Interview with Nicolette Dumke, Author of Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss
Nickie Dumke enjoys helping people with food allergies and gluten intolerance find solutions to their health and weight problems. She began writing books to help others with multiple food allergies over 20 years ago and the process culminated in The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide. She says, “This book contains everything I know to help with food allergies,” and it has helped many people come back from near-starvation. Her other books address issues such as how to deal with time and money pressures on special diets, keeping allergic children happy on their diets, and more.
A few years ago, while listening to the struggles of an allergic friend on the Weight Watchers™ diet, she remembered her own weight struggles many years ago and thought, “There has to be a better way.” This was the beginning of a new quest, and she is now helping those who are overweight due to inflammation (often due to unsuspected food allergies) or high-in-rice gluten-free diets, as well as those who are not food sensitive but want to lose weight permanently, healthily, and without feeling hungry and deprived. Her unique approach to weight and health presented in Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss is based on body physiology and reveals why conventional weight-loss diets work against rather than with our bodies and therefore rarely result in permanent weight loss.
Nickie has had multiple food allergies for 30 years and has been cooking for special diets for family members and friends for even longer. Regardless of how complex your dietary needs are or how much or little cooking you have done, she has the books and recipes you need. Her books present the science behind multiple food allergies and weight control in an easily-understood manner. She has BS degrees in medical technology and microbiology. She and her husband live in Louisville, Colorado and have two grown sons.
I’ve had multiple food allergies for over 30 years, but my medical educational background and extensive cooking experience have given me tools to deal with allergies that some people lack. I guess the thing that defines me the most is that I am very much a family person.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Denver, Colorado. The house we lived in was next door to the 100+ year old farmhouse where my father was born. By the time I was born, my grandparents had divided up the land of their original farm and sold most of it to people who wanted to build houses, so we lived in an ordinary neighborhood. My grandparents lived next door in the farmhouse when I was very young, although by then they were farming a few miles north of where we lived.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Sunday afternoons at my maternal grandparents’ house. All of my mother’s siblings and their spouses and children were there, and we got to play with our cousins. My grandmother prepared an Italian dinner for everyone (about 30 people), and my grandfather told amazing stories to entertain us.
When did you begin writing?
I began writing in the early 90s. Our older son had been diagnosed with multiple food allergies in 1987, and I quickly learned that it took a lot more variety in cooking to keep a child happy on a food allergy diet than it took for me. I told my mother what I had been cooking for him on a near-daily basis, and she advised me to write a cookbook so other mothers did not have to invent new recipes like I was doing. At first I said, “Nah!” Eventually I decided to take her advice and wrote Allergy Cooking With Ease.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I usually write during the day. I find it easiest to make good progress if I have a long period of time for writing – like most of a day, without interruptions - rather than trying to write for an hour here and an hour there.
What is this book about?
Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss is about the real reasons people gain or lose weight. Heavy individuals often are accused of lacking self-discipline or willpower. Yet, they may be skipping breakfast, eating moderately at lunch and dinner, exercising strenuously, and feeling hungry most of the time. Some of these factors, such as skipping meals and continual hunger, will compromise their body’s ability to burn fat. Weight is not determined solely by how many calories we eat minus how many calories we burn. Hormones, such as insulin, leptin, cortisol, and others, are what actually determine our weight and whether we burn body fat.
What inspired you to write it?
A friend provided the inspiration that got me started on the research for this book. However, before she inspired me, I had been hearing from and about many people who had gained weight on gluten-free diets, so I knew that there was a growing need for this book. A University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center newsletter reports that two years after being diagnosed with celiac disease and starting a gluten-free diet, 81% of the people in the study had gained weight, and 50% of them had a BMI (body mass index) of over 25, meaning that they were overweight. (http://www.celiacdisease.net/assets/documents/SP08CeliacCtr.News.v5final.pdf)
But back to my friend – she has multiple food allergies and was trying to follow the Weight Watchers™ program superimposed on her allergy diet. She was really struggling and losing little weight, although she was eating very lightly. I compared her struggle with the ease and lack of hunger I had experienced with my own weight loss over 30 years ago while on a plan that stabilized my blood sugar and insulin levels. Therefore, I thought, “There has to be a better way for her.” People with food allergies or gluten-intolerance must be able to lose weight with a system that allows flexibility for staying on their special diets but doesn’t require counting calories or being hungry.
In my research I discovered that in the last 30 years a tremendous amount of progress has been made in the science supporting the type of diet that worked for me. At that time, blood sugar and insulin were factors known to be involved in hunger and weight control. Today other hormones are known to be equally important – cortisol, leptin, eicosanoids, and more. A major breakthrough in the application of this science to real-world weight loss has been the development of the glycemic index. These factors all are pieces of the weight control puzzle. When we utilize all of them will we succeed at achieving and maintaining a healthy weight without hunger and constant struggle.
If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
Yes. I would have self-published starting with my first book rather than seeking a publisher.
What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?
I’ve had the best results from co-op library mailings sent by the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association). Library sales lead to sales to individual readers. I have many people call and say, “I’ve checked this book out three times and can’t check it out again. I want to order my own copy.” I’m hoping the online exposure I’m currently working on will also help.
What is up next for you?
I’m currently working on a revision of one of my older books, Easy Breadmaking for Special Diets. When I was researching and writing Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss, I learned that sourdough bread has a low glycemic index score, thus making it ideal for the book’s eating plan to keep blood sugar stable and reduce inflammation. Years ago all sourdough bread was made using live wheat-containing sourdough starters. This meant that people with wheat allergy or gluten-intolerance could not eat sourdough bread. Now there is a freeze-dried starter that is wheat-free and gluten-free and also a new programmable bread machine that easily enables people on special diets to make sourdough bread they can eat. These new products, the next-generation sourdough recipes, and the usefulness of sourdough for weight loss warrant an update of Easy Breadmaking.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Yes. People who suffer from food sensitivities, inflammatory problems, or overweight may receive little real help from our medical system and, therefore, feel their problems lack solutions. I would like to offer them some hope. Their weight loss efforts have failed because the traditional approaches are based on fallacies. Rather than treating allergies and inflammatory diseases with drugs, one needs to find and deal with the root causes. An older book of mine, The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide, discusses root causes of food allergies. Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss tells individuals how to help themselves with inflammation and weight problems. Overweight is not all about calories; it’s about the hormonal control of body fat. By eating to keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable, we can affect the enzymes which allow us to burn recently-eaten food for energy (rather than storing it) and to burn body fat. By reducing inflammation, which inhibits the action of our master weight control hormone, leptin, we can regain normal self-regulating control of our weight. Knowledge is power; with it you can help yourself with problems for which “experts” have no real solutions.