I eliminated wheat—and I didn't lose weight!

Elimination of wheat is a wonderfully effective way to lose weight. Because saying goodbye to wheat means removing the gliadin protein of wheat, the protein degraded to brain-active exorphins that stimulate appetite, calorie consumption is reduced, on average, 400 calories per day. It also means eliminating this source of high blood sugar and high blood insulin and the 90-minutes cycles of highs and lows that cause a cyclic need to eat more at the inevitable low. It means that the high blood sugar and insulin phenomena that trigger accumulation of visceral fat are now turned off. It may possibly also mean that wheat lectins no longer block the leptin receptor, undoing leptin resistance and allowing weight loss to proceed. And weight loss usually results effortlessly and rapidly.

But not always. Why? Why are there people who, even after eliminating this appetite-stimulating, insulin-triggering, leptin-blocking food, still cannot lose weight? Or stall after an initial few pounds?

There are a list of reasons, but here are the biggies:

1) Too many carbohydrates–What if I eliminate wheat but replace those calories with gluten-free breads, muffins, and cookies? Then I’ve switched one glucose-insulin triggering food for another. This is among the reasons I condemn gluten-free foods made with rice starch, cornstarch, tapioca starch, and potato starch. Or perhaps there’s too many potatoes, rices, and oats in your diet. While not as harmful as wheat, they still provoke phenomena that cause weight loss to stall. So cutting carbohydrates may become necessary, e.g., no more than 12-14 grams per meal.

2) Fructose–Fructose has become ubiquitous and has even assumed some healthy-appearing forms. “Organic agave nectar” is, by far, the worst, followed by maple syrup, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose,and fruit–yes, in that order. They are all sources of fructose that causes insulin resistance, visceral fat accumulation or persistency, prolongation of clearing postprandial (after-meal) lipoproteins that antagonize insulin, and glycation. Lose the fructose sources–as much of it as possible. (Fruit should be eaten in very small portions.) Watch for stealth sources like low-fat salad dressings–you shouldn’t be limiting your fat anyway!

3) Thyroid dysfunction–A real biggie. Number one cause to consider for thyroid dysfunction: iodine deficiency. Yes, it’s coming back in all its glory, just like the early 20th century before iodized salt made it to market shelves. Now, people are cutting back on iodized salt. Guess what’s coming back? Iodine deficiency and even goiters. Yes, goiters, the disfiguring growths on the neck that you thought you’d only see in National Geographic pictures of malnourished native Africans. Number two: Exposure to factors that block the thyroid. This may include wheat, but certainly includes perchlorate residues (synthetic fertilizer residues) on produce, pesticides, herbicides, polyfluorooctanoic acid residues from non-stick cookware, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants), and on and on. If you are iodine-deficient, it can even include goitrogenic iodine-blocking foods like broccoli, cauliflower, and soy. Thyroid status therefore needs to be assessed.

4) Cortisol–Not so much excess cortisol as disruptions of circadian rhythm. Cortisol should surge in the morning, part of the process to arouse you from sleep, then decline to lower levels in the evening to allow normal recuperative sleep. But this natural circadian cycling is lost in many people represented, for instance, as a flip-flopping of the pattern with low levels in the morning (with morning fatigue) and high levels at bedtime (with insomnia), which can result in stalled weight loss or weight gain. Cortisol status therefore needs to be assessed, best accomplished with salivary cortisol assessment.

5) Leptin resistance–People who are overweight develop an inappropriate resistance to the hormone, leptin, which can present difficulty in losing weight. This can be a substantial issue and is not always easy to overcome. It might mean assessing leptin levels or it might mean taking some steps to overcome leptin resistance.

Okay, that’s a lot. Next: More on how to know when thyroid dysfunction is to blame.

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242 Responses to I eliminated wheat—and I didn't lose weight!

  1. Holly says:

    Dear Dr. Davis,
    Love your book and think it’s amazing. I’ve been mostly wheat free (+grain and sugar free) for six weeks now, save for the occasional cheat. Don’t miss it at all and I feel really good. BUT, like many on here, I have seen virtually no weight loss. Granted I don’t have a ton to lose. I’m 5’9″, 47 year fit and active female (work out ~ 5 x week), carrying an extra 15 lbs. at 150 lbs. that has just crept on over the last 10 years. Initially, I lost 5 lbs. but it has come right back on, despite my limiting the nuts, and I don’t eat any gluten free products either. I seriously wonder if my thyroid could be the issue as I do have more hair loss than normal, however as a self employed person I do not have health insurance good enough to cover the costs of TSH testing and doctor’s visits just to figure this out.

    My question is, is there any safe, rather natural remedy one could try to boost thyroid functioning, just assuming that my thyroid is sluggish? Sort of an odd question, but I’m at my wit’s end but have been fighting this extra 15 lbs for years and just want to feel comfortable in my own skin again. I would have thought that eliminating wheat and keeping my carb intake less than 100 g per day would have surely done the trick! Or maybe it just takes a lot longer than six weeks?

    Thanks so much for any advice.
    H.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Well, Holly, first of all I would regard a 100 gram carb per day diet as a HIGH-carb diet, not low. Low-carb is more like 40-45 grams per day.

      Second, iodine can help hypothyroidism but only if iodine deficiency is present. I have my patients take 500-1000 mcg per day from an iodine supplement, e.g., kelp. Beyond this, there is really nothing we can do beyond wheat elimination except thyroid hormone tablets. There are plenty of “thyroid support” supplements, but they do not work.

  2. Holly says:

    Thank you for taking the time to respond. Perhaps I’m confused but I’m not sure I understand how a diet of LESS than 100g of carbs per day – which all come from vegetables, protein, and the occasional fruit (ie, berries, pears) – could be considered to be a high carb diet? According to various Paleo guidelines this is considered to be optimal ‘fat-burning range’. As I said, I am almost entirely wheat, grain and sugar-free (think I’ve had ice cream twice in six weeks and organic sprouted bread once, plus I’m not avoiding things with traces of wheat like soy sauce).

    However, I will try your suggestions to increase my probiotic intake, which I had not done, as well as intermittent fasting. Then I will put my scale in the closet, where no doubt it belongs, and concentrate on more important things like endeavoring to wean my 12-year-old athlete son off of his high carb/wheat-based diet which still includes all those bagels and pizzas! :)

    Cheers,
    H

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Okay, Holly: We are talking about slightly different things.

      I am referring to “net” carbs, i.e., total carbs – fiber. It sounds like you are talking about total carbs that includes fiber.

      I find it difficult to regulate carb intake using total carbs, as healthy, desirable foods like broccoli and asparagus can appear high-carb but their “net” carb content is low.

      I believe it is more instructive to follow the “net” carb rule.

  3. K.C. says:

    I have been wheat free for over three weeks now. I’m reading everything trying to figure out why I’m not loosing any weight. I even thought maybe it was my thyroid but I had that tested and all my results were normal. T3 -3.10 / T4-1.4 / TSH 2.46 / Thyroxin 8.1. I initially lost 4 lbs. then immediately gained it back now I’m holding steady at 197 lbs. I’m 42 and in menopause. Is this reason alone for not being able to lose weight? I am doing everything by the book but still no results. Should I just learn to live with the fact that I’m going to be fat? I’m active for my age I am not a couch potato. What am I doing wrong? I recently lost 30 lbs. by practically staring myself and doing HCG shots. I was eating 500 calories a day and even then It took three weeks for the scales to budge. Of course that all came back in three weeks that’s right it took me three months to lose it and I gained it back in three weeks of course this when I was still eating “healthy” whole grain. This diet really makes sense to me and I love having control of my eating and being able to go five and six hours and not be starved. I’m probably eating a third of what I use to eat and I’m satisfied but it would be nice to have some visual results. I measured myself before I started and have not lost a pound or an inch. What else can I do?

    • Boundless says:

      > I have been wheat free for over three weeks now.

      What is your net carb intake per day? If you don’t know the number, chances are it’s higher than you might guess. That’s why it’s the #1 thing to check in Dr. D’s list in the article above.

      The WB targets are 50 grams or less per day, 15 grams or less per meal or 6-hour period. Net carb is total carb minus fiber carb.

    • EA says:

      we are in the same boat. It is impssible for me to loose anything. Dramatically changed diet-improved intake, no wheat, grain, sugar, no bananas, oranges…seems one thing I need to eliminate is yogurt-who would have thought, such a high carbohydrate content-my highest carb regular in my diet. Next will be smoothies, the 8 g carbs from the frozen berries are my next highest single item carb food in the diet…thyroid always tests fine…tried that before at inability to loose weight. Increasing in strength….did an annual push up test-last year had 15, this year, up to 37…but I sure wish some of the excess 35 lbs would shed…let me know if you figure it out!

  4. EA says:

    I have given up wheat and grains and for the most part, sugar, though when I do “cheat’ it has been with sugary foods (5 days total over the past 2 months, and 2 of these days were this past weekend. I cheated with my first “gluten-free” mix-brownies–and, gained 2.2 lbs in 3 days). Over 2 months now. Increased vegetables, meats, nuts (almonds, pecans and walnuts) seeds (flax, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin and pinyon)…not a whole lot of dairy (but some-1/2 & 1/2 in my organic decaf and a serving of yogurt a day) and no weight loss at all. At first, I did loose 4 lbs in about 4 weeks, but back to increasing. My in-law quit eating wheat and has lost ’2 pant sizes’ in less time. It is very frustrating. I can stand to loose 35 lbs, so it isn’t like I have nothing to loose. I hadn’t been able to loose with increasing exercise (walking 19 miles a week plus stretching every morning and often fluidity or ballet dvd’s),and eating healthy, so I thought perhaps it is wheat and grains, and I simply switched into being a person who is not eating them, or craving them either. I feel fine, but not getting the results I was looking for, like many others posting here. I wish I could figure out what I am doing wrong.

    • Farha Syed says:

      I was having the same problem until I started taking Culturelle – the probiotic supplement and that has been helpful in making my stomach go in. Haven’t checked it on the scales but my clothes are fitting better.Just today I could see a marked difference in my profile and my stomach doesn’t stick out and the fat on my back has also gone to make it slimmer from the back.
      I’m in lax mode right now, because I am observing the fasts of Ramadan and that helps also. Once this ends, I will go back to having my almond flour and flaxseed muffins, and chick pea salad.
      I make spicy chickpea flour pancake style bread at home which goes really well with yogurt.
      I have hypothyroidism since birth, my gland doesn’t work so I take the Synthroid for that. other than that my appetite has gone down and my stomach feels really good without any wheat and grain. I drink tea and have sugar in that. I am trying to reduce the number of cups I drink in a day. Hoepfully I will be able to drop it out completely.
      The culturelle helped a great deal.

  5. EA says:

    net carbs are between 50-70 a day, it was 55 yesterday, with the yogurt. That has to go, it is the only thing I eat with over 10 g…other then that, the unsweetened fruit in the smoothie is the big carb intake of the day (8 g)

  6. Kim Vojensky says:

    Need help with weight loss. I started the wheat free diet two weeks ago and have not lost any weight. It’s very frustrating because I’m doing a protein and vegetable at every meal. No snacks, I walk daily and drink plenty of water. I am on Synthroid for thryoid problems, but last lab, my thyroid was at 2.0. I would love to know what I can do make this program a success for me. I don’t believe I could eat any less and would hope to even add more food to my diet. An example of eating daily would be: Sausage & banana at breakfast; chicken salad with hot sauce for lunch, chicken or steak and veggies for dinner.

    Thank you.

  7. Pingback: Today is International Celiac Awareness Day - Arial View

  8. EA says:

    About to eat an apple and saw how many grams of carbs it has—22! Well, I may still eat it, but that brings my carb intake up to 55 grams today and it is only 4 PM! Somehow I have a hard time believing an apple could be the cause of me not loosing any weight. I did “loose” the 2.2 lbs I gained over the weekend, “cheating” with a gluten free brownie mix (between a half dozen people–no, I didn’t eat much, just two small pieces in 2 days) so that brings me to where I was last week wt wise, or the week before, heck, the same as last month!

    • Boundless says:

      With apples, the carbs are largely sugars, and adverse sugars at that. Wiki says: “apples and pears contain more than twice as much free fructose as glucose”. Fructose is a fat magnet. See:
      http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2011/11/goodbye-fructose/

      By the way, there’s a newer version of the “I didn’t lose the weight” article. Click my user name or search for “I lost the wheat, but didn’t lose weight: 2″.

  9. Dk says:

    It’s good to hear there are others experiencing the frustration I am. I need to lose 25 lbs and have been working to follow the Wheat Belly way. I haven’t been “in the know” with net carbs, however, if an apple is “out”, I’m in trouble. I’m not someone with a wide palette for many fruits and vegetables and after 3 weeks am getting bored, and have lost 2 lbs total. My story isn’t anything close to those in the book or on this website. I ordered the cook book from Amazon and am going to try some of the recipes. I like to have smoothies in the morning and have been doing a mixed berry, coconut milk and my whey protein. Sometimes I add a banana and spinach. My thyroid is fine, have had that checked. Any help is appreciated.

    • LydTN says:

      I’m not sure if the poster of this comment is still checking the board, but if there is anyone out there facing a similar plight (limited palate), don’t lose heart! First of all, when you eliminate the addiction associated with a lot of high-carb foods like wheat, and even cheese for some people (because of the casein protein), your palate will naturally begin opening up to a wider variety. Start by adding healthy fat like pasture-fed butter, coconut oil, ghee, or olive oil to vegetables and play with your seasonings. It takes an adjustment period, which can be discouraging, but the more you “cheat” the more slowly it will happen. Try taking the program in steps. When I first started, I focused only on eliminating wheat in the obvious places (bread, tortillas, pasta, etc.). During this phase I used gluten-free grocery store foods, like crackers and waffles, sparingly (less than once a day). Lost about five pounds in the first week. Next I eliminated ALL grains, including the “gluten free” foods, and foods with vague nutritional labels. Then I increased my fat intake dramatically and my protein intake moderately, switching to only wild caught fish and pasture-fed eggs and dairy, which are the only animal products I have ever eaten (my mother gave up meat in 1976 – and now she’s eighty pounds overweight and can’t walk, which is the path I was on before at 30!). Then I started experimenting with vegetables. I wouldn’t worry about trying to get the FDA recommendations in every day or anything like that. Just make sure you eat some kind of vegetable-based side-dish with your main meals – salad, wilted spinach, steamed broccoli, mashed cauliflower (a personal favorite – with enough butter it’s just like mashed potatoes!), roasted zucchini in olive oil – and maybe some berries at some point in the day (I usually either put mine in yogurt or salad). By the time you get to that point – which could take about five weeks – you should be getting use to the program and finding what works for you.
      A couple of weeks ago after watching my success, my boyfriend, who is probably the unhealthiest eater I have ever met over the age of ten, decided to give it a try. I’m still fighting him on a lot of issues – he doesn’t eat any vegetables, only the highest-sugar fruits, and he still drinks a sugary soda or sweet tea whenever we go out to eat – he has (more or less) eliminated wheat (he did have a flour tortilla one night because he didn’t realize it was wheat – gah!) and most processed foods, and he’s lost seven pounds. I have lost almost twenty so far and still counting (I have about sixty more to lose) but I feel like I’ve lost way more because I feel so much better. So if you can persevere and find what works for you, I PROMISE it is worth it.

      • LydTN says:

        I’d like to add that right before I started WB, despite my otherwise “healthy” lifelong habits, I had gotten to the point where vegetables actually MADE ME GAG, despite the fact that I actually LIKED VEGETABLES. My body craved refined carbs all the time, and they, along with cheese, were the only things it would be satisfied by. But satisfaction was always short lived, and I would be hungry within half an hour to an hour after I ate, no matter how large of a meal I had. Within days of eliminating wheat that all began to change. My appetite became much more manageable, and my body stopped rejecting healthy foods. Now it’s nothing for me to go nearly a full day between meals (having combined WB with Bulletproof intermittent fasting – believe me I’m not starving myself!) and then to just have some yogurt with berries. But you do have to completely re-frame the way you think of meals. I was a person who wanted to sit down to a real meal at least twice a day if not three times. Now most of my “meals” are more geared towards sustenance than pleasure (although I take great pleasure in my chile rellenos casserole, spinach fritata, and broiled salmon!). And I love it. Very rarely (usually accompanying PMS or a mild hangover – which is also rare) do I crave carbs anymore. And sometimes I’ll give in, but never to wheat.

  10. EA says:

    I have no words of wisdom, other then my wt loss has stopped at 6 lbs. two and a half months of no wheat/grains very little sugar, very few beans, tofu, cut down on dairy, but still eat butter, coconut oil, I do eat eggs and vegetables, nuts and seeds, low carbs, usually somewhere around 50 though the online program I use doesn’t count fiber content, so as far as “net” carbs go, it has to be lower since the nuts and vegetables I eat do have fiber content. I drink unsweetened green tea, 2 cups of organic decaf , lots of water and sparkling mineral water for a treat….I walk between 3-4 miles daily, garden, exercise, keep fit….no wt loss, same as the past 20 years of being on a low fat, high carbohydrate mainly vegetarian regime. The best thing I can say, is I have lost the fluctuations of weight….gain some, loose, gain, gain, loose….the wt is remarkable steady….I keep thinking one of these days things will change, but so far, not much. Inches are the same, wt the same….hard to not be discouraged when I have friends on weight watchers loosing weight every single week and meeting 40 lb goals, and then some when my weight loss plan isn’t showing results…

    • Farha Syed says:

      Try Culturelle or other probiotics out there that suit you. It helped me a great deal stomach feels much better.

  11. EB says:

    Hi all-

    I have been wheat free for a little less than a week now, keeping it to 20-30 net carbs a day and have GAINED two pounds. Has anyone had this problem? I have PCOS (a hormonal condition that makes it hard to lose weight), but I was hoping that going wheat free would make it easier to lose weight, especially because PCOS is similar to diabetes and is often treated with metformin or other glucose/insulin regulators. I figured if I cut the carbs for good, the weight would come off, but I’m confused as to why I have gained two pounds since starting. Do you think it is just too soon to tell? Could it be possible that I am eating too many calories?

    Here’s a normal day for me:

    Breakfast: 2 egg omelette with cheese, spinach and tomatoes
    Lunch: Big green salad with tunafish, caesar dressing, avocado and feta cheese (full fat)
    Dinner: Some protein, usually chicken or fish, salad with oil/vinegar and a green vegetable of some kind
    Snacks: Raw nuts, veggies/hummus
    On occasion I will also have a glass of red wine.

    Any thoughts? Would love some tips!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      In addition to the items in this post, EB, consider:

      1) Is there sugar or high-fructose corn syrup in your salad dressings?

      2) Alcohol turns off the ability to lose weight.

      3) Hypothyroidism is rampant. You will need a TSH, free T3, free T4, and reverse T3 for a full assessment. Even marginal degrees of hypothyroidism will block your capacity for weight loss.

      4) Beta blockers like metoprolol and some antidepressants can block your ability to lose weight.

      • EB says:

        Thank you Dr. Davis! I will try a week without wine and make an appointment with my endocrinologist to get my thyroid tested. I appreciate your quick response!

        • Faye says:

          I have also found that alcohol, for me in nearly any amount, causes edema in my legs and ankles for several days after imbibing. I’m paying for last weekend where I had a glass of wine one night and a cocktail with bourbon on the other. Weight increased 4 pounds overnight. So henceforth I’m off of alcohol and am trying to drink more water. I also have hypothyroidism, which may be inhibiting my progress, even though I take synthroid. But I feel better, happier, and am just hoping the weight will finally start dropping. I am actually getting alot done at work. I didn’t realize just how foggy I have been.

          Aside from the bourbon over the weekend, I have been really conscientious about eliminating wheat/grain and carbs. Good luck!

  12. KJ says:

    I started going “Gluten free” last Wednesday- (it will be a week tomorrow) to date I’ve already lost 6 lbs and all the aches and pains I normally feel in my shoulders, elbows and hips are just not there anymore. I normally have allergies of the sinus type too and my head has been clear as can be. Does this mean I had a Gluten intolerance for sure?

    • Dr. Davis says:

      If you’ve read the book, KJ, you know that MOST reactions to wheat are NOT gluten-intolerance.

      • Susan says:

        Yes, Dr. Davis does say it’s not JUST about gluten. Elaine Gottschall who has a book “Breaking The Vicious Cycle” (website: breakingtheviciouscycle.info) Ms Gottschall believed in Dr. Sidney V, Haas & Dr. John Howland did when he (Howland) gave a presidential address in 1921 before the American Pediatric Society, reading a paper on “Prolonged Intolerance to Carbohydrates”; the specific term “coeliac disease, or gluten disease was not used as those diseases with their symptoms were known by numerous names. It was these two Drs., and more specifically Dr. Sideny Haas who Elaine Gottschall turned to having a young female child about to do from the disease ulcerative colitis. So check out her website (see above) understanding it is like Dr. Davis has stated: CARBOHYDRATE is the problem for everyone. (see: scddiet.org/7archives/scdceli 1.html)

  13. Abbey says:

    Never heard back about carb counting??

    • Dr. Davis recommends that your total daily net carb intake remain under 50 net grams…..12 to 15 net carbs per meal or 6 hour time frame. Net carbs = total carb value minus fiber content. Does that help?

  14. Abbey says:

    I thought we could drink red wine

  15. Abbey says:

    I thought red wine was ok

  16. Abbey says:

    Are balanced nuts same as raw?

  17. Abbey says:

    Are 2 glasses a day ok?

    • Abbey says:

      I meant are blanched nuts same as raw!

      • Boundless says:

        > are blanched nuts same as raw

        No. Blanched nuts have their skins removed, and you need to know how that was done.

        Blanched nut flours may also have had significant amounts of oil removed by pressing, which isn’t necessarily a problem.

        When comparing to “raw”, you also need to know if the nuts in question are actually available really raw. Many are prohibited from sale if truly raw, and the sellers are allowed to lie about it (“raw” doesn’t mean raw).

  18. Abbey says:

    Can I have goat cheese?

    • Boundless says:

      > Can I have goat cheese?

      Sure, unless you have a dairy sensitivity that extends to goats.

      We’re about to buy some dwarf Nigerian milk goats specifically to get the benefits of goat milk vs. cow milk, not the least of which is a more favorable pH. We expect to make some cheese as well.

      • Barbara in New Jersey says:

        Hi Boundless,

        Raw cows milk from healthy cows doesn’t have the ph issues or any of the other lactose related issues that pasteurized milk has. It is the heating that kills off the “good” bacteria which is quite similar to those in the probiotics which we so carefully refrigerate.

        Keeping everything clean and properly stored is the big challenge. Since you have your own “facilities” that should not be a problem. I seem to remember that politics forced dairies with certified products to shut down in the 1960′s. These places had to meet certain published guidelines .

        Cream, butter, mozzarella, sour cream, cottage and other cheeses made from raw milk have an outstanding taste! Makes even the organic grass-fed, pastured products taste processed.

        Have you explored this avenue?

    • Susan says:

      Dear Abbey: Look up the word “casein” which is another “protein” that celiacs and others bodies system react to “gluten” also one of a # of other allergy “proteins”. Go to: notmilk.com and you’ll reason out for yourself that milk is really not beneficial for any human (and therefore, most if not all, cheese is not either). Also the Weston A. Price Foundation website has info about milk I think, and about soy. Good luck (please check out: breakingtheviciouscycle.info You will be amazed–and you can help others as well. Celiacs should NOT trust the University of Chicago even though they have an entire department dedicated to celiac disease. The University of Maryland absolutely does GET it just as Dr. Davis states in his book Wheat Belly (“Dangerous Grains” book excellent also). Good luck P.S. Paleo is probably the best way to eat I am thinking lately. Ephesians 2: 8 & 9, 10!