Food is a major part of life and our enjoyment of consuming tasty food makes up a good part of our psychological well-being. Don’t you think? Not only that, food brings us together socially because we all need to eat. We partake in food rituals with our families, friends, co-workers, our classmates and when those rituals get disrupted it can make one feel like an outcast. You will be the one that has to say no to a slice of birthday cake or the one who doesn’t want to show up to the pizza party. The hardest part about transitioning to a gluten free diet is the letting go. Letting go of gluten means so much more than just not eating it. You find yourself having to let go of social norms and lifelong habits.
Your first trip back to the grocery store or favorite restaurant can be the most difficult as you stand there staring at what you can longer eat. You may go through a period of denial. Trust me, this is normal. After my diagnosis I told myself that I could maybe just eat gluten every once in awhile. Wrong! I was kidding myself. I was so used to feeling like crap all the time that it was just something I was willing to put myself through. Stupid! It’s amazing how long I endured the symptoms. As a kid my stomach always hurt. I was underweight and had a very hard time concentrating. You can read my story under the first page the Beginning. Anyway, you have to give your body time to heal before you can truly appreciate gluten free living. Once you begin to feel better you will start to accept what has been handed to you.
Once that denial wears off you may experience a period of frustration. You may have to be pulled out of the bakery section kicking and screaming because the smell of freshly baked donuts is f-ing overwhelming. I usually eat very healthy, but there’s this innate desire to want what you can’t have. I felt very lost at first and sometimes angry. Especially when I saw the cost of a gluten free loaf of bread. Not all gluten free bread is made equal. There will be an adjustment period because, while most companies do come close to replicating the wheat version, you will notice a difference in the texture, the taste, the smell, the size and the ability to get an evenly toasted surface without burning the crust. (Could just be my dumb toaster oven) Anyway, you will find some gluten free brands are so horrible you might cry while eating it. On the other hand, some brands are so delicious you will also cry while eating it. Nothing feels quite as good than the first time you discover a gluten free brand or an accommodating restaurant that makes you feel like you can eat like a normal person again.
Let me tell you something you might need to hear. Being gluten free is worth the time and extra cost. There is nothing you can do to reverse it, that I know of. Products out there like Gluten Ease, which is supposed to relieve certain symptoms, is not a cure. Sorry if I’m smashing your last hope, but I’ve seen people use the supplement daily so they can continue to consume gluten and that’s not what it’s meant for. It’s meant to be used occasionally as a way to relieve symptoms of accidental gluten ingestion. Would you use GasX , Pepto, or Tums on a daily basis so you could continue to eat the foods that hurt your stomach or give you consistent heartburn? I hope not. It’s important to recognize that the only way you will truly feel awesome again is by eliminating the root cause of your suffering. Putting a band-aid everyday on your health problems doesn’t actually fix it. If you have undiagnosed celiac disease Gluten Ease or any other supplement isn’t going to reverse the damage your subjecting your intestinal lining to. It’s not going to get rid of your migraines, muscle aches, neurological symptoms, malnutrition, skin problems, dizziness, fatigue, sleep problems, memory loss, etc. The affects of gluten reach every part of your body in ways you may not have connected yet. Only a true avoidance of gluten for a long period of time will show you that you can’t bargain with your health.
I went through a period of depression shortly after I decided to completely kick gluten to the curb. I had to re-educate myself on so many aspects of life that had just become second nature to me. For instance, I love to bake. Been making baked goods since I was ten. I enjoy it so much that I probably should have gone to culinary school. Baking gluten free is a totally different ball game. The chemistry, the way you put ingredients together, the flours, the way you measure, the leavening agents, the texture, the moistness, the flavor are all different and not as predictable as using white flour. I failed at gluten free baking more times than I’d like to admit. Only after much experimentation and research did I get better, but sometimes, even after 6 years of baking gluten free, I still fail. White or wheat flour gives consistent results, but there are so many gluten free flour options and not all function the same way. This doesn’t mean you can’t have success. My husband and I have found that some gluten free baked goods actually taste better and moister. Also, there are a lot of gluten free brands, like King Arthur and My Grandpas Farm, just to name a couple, that make really amazing baking mixes. So delicious no one can tell it’s gluten free. Those companies, among others like Glutino, Pamela’s, Three Baker’s, Udi’s, Canyon Bakehouse, etc., have been my saviors. Once you find products that work for you it will become so much easier to accept your food intolerance and be happy again.
I believe part of the struggle is that certain foods are addictive. If you have been able to eat whatever you want for decades then being told you can’t eat bagels anymore is like telling a smoker they can’t smoke anymore. Well not quite the same, but sometimes the food cravings feel that intense. Being gluten free is a way of life, not just a diet. Embracing this change with a positive attitude and accepting that the path you’re on is not one of deprivation and loneliness, but a path of improved well-being, is half the battle. Give yourself a mantra. Mine is: “I don’t need this doughnut. I’m strong. At least my husband doesn’t call me a fart monster anymore.” You get my drift.
When you have reached a point of acceptance you will have to become a warrior against this world made of bread. Own your new lifestyle and navigate the world of food with confidence. Don’t apologize and find happiness in every tasty gluten free discovery. There is a light at the end of the tunnel because now every time you laugh you no longer feel like you might tooty from your booty. Trust me, no one likes a fart beast. You have one life to live, kick gluten to the curb and never look back.
Check out the Punching Gluten in the Face page to get some tips on how to survive gluten intolerance