I am a member of a few gluten free groups on Facebook run by the leading Doctors in the gluten free education movement. Of course, people post questions all the time and I see many of the same questions and concerns from hundreds of people. The most common question is why they don’t lose weight going gluten free.
It’s a valid question too! You see stories and pictures from people who lose up to 30 pounds in a month going gluten free or celebrities saying it’s how they stay thin and gorgeous, it is natural to assume that’s how it should be.
This unrealistic expectation of a gluten free lifestyle leads to frustration. While it can help people lose a significant amount of weight quickly, what I have found in clients and in the gluten-free community is that this is often not the case. Weight loss might not happen for a few months even!
There are three main reasons for the delay in weight loss.
Less nutritious foods consumed.
If you switch from gluten containing junk to gluten free junk, you’re actually consuming more sugar, more salt, and less nutrients. The go-to gluten free grains in processed foods are rice, potato, and corn. These are less nutrient dense than wheat. The other half of the story is that wheat containing products are fortified while most gluten free products are not. It’s a double whammy.
Gluten has been doing a lot of damage for a long time. It often takes years for the effects of gluten to be bad enough to be caught in an endoscopy and/or blood work. Your body has been trying to protect itself and losing. Inflammation in and of itself is supposed to be a temporary reaction to help the body heal for an injury. Long-term (chronic) inflammation leads to an inability to lose or gain weight, chronic pain, fatigue, malabsorption of nutrients, autoimmune conditions, multiple food sensitivities, anemia, low sodium, adrenal fatigue, thyroid dysfunction, and more. (Learn more about how to relieve chronic inflammation here.)
Hormone Imbalance/Thyroid Issues.
When your hormones are out of whack, no amount of calorie restriction, clean eating or exercise will be effective in losing weight. When the intestine has been damaged by gluten either by having a leaking gut, inflammation, or damaged villi, it isn’t as able to absorb all nutrients, including fats. When our bodies are not able to absorb fats hormone balance is pretty much impossible (source). Fat and cholesterol are the precursors to our hormones and absolutely necessary to produce adequate hormones. The other complication is the molecular composition of our thyroid tissue is extremely similar to the composition of gluten (source). When we react to gluten our bodies mistakenly start attacking our thyroid along with the gluten that has been going through your system! This can lead to Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune condition.
6 Strategies To Start Losing Weight
Eat real food.
Switch from the processed foods to foods that are as close to their original form as possible. This means lots of fresh produce, protein from pasture-raised and wild animals and organic plants, healthy fats like coconut and olives oils, avocado, lard and tallow from pastured animals, butter from pasture raised cows, and nuts and seeds, and whole gluten free grains like quinoa.
Avoid 100% of gluten.
This is absolutely essential, cheating only keeps you feeling crappy. There is no 80/20 or 90/10 when it comes to avoiding gluten when you are told you need to go gluten free. If you want to make sure you remove all the hidden gluten in your life, dine out, travel and heal your gut, check out my affordable 12-day online program.
Avoid inflammatory foods for a time.
Inflammatory foods include all grains, nightshades, seeds, eggs, nuts, and more. You can learn about the Autoimmune Protocol here. This protocol is one of the best ways to get your inflammation under control and heal faster.
Get Your Thyroid Hormones Tested.
The favorite test of the doctors I partner with is the saliva test. Blood tests give us a very small window to look through into what is going on in the body while the saliva test gives an entire day’s picture of what is going on. It is the best way to see when something is off, how severe it is, and the best protocol to get your hormones back into balance. (source)
The damage didn’t happen overnight, neither will the healing. Depending on your age, it can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. It is important you have emotional support to stay the course, guidance on how to make the lifestyle work for you, and make sure you are getting the support you need from supplements and herbs to help you heal from a Naturopathic or Functional Medicine doctor.
Take care of yourself.
It is essential you incorporate stress management and sleep into your life. You can’t heal if your body is still stressed to the max nor has the time it needs to rebuild. Learn to say no, ask for help from friends and family, incorporate a yoga or stretching practice into your routine, meditate or journal daily, connect to your higher power, and make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
Go gluten free the right way with my 12-day online course. Find all the places gluten hides, plus learn all my tips and tricks to living life on the go gluten free and thriving. Learn more here.
12 thoughts on “Why You Don’t Always Lose Weight Going Gluten Free”
These are great tips Marian! I think it’s very common that people assume gluten free equals healthy…and the food companies aren’t making it any easier by throwing “gluten free” and “all natural” onto just about every package in the grocery store! Great post 🙂
Thank you Amanda. Food manufacturer’s sure do a good job marketing, don’t they?
Thanks! I have had several conversations with people who are gluten free and frustrated by not loosing weight. Just because something is labeled “gluten free” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Always strive for the least processed food options you can find. I’ll share your post with my health community.
Thank you Johanna! Avoiding processed foods is definitely a huge step in the right direction. Then adding in all those beneficial foods like fermented foods, water, and such to calm the inflammation.
I first met with gluten-free diets because of health reasons so I was extremely surprised when I heard that people expect to lose weight from going gluten-free. I, personally, put on some weight when I first tried eating gluten-free – it wasn’t visible because the bloating disappeared luckily 😀 After a few weeks of trying, I think people can find the perfect way how they can mix gluten-free food with their previous eating habits.
And yes, the key is what you wrote, gluten-free junk is just as bad as junk food.
In my practice many people struggle to stay gluten free. They live high stress lives and “cheat” often because they don’t know what to eat. Plus they expect to look like a model in 4 weeks. I hope to help people give themselves a break and a chance to heal. 🙂 Thank you for your feedback!
Great post! I love the tips on why someone may not be seeing the results they want. It is so important to be mindful of the quality of what you are eating, even if it is labeled “gluten free’. I agree in these situations, with those who are celiac or gluten-intolerant, there is a lot of healing to be had, so even if the scale isn’t changing, overall level of health may be. Thank you for sharing!
There is still so much unknown about the thyroid and lots of self-diagnosis, too many articles and books to review as well as contradictions between doctors and researchers. Medicine is one treatment, food another, and it seems even with all these changes people are still frustrated with the consistency of their thyroid gland and how it makes them feel. Diet does help and gluten free is just one option, but as you said, doesn’t work for everyone the same.
Yes it definitely depends on the root cause of the thyroid disfunction which there are a few we know about right now.
Great tips! I have never understood why some think that if they stop eating gluten, they will magically lose weight. In a situation where someone has Celiac’s or is gluten intolerant, once the inflammation and any secondary effects subside, I can see it. Usually there have to be other eating habits adjusted too. I’ve always seen healthy weight as a by-product of health and not over consumption. (and in some cases, total abstinence from gluten does increase health)
I love your tip on 100% abstinence. If someone reacts to or is intolerant to gluten it can play havoc on the body in any amount. Loved your post!
Such an educational and resourceful post. I am one of those that assumed gluten-free is healthy and never thought that GF products meant more sugar, more salt, and less nutrition.
Marian, thank you for this very informative post. It concerns me that people would consider that chosing foods that are gluten free equates with being on a diet which in turn equates with losing weight.
We have witnessed the food industry jump on the gluten free band wagon to capture more market share rather than to improve the health of our society. We have observed a glut of gluten free cookies and snacks which are over processed and cause inflammation in the gut.
Our society is under-informed and under-nourished as a whole. Your post does well to educate and inform. We certainly will be sharing this information with others. Kudos!