How I Lost Weight on a Gluten-Free Diet

When I wrote about Losing Weight While Living Gluten Free, I talked about the things I’ve learned on my journey. This post will get into specifics about how I actually achieved my goal. As of this writing, I have achieved my goal of losing 50 pounds (actually, I’m a bit over my goal, closer to 55 pounds), and am enjoying being in maintenance mode.

I will state for the record that most of the specific tips below have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I am gluten free. However, living a gluten-free lifestyle absolutely helped me achieve my goal as I was never tempted by certain high-calorie foods or fast foods. It’s a lot easier to avoid certain things when you know they’ll make you sick.

What follows absolutely worked for me, and I hope you can find something here that works for you. Your body and lifestyle will dictate how you actually achieve your own weight loss goals, so as they say in yoga classes, take what you can from this and do what is best for you.

  • Track Calories Honestly. I obsessively (okay, mostly obsessively) tracked my calories via the LoseIt app. Even on the days when I exceeded my allotted calories, I was brutally honest with myself how many calories I ingested. Tracking calories as I lost pounds also let me get a good sense of how much food I was eating versus how much food I should be eating. If you’ve ever noted the calorie counts on restaurant menus, you know that it’s easy to enter a calorie distortion field — tracking was critical for me.
  • Exercise More. I am a Fitbit addict, but when I started my diet, I knew I needed to recalibrate my thinking. In the past, I aimed for an average of 10,000 steps a day — something I could achieve with just one day of intense movement making up for many other days of less-than-stellar step counts. I switched my mindset to at least 10,000 steps a day. For me, this is about 5 miles of walking and/or running, and I really focused hard on hitting that goal every day. Once I got in the habit of mid-morning and lunch walks, I found myself losing a pound a week consistently.
  • Slow and Steady Weight Loss. I set my weight loss goal at one pound per week. This allowed me to lose weight in a steady manner, while not starving myself. I ate well, but was always a little bit hungry — not ravenous, but never overfull. Obviously, the latter approach was what got me to the point where I needed the diet in the first place. The slow and steady approach allowed my body to become accustomed to ingesting fewer calories, which helped keep me motivated and on track.
  • Measure Portions. I cannot overstate how important it is to pull out measuring cups and a digital scale when dieting. In order to properly count my calories, I had to properly measure the food I was eating. There is a huge difference between eyeballing a portion and actually measuring it. Measuring my food at home also helped me when it came to eating out — I had a much better sense of how much salad dressing I used, how much meat or fish I consumed, and, sigh, how deluded I was about the amount of rice I really ate. I still measure everything, but I am more confident that I accurately estimate what I eat and drink.
  • Pack Your Lunch. I’ve talked about how I spend time on Sundays prepping food for the week. While this is a bit time consuming, it’s also a great ritual. While there are certainly days when I have to go out to lunch with colleagues, I make it easy on myself to avoid lunches out by having meals ready to throw into my lunch bag. This is important because eating out is a major calorie budget-buster. A person can unwittingly blow their entire day’s worth of calories on a single meal.
  • Smaller Meals. I have found that more frequent small meals work best for me, though I cannot shake the habit of eating a large dinner (I’m trying, but the ritual of preparing a meal and sharing it with my husband is important as well). However, throughout the day, I keep myself from going off course by nibbling on veggies and hummus, eating a small dish of cottage cheese, and my lunch. I cannot describe how much I look forward to my drive home — that’s when I chew on radishes or carrots. Mostly radishes because, well, I love radishes!
  • No Cheat Days. This one will be hard for people, but I went into this diet with a specific goal: to change my relationship with food. So-called Cheat Days, to my way of thinking, encourage people to reward good eating habits with food. I didn’t want to think about food as a gift to myself for doing the right thing. I stayed within my calorie count no matter what the day of the week. Of course there were days when I overdid the food part of my diet and exercise equation, but those are to be expected. And they were rare.
  • Reduce Refined Carbs. I write about Real Food a lot, and there’s a reason for that. Refined carbs, such as flour, bread, cookie, potato chips, rice, and pasta (to name a few), are absolutely tasty, that is true. But they do not keep you feeling full for any period of time, and, frankly, your body greets them as simple sugar. Prior to reducing refined carbs, my weight loss was slow and steady, but not consistent. After I changed my diet, my weight loss, including body fat, was consistent.
  • Balance Your Diet. Every body is different. For me, I find getting about 60% of my calories from carbohydrates, 25% from proteins, and 15% from fats is about right for my level of activity. The carbohydrate calories largely come from fruits and vegetables, as noted above. On the days before my longer runs, I up my carb intake. You’ll note that I include fats in my daily diet — fats are important (though they’ve been treated as public enemy number one for decades!).
  • Be Kind to Yourself. This is the key, I believe. If you have a bad diet week, accept that life happens. Don’t berate yourself or, worse, punish yourself the next week with draconian calorie restriction. Stick to your diet plan, and you will have success. You should never be miserable during your diet; if you aren’t motivated or if you aren’t getting enough food, you will fail. I didn’t have to diet, I wanted to lose weight — that made all the difference in the world.

Circling back to how I lost weight while remaining gluten free, as you can see, the only place where this really mattered was when I reduced my refined carbs. Most prepared gluten-free foods, particularly breads, etc., are very carb heavy. Very. Very. Carb. Heavy.

Moreso, I think, than their non-gluten-free equivalents. If you’re counting calories, you can see how quickly they add up when you’re eating crackers, breads, pastas…and how hungry you are by the end of the day when you make these calories the bulk of your food intake.

That’s not to say an occasional pasta night or piece of gluten-free pizza is the end of the world, but I’ve become acutely aware of how my body feels when I eat these foods versus a low-refined carb diet. My energy level is better, and I feel fuller even though I am eating much smaller portions.

I honestly believe this is the first time in my life that I’ve felt really good about dieting. I’ve changed the way I eat, for the better, and I find that I’m pretty excited about the foods I prepare. My current diet is a lot more vegetable-heavy than it was in the past, and that really works for me and my body. As a household, we are taking a “meat on the side” approach to proteins, and that feels good as well.

Thoughts? How are you losing weight?

Tip of the Week

There is some evidence that artificial sweeteners may encourage weight gain rather than weight loss. And they seem to have an impact on blood glucose. A tablespoon of granulated sugar has 48 calories, and, I believe, is much healthier than fake sugar.

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

I have tofu and broccoli in my refrigerator, and that broccoli has to be eaten, well, now. While I considered doing a play on Beef and Broccoli, my attention was caught by a recipe for General Tso’s Tofu. I love the mix of salty and spicy, and the baked tofu gets nice and crispy on the outside. Instead of steaming the broccoli, I roast it in the oven to bring out more flavor.

Yes, I serve this with rice (carefully measured!) and a tossed cabbage salad for crunch. Toss your shredded or sliced cabbage with a bit of salt and let it sit to sweat out some liquid while you’re baking the tofu. Rinse, dry, and dress the salad — your cabbage will be extra-crunchy instead of soggy.

General Tso’s Tofu
Roasted Broccoli
Steamed Rice
Cabbage Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

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