If you had a final exam tomorrow morning that was the culmination of three years of dedicated work, would you finish studying and get some sleep, or go out and get wasted? The latter is actually more popular than you might think.
What’s known as “behavioural self-handicapping” in psychology is when someone deliberately hurts their chances of success. While it sounds ridiculous to throw away all that hard work in one night, it actually makes, intuitive, sense. If someone failed because they were smashed, they’ve always got an excuse for why they didn’t get the expected grade. It’s far harder to confess that you gave it everything and still didn’t do great. Admitting the real reason for something goes much further than exams. It comes up in your diet too.
Take the reason people avoid gluten, for instance. When someone asks you why you’re not eating bread, consider your choices. You can quickly spout off some pseudoscience about why gluten is bad for you, and you might end up looking interesting, or clever. But would it be the truth? If the real reason you’re gluten-free is because you want to lose weight, then there is a better way to do it. Here’s why.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, and for people with celiac disease, it’s a big deal. Celiacs are allergic, and if they eat it, they can get really sick. However, the illness is not at all common. Less than one percent of the US population is diagnosed with the disease, but, despite this, 25% of Americans currently eat gluten-free products. The reason for this disparity isn’t because we think we have an illness or intolerance. It’s because we think gluten will make us fat.
A study released two years ago looked at why people without a diagnosis of celiac disease would choose gluten-free products over the regular ones. It found that while people who ate gluten-free products assumed that they were less processed and healthier, the real reason was because they thought gluten-free food helped with weight loss. This, so-called, “health-halo” didn’t just happen overnight. There has been a push against gluten in popular culture for years.
The Paleo diet movement, which tries to limit foods that became common with agriculture in the last 10,000 years, was the first to give gluten a bad name. Soon after the initial, Paleo hype, William Davis MD, a cardiologist of great renown, wrote a book called Wheat Belly. The blurb for the book states:
After witnessing over 2,000 patients regain their health after giving up wheat, Davis reached the disturbing conclusion that wheat is the single largest contributor to the nationwide obesity epidemic — and its elimination is key to dramatic weight loss and optimal health.
When a claim is made by a medical doctor, it certainly gets attention, but is there any truth to gluten being the cause of weight gain? It turns out that not only is this information wrong, according to science, the opposite is true.
One study took a group of people with celiac disease and looked at what happened to their body composition after they started a gluten-free diet.
- The people in the study had their weight and body fat percentage measured at the start and again after one year of a gluten-free diet
- People who stayed on the gluten-free diet significantly gained body fat after one year
Another study showed that out of people who stuck to a gluten-free diet for two years, 81% of them had gained weight. While this might seem confusing, it’s easily explained. From data released earlier this year, it is clear that as well as containing lower amounts of vitamin B-12, folate, niacin, vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, dietary fibre, and protein; gluten-free foods simply contain more calories.
Where nutrition is concerned, there are no silver bullets. Articles are written, Instagram posts are shared, and books are sold on the premise that avoiding one nutritional bad guy will help everything else fall into place. In reality, stopping eating gluten won’t help your health or weight loss if you’re not allergic to it, and will probably make things worse. Where your diet is concerned, making good, overall, choices rather than relying on leaving one thing out is the best bet.
If the real reason you are gluten-free is because you want to lose weight, then there are better ways to achieve that than simply skipping the breadbasket. With a diet that is set up properly, you can have your cake and eat it too.