Not All Celiacs Are Skinny

When the doctor confirmed I had celiac disease AND allergies to dairy, corn, eggs, soy, and a bunch of other foods, the first thing I thought was What would I eat?  The second thing that popped into my mind was At least I’ll lose weight! Trying to shed pounds for decades, I figured all those food restrictions would surely make that horrid digital scale go down.

That was eight years ago and I’m still overweight. This embarrasses me. I’m the person who orders grilled salmon or chicken and a salad with olive oil and lemon, yet I’m the fattest one at the table.

IMG_4321My weight also makes me angry and a little depressed. I mean if I can’t eat cheesecake and lasagna for the rest of my life, let me at least look good in a pair of skinny jeans.

Before diagnosis and for a long time afterwards–while I was learning how to eat sans gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and corn–food didn’t last long in my body, if you know what I mean. So one would naturally assume, I’d lose weight. Nope. Didn’t happen.

So I went to see a nutritionist. After much testing, she said I was malnourished. This seemed funny considering my pant size was creeping up. She put me on a nutrient-rich diet with much more protein than I’d been consuming and I felt great for the first time in years.

But I didn’t lose weight.

Okay, time to come clean. During these early years of food-restricted eating, I did test the gluten-free products. I mean I was feeling pretty sorry for myself that I’d never eat pizza or a croissant or an omelet ever again. So when I came across a processed gluten-free product that was also dairy-free and soy-free, I had to give it a try. Prime example: Amy’s Rice Macaroni with Non-Dairy Cheeze  Plus companies kept sending me free food in hopes of a blog review. I had to eat them–it was part of my job.

IMG_3129 2Turns out a lot of those allergy-friendly treats are high in calories, fat, carbs, and sugar. That Amy’s Mac & Cheeze? 400 calories, 16 grams fat, 10 grams saturated fat, 47 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar. Sure my metabolism was out of whack,  but those gluten-free/soy-free/diary-free chocolate chips I popped into my mouth weren’t helping either.

Also turns out I’m not the only fat celiac. A 2008 study from Northern Ireland found weight gain is common in patients following a strict gluten-free diet. The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center summarized three possible explanations for weight gain based on this study as well as some other European studies (Impact, Spring 2008, Vol. 8, Issue 2).

First, when the small intestine heals after eliminating gluten, nutrients are absorbed more normally. Dietary  carbohydrates, proteins and fats then contribute calories to the body. For many celiacs who lose too much weight, this is a desirable outcome. For those of us struggling with too many pounds, not so much.

Another possibility for packing on the pounds is gluten-free substitutes often contain higher amounts of fats and sugars than the wheat/gluten versions. So many of us food-restricted folks are so busy reading the labels for gluten and allergens that we forget to check for calories, fat, carbohydrates, and sugar. I have also noticed potion sizes for gluten-free foods are often smaller than foods with gluten, and I eat two servings instead of one. Oops.

Finally, adults with malabsorption from undiagnosed and active celiac disease may consume more food and not gain weight. Once on the gluten-free diet, they may find they must eat less to maintain a healthy diet. Before I knew what was wrong with me, I was often hungry–food never stayed in me long–and I even craved the very foods that I later learned were making me ill. After diagnosis of celiac and food allergies, I felt so restricted I didn’t really look at how much I was eating. Sometimes, especially when I travelled, I overate because I never knew when my next meal might come. Sure, I often ordered the salad or the plain burger without a bun, but I also grabbed that bag of gluten-free potato chips in case I got hungry later.

IMG_4307I’ve come to realize I can’t keep blaming my tight pants on a broken metabolism. Starting WeightWatchers last summer–Is this my third time?–was a game changer. I began to start paying attention to the portions of the allergy-free food I put on my plate. Rather than just examining labels for caramel coloring and maltodextrin, I paid attention to the nutritional labels as well. With WeightWatchers allotting me 30 points to eat each day, whole foods are much better choices than processed foods such as Amy’s Rice Mac and Non-Dairy Cheeze (16 points!). I now know the dairy-free yogurt, the agave nectar I added to my morning coffee, even the Ruby Red Grapefruit in juice I ate as a “healthy snack” are all loaded with sugar.

I’m losing around two pounds a week and feeling better than I have in years. The WeightWatchers program encourages me to track everything I put in my mouth and it’s been easier pinpointing what foods contain an ingredient I react to. For example, I thought I could eat a little corn but every time I eat citric acid derived from corn I feel sick. No more citric acid for me.

I’m not endorsing WeightWatchers here, but I am suggesting if you’re food-restricted yet struggling with unwanted pounds, you may want to take a closer look at those allergy-friendly food labels and the amount of food you’re consuming.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Not All Celiacs Are Skinny” first appeared in Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.








12 thoughts on “Not All Celiacs Are Skinny

  1. Paula Cote says:

    Hi Amy, I was reading this and wondering how you were feeling these days. So happy to hear you’re feeling good. And nothing like eating healthy and not seeing the scale budge. But sounds like you may have found some tricks for healthy eating. It does seem like a lot of work to track everything, but it does make a difference. I’m trying to be more aware of what I’m eating these days too. And you take the best food pics. All that healthy food looks delicious!


    • Thanks for reading, Paula! Yeah, it’s really frustrating when I pass on the bread and butter and the desserts and the croutons on the salad and eat the fish and veggies and yet I cannot lose weight. But at least I don’t have the awful stomachaches and lethargy anymore! And I’ve really started to enjoy cooking and discovering new foods/recipes. Always good to look at the positive. 🙂


  2. amandaorlando says:

    This was such a great read. Although I don’t have Celiac, I am kind of gluten-free by accident due to my allergies to dairy, nuts, peanuts, and legumes. If I eat packaged food it often contains a lot of rice or potato starch, sugar, and other additives (as a substitute for the gluten, dairy, etc.) so I mainly eat fresh foods. When I was younger I used to struggle with my weight because I would bake bread or cookies (etc.. etc..) that I could actually eat and then I’d gorge on it because I so rarely had those kinds of foods. I was also in the habit of eating a lot at home or carrying snacks with me because it’s nearly impossible for me to eat fast food. I wouldn’t say I was ever overweight per se, but there was a point where I was definitely uncomfortable and out of shape, and it was due to all the sugar and starch I was consuming. I found your personal account to be very relatable. People so often tell me that I must be thin because of my allergies, but they fail to see the other side of the coin 😉


    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Amanda. I nodded my head when you wrote how you’d gorge on some foods you could eat because you rarely got to have those kinds of foods. I discovered Vegan/glutenfree cupcakes a few years ago that I could eat and I’d always buy two–one for dinner and one for the next day. The funny thing is BEFORE CELIAC/ALLERGIES I RARELY ate treats like cupcakes. Being told you can’t have them makes you want them! LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy, congratulations on the courage to share this and make the change! It’s so easy and understandable when so much of our life is “no” or “can’t” to fill our wants with the treats we CAN have. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees because we’re hyper-focused on all the deprivations. I’m a firm believer in slow and steady. It’s taken me years to lose the extra weight I’d gained. YEARS. But I’m not feeling deprived, I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in many ways, and I have declared 2016 the year of MORE. Rather than focus on “less” of this or that, More crunch, more chew, more diversity in our diet. More flavor. More whole foods. More home-cooked meals.

    Good for you and ROCK ON. Those of us with allergies understand how much harder it is!


  4. I lost 6 kgs due to going on a high carb low fat (HCLF) diet, which is vegan. I was forced to do this because I was reacting to so many foods. One of my doctor’s wants me to do the Celiac test but I don’t think I can handle eating gluten for two weeks prior to the test. Just one day burns my stomach causing reflux. I think it’s a matter of finding whats right for our bodies. I never would have thought I would have gone vegan in a million years. It’s funny where our illnesses lead us! Good luck 🙂


  5. Hi Amy. I’m with you. I’m eating gluten-free and overweight as well. All the years I was undiagnosed and ate gluten I was skinny. Now I’m overweight like never before. I too like to bake. I’ve developed some gluten-free baked goods recipes and when I want a snack, I bake and then eat it all. It’s like I crave it and can’t get enough. I know I’m bingeing because I do it when I’m alone and no one is around to watch. It’s good to know I’m not alone. I may just take a look at Weight Watchers myself.


  6. Nicole Shanks says:

    I definitely struggle with the same. I have celiac, and am allergic to nuts, carrots, apples, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, cherries, peas, and tomatoes. I sustain myself on meat and dairy, mostly – along with rice. So, If I find something I can eat, I tend to pay a lot of attention to it. I don’t usually go out anymore to eat. I tried weight watchers before I was diagnosed with a lot of my allergies, and failed horribly with the new points plus system – once they got rid of the calorie counter, I was lost – because so many of the easy foods were now on my no fly list. Try nuts! Nope. Fruit! Also mostly nope. I can only eat so many bananas and oranges before I get bored.
    Stumbling upon this article helped me to feel less alone – thanks for it, and hang in there!


  7. ronslihoubepho says:

    Hello Amy!
    I wish you were still blogging, you have a great way with words. It looks like it has been almost a full year since your last post. I think it is really important to keep the Dialog flowing about Ciliac. I do have a question for you, have you ever tried the sourdough bread from ? My wife suffers from Ciliac and this bread company actually makes the bread to order. I’m not sure what they do differently then the other companies but it does not just fall apart, and you don’t have to keep it in the freezer. Enough about them, please keep posting!


    • Thank you for your kind words and I will get back to blogging soon. I can’t believe it’s been a year since I last posted. I checked out Simple Kneads and am thrilled to see they don’t use any ingredients I’m allergic to. I will place an order soon. Again, thanks for the encouragement.


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