It's not lack of exercise . . . It's the wheat

Jeanine left this telling tale of gaining weight despite vigorous exercise.

We see this day in, day out: People who exercise, even to extreme degrees, who are unable to control weight. We see it on overweight professional athletes. We see it in overweight triathletes, marathon runners, and long-distance bikers. A big part of the motivation driving such extreme exercise efforts is a desire for . . . weight loss.

But it’s not the exercise that represents the crucial factor here. It’s the wheat.

As of today, I have lost 30 pounds following Wheat Belly. My original goal was to lose 40 pounds, and someday that might happen. But what I realized along the way is that it’s more important to be “healthy” and today that has become a reality.

Last September, I went to the doctor for my annual physical and realized that my weight put me at just shy of “obese.” I had been trying off and on for years to lose weight and the news that day couldn’t have been more depressing. I had been running three times a week for the previous five months, and instead of losing weight – I had gained. [Emphasis mine.]

Since an increase in exercise did nothing for me, I became obsessed with nutrition and trying to figure out the exact combination of foods and calories would lead to weight loss. I read a lot of books and studied the Food Pyramid. When I read “Wheat Belly”, it’s like a light bulb went off and I decided to give wheat-free eating a try.

I couldn’t believe the success I had right away. I thought for sure it wouldn’t last. I even weighed myself every day because it helped me to see the effects when I was eating right and when I wasn’t. Forget calories in/calories out…I finally knew how to lose weight.

Today’s milestone is a big one. I’m “healthy” according to several different measurements and I hope that I never have to worry about being in the “unhealthy” range ever again. I’m planning to start running again in the spring, but this time it will be for pleasure and not for exercise.

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50 Responses to It's not lack of exercise . . . It's the wheat

  1. Joe says:

    Question for Dr. Davis: Gin is made from wheat (or rye). Is that allowed on a wheat-free diet?

    • TR says:

      only first thing in the morning and have only one.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Hi, Joe-

      Generally, only the most gluten-sensitive will have problems with liquors brewed from wheat, rye, or barley. Most do not.

      • Kim says:

        My dad used to break out across his nose in a light red rash once he drank that second whiskey. When I used to drink beer (years ago) I would breakout down my neck and across my cheeks with a hot rash just like my Grandfather (Dad”s dad).

  2. Dan says:

    I have lost 75 pounds following a paleo diet and eliminating wheat for over a year know.

    A few months ago I went on a business trip for 4 days in new Orleans. My meals were all Paleo good, but in the evening I would have gin and tonic. Upon my return home my weight went up 5lbs.

    I would say gin is not good (at least not for me)

    • Guy T. says:

      Dan, a lot of stores carry diet tonic water nowadays and most brands are quite good — though it”s not so common in bars. I would guess the sugar in the tonic water was the problem.

  3. It”s been 6 weeks and 7 pounds for me. The BMI moving into normal. But more important was a discovery I make last week. I found myself in a mall at dinner time, where I had a plate of garlic broccoli and for the meat I thought I”d have spicey pork. it was covered in flour and sugar, probably to hide the taste of the salt, as they make their money off soft drinks, full of sugar and salt. I didn”t have a drink, but the next day, with just that small amount of wheat and sugar, I absolutely craved food all day long…….Well no wonder. I haven”t had a craving in 6 weeks, but they left gradually so I didn”t notice. No wonder my weight went up and my health went down……

  4. jenny b says:

    One of my customers told me about Wheat Belly and was raving about how he lost 17lbs in 4 months and his arthritis is barely noticable. So i downloaded the book and was blown away. I stopped eating wheat (i cheat sometimes but no bread) 4 weeks ago and have been losing 2 lbs a week. No change in exercise, just walk my dogs morning and night. I also have a visalus shake for breakfast and sometimes lunch. I hope I can lose the 40lbs that are weighing me down!!

  5. Terry May says:

    Great news Jeanine… and the rest of the folks who posted.

    Today I arrive at week 11 utilizing the wheat belly approach. This morning I checked and have lost 35 pounds to date. I”m not starving myself either. I am delighted with the recipes that I have found online that are wheat free. I enjoy items such as almond loaf, crackers, and more. Yes…wheat / grain free!

    I am exercising because I feel great. I have noticed at the track that many folks are dedicated, walking and “sweating.” I”ve been in those shoes. I was so often puzzled at the struggle for so many of us who try to lose visceral fat around the mid-section and it remains a stubborn battle despite sincere efforts at “working it off.” I dropped wheat and I dropped weight – 35 pounds so far.

    Congratulations to you all. Keep the stories coming; your successes are an encouragement.
    Terry

  6. Marybelle Beigh says:

    Having trouble getting to post a comment or ask a question.
    Mother and I made the wheat free pizza but it gave us both excessive gas, and Mother had diarrhea.
    Could the gas be from the cauliflower?
    Could Mother be allergic to olive oil? (she gets diarrhea when she eats anything with oil at Italian restaurants.
    We want this Wheat Free diet to work as we both have a lot of the problem is the book – I bought the book and we both read it. Also, neither of us can exercise much – I”m 71 and Mother is 94 and we both have mobility problems.

    • Kim says:

      Marybelle, this evening I made an excellent non-wheat pizza crust using chicken breast and parmesan cheese with excellent results. This was my first time having pizza since I went wheat free, and starch free 4 months ago. I couldn”t help noticing how good I felt after eating – I hadn”t realized that pizza doesn”t have to make you feel bloated and nauseous. Gee, remove the wheat and it”s filling, delicious and no gastric issues – image that!

      I”ll post the recipe in the recipe section – when I”m successful:-) you can find it there.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Putting aside the possibility that something might have been contaminated or rancid, it”s possible that your conversion to a wheat-free lifestyle, Marybelle, may be changing the composition of bowel flora, a common phenomenon.

      If this continues, you might consider taking a probiotic for a few weeks to assist your conversion and smooth the process.

  7. Lolly says:

    I”ve begun reading your Wheat Belly book, and I”m wondering if you might comment on a possible connection between fibromyalgia and the consumption of wheat. I searched this site and nothing came up. Thank you so much.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      There”s definitely a connection, Lolly, but it has not been well-explored formally.

      If you have fibromyalgia, however, there is nothing to lose in going wheat-free to assess your response.

      Please report your experience back here, however!

      • Lolly says:

        Thanks so much for your response, Dr. Davis. I”m going to give it a try and will report back what happens. Wouldn”t it be wonderful if it helped!

    • Debbie B in MD says:

      Lolly,
      I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in Sept 2010. I went gluten-free in January 2011. My muscle pain and other fibro symptoms went away within a short time. Please give it a try. The only thing you have to lose is pain and weight. Best of luck.

      • Lolly says:

        Thank you, Debbie B. If I can lose the pain and weight, I”d be thrilled! I love my homemade bread, but it will be an easy trade for loss of pain and weight.

    • PJ says:

      Lolly, I can tell you that wheat is absolutely connected with fibromyalsia (and any other autoimmune neuro condition). My sister”s (15 year) fibro was so severe that she was on morphine to help dull the pain. It wasn”t until she completely gave up ALL grains that it went away. Took her less than a month to experience signficant relief. That was about a year ago and she hasn”t had an attack since.
      She was also dealing with a diagnosis of MS and all those symptoms disappeared, too. Hmmm . . . are these really “diseases” or are they just responses to wheat? You have absolutely nothing to lose by giving up wheat and I can”t recommend it too strongly. I am certain you”re going to see such a huge change.

      • Lolly says:

        Thank you, PJ, for sharing your sister”s story. It”s an encouragement to me! I have begun eating wheat-free and am excited about a future of being healthier and having less pain. After three days of avoiding wheat, I already feel better.

        Thank you, Dr. Davis!

  8. tracy says:

    After I read Wheat Belly 18 weeks ago I gave up grains and most sugar (except for a little sugar & cream in my coffee) and lost six pounds right away, but nothing more after the initial weight loss. Thyroid lab results were all normal. If I didn”t feel so much better I would quit and try another approach to weight loss because I had hoped to lose 30-40 pounds by now.

  9. Sarah says:

    I have had a similar experience to you, Tracy. I gave up wheat about five weeks ago, lost six pounds in the first couple of weeks, and have lost none since, even put a couple back on. I have had my thyroid tested, including the “deep thyroid” test, which looks for Hashimoto”s Disease. Test results normal, although thyroid function a little low, so dr gave me a natural supplement to stimulate my own thyroid, instead of replacing those hormones with synthetics. After reading this whole entire blog, including every comment made on every entry, I have to say I was expecting a little more weight loss! I would appreciate tips on things to look for in our diet that we may be making mistakes on, athough we now eat mostly salads, veggies, lean meats, nuts, eggs, some cheeses. We have cut out wheat completely (i think!) and reduced all other carbs.
    Thanks in advance for any response from anyone, and also thanks to everyone who has taken the time to write in with advice and knowledge, you have helped many people around the world!
    Sarah

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  12. Tim says:

    I recently fininished reading the wheat belly about a week ago.
    I am a competitive masters marathon runner and I am wondering about what foods for fueling before a race and for recovery after a race. In the past, I used to have a bagel with amond butter before a long training run or a marathon race. Recommended fueling information for a runner would be much appreciated.
    Tim

  13. Lena says:

    I have been searching for quite sometime for a reason of feeling unwell & what I thought was doing all the right things(diet wise) exercising and just feeling worse & worse at 52 yrs old thinking I am ready for the tip now I have just found you. I will be going out tomorrow to by the Wheatbelly Book….I will be back

  14. Lena says:

    Unfortunatly I could not buy “Lose the Wheat Lose the Weight” book today, was no where to be found here in Perth Wa. I did buy the Prevention Magazine that has the little book on the front, so now I have ordered the book online with free postage. Hope it comes quick although have already made a start to getting wheat out of my life :-)

  15. Beth says:

    Is this diet recommended for distance runners? I’m training for a marathon, and I wonder what foods you would suggest eating for pre-run carbs/energy.
    Thanks!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      None!

      It is a fiction that you need to carb load prior to exercise, or require only minimal amounts. DURING exercise is different, with bananas, other fruit, sweet potatoes, as well as commercial products like Goo useful to provide glucose in the midst of endurance efforts.

      People find that, the longer you are wheat-free and limit carbs, the less you need carbohydrates, since you become more efficient at oxidizing fats.

      See Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney’s new book on just this issue.

      • ORapunzel says:

        Dr. Davis,

        I wonder if you would consider addressing this topic more directly, here on your site. I know you’ve referred us to Volek and Phinney’s book in your August 10 post on this page. However, I don’t know the name of this book and have never heard of the authors, previously. However, I HAVE read your book and while dropping the wheat was no problem (b/c one of my sons can’t handle gluten in any form – even oats), ditching the GF products is another matter upon which I’m working. I’ve gotten rid of many of them but am still stumbling here and there. This is a work in progress b/c I’ve been in the GF world for 7 years, now. Changing the mindset “overnight” is not so easy as one might think. The main reason I’m stumbling is that I’m endeavoring to achieve a balance between proper intake before, during and after my long-distance bicycle rides. I do rides that range from 1.5hours to 3 hours several times each week. Several times a year, I do really long distance rides of 4-8 hours. So, I need to fuel myself at the right times with the right foods.

        I’m very slowly making my way around your blog. There is still so much to read. (So, I apologize if you have since addressed this in more detail, and I just haven’t found it, yet.) Alas…of what I’ve read so far, the info that addresses those of us who do long, endurance activities is sprinkled here and there. I’d love to get it all neatly bundled together and get even more information, tips, recipes, suggestions than what you’ve initially shared.

        Is searching for these other authors’ book [title?] really the way to go, or would you be kind enough to map out something for us, here on your blog?

        Thanks for your help!

        • Neicee says:

          Roam over to Amazon.com and put into the site search the author (s) you’re looking for. It comes up with a slew of books but the most recent are “The Art And Science Of Low Carb Living” and The Art And Science of Performance” – anything the two of them have written is golden. MarksDailyApple.com also carries a bunch of suggestions for those into heavy training, as does eatingacademy.com with Dr. Attia.

        • Dr. Davis says:

          Hmmm. I think your quickest answer will be with Volek and Phinney’s very excellent Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Conditioning.

          Also, see Dr. Loren Cordains Paleo Diet for Athletes.

          I see the focus of this blog as the problems with modern wheat and the health benefits that derive from getting rid of it.

  16. Saeed says:

    Dear Dr,
    Just stocked up on a few gluten free items but not that many as per book recommendations and lots of vegetables. Going to be a little trickier for me as my whole life has been a staple diet of chappatis and rice as is the norm for a South Indian diet. Also going to use a item called nigella sativa (you may have come across it) this is recommended by the faith which will go along side the wheat free diet. Also can you advise if smoking would reduce weight reduction or the reverse?.
    Any way thank you for all your hard work and speaking the truth wish me luck too. Keep you posted day 1 tomorrow.

    Kind Regards

    Saeed (UK)

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Regardless of any effect of smoking on weight, your number one problem in health, Saeed, is smoking. Even before giving up wheat, you’ve got to stop smoking.

      Few things are worse than wheat, but I believe cigarettes are. Poisons, all.

  17. Saeed says:

    Ok I will continue with the diet and make a effort with the cigarettes I have given up previously so it can be done, just a note on day one feeling very sharp and energetic and clarity of thought is immense.

    Kind Regards

    Saeed

  18. Lindy says:

    I’m a 51 yr. old master’s swimmer who also does strength training and some running, and I’m just beginning the purging of wheat products from my diet. I’ve always been told that we need those carbs for recovery and energy throught the day, and honestly, veggies just don’t satisfy like some steel cut oats with protein powder! I’m often hungry and feel like I’m anxious for the next meal! I have good intake of protein and fat sources. How long does it take to adjust where my appetite will subside? Also, when I make a post workout shake I put fruit in it (usually a small banana or frozen berries). How much fruit is acceptable? I’m cautious here because I did a low carb diet years ago and it had horrible effects on my swimming.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      The conversion to a fatty acid-oxidizing metabolism requires at least 4 weeks. During those 4 weeks, people who engage in vigorous exercise will typically experience decreased performance and endurance. This can be partially ameliorated by consuming carbs only DURING your effort.

      This is closely related to carb-loading, a very destructive practice that, over time, leads to cataracts, insulin resistance, dementia, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer–despite the exercise.

      Most of us tolerate up to 15 grams carbs per sitting, just a bit more following exercise. It really doesn’t take much, especially as you become a more efficient fat oxidizer, just as humans were meant to be.

      • Lindy says:

        Ok 4 weeks–good to know. For fuel during my swim, I have replaced my previous on deck drink with a mix of water, BCAA powder and 1 Tbsp. of straight MCT oil (from NOW), because I’ve read that MCT oil acts more like a carbohydrate. Does this sound like a good idea? (I was also hoping I might get a fat burning effect, too, but I may be off on that one!).

        • Lindy says:

          Dr. Davis, an update. I’ve been abiding by the Wheat Belly lifestyle for 3 weeks now. I feel like I’m doing fine with the food in terms of not having cravings and not deviating from acceptable foods, but I am definitely tired and my swimming has hit the skids! I had a meet this past weekend and my times were HORRIBLE. I sure hope things turn around soon; this is competition season for me and my hope is to see progress in both body composition and fitness. I’m pretty discouraged.

          • Navid says:

            I’ve been following the wheat-belly approach for almost 5 months and lost 24 pounds at a avg pace of 1.2 pounds per week. I’ve had a very similar experience to Lindy though, my appetite and cravings have been overcome very well but when I try to weight-lift or do any strenuous exercise my performance suffers considerably. I used to be able to lift for 12-16 sets and now after just 4-5 sets my strength is totally run out. I’d love to hear Dr. Davis’ thoughts on ways to mitigate this or if this is expected?

  19. Mark Taylor says:

    Dear Dr Davis,
    I started the Wheat Belly diet on Dec 15. I lost 4 pounds in the first few weeks and bought the Wheat Belly Recipe book. Delicious bread recipes! But, I have gained back the 4 pounds over the past 4 weeks. I have not had any wheat! How can that happen? I have been eating about 4 slices a day with sandwiches. Thank you.

    • Dr. Davis says:

      The long-term effect will likely still be that of weight loss and reduction of waist size, Mark.

      However, to accelerate the process, you can be mindful of your “net” carbohydrate intake (net carbs = total carbs – fiber) and take in no higher than 15 grams net carbs per meal or per 4-6 hour window.

  20. Barry Rumac says:

    I’m wondering what is meant by runners and bikers having to increase their carbs due to their exercise load. I know not to consume wheat, but what other carbs will do the trick? When I’m fully I into my running program, I do about 40 miles a week, and when preparing for long distance races, the daily run is even longer. Any help here would be appreciated.