New to a gluten free diet? Trust me, I know how you may be feeling at this moment; confused, overwhelmed, and reeling from the enormity of lifestyle change you are about to undertake.
After over 15 years of being gluten free, the lifestyle is second nature to me now. But I do recall vividly how I felt when I first realized that I was going to have to make major changes in my life.
I recall the sense of loss. How was I going to be able to give up the foods I loved and craved, the foods I turned to for comfort, the foods I ate every single day?
The good news is that once I implemented the changes my health and happiness improved so much that the loss was completely erased by the wins! The wins of waking up with energy in the morning, of not suffering from blinding headaches, of having a flatter tummy, of a body free of mysterious aches and pains and of being able to eat food without suffering some sort of negative consequence.
While going gluten free is not exactly easy, at least not initially, I firmly believe that any person can successfully do anything they put their mind to. So the first thing to do is figure out exactly what it is you are going to put your mind to.
This is article does not contain tips on the mechanics of going gluten free per se but more the right mind set for going gluten free. After you wrap your wits around it, the mechanics will be easier.
Acceptance – Without trying to sound like this is some 12 step program for recovering gluten eaters, acceptance of the situation really is the first thing you need to do. You are embarking on a gluten free diet for a reason. It is important to remember that.
When I first found out I was gluten intolerant I was the ultimate Queen of Denial – I am talking an Oscar worthy performance of creating an alternative reality here. I had all sorts of ways that I mentally negated the facts.
The most compelling reason to NOT believe the diagnosis was that I did not seem to notice any cause and effect. If I ate a piece of bread or a serving of pasta I did not suddenly get a tummy ache or bloated, I didn’t start sneezing or get watery eyes, I didn’t instantly get a headache and I didn’t all of a sudden have noticeable digestive issues. I did not notice one single thing. Well, gluten can be sneaky that way. I have learned that just because a direct cause and effect is not readily apparent that does not mean it is not there.
I had convinced myself that gluten intolerance was just a made up disease or a “chiropractor disease”. Back then most traditional doctors did not even look to Celiac or gluten intolerance as a root cause for symptoms. Even today, misdiagnosis of gluten intolerance is rampant in traditional medicine. As chiropractors do not treat patients with drugs and surgery and specialize in finding root causes to health issues rather than treating symptoms, many have been the front runners in bringing to light the issues of the gluten intolerant.
I also had convinced myself that if I went off of gluten for a month or two I was cured. After all, I felt better so I must be better, right? Wrong! I spent years going on and off gluten, each time I put the gluten back into my diet it was causing more and more hidden damage until I got to the point where more serious issues were not only possible but probable.
A gluten free diet is not a fad or something to dabble in or something you are doing because you have no better way to spend your time. It is the key to recovering good health and vitality.
Know thine enemy – The cold hard fact is that gluten is NOT YOUR FRIEND! Oh sure, it may look like your friend with those pretty little bakery cupcakes to celebrate birthdays, hot, fresh pizza delivered to your door when you are too tired to cook and chicken noodle soup promising to cure you of your cold. But in truth, for you, gluten is more like a deadly spy from the cold war era – the seemingly harmless middle aged housewife next door who was in reality a secret double agent that lured in people with promises of comfort, stability and friendship when in reality she was compromising the safety, health and welfare of her victims.
If you can’t tolerate gluten then the eating of it is very much like slowly eating just a tiny bit of poison every day. It won’t kill you right off the bat, but it will make you very ill eventually. So treat gluten the same way you would a treacherous “friend” – cut it out of your life swiftly and completely.
Put another way, if you discovered that your best friend had been secretly trying to seduce your spouse for years, would you remain friends with that person? No, I don’t think so.
When that piece of pie or plate of pasta is calling out to you, tempting you, offering you culinary satisfaction just say over and over to yourself – “GLUTEN IS NOT MY FRIEND!” (It is probably a good idea to say this silently lest your dining companions start thinking you are crazy which could lead to a whole other set of issues.)
Commitment– You have most likely been told or found out by now that the only “cure” for Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance is to stop eating gluten. So this is not something you are going to do for two weeks and then go back to your old habits. You need to make a life long commitment to going gluten free.
But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Look at it this way – if you were single and met a person who could promise you a greatly improved quality (not to mention quantity) of life, safety and security, well being, improved health, a nice big dose of adventure and fun and was pretty darn good looking to boot (think about it – gluten laden foods tend to come in shades of white, beige and brown while naturally gluten free foods encompass all the colors of the rainbow) wouldn’t you be at least a little tempted to consider making a life long commitment to this person?
By saying no to gluten and yes to a gluten free diet and lifestyle you are in fact saying no to disease, pain and health issues and yes to vigor, vitality and greatly improved health. I would think this is a commitment worth making.
That commitment means no gluten – ever! Not even just a little bit. Not even on vacation or on special occasions. Seriously, would you celebrate your birthday by eating poison? I don’t think so!
Seize the power– Unlike other diseases for which there is no cure, like cancer (which often requires surgery, drugs, chemo and radiation therapies), the effects of Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance can be changed simply by what you put into your mouth. How cool is it to know that you posses the power to literally change your health and your life?
It is really pretty simple; eat the poison and undermine your health or don’t eat the poison and improve it. You have a choice to make and if you choose correctly you will get healthier.
There are so many things in life that we seem to have no control over, that we feel the effect of but gluten intolerance does not have to be one of them. We can control it. And if you look at the big picture, it is really a pretty easy way to control it.
Having Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance is like being dealt the Queen of Spades in the game of Hearts. At first look it can be viewed as a crappy card to be dealt but if you pay the game well, use the card smartly, you win!
So seize that power and start winning the game of health!
Accessibility – This is a simple thing really. Foods you can safely eat need to be accessible. You need to surround yourself with foods you can eat and frequent restaurants that serve gluten free dishes you can enjoy.
Look at it this way. If you were single and looking to find a mate would you hang around only married people? No. You would surround yourself with eligible, single people who could potentially be your partner. If you only gave yourself the opportunity to fall in love with a married person, you would be setting yourself up for certain heartbreak.
The same goes with embarking on a gluten free diet and lifestyle. In the beginning it is probably not a good idea to hang around non-gluten-free bakeries pining over the cookies, pies and muffins you can’t have. On the other hand the farmer’s market or produce isle in the grocery store is overflowing with “eligible” food. So are the butcher, the fish monger, and the dairy section. And then there is the nut isle and the chocolate section and on and on and on.
Surround yourself with foods you can fall in love with and you will. And once you discover the foods you love, have then around, accessible. This will make it so much easier to fight any cravings or temptations to go back to those forbidden gluten foods. By the same token get rid of the gluten foods if you can so they are not always there, lurking in the shadows ready to drag you back into a life of pain and ill health.
Be positive – I can never say this enough – if you stop looking at the world of food in terms of what you can’t eat and instead focus on what you can eat, you will be so much happier.
There is absolutely no reason to feel deprived on a gluten free diet. Yes, you have some things to learn and you will need to make some changes and that may take some time but there is so much glorious food out there that you can eat. In fact there is a whole lot more food you can eat than food you can’t eat.
Of course the pay off here is that it is really easy to be positive about something that improves your health. As you start to feel better, you will begin to reap the rewards of a gluten free diet more and more. And this will make it even easier to stay positive. It is a great upward spiral; the better your attitude, the easier it is to stay gluten free and the easier it is to stay gluten free the more your health will improve and the better your health, the easier it is to stay positive.
Treat going gluten free as an adventure and the rewards will be plentiful.