Does anybody know the reason why some of us gain weight prior to or once we start GF diets?

I have been trawling through past posts on weight gain to try and understand any physiological explanation for gaining weight prior to my diagnosis of being gluten intolerant. Although others have similar problems and struggle with weight gain I can't seem to find any reference to the reason this happens. I am surprised that since being gluten free the weight has not dropped off me because I don't eat any GF products (eg bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits), chocolate, sweets or other goodies. I stick to eating non-processed food which consists of meat, fish, vegetables and fruit and I exercise nearly every day. Even before diagnosis I very rarely ate bread, pasta etc as it made me feel ill. Since I have been seeing a dietician I have kept a food diary and now weigh my food. I am trying very hard to lose weight as I am far too heavy. I have never been a great eater so do not understand the weight gain or the inability to lose it. However, I do accept there may be individual reasons that are not related to our diagnosis that may explain why a person may have weight problems.

If I have missed any explanation please can someone refer me to it. Thank you!

20 Replies

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  • The problem of weight gain is that your body is absorbing what it should be and a GF diet cannot be used an excuse for it. I am on a Coeliac diet, that excludes all ingredients from a gluten source, including the exempt from labelling ingredients and with my gut healed Marsh 0 biopsy have gained weight in fact 25 kilo's.

  • Thank you Pretender - but I don't quite understand what you are saying.

  • Thyroid problems can mess up your weight. Perhaps have your thyroid tested? I also wonder if you have been undiagnosed for a long time it could take a while for your body to heal and readjust to working properly?

    I was overweight prior to diagnosis and craving food all the time, malnourished I guess. My weight is now back in the average range. I've moved towards a more paleo type diet, so like you, little or no processed food. I do eat full fat, which I find stops me from getting hungry, but not much fruit. I also try to go for low GI veg, and not many potatoes.

    Good luck with sorting out the weight problem. Hopefully others may have some more helpful information for you.

  • Thanks Penel. I have been tested for thyroid and it was okay. I didn't really crave food pre-diagnosis and have not changed my eating habits for decades, although I was a vegetarian for about 3 years. I always watched what I ate and consumed low fat food of about 1200 or less calories a day and ran or went swimming daily and kept my weight down. The weight gradually piled on over the last 10 years even though I kept to the same routine and diet. As I have said previously I think I have had gluten intolerance for at least thirty+ years.

    The problem is that the medics are concerned about weight and often tell me to lose weight - I would if I could! I do everything possible to reduce my weight. I am having a blood test at the end of the week so will ask if there is anything else I could be tested for. Maybe you are right and now I am getting on track with a gluten free diet the weight will disappear.

  • Hi Urbangirl

    If you are eating low fat, does that mean you are eating a lot of carbs? I gave up eating low fat several years ago and feel better for it and my BP and cholesterol levels are good.

    This article is from The Daily Mail, not known for it's scientific reporting, which has some interesting things to say about food and health

    dailymail.co.uk/femail/arti...

  • Interesting story! Thank you Penel for that. My definition of low fat is no cheese, limited red meat, butter eggs, etc. Maybe that was misleading. I don't eat a lot of carbs - 4 - 6oz potatoes a day - if I don't eat potatoes I eat rice. But I know that there are more in the vegetables I eat. I eat red meat approx once a week. As I have written everything down I am hoping the dietician will have some advice for me. I am trying to restrict my intake to 1000 calories to see if this makes a difference. My cholesterol has been borderline in the past ie pre gluten free diet from last December so really interested to see what it will be this time - and also my glucose results have also been borderline.

    Thank you for your advice Penel it is most appreciated.

  • Sounds likes maybe you aren't eating enough calories. So your body is holding on to everything you are eating, going into starvation mode. 1200 is fine a day, but if you exercise too make sure to eat those calories back, up to 1200.

    My Fitness Pal is a very useful tool to do those calculations for you.

  • I have been working with a Kinesiology practitioner since November. They have been helping cleanse my liver (coffee, tea intake reduced!) as well as supplements for the gut including improving the gut flora. Have to say I feel much better and not so prone to tiredness and feeling rubbish in my muscles. In support of this activity I snack on almonds and cashews between meals which has tempered any interest in cakes and biscuits to fill the gap. Altogether I have lost 7lbs and look to lose another 7 over the year. Promising!

  • You're effectively starving yourself and your body, very sensibly, is hanging onto everything it can. 1000 or even 1200 calories a day is only enough if you're totally sedentary, like immobile and housebound.

    If you're running and swimming you need more than 2000 a day, and probably a lot more protein and fats.

  • This is so interesting Dartmoor Guerrilla. Pre-diagnosis I was advised by others that I am not eating enough but a GP and another medic have told me that I don't need to eat as many calories particularly as I get older. And through my life I have found that I don't need to eat much. If I do eat more than 1200 calories I do put on weight. I am not running now (I stopped as I had an injury) and have not done so for 10 years but I have continued to swim and cycle and although I have a sedentary occupation I am pretty active. I am wondering if the weight gain, which accumulated over the last 10 years, coincided with the run up to my gluten intolerance diagnosis? I really have felt so so much better not eating gluten. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia last year after several years of problems but this disappeared very quickly after I stopped eating gluten and has not returned. My weigh gain may of course just be particular to me and nothing to do with gluten intolerance. Sometimes these things don't have an answer but I would like to know if there is anything that may explain my weight problem over the last 10 years so I can address this - especially so as being overweight is unhealthy.

  • When you start eating enough i.e. medically, healthily enough, not internet-app recommendations (1200 a day is dangerous advice) yes you will put on weight initially until your body realises you're no longer in starvation mode. Then your metabolism will catch up.

    What is enough? Well let's say you're in hospital and your calorie requirements are being calculated for total parenteral nutrition. It goes on your body weight, the more you weigh, the more you need even if you're on a weight loss regime.

    Total bedrest, men need 20-30 kcal per kg per day and 0.8-1g/kg of protein. Normal post-op, 25-35 kcal/kg and average 1.3g/kg protein.

    Examples:

    If you weigh 9.5 stone, 60kg, you need average 1500 kcal/day for bed rest, and 50-something grams of protein.

    12 stone, 75kg, 2000 kcal and 60-75g protein.

    So, roughly speaking, add 25% to those figures for a normal level of activity, if you're a man. Women's needs are generally held to be 25% less so would be close to those figures above (being approximate here!)

    When I was about 20 - a long time ago! - I did a lot of sport and was getting through up to 5,000 kcal a day. I didn't get heavy until I started work and dropped the sports. (I'm female by the way, slightly but not hugely tall, and I will lose weight if I either eat under 2,000/day, which I don't as I'm too fond of cheese and booze, or swim a mile a day)

    Do your body a favour and give it enough fuel. You will feel better for it. And post-menopause, a FEW pounds overweight gives you much better odds of "making old bones" than being malnourished.

  • P.S. low fat is not good. There are good and bad fats, and we need the good ones.

  • Been reading through these and all I can say is sharing my own experience before I was diagnosed that if I eat gluten products for example bread or pasta I put on weight. Most Celiacs’ will lose weight when eating gluten, but there is a small percentage of people like me that will put in weight – after some research found this out (it was a long time ago so can’t remember where it is now but found it on the internet). For example, in one day I had a normal portion of bread for lunch and pasta for dinner and normal vegetables/fruit/protein and put on half a stone!

    It takes a long time after being on the GF diet for everything to settle down and that includes your weight. The only carbohydrates I eat a day are gluten free porridge and crackers (always go for the wholemeal); my main diet is protein, vegetables and some fruit. I eat a portion of almonds a day and natural yoghurt. I do find it hard to keep my weight down if I eat even too much GF carbohydrates. I find a lot of GF carbohydrates are high in calories and fat. So I tend to keep away from them.

    You do need some carbohydrates in your diet, in my opinion it’s about balancing everything. I also would agree that you are better with full fat and not bothering with half or low fat. If I want cheese I eat a little bit of it or cottage cheese/crowdie. Have you thought of doing the 2 day a week fast, which might be a good option – worth trying if everything else not working? I find that helps me keep my weight down, do one day a week. Hope this went in some way to answer your question.

  • Hi Urbangirl

    I'm pleased to see that you have had some hopefully useful replies to your question. I hope the dietician gives you some helpful advice, but I fear it may still be to cut out fat! You will have gathered that a lot of people on here do not go along with the idea of low fat being good for you. Eating fat has been demonised over the last 40 years and I fear that low fat foods are creating their own health problems.

    I do not find counting calories to be any use to me as I eat a lot of fat! I rarely eat potatoes and rice as they have a high glycemic index. This means they raise your insulin and blood glucose levels quickly, which can contribute to the borderline glucose levels you mentioned. If you need carbs go for slow release ones like sweet potato. We have been told that eating fat raises cholesterol levels but research now indicates that carbohydrates are to blame.

    webmd.com/cholesterol-manag...

    Robert Lustig, an American childhood obesity expert, has written some clear science on food and health issues, including a good explanation of how the body uses Calories.

    huffingtonpost.com/robert-l...

    Since my diagnosis my diet has changed radically, going gluten free was just the start of it.

  • Dartmoor Guerrilla, Kestria, Eggardon, Penel and Kmminver, thank you so much for all your advice, it is so helpful. I have to admit to being a bit confused now so will need to absorb what you say. The refs are helpful and will re-read them. It is difficult to keep up with new medical evidence which is also challenging existing practice and change your mind set. I really appreciate your comments and your time. Thank you!

  • To echo Penel's comments re cholesterol. This is only anecdotal I know and just my own experience, but the lowest my cholesterol has ever been was on the Atkins diet.

    I now eat a high protein, high fat diet with lots of leafy veg, brassicas, root veg, but almost no fruit or refined carbs, because that's what makes me feel well.

    My doctor is I suspect quite disappointed that my cholesterol is so good when my BMI is so high :-)

  • Ha ha! When my gp told me my cholesterol level was lower than average, I wanted to tell him that my breakfast had been bacon and eggs cooked in lard, but I'm afraid I lost my nerve!

  • Hi urban girl, I agree with penel on this, I also stick to a paleo type of diet and now never worry about calories, eat until I'm full and my food is really tasty because I eat use natural fats to cook food, butter, olive oil and even animal fat such as lard and dripping! My weight is pretty consistent, I've lost all my excess pretty much and since I started this in January I don't have any plans to stop eating this way, it suits my body and I love it! I eat streaky bacon from free range pigs, and mushrooms cooked in butter, I don't take the crispy skin off my chicken and eat the cracking off the pork with no worries at all. The same as you I don't eat much carby food, no potatoes, only the occasional rice or processed gf. If you are interested there's a great book called 'escape the diet trap' by dr John Briffa that explains the science behind this way of eating.

    Hope this is helpful to you, I'm enthusiastic about it because who ever heard of a diet where you eat what you enjoy and lose weight!

  • What a wonderful way to eat! Dr Briffa also has an on line blog that covers current health topics.

    drbriffa.com/blog/

  • Penal and GFmom you have given me lots of things to think about. I am looking forward to my blood test results as this will be the first since diagnosis. Am going to look at Dr Briffa. Thank you!

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