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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Fasting for Weight Loss is NOT the Answer

I was recently on WJLA ABC 7 to discuss the fasting craze that’s become a popular method for weight loss for many people. Unfortunately, most of what I discussed about it in the segment ended up on the cutting room floor. (I’m used to that expected consequences of editing stories). I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up some things that weren’t covered. I felt that the segment makes it appear that fasting may look like a good idea, and I don’t think it’s fair that the last word should look come across in that way.

You can watch the full video here — but read on below for some additional points that didn’t make the final cut.

Honor hunger — don’t hide from it

The key point that I made in this interview is that we need to honor hunger, not avoid it. Think about this — would you ever tell your child or best friend “sorry, it’s breakfast and you are hungry, you need to skip and wait until 12 p.m. to eat.” It’s irrational to ignore your biological signs. You can’t just manipulate when you will be hungry…and actually through fasting you could end up feeling ravenous and then end up overeating.

Operating on an empty stomach? No way!

Think about this…do you want to be on the road with someone who is driving you around while fasting? Or, would you want a doctor operating on you when they are fasting? I don’t know about you, but I know that I wouldn’t! Anyone who’s skipped lunch knows that at some point your brains stops functioning properly, and it impairs your ability to think clearly. Anything that does that to us can’t possibly be good for our bodies.

How do you honestly think you will do when you need energy for work, family, and exercise without nourishment?

Some fasts are more biologically concerning to me than others. For example, ones where you have days of eating 500 calories, give or take, is not enough for your brain to function even lying down all day.

Fasting and a social life do not mix

During the interview, I also talked about how fasting can get in the way of social occasions. The next time a friend asks you to meet them out for a meal, are you really going to say “sorry guys, I can only attend the brunch if it is after 1 p.m.” Or “I can’t go on Sundays because that’s my 500 calorie day. Can you do Saturday? I can eat whatever I want that day.” Oh and heaven forbid when it’s a birthday – YOURS??? And you find yourself feeling guilty for cake and ice cream.

Fasting is just not smart, rational, realistic or sustainable.

What’s the bottom line?

Fasting is a diet — and a dangerous one at that. The large body of science on diets (NOT just one or two studies) show that diets fail, and that 95% of people regain any weight lost. Many even end up gaining MORE weight than before they started. It’s like a doctor telling you, “take this pill, I guarantee you it won’t work long term.” You would not take that pill, would you?

Finally, fasting is disordered eating. It is a slippery slope between someone developing disordered eating habits and a clinical eating disorder. If your goal is health, you should not fast. You should work on behaviors you can do realistically for the rest of your life. The people in this segment were already exercising (a health move everyone should do) and they say they “fill their plates with protein, veggies and healthy fats, they feel satiated”. You can and SHOULD do that without having to fast and fight hunger.

Biologically fasting leads to increased risk of overeating so their claims that they avoid overeating, seem in contrast to what we know about human biology.  Again, you CAN and SHOULD avoid overeating without having to follow a fast and ignore normal hunger cues.

They say they maintain “a balanced diet” — yet they don’t mention carbohydrates, beans, or whole grains. I don’t know if it was an error or if they avoid those foods intentionally. I have shocking news: Carbohydrates are not the devil and they are needed to TRULY be balanced in your eating.

In addition, you can eat balanced without eating perfectly. You mean to tell me nobody who does this fast ever has a cookie, or ice cream — ever? Sounds too perfect to me, and perfect is the enemy of life long success.

If you want to get healthy, eat better, and exercise more, you should do it. But you don’t need a fast to get healthy. You need a food and nutrition expert – a dietitian who is actually trained to help you work with your body and become your best you! If you want to lose weight, make it permanent and that means working WITH your body, not against it. If you can’t do it the rest of your life, or would not wholeheartedly recommend it to family and friends, stay away.

Carrot Cake Recipe from Green Mountain At Fox Run

GMFR_final_logo1-e1364240612911For many people trying to reach a healthy natural weight, a retreat can be a great way to step outside of your environment, so you can learn new behaviors without the distraction of everyday life. While there are a number of weight loss-focused retreat options out there (and some are certainly better than others), I’ve personally been to Green Mountain At Fox Run and can tell you it’s different.

First, and foremost, it’s not focused on weight loss — it’s focused on self care. It’s definitely a place worth checking out, if you haven’t already. For more information about their programs and services you can visit their website at www.fitwoman.com. They help you to learn more about yourself in order to improve your self care, and to help you achieve real wellness (not just in terms of your scale weight).

I encourage anyone to  subscribe to their newsletter or check out their blog — both are worthwhile reads. One of their latest newsletters featured this carrot cake recipe that sounded too delicious not to share. The recipe can be found below, or you can visit their website — enjoy!

Carrot Cake Recipe (Serves 18)

Dry Ingredients:Carrot Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  •  2 ½  teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¾ cups canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups grated carrots

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375° F.
  2. Prepare an 8 by 13 inch glass pan with cooking spray.
  3. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. In separate bowl, mix sugar, brown sugar, and oil well.  Slowly mix in eggs and vanilla.
  5. Blend wet and dry ingredients together, being careful to not over mix.
  6. Once blended, fold in the carrots.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan
  8. Bake in oven at 375° F for 30 to 35 minutes.
  9. Let the cake cool completely before cutting.

Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?

Leave a comment below and tell me what recipe you love to make when you’re craving something sweet. Maybe I will feature it in my next e-newsletter…coming soon!

“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.