Most who embark on GAPS are going to be tickled to find clothing getting loose and baggy. The National Institutes for Health reports that 35% of American adults are obese and another 34% are overweight so 69% are not at an ideal weight. It's easy to jump to the conclusion that the remaining 31% do weigh the “right” amount; however, one thing I have learned in my experience with the GAPS Diet and gut health – a slender body does NOT necessarily mean you're in good health.
Maybe you are one embarking on the GAPS Diet already underweight, with concern at the possibility of becoming thinner. Let's see what Dr. Natasha has to say on this topic.
Am I going to lose weight on the GAPS diet? I am already underweight and find it very difficult to gain weight.
Regular consumption of grains and processed carbohydrates causes water retention in the body. As you stop consuming these foods, you will lose that excess water and hence lose some weight, which usually happens in the first few weeks. Without the water retention, you will get to your real weight and size, which will show you the real extent of your malnutrition. As you follow the GAPS nutritional protocol your digestive system will start absorbing foods properly and nourishing you; you will start building dense bones, healthy muscles and other tissues and organs and gaining weight as a result. You may remain fairly slim for the rest of your life (as it may be your constitution), but you will become strong, vibrant and full of energy.
So the first thing Dr. Natasha points to is the fact that carbohydrates cause water retention in the body which is going to cause a loss in weight as your body lets go of that retained water. Now you're going to get a true picture of your real weight which indicates you are malnourished.
Are You Malnourished?
One of the things going on when you are underweight is that you are malnourished. Your body may be unable to absorb nutrients because your gut is not functioning properly. Dr. Natasha calls this gut dysbiosis. The GAPS Nutritional Protocol can benefit you by giving your gut and digestive system the chance to regain normal function. It won't happen overnight, and you will probably lose weight in the beginning.
One thing that I recommend to people when they start on GAPS is to start with “full GAPS” first. You're already removing a large variety of foods and I believe this is enough of a shock to the system. After two or three months, go for the Introduction Diet.
I have asked Dr. Natasha about this and she does say that it is okay to do full GAPS first and that some people heal only on full GAPS. However, if you have diarrhea, severe digestive issues or food intolerances, you're wise to start with Introduction.
You're Going To Be Really Hungry
At the beginning of starting Introduction, I think the hunger is strong for a couple of reasons:
- First of all, the fibrous foods you've been eating (like bread and pasta) are bulky and fills the stomach. The foods on Introduction aren't as “filling”. One of the things that I realized for myself personally, is that I tend to eat those foods compulsively (almost addictively) and this compulsion overrode my ability to stop eating at satiation. I would eat to a point where I thought I felt satisfied but time and time again, I would end up feeling bloated and uncomfortable. I started to suspect that I was stopping at satiation, but the food was swelling up in my stomach. Who knows?
- The other reason why I think that we feel really hungry is that our body is finally getting nutritious foods that we can be easily digested and hunger kicks in, in a way that it hasn't before.
Therefore, it is critically important in the first stages of the Intro diet that you eat as much as you want of broth, meat, vegetables, and good healthy fats. It may take time to get full on these foods and they tend to be more expensive than bread and pasta, but this is important for nourishment and to prevent to weight loss.
Dr. Natasha stated above that your body is going to start absorbing foods properly and you're going to start building dense bones and healthy muscles. This matches up with my experience of some who start GAPS and feel like they are famished on the diet. They can't seem to get enough to eat!
One of the complaints I hear regarding Introduction is that it is b.o.r.i.n.g. Stage 1 allows homemade meat stock (different from bone broth), boiled meats, and boiled vegetables (onions [affiliate link], carrots, broccoli, leeks, cauliflower, zucchini, squash, pumpkin [affiliate link], cabbage). Soup is the perfect food for the first stage of Introduction and although soup may seem boring, there is a large variety of meats and vegetables that can be added to it to make different tastes.
Something else that I find that helps to stave off the boredom of having soup, is to cut the vegetables in different shapes, or blend the soup thoroughly so that it can be sipped. If you tolerate 24-hour yogurt add a couple spoonfuls to the blended soup to change the flavor. You're also getting your fermented foods when you do this!
You can also remove the cooked meats and vegetables from the soup, slather some healthy fats on the meat and veggies then drink the broth from a mug.
It is important that there be at least 1 cup of broth with each meal because of the healing properties of homemade meat stock. Consider making concentrated broth by doubling the amount of meat and bones, or reducing the water. Then you can drink 1/2 cup broth instead of one cup.
Another thing I learned that plays into early weight loss when beginning GAPS is the fact that you are reducing the amount of fiber in your diet. Either component, full or Intro is going to reduce the amount of fiber because you are removing foods that contain fiber. i.e. bread, pasta, grains, fibrous starchy vegetables.
However, Introduction reduces the amount of fiber even more so because you have now removed fruit and raw vegetables, and are consuming mostly meat, broth, well-cooked vegetables, and fermented foods.
Your body may have become reliant upon fiber in order to have a normal bowel movement. Starting on GAPS Introduction and dramatically reducing your fiber intake can cause constipation.
On the other hand, this may in part shed some light on GAPS Introduction works so well for someone with diarrhea. Perhaps the person with chronic diarrhea does not tolerate fiber well, and removing it from the diet removes the irritation to the digestive system.
In our modern world, a great number of us have been on several rounds of antibiotics throughout our life, which has likely reduced (or wiped out) your gut bacteria. If you have had your appendix removed, some experts believe your body may have an even harder time maintaining the correct bacteria in your gut.
Another thing that happens is because of eating less fiber, your stool becomes smaller which can make it seem as if you've weight. By the way, it's perfectly okay to have a smaller stool. The one little problem there is that your body has been accustomed to a larger stool and now you may not “hear” the “urge to go”. You'll have to “listen” more closely and go right away if at all possible because you may lose the “urge to go” and now you are starting on the path to becoming constipated.
Since your body now contains less stool because you've reduced your fiber intake, you've reduced the size of your stool, so you will also weigh less.
Are you on the GAPS Diet, or just getting started?
- How Many People are Affected by/at Risk For Obesity & Overweight?
- Appendix May Actually Have a Purpose
- How to Overcome Dependence on Fiber and Fiber-Related Constipation
- Should I Do Introduction or Full GAPS First?
- Should I Drink Bone Broth on GAPS?
- Review: What Can I Eat Now? 30 Days on GAPS Introduction