Sorting Out Fact From Fiction: The Gluten-Free Diet Craze

Gluten free diets have become the latest weight loss “fad”. I think one of the reasons this trendy way of eating has evolved is that rather than working on incorporating balance and moderation into meals and snacks, it can be easier to cut something out altogether – whether that’s wheat, dairy or something else. What people may not know who are following a gluten-free diet for weight control, is that many times when gluten is removed from processed foods, sugar, fat and butter are often added to improve the taste.

wheat For most of us, there really is no medical reason to eliminate gluten. In fact, many gluten-containing foods can be very nourishing (ex: whole grain bread and barley). As this article summarizes, there really are only three true reasons to avoid gluten (and I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear that none of them are weight loss related):

  1. An autoimmune condition like celiac disease in which the presence of gluten actually alters the intestine and causes malabsorption and other GI issues like pain and diarrhea. This diagnosis can be made by a biopsy and blood test.
  2. An allergy, which would have symptoms that might appear similar to any other allergy – hives, sneezing, etc. This can’t be tested easily, but is evaluated similar to other allergies based on visible symptoms.
  3. An intolerance/sensitivity which may have symptoms like abdominal bloating, but can’t be accurately tested for.

I recently did a series of videos with the #OWNshow and @OWNTV which covered a number of gluten-related topics, including an overview of what gluten is, if going gluten-free makes sense for weight loss, identifying hidden sources of gluten in some foods, and uncovering some sneaky truths about some gluten-free products that are on the market today. Watch each video below: Can You Lose Weight By Going Gluten-Free?  Weight Loss Gluten Free

The Sneaky Truth of Some Gluten-Free Products  Sneaky Truth Gluten Free Products Could You Be Eating Gluten and Not Know It?  Hidden Gluten The Gluten Guide: What is Gluten Really? Gluten Guide  What do you think about the gluten-free diet trend? To join the conversation about going gluten-free, leave a comment below, use the hashtag #OWNSHOW on twitter, or check out the OWN TV Facebook page.

Debunking Cleanse and Detox Diets

It is a million dollar question: Are detoxes and cleanses all they’re cracked up to be? The idea that drinking juice or taking a magic pill is going to do a better job than our own organs is very misleading to consumers.  I recently sat down with ABC7‘s Suzanne Kennedy to explain why detox diets and cleanses are a waste of money, and could actually be doing more harm than good to your health. Check out the video clip below and be sure to read on to learn the truth behind the hype.

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Washington Post Interview: The Truth About Gluten-Free, Paleo, and other Diet Books

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I was happy to be one of a few experts quoted in the Washington Post article The Truth about Gluten-Free, Paleo, and other Diet Books which discusses some of the flaws with today’s “quick fix” restriction diets.

Keep Calm and No DietI don’t believe in diets. They just don’t work.  Diets are not only often ineffective, but they can also be unsafe (particularly ones that involve food restriction and/or fasting).  You don’t need to stop eating food to be healthy.  A well-balanced meal plan and mindful eating are much more practical solutions to weight-loss and lifestyle improvement.

If one diet worked, we would need only one!  However, dieting is a multi-billion dollar industry. Talk about selling “snake oil.” Everyone has an agenda and if what is being promised sounds “too good to be true,” it is.

Check out some of my favorite comments from the article’s other experts:

“Diets are, almost by definition, things you get on and get off.  It really needs to be about your whole dietary pattern. If you wouldn’t put your 4-year-old child or your 80-year-old parent on this diet with you, it’s a gimmicky short-term fix and not a way of eating better for a lifetime.”

—Dr. David Katz  http://www.davidkatzmd.com/

“Any diet that excludes one or more entire categories of foods is difficult for many people to follow.  For some people, it’s easier to exclude whole categories — wheat, meat, dairy, carbohydrates, et cetera — than to just eat less and eat better. But the more food categories excluded, the more people are likely to give up on the diet.”

— Dr. Marion Nestle http://www.foodpolitics.com/

To read the full article, visit The Washington Post

Weight-loss Frauds top FTC survey — excerpt from Consumer Health Digest

I’ve been an advocate for intuitive eating and take a weight-neutral, non-diet approach with all my clients. I’d rather help someone make changes they can maintain forever instead of promising a “quick fix” that would likely lead to weight cycling. It’s about self-care after all.

I saw this article in a recent Consumer Health Digest e-newsletter and wanted to pass it on. It sheds light on fraudulent marketing claims that many weight-loss products make, and the author suggests measures that can be taken to avoid this. Read on and let me know what you think.

Consumer Health Digest #13-16; April 18, 2013 
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

A major FTC survey conducted in 2011 has found that consumers were victimized by fraudulent weight-loss products more than by any of the other marketing frauds covered by the survey. [Consumer Fraud in the United States, 2011: The Third FTC Survey. April 2013]

The products included nonprescription drugs, dietary supplements, skin patches, creams, wraps, and earrings. They were considered fraudulent if

(a) they were promoted as enabling users to easily lose a substantial amount of weight or to lose weight without diet or exercise and

(b) users lost a little of the weight anticipated or lost no weight. The study estimated that 5.1 million people age 18 or older (2.1% of U.S. adults) bought and used such products However, if purchasers who didn’t use the products were added, the percentage was 4.1%.

The survey also examined correlations between education, economic status, and risk-taking propensity and the extent of victimization. Overall, the study found that 10.8% of U.S. adults—25.6 million people—reported awareness of at least one incident of victimization.

The other areas noted in the report included prize promotions, buyers’ clubs, work-at-home programs, credit repair, debt relief, credit card insurance, business opportunities, mortgage relief, advance-fee loans, pyramid schemes, government job offers, counterfeit checks, and grants.

Fraudulent marketing in our society cannot be reduced unless scams are made less lucrative. Dr. Stephen Barrett believes that the following measures are needed:

  • Appointment of a task force whose members include regulators, consumer advocates, and legislators who can develop and promote model laws and regulations to combat fraud.

  • Finding ways to hold credit card companies, media outlets, and communication channels that enable and profit from the frauds responsible for the losses suffered by victims.

  • Multiplying government regulatory power by authorizing state attorneys general to obtain court orders that apply to the entire country instead of just their own state.

  • Forcing multilevel companies to disclose complete and truthful information about income prospects.

What do you think?

Leave a comment below and let me know if you think these marketing practices are ethical.

“Accident”

I don’t do much with guest bloggers, but when people are willing to share their story, I want to give them a platform. Let’s all support Adele and thank her for her insight and courage.

Guest blog By: Adele Schroder

It’s funny how perspective is everything. Looking back now I see how completely ridiculous what I believed to be true then actually was, but at the time it made so much sense, I was doing what was right, what was healthy. There was nothing wrong with eating about 500 calories per day – so many diets out there suggest it – smart people, famous people, doctors even, all support the idea that the best way to lose weight was to reduce what you eat and some even go so far to suggest that those who are lower calorie diets live longer. Skinny at any cost is the healthy thing to do.

The truth at the time, I was over weight. I know I was, but I was healthy, I ate fairly balanced, exercised, my cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar I dowere all fine, but my doctor was still pushing me to lose weight. Truth is, she made me feel horrible about myself and at one point even said that if I couldn’t control what I was eating myself, then she would give me a prescription for appetite suppressants. It was that comment that began the slippery slope that would eventually become a case of accidental anorexia.

I started restricting what I ate – I went from eating balanced to eating one thing per meal – one yogurt, one piece of skinless chicken, one piece of cucumber. There was nothing balanced or healthy about it, but the weight started to come off and my doctor, family, friends, and anyone else who saw me started praising me for “looking so good”. I read about all the latest fad diets – it didn’t seem like anything I was doing was wrong – so many people ate like this, limiting there intake to a few select “safe” foods to make yourself healthy again. It was great – I was getting skinny and everyone was proud of how much “will-power” I had to stick with it.

A year, and almost 90lbs later, things started to change. I was always tired, my hair was falling out, I had passed out a couple times – but I was skinny, “beautiful” and “healthy”. Staying that way was all that I could think about – an Ana brain inside of me had taken over – nothing was more important than self-control and skinniness – skinniness at any cost. I was working at a place that insisted everyone eat lunch in the lunchroom. Didn’t take long before people started to talk and I remember that day that I got pulled into the meeting room. All of upper management was standing there and they simply said, “we want you to see a dietitian, you don’t look well”. I was royally pissed off – some of these people were the same people who just months before had been telling me how great I looked….they must be jealous, that was it, I was convinced! They were just jealous at the self control I had.

I sat in the waiting room of the dietitian’s office going over what I was going to say – figured it would be easy – just tell her what diet I was following, what my doctor had said when I was fat – how I was just being healthy…she would just sign that stupid thing for work and I could put this whole embarrassing “you need help” crap behind me. It’s not like I wasn’t doing something that so many other people weren’t doing – and I wasn’t one of those skinny-little-nut-jobs you see on those reality help shows – I was a well off business person who just took control of a problem (being over weight) and fixed it. Nothing was wrong with that.

Unfortunately my appointment didn’t go that way – instead I was bluntly told that how I was eating was dangerous, completely unacceptable, and that if I didn’t stop I would die. I told the dietitian she was crazy, rolled my eyes and must have told her I was fine at least 20 times. But the hardest part came at the end of the appointment – all she asked me to do was have an extra yogurt at lunch – one 80-calorie yogurt – and I lost it. There were tears, begging, saying I wouldn’t do it and that she wasn’t listening to me – I wasn’t doing anything wrong I was just doing what Dr X said to do and following Y diet – I didn’t have a problem, I was just trying to be healthy and why was she trying to make me fat again.

She stayed calm through all of it – repeated that what I was doing was not ok, not healthy and that I was going to die if I didn’t stop – then told me she would see me next week. I refused – she shrugged and said that it “wasn’t a suggestion” then walked with me to reception to make the next appointment.  I hated her – she didn’t know me – so how could she judge me. But I knew I at least had some saving grace – she was pregnant – so I figured that if I couldn’t fight her I would play her silly little game for 3 months and she would be gone. And being honest, I probably did at the time – but something else happened – I started to respect her, if for no other reason than she was consistent in what she said, “you can’t keep eating like this, it is not healthy, you will die”. Three very simple and blunt comments that stuck with me.

My eating did get a little better when she was away on maternity leave that year – not because I wanted to get healthy but because I was told that if I lost more weight then a hospital stay would no longer be up to me (I had mandatory monthly check ins with an ED psychologist that year, I played along with the stupid game) – I wasn’t better by any stretch of the imagination – I still thought that barely eating was the right thing to do – I just wasn’t willing to give up everything I had accomplished and end up in the hospital – so I ate the bare minimum I had to to avoid that consequence.

It was a year later that I ended up getting a new family doctor – and with that change came the routine “base-line” blood work workup. I got a call I never expected, “the doctor wants to see you back in her office today regarding your blood tests, how soon can you be here?”. I sat in her office looking at line after line of abnormalities – high cholesterol, high liver enzymes, poor kidney function, a large amount of ketones in my urine, and electrolytes that were all over the place. She was questioning me on how I felt, if I had been on any medications etc etc and I sat there thinking, “the dietitian was right, I’m hurting myself…” I felt so confused – why were there so many diets out there saying what I did was right? Why did my old doctor praise me? Why was my blood work normal when I was fat but so abnormal now that I was skinny…why wasn’t skinny healthy? I wasn’t “dangerously thin” – my BMI was fine – so why wasn’t I healthier than when I was over weight? Isn’t that what we are taught? Skinny is healthy…my whole world came crashing down that day. Everything that I had believed regarding what it was to be healthy – everything that I had read and seen in the media was wrong – and because I believed it, I was now sick.

The next day I swallowed my pride and sent a “you were right” email and asked for help. This time was different – I tried not to fight as much (hard to give up the fight completely) and I worked towards a goal – I wanted to be healthy – I wanted normal blood work. I wanted to learn to eat well and enjoy food again. I learned that I had to start putting my health first, my body first – it was all in my control to be healthy.

Today I can say that I am healthy – I eat well – and I eat anything and everything without worrying so much about if the food is “good” or “bad”. But there is one thing that still bothers me: how is it that even though I am well educated and a professional person I was able to believe that what I was doing was right? I accidently became anorexic, not because I was trying to gain control over my life or any of the other things that you hear about when you think of eating disorders – I became anorexic because I honestly did not know that what I was doing was harmful or wrong. And what was the worst part of this whole thing? Even if being anorexic was not your intent, once Ana brain sets in, there’s no escaping it, no controlling it, no seeing any other opinion. It is far easier to believe what you see every day than believing the truth: skinny does not always equal healthy.

Perspective is everything – and mine has now changed. I put me and my health first and realize that the number on the scale doesn’t always have anything to do with health.

*****

Thanks, Adele!

If you are intrigued by what you read here, you may want to check out the “Health at Every Size” principles and community.

The Skinny on Alcohol and Healthy Weight Management

If you’re trying maintain a healthy balance in your life, it may seem that every time out for drinks with your friends could be a calorie disaster! Sugar-laden mixes push most standard cocktails well over 300 calories. Did you know that an 8-ounce pina colada can pack in 640 calories? Thats 100 calories more than a Quarter Pounder with cheese! Meanwhile, 8 oz of a Long Island iced tea tips the scale at 780 calories. But you don’t have to become a recluse to avoid these sugar bombs. Follow these tips and you’ll be in tip-top shape.

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Ask Yourself-do you really need that drink?

Try to limit yourself to only a couple drinks per week. There is no nutritional benefit to liquor, so each gram of alcohol provides 7 ‘empty’ calories. Not only will the drink up your caloric intake for the day, but it can also decrease your inhibitions when it comes to food. You may find yourself mindlessly overeating after drinking, be it a slice of pizza, cake, or whatever is closest to you before you stumble into bed.

Drinking alcohol can also make you feel hungrier because alcohol can lower blood sugar. Besides the fact that alcohol is highly addictive, drinking too much increases your risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity, and certain types of cancer. Leslie Schilling, RD, and low-calorie cocktail expert, said “There are many negative effects when alcohol is over consumed. Besides the obvious impaired judgment and operation of anything mechanical, decreased inhibitions and poor hydration status come to mind. Decreased inhibitions can lead to overeating and poor decisions of all sorts, while poor hydration status can leave you cramping on your morning jog and overly fatigued the next day.” If you feel pressured to be carrying a drink while out with friends-ask for soda water and lime.

Can I have your number?

According the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the allotted amount of alcohol per day is one drink for a woman and two drinks for a man.

A drink means:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5-ounce glass of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of an 80-proof liquor like vodka or rum

Each of these portions contain around the same amount of calories — 100-150 calories.

Watch the glass!

Serve wine in smaller, thinner glasses, so that you will not mindlessly pour more than the intended serving.

What are you drinking?

Wine
Remember: Despite all the press about red wine’s heart healthy benefits, the Mayo Clinic states, “There’s still no clear evidence yet that red wine is superior to other forms of alcohol when it comes to possible heart-health benefits.” It’s not suggested by the American Heart Institute (or others) that you start drinking red wine solely for these health benefits! However, per oz, wine does have few calories than distilled spirits.

Beer
Reach for a light beer (around 100 calories per 12 ounce bottle) rather than regular bear (150 cal). Remember to stick to suggested portions (12 ounces for women and 24 ounces for men per day.)

Cocktails
Cocktail mixes are packed with sugar and when combined with alcohol, the calories for one drink can be 500 or more. Remember, you can also ask the bartender to make your order diet or light. Schilling’s favorite cocktail is a Vodka Grayhound-vodka and preferably fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.( See below for Schilling’s great Margarita recipe, and check out these lower Calorie Recipes of classic cocktails: Skinny Margaritas Low-cal Mojitos, Moscow Mules, and Caprhina’s . )

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Water:
Start your night off with a no-cal glass of H2O and continue to have one between every drink you order. Water will keep you hydrated so you’re not chugging cocktails to quench your thirst, and  it prevents you from having a hangover the next day, so we say cheers to that.

Leslie Schilling, RD, shared with me a low calorie cocktail recipe that’s in high demand at all of her dinner parties:

The Million-Dollar Margarita

Copyright © 2010 Leslie Schilling. All Rights Reserved.

Make 2 quarts (you might as well mix the pitcher)

  • 1 cup triple sec
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 1 12 fluid ounce light beer (yes, a beer)
  • 1 long squeeze lime (optional), ~ 1 Tbsp
  • 1 container sugar-free lemonade** (makes 2 quarts
  • Water

Mix the first four ingredients in a 2 quart pitcher. If you like, add the juice of one fresh lime (or natural lime juice). Add the sugar-free lemonade and mix with a whisk (clumps aren’t very popular or tasty). Fill the pitcher to the 2 quart mark with water. Stir and chill.

These are great served on ice right away or chilled for about an hour. They’re still very drinkable for about two days. **If you’d prefer a stevia-based sweetener, use one pack of no sugar added Lemonade, like Kool-Aid, and add 1 packet stevia sweetener to each glass.

Makes ~10, 6½ oz servings. Approximate calories per serving:  120-more than half the calories of an average margarita!

Take these tips into account and you’ll never gain the dreaded beer gut! See more of Leslie’s great recipes on her new blog Sippin Smart or follow it on twitter!

Do you have any tips to share? What’s your go-to drink at the bar?

The Paradox of Food Insecurity, Yo-Yo Diets, and Obesity in the U.S.

It seems that the obesity discussion far too often leans toward over-consumption of food and calorie balance (I’m personally guilty of that…)

But we’re not talking enough about the links between food insecurity (i.e. hunger) and obesity.

This new article in JAMA highlights the issue well in plain English. It also has references to top organizations, such as FRAC, that are trying to bring the latest research into the forefront.

Many people who are overweight now believe that years of yo-yo dieting has contributed to excess weight gain. It seems science is catching up to real life experiences as mounting evidence supports over/under consumption cycles and weight gain. Researchers believe that food insecurity yields a similar inconsistent food consumption pattern and hence a “hunger and obesity paradox”.

It is quite perplexing. America is a developed country. Food is cheap. Yet people go hungry.

Here’s an excerpt:

In adults, food insecurity has been associated with type 2 diabetes (Seligman HK et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2007;22[7]:1018-1023). “Patients with diabetes require special diets, and yet the ability to be consistent with those special diets was compromised by food insecurity,” said Mark Nord, PhD, of the Food Assistance Branch at the Economic Research Service of the USDA.

Food insecurity also has been linked to overweight and obesity, particularly among women (Townsend MS et al. J Nutr. 2001;131[6]:1738-1745; Wilde PE and Peterman JN. J Nutr. 2006;136[5]:1395-1400). This apparent paradox may be explained by the fact that high-calorie, processed foods often are less expensive than fresh, perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.

“One of the first food groups that’s cut out of an impoverished person’s diet is produce,” explained David H. Holben, PhD, RD, of the School of Human and Consumer Sciences, at Ohio University, in Athens. “Generally speaking, they often choose high-fat, high-sugar, low-cost foods that taste good,” he added. Re searchers have found that marketing can also influence consumers, who are bombarded with advertising for unhealthful food and receive inadequate nutritional information, especially in restaurants (Hayne CL et al. J Public Health Policy. 2004;25[3-4]:391-407).

Food insecurity can also set up a scenario in which access to food is inconsistent, leading to periods of underconsumption followed by compensatory overconsumption. “There’s good evidence that yo-yo dieting is associated with a higher risk of overweight and obesity, and it leads people to wonder if involuntary boom and bust cycles in food intake could also be associated,” said Parke Wilde, PhD, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in Boston.

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