By Nicolette Dumke
My primary reason for writing Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss was because I care about dear friends whose weight keeps increasing, thus endangering their health. I felt I could not express this concern and have a positive effect if I just told them, “Get and stay slim my way,” without having real evidence that my way would work for them. They would think, “Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah… You’re just naturally slim.”
In addition, because I have written food allergy and gluten-free cookbooks, I frequently talk to or exchange emails with individuals suffering from food allergies and also gluten intolerance. Over the last several years, with the rising incidence of diagnosed gluten intolerance or celiac disease, I have been receiving phone calls from people who have eaten rice, rice, rice until they became allergic to rice. (Hence my book Gluten-Free Without Rice). More recently, I’ve been hearing from people on gluten-free diets who have gained a large amount of weight which they cannot lose in spite of nearly starving themselves and exercising vigorously. (As I began research for this book, I discovered why people tend to gain weight when they change from eating wheat to eating rice for every meal. Rice is the only grain which in whole grain form has a high (fat-deposit-inducing) glycemic index value. To read more about the glycemic index and how it can help us lose weight, visit this page: http://www.foodallergyandglutenfreeweightloss.com/glycemic_index.html). Therefore, it just seemed natural to combine my desire to better understand weight problems with the opportunity to write a book for which there seemed to be a growing need – and also to help my special people.
In the last few years I have also developed a close email friendship with a woman in England who takes low dose immunotherapy shots for severe multiple food allergies. If she goes too many months between shots, she can “lose” so many foods that she really struggles. About two years ago, she had a series of lung infections which kept her from taking her shot as scheduled. Then she had a mild heart attack.
Her doctor told her that she absolutely had to get her weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure down, so she joined Weight Watchers.™ By the time she was finally able to take a shot several months later, seeds had become her only protein foods. Over the last several months I have been listening to stories about counting points in the context of her food allergies. Weight Watchers™ is do-able for her because it does not dictate food choices absolutely, meaning if seeds are the only protein you can eat, that’s O.K. She also benefits greatly from the social support the group offers.
Listening to her made me remember the time in my early 20s when I struggled to lose weight. I grew up on a Mediterranean type of diet. We ate almost no fried food, and sweets were reserved for special occasions. My husband, however, grew up in a family that truly loves sugar and fat. When my mother-in-law dieted, she gave up most nutritious foods but made sure that candy was generously represented in the low number of calories she ate. On our honeymoon, my husband introduced me to the pleasure of picking something from the restaurant’s dessert cart every night. The trend continued after we settled in the city where he was attending graduate school about 1000 miles away from my home. When my parents came to visit us for Christmas after we had been married about six months, my mother looked at my behind and said, “You better watch out. You’re going to end up looking like…” and she mentioned the names of several relatives who are overweight.
I took my mother’s warning seriously and tried to lose weight with a standard low-calorie, low-fat diet. I carried a small spiral notebook with me, recorded everything I ate with the calorie count, and kept my food intake at 500 calories less than the books said I needed per day. According to the experts, I should have lost weight, but I didn’t, so I boosted my supposed calorie deficit to 1000 per day. I began doing a lot of swimming and still didn’t lose very much weight. I was starved all of the time, but surprisingly, if I went swimming when hungry I was less hungry when I got out of the pool. (The explanation for this, which is not good for health or weight loss, is discussed in the book). Yet I just could not lose weight without a tremendous struggle.
An office assistant at work who was about 40 (which seemed old to me at the time) but was very slim and stylish followed a high-protein, ultra-low-carbohydrate diet routinely. I decided to try that. The first day I didn’t feel that great by mid-afternoon, but I stuck with it. I lost weight but never really felt right. Then my uncle died and I flew home for the funeral and the weekend. For four days I ate normally, including bread, fruit, and foods I hadn’t eaten at all for a few months. When I flew back, my husband picked me up at the airport. He put his arm around my waist and said, “Gained a little weight, didn’t you?” It was that obvious! I had gained back every pound that I had lost.
Then I found a book called Low Blood Sugar and You by Carlton Fredericks, PhD. I began to follow his diet which was balanced and contained a moderate amount of carbohydrate. It directed that the dieter have a snack that contained protein three times a day, mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and at bedtime. I lost weigh slowly and was never hungry. When I had slimmed down, I stopped paying attention to portion sizes, but retained some of the basic habits from Dr. Fredericks’ diet such as eating a snack when I was hungry between meals and listening to my body about what, when, and how much to eat. When my food allergies were diagnosed, I had to change what I ate drastically but I still ate nutritious between-meal and bedtime snacks.
I kept hearing about my email pen-pal’s Weight Watchers™ experiences and received pictures of her getting progressively slimmer over many months. For a while, she did a good job at improving her health outcome prospects, but I mentally compared the amount of struggle she endured with the ease and lack of hunger I experienced losing weight on a plan which stabilized my blood sugar and insulin levels. I thought, “There has to be a better way.” People with food allergies or gluten-intolerance need to be able to lose weight with a system that allows the flexibility they need in order to stay on their special diets but doesn’t require counting calories (points for my friend) or being hungry.
At that point I began to do some research and discovered that in the last 30 years there has been a tremendous amount of progress on the science behind the type of diet that worked for me. Back then, blood sugar and insulin were factors know to be involved in weight control. A major breakthrough in the application of this science to real-world weight loss has been the development of the glycemic index. I read about other hormones and chemical messengers now known to be equally important – cortisol, leptin, eicosanoids, and more. One book I encountered was The Fat Resistance Diet by Leo Galland, MD. His diet is an extremely nutrient-dense unprocessed food diet that involves eating in a way that controls blood sugar levels. Although he mentions the glycemic index, he does not dwell on it or on insulin. Rather, he emphasizes different aspects of the physiology of weight loss such as the hormone leptin, the role of inflammation in contributing to overweight, and how excess body fat in turn causes inflammation. Since chronic inflammation is a major factor in allergies of all types, this information was very helpful to me and to many of my clients. For more about hormones and their effect on weight, see this page: http://www.foodallergyandglutenfreeweightloss.com/controlling_hormones.html, and to learn about inflammation and weight, see his page: http://www.foodallergyandglutenfreeweightloss.com/inflammation.html.
All of these factors (hormones, the glycemic index, inflammation, etc.) are pieces of the weight control puzzle. When we understand and implement them, we will succeed at achieving and maintaining a healthy weight without constant struggle. Now that I’m receiving real feedback from readers of my book, maybe I can even help those special people I’m concerned about.
Nickie Dumke enjoys helping people with food allergies and gluten intolerance find solutions to their health and weight problems. She began writing books to help others with multiple food allergies over 20 years ago and the process culminated in The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide. She says, “This book contains everything I know to help with food allergies,” and it has helped many people come back from near-starvation. Her other books address issues such as how to deal with time and money pressures on special diets, keeping allergic children happy on their diets, and more.
A few years ago, while listening to the struggles of an allergic friend on the Weight Watchers™ diet, she remembered her own weight struggles* many years ago and thought, “There has to be a better way.” This was the beginning of a new quest, and she is now helping those who are overweight due to inflammation (often due to unsuspected food allergies) or high-in-rice gluten-free diets, as well as those who are not food sensitive but want to lose weight permanently, healthily, and without feeling hungry and deprived. Her unique approach to weight and health presented in Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss is based on body physiology and reveals why conventional weight-loss diets work against rather than with our bodies and therefore rarely result in permanent weight loss.
* (Nickie’s weight loss story, briefly, is that in her early 20s she could not lose on a calorie-counting diet in spite of repeatedly further reducing the number of calories she ate and swimming vigorously and often. Then she found a diet based on blood sugar control, lost weight without being hungry, and still weighs what she did in her mid-20s).
Nickie has had multiple food allergies for 30 years and has been cooking for special diets for family members and friends for even longer. Regardless of how complex your dietary needs are or how much or little cooking you have done, she has the books and recipes you need. Her books present the science behind multiple food allergies and weight control in an easily-understood manner. She has BS degrees in medical technology and microbiology. She and her husband live in Louisville, Colorado and have two grown sons.
About Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss
Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss answers the question, “Why is it so hard to lose weight?” Because it’s hard to put a puzzle together if you’re missing some of the pieces. We’ve been missing or ignoring the most important pieces in the puzzle of how our bodies determine whether to store or burn fat. Those puzzle pieces are hormones such as insulin, cortisol, leptin, and others.
In addition, we’ve been given some puzzle pieces that don’t belong or fit in the weight-control puzzle. Much of what we’ve heard about dieting and exercise is incorrect and can cause loss of muscle mass instead of fat or even result in weight gain. The idea that weight is determined solely by “calories in minus calories out” is an assumption not based in reality. Most weight-loss diets require us to endure hunger much of the time, but hunger means that our blood sugar is falling or low and our insulin level may be rising. Prolonged hunger leads to the release of adrenal hormones, and the hormonal cascade which follows results in the inability to burn our own body fat as well as causing any fat we eat to be stored rather than burned to give us energy.
Another problem with most weight loss diets is that they strictly dictate food choices, lack the flexibility that those on special diets for food allergies or gluten-intolerance require, and deprive us of pleasure. Individuals with food allergies face additional weight-loss challenges such as inflammation due to allergies which can lead to our master weight control hormone, leptin, being unable to do its job of maintaining a healthy weight. Those with gluten intolerance often eat a diet too high rice. Rice is the only grain which is high on the glycemic index in its whole grain form; thus eating too much of it will raise insulin levels and cause the body to deposit fat. Although the recipes in this book were developed for those on special diets, non-sensitive people will enjoy them as well, and the weight loss principles in this book will help anyone lose weight. (A chapter of recipes made with wheat and other problematic foods is included for those on unrestricted diets).
The most frustrating deficiency of conventional weight loss diets is that they don’t work long-term. Low-calorie, low-fat diets can lead to loss of muscle mass, and with less muscle to burn calories, this type of diet effectively reduces metabolic rate so we need less food. Rare is the person who loses weight by counting calories and keeps it off after they liberalize their diet! However, continual dieting for the rest of your life is not the way you need to live, and you do not have to be deprived of pleasure in order to lose weight. Overweight is not due to a lack of willpower. Rather, it is due to a chemical imbalance in our bodies. Once we begin to correct that imbalance by applying the principles in Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss, we can lose weight without hunger or deprivation and can maintain a healthy weight permanently and easily by regaining normal self-regulating hormonal control of our weight.