre-diagnosis weight.

    I agree that cutting out processed foods may help non celiacs to lose weight but this is a general healthy lifestyle thing rather than a gluten free thing. Anyone eating less processed food will probably lose weight, whether the rest of what they are eating is gluten free or filled with gluten. I can eat a 100% gluten free diet and still eat muffins, cookies, cakes, donuts, pizza, etc or I can choose to fill my diet with fruits/veggies/legumes/nuts, etc. This is why it makes me laugh when some folks think it’s a weight loss diet. Of course, it CAN be if you eat the right things but then why go gluten free to do that, just stick to a healthy, unprocessed diet 🙂

  • Interesting to hear of a decrease in appetite. My 10 YO has just been diagnosed coeliac and gone gluten free. He had the appetite of a horse previously, but is now nowhere near as hungry – but is putting on weight. I wonder if he was constantly hungry before because he wasn’t absorbing nutrients?

  • Fantastic news about your food diary app! I’ll definitely check that out. This will be very useful for many people, especially newly diagnosed celiacs or others with food allergies, who aren’t sure what is making them/keeping them sick and who need to monitor what they are consuming. Nice one 🙂

  • Sarah, welcome to the gluten free community! That could very well be the case. The change from not being able to absorb nutrients/vitamins to suddenly being able to is quite the shock to our body so it would make sense that it would affect our appetite 🙂 I know that personally when I was diagnosed three years ago I wasn’t as hungry as I has been prior to being diagnosed. For me however it didn’t last long because once I got my energy back I was able to run again which made me very hungry for gluten free food 🙂

  • From Gail:
    Yes! I definitely have(felt a decreased appetite). Some days it’s almost like I don’t even feel like eating. I chalked it up to being because there’s not a lot I can eat on the fly, so I don’t eat much. And so after a few months of this, not only has my appetite decreased, but I can’t eat as much at a time.

  • I agree 100%. I would still be eating gluten as well if I could. Another disadvantage with gluten-free products is that they’re a lot more expensive than their non-gluten free counterparts. If you’re on a shoestring budget, you may have severely limited options.