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How to lose weight on a gluten-free diet

The silver lining to a diagnosis of coeliac disease is arguably feeling much, much better.

Is gluten-free making me gain weight?
Why am I gaining weight? Is it my gluten-free diet?

The rubbish bit is realising all your clothes have shrunk in the wash. Mysteriously, clothes you've pulled out for spring from last year have all shrunk, too.

How can this be happening?

And then you step on the scales and, woah!

There are two main reasons for gaining weight a few months after you've had your diagnosis. Firstly, you may have been underweight prior to diagnosis because of your body's inability to absorb food properly (destroyed villi do not a good small intestine make). So gaining weight is inevitable and good for you.

But there comes a tipping point where you may feel you'd rather not gain any more weight and are wondering if the pounds will ever stop piling on.

This comes to the second reason for weight gain - now that you're feeling better, it's easy to enjoy the experience of eating again. You know you won't be dashing to the loo afterwards or feeling so bloated you'll need a hot water bottle clasped to your tummy for the rest of the evening.

So you reach for seconds. Thirds. Maybe treat yourself to a few goodies from the freefrom chilled aisle.

And if you don't feel you're doing this - that you're having a reasonable calorie count every day with healthy options, then I've got a very important piece of advice for you.

Track what you're consuming.

Notice I put the word "consuming" and not "eating". There are many people whose food is actually quite reasonable but they think nothing of putting away a whole bottle of wine on a Friday night. And a Saturday. That's around 1,250 calories.

My gluten-free diet is making me gain weight - or is it?

Teetotal? What about the other drinks you're having? A hot chocolate can be around 250 calories (without marshmallows). Even a cup of tea with two sugars adds up - have five of these a day and that's roughly 200 calories, which is 1,400 in the week - more than those 2 bottles of wine!

And even if you're not doing this, don't think that the weekend doesn't count. There's this myth that you can eat sensibly during the week and an all-out binge in front of Saturday Night Takeaway won't matter.

My PT is firm about this: your body needs the same number of calories every day in order to trust you. If you're constantly depriving it of calories and/or then stuffing it with too many, it'll panic it won't get the fuel it needs and hold on to the calories when it does get them.

So start tracking.

I recommend MyFitnessPal app on your phone. It's free (although it'll ask you to upgrade to Premium - just ignore this if you don't want the extras).

And it's pretty easy. All you have to do is put in what you're consuming (remember those drinks!) and it'll work out all the calories and macros.

Macros? Yup. Macros. They're VERY important in understanding why you might be holding onto extra weight.

If there's a heavy concentration on carbohydrates, you may need to up your protein. Or adjust your fats. But this is all more advanced stuff - and you'll probably need a specialist coeliac dietitian to help you out if you want to get it right.

To begin with, do a week's worth of your diet. Don't adjust anything. Don't be tempted to eat less because you've just seen the whopping number of calories in the burger you had planned for dinner.

Then, when the week's up, look at the calories you're consuming. Is it in line with the recommended daily amount? This'll need adjusting for each individual but is generally agreed to be 2,000 a day for women and 2,500 a day for men. Take a look at the NHS website for more info on this.

My first experience of tracking food for the week (which I did last May) was a massive eye-opener. I was convinced I wasn't overeating as I wasn't gaining weight, but I didn't realise my "intuitive eating" approach meant having 2,400 calories one day and 1,600 the next. My poor body! It must've wondered why I was doing a strange feast/famine approach. And yes, I was that person who'd guzzle big chunks of Toblerone on a Friday night with the rationale it was Friday and I deserved it. (Why is it we see food as a reward? Hmmm, maybe that's a question for another blog post!)

So now that you've been really honest with yourself and you can see the data, what's glaring at you? Is it a penchant for takeaways? (A korma will do that to you.) Is it not eating enough during the day and suddenly making up for it in the evening? Or do you go weekend-crazy and stuff down a pint of icecream (hey, this brand's gluten-free and it's 3 for 2 - I must buy it!).

Only once you have the data (I'm a big data fan) can you really look at how to change things. And if you want to have a chat about it, take advantage of my free 15 minute strategy session by clicking here. Let's get you to the healthiest version of you!


Hi! Great to have you here...

My name's Ali and I help people on gluten-free diets have a better, easier and healthier lifestyle. 

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