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Food Allergies Can Make You Fat- Really!

For years I’ve been searching for the Holy Grail of diets. I’ve tried weight watchers, Atkins, and everything in between. My weight has gone from the high end of normal to pushing the pounds.

Pregnancies were especially difficult, as I had nausea for not one trimester, but all three. My doctor even joked in my ninth month that he guaranteed the nausea would be gone within the month. And after giving birth, I actually only weighed 2 pounds less than before I got pregnant. When I stopped breastfeeding, the weight crept up to even loftier heights. After three babies, two of which were 10 pounders, the awful weight has remained on my 5’7” frame.

Was it my metabolism that shifted, or was it something doctors could not identify? I went to see my primary physician who told me not to worry and that I should just reduce the calories and exercise more. Nothing really helped, so I hired a trainer from my gym. At his young age of 25, he pushed me to work out weekly. I was doing 40 minutes of elliptical and a circuit of weights. He even had me running on the track while lifting 15 pound weights over my head, and doing lunges that prohibited me from sitting down afterwards without falling because my legs were like jelly. After 6 months of this and many, many hours at the gym, I had lost a total of about 9 pounds, which was much less than the goal I had set. Sure, I was toned and lost some inches, but it was nowhere near my fighting weight from college.

Frustrated that I remained at the same weight even after all the blood and sweat, I decided to make an appointment with a nutritionist, who gave me a food diary to maintain. Each meal and snack was noted, including the portion and time of day, and at our second meeting, the light went off in my head.

I had always known that I had food “intolerances”, such as eggs and milk products, but the food diary allowed me to document how I felt after I ate these items, which was very eye-opening. For example, I would eat pizza with cheese, and the next morning my hands and feet would swell, making it so painful to take those first steps. Or, I would eat eggs or cream cheese on a bagel and spend the day with terrible stomach upset. I was also really tired, especially after eggs or milk, to the point that I could take a 2 hour nap and still feel drained. Some days I could barely make it up to drive to nursery school to get my son.

So, my nutritionist, Theresa Sage, came up with some really great ideas to avoid cheese, milk, butter, and eggs in my diet and still get the protein, fiber, and carbohydrates I needed to stay full and have more energy. I switched from bagels with cream cheese to oatmeal with soy milk, switched my whole wheat bread to a whole wheat wrap, and I tried a few soy butters, cheeses, and yogurts.

By substituting foods my body was not “allergic” or “intolerant” to, I had a lot more energy. The puffy stomach and face are gone, my feet and hands are never swollen, and I rarely feel that I have to take a nap, which is a wonderful thing when you’re a busy wife and mother with an important website to run!

Whether doctors classify my diagnosis as a food allergy or food intolerance is irrelevant to my diet. I still have to avoid certain foods in order to stay healthy, which brings me to the question I have asked my allergist and primary care doctors for years, “Do food allergies make you fat?” My answer is yes. If your body is exhausted due to inflammation from eating something it cannot tolerate, your energy level plummets. When your energy level/metabolism goes down, your body sends signals to the brain, “I need more energy!” What do we do when we need more energy? We eat! That’s right! In my case, I was eating more of what was making me tired, causing me to be even hungrier!

My advice to everyone is to track what you eat in a small diary. Keep it with you and note how you are feeling after each meal. I think you will quickly see for yourself what foods are making you tired, upset your stomach, or make your feet and hands swell. Foods have even been known to change emotions and behaviors, cause aches and pains, and give a person “brain fog”. Symptoms can occur right away or a day later, so watch for patterns. Any cravings you might have are also an indication that there might be a problem. Then find alternatives for what foods you love and see how quickly your energy levels return.

So, have I lost weight? Yes! In fact, I have lost more weight faster than I have ever done before, and I am not eating all the time because I am not tired all the time. My energy levels are growing, I no longer want to sleep in the afternoons, and I enjoy foods more, knowing what I can and cannot eat.

So take a moment and write down what you eat and note how you feel afterwards. Start changing your diet to what works for you! And don’t forget to send us an email and let us know how you’re doing – we want to hear from you!