Leave Your New Year’s Diet Out In the Cold

Is there a better way? Intuitive Eating and mindful eating are “non-diet” approaches backed by research and now making headlines as ways to improve your relationship with food and more naturally manage your weight for life.

Gluten-Free and Gaining

Research shows that many people with celiac disease gain weight on a gluten-free diet. A 2012 study followed almost 700 patients with celiac disease and found that about a quarter of those who were overweight at diagnosis gained weight on the gluten-free diet. A 2010 study of nearly 150 children with celiac disease on the gluten-free diet found that the percentage of overweight participants almost doubled. For those who are underweight, gaining a few pounds may be a good thing and can improve overall health. But for those at a normal weight or even overweight at the time of diagnosis, weight gain may cause great distress.

A combination of factors likely leads to weight gain on the gluten-free diet. Many gluten-free products are higher in fat and calories than their gluten-containing counterparts. Also, those with undiagnosed celiac disease experience malabsorption, making it possible to eat bigger portions without gaining weight. After diagnosis and treatment commence, the body absorbs food better as the intestinal lining heals, often leading to added pounds on the scale.

What can those on the gluten-free diet do to prevent or manage unwanted weight gain? The answer is not as simple as counting calories. Most people who go on a traditional diet gain the weight back, plus a few extra pounds, within five years. In fact, multiple studies on children and adults show that those who diet are at risk for further weight gain.

Say Goodbye to Diets

Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch published the book Intuitive Eating in 1995 after both became frustrated with how traditional diets failed their patients. Now in its third edition, the book takes a radical look at the ineffectiveness of traditional diets. Tribole explains, “When we diet, we are not connecting with our bodies. We are no longer listening to our hunger and fullness cues.” Research backs this way of eating. “There are 60 studies that show benefits,” says Tribole. “Many have shown that those who practice Intuitive Eating have a lower body mass index (BMI).”

Successfully following this “non-diet” approach usually involves taking a step away from the scale. This can be challenging for someone who wants to measure success by numbers, but it’s important. “We live in such a weight-focused culture, and we want instant gratification by seeing pounds go down on the scale,” notes Tribole. “But it’s a paradox. If you focus on weight as your measure of success, it takes you away from Intuitive Eating and connecting with your body.” Cheryl Harris, RDN and mindfulness coach at Harris Whole Health, agrees. “Mindful eating isn’t a quick fix, and it isn’t likely to be a good fit for someone with a specific weight goal timeline.”

Both Tribole and Harris stress that it’s important to reject the traditional diet mentality altogether. This is often easier said than done, but it’s the first step to improving your relationship with food. Harris says, “Usually, weight management is about following certain rules or avoiding certain foods. This takes willpower and often gets harder over time.”

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