Weight: When You Have the Will, But Not the Way
Have you ever tried to lose weight but couldn’t? Does it seem like no matter what you eat or how little you eat, you still can’t lose weight? Or do you have trouble gaining weight? Does it seem like you can eat and eat, but you still don’t gain weight? I know what many of you are thinking: “I wish I had that second problem.” But I urge you not to belittle this issue. This is a real problem for many people. Ironically, the inability to lose or gain weight can be two sides of the same coin.
Food allergies and sensitivities can lead to a variety of symptoms. Sometimes they cause inflammation, swelling, and bloating, and other times they result in the inability to properly assimilate nutrients. Sometimes they even do both at the same time. These are the underlying issues that contribute to both weight gain and weight loss. In order to understand this better, let’s first look at some examples of how you may be making efforts to lose weight, yet have a food allergy that prevents you from doing exactly that.
When Working Out Isn’t Working
I have seen many patients who were busy busting their buns working out, trying to eat healthy, and burning more calories than they were taking in, yet couldn’t lose weight. Many of these people have
even hired a trainer to help them develop the most effective workouts possible. Their frustration is palpable.
How is it possible, after several months of working with a trainer, that they still couldn’t lose weight? Were they cheating on the side? Maybe. But there is another factor that often holds people back. What is one of the first things that most trainers tell you to do with your diet? Eat more protein. And how do you do that? Start using protein shakes. And what do most protein shakes contain? Dairy and/or egg proteins. (Note: Whey protein is dairy.)
This is the last thing that many people should do if they want to improve their health. Although I am a big fan of protein and often advocate increasing protein in the diet, that approach can backfire without some careful thought. In my experience, dairy and eggs are two of the most allergenic foods on the planet. If you happen to be one of the millions of people who react to dairy or eggs, then you have just served yourself up a big helping of inflammation. Inflammation can mean more water retention and thus more weight.
Companies that Count Calories and Offer Pre-made Meals
Maybe working out isn’t really your thing. Maybe you want a company that will count calories for you and offer you pre-made meals. If that is what you want, then there are many options that exist. Thousands of people use companies like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, and the like to try to lose weight. These companies aren’t necessarily bad, but there are pitfalls.
Like the scenario where people are thwarted by ingesting protein powders that aren’t working for them, using some of the foods from these companies can create a similar problem. It is my opinion that the food sold by these companies is usually created based on calories and flavor. Most of the time they do not take into account food allergies and intolerances.
If you unknowingly suffer from a food allergy or intolerance, there is a very good chance that products designed specifically for weight loss will contain one or more of the ingredients that you need to avoid. These products are not hypoallergenic. They contain just as many common allergenic ingredients as any other regular food. So even though you are trying to eat healthy and take care of yourself, you can still end up feeling lousy and having difficulty with your weight.
Experiencing difficulty gaining weight seems like a completely different problem, but it can be another aspect of poorly reacting to the food in your diet. In this case, the food is going in, but it’s not being assimilated by the body. This is exacerbated if you have a digestive problem, which is another indication that your body isn’t processing nutrients well.
In some people who have a food allergy or intolerance, their reaction is so severe that they can’t get enough nutrition from the food they eat to sustain themselves properly. This is surprisingly common. These people are often blamed for not eating enough or for having an eating disorder, even when they eat more than most people and don’t have an eating disorder.
You can imagine how incredibly frustrating this is for the person who suffers with this problem. They can’t get help, because no one believes them. And other people even go so far as to say that they wish they had the same problem.
In an effort to gain weight, they are likely eating lots of bread products, which of course are full of food allergens. They may also be using weight gain products on the market. And what do those usually contain? A hefty dose of common food allergens as well.
Ensure is the perfect example of this. Ensure is a product commonly used by people who are underweight. Most Ensure products contain dairy, soy, and corn; three things that many people who need to gain weight should not be ingesting. (Ensure Clear does not contain soy protein.)
Whether You’re Trying to Lose or Gain…
Trying to lose weight and trying to gain weight have at least two things in common. First, both can be very challenging and very frustrating. Second, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
When it comes to food allergies and intolerances, everyone is different. Most solutions for losing weight or gaining weight are generic recommendations that are not based on your individual needs. Just because Jared ate a bunch of Subway sandwiches and lost weight doesn’t mean that you will, too. When I work with patients who are having trouble with their weight, I always evaluate them for—among other things—food allergies and intolerances. Once we figure out the source of their problem, they are often amazed at the results. Many times patients have lost weight without even trying and gained weight just by eating different foods rather than more food.
If you are struggling with a weight issue and your body isn’t responding to the usual solutions, don’t give up. Keep investigating. Be honest with yourself about your diet and your exercise level. Then consider the possibility that you may have a food allergy or intolerance that is getting in the way of you realizing your goals. That weight might change more easily than you ever thought possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Stephen Wangen is the award winning author of Healthier Without Wheat. He is co-founder and Medical Director of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment Center (www.IBSTreatmentCenter.com), the first clinic of its kind in the nation. Dr. Wangen, gluten-free himself, is an internationally recognized speaker and writer.