… Something to Ponder Periodically!
Do you ever think about where you’re at emotionally with your gluten-free lifestyle? Or maybe you feel like you have to think about it too much. Being gluten-free impacts every part of our lives. I believe that all-too-often when someone refers to gluten-free, the eating and (lest I say it) “diet” aspects are what most often are being referenced. But there’s so much more to it than that (as you probably already understand). Changing our eating patterns, sometimes dealing with certain food withdrawals (yes this is real), adjusting our social habits, always being mindful of cross-contamination issues, explaining (sometimes repeatedly) the importance of being gluten-free to family and friends all impact our lifestyle. Sometimes this can be a load, right?
Where we are at emotionally can, and often does, greatly affect our attitude and our actions. Maybe it’s time to stop and ponder for a few minutes how you’re really feeling emotionally about what being gluten free means to you. Maybe you’re doing just fine and life feels good, really good. Your health is better, you’re maneuvering through new eating styles, and finding new social experiences with others who have common lifestyles has fallen into place. That’s great! But if being gluten-free is causing you to feel like you’re sacrificing too often, you’re choosing to “skip” the social events because they’re too difficult, or you’ve got some mild (or not so mild) resentment hanging around, taking a look at ways to work through those feelings is probably a good idea. So you can move forward.
Okay, for some of you this might feel like psycho-babble, but I’m guessing there are a few of you out there with whom this is striking a cord. So let’s break this down a bit and get some perspective …
For those of you in the “I’m okay with being gluten free and life feels good” category, we’d love to hear from you in our Comments section. Your experiences and advice can shed some great information for folks who aren’t there quite yet. The amount of community support out there never ceases to amaze me, so bring on the support.
If you’re one with whom this topic is touching a nerve, or causing you to pause and re-assess, that’s important. Allow yourself to do so. For many, part of the adjustment process involves a mourning period, a grieving for your old life so you can let go and move into your new one with a positive perspective. Here is a post I wrote awhile ago that shares my PHACIT approach. This was written with “newbies” in mind, but shares some points that may be helpful to those of you who are still contemplating how gluten-free fits into your life.
Additionally, here are a few steps to help you get to the next, hopefully more comfortable, place in your journey.
First, make a list! List all the aspects of being gluten-free that are a concern for you. Then prioritize them from greatest impact to least. For example:
1 – Can’t eat out with friends because I’m embarrassed
2 – My family doesn’t understand. They think I’m just a complainer or a picky eater.
3 – I’m tired of not having things to eat
Once you’ve prioritized these points, take them one by one and address them. One by one. It can be hard to individualize them sometimes because they are all intertwined. Here’s are some suggestions for addressing these particular points (yours may be different, of course):
1 – Can’t eat out with friends because I’m embarrassed – Do your homework ahead of time. Being spontaneous and gluten-free can feel opposing. Doing a bit of research in advance can make your, “Hey, you want to hang out on Friday night?” feel much more relaxed. Find a restaurant or two offering a gluten-free menu. Check them out online. Call to find out if they can truly accommodate your needs. Ask the manager the best approach to letting the staff know ahead of time what your needs will include and how to best notify them once you arrive. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but creating a repertoire of a handful of places where you can eat safely will put you in the offensive position instead of the defensive one. The next time your friends spontaneously say, “Hey, you want to hang out on Friday night?”, you’ll be able to respond with, “Sure, and I know a great place to eat!”
2 – My family doesn’t understand. They just think I’m a complainer and picky. – Yes, unfortunately, this is often the case when something as all-consuming as going gluten-free is new to the scene. It can take awhile for the “diagnosed” person to grasp this, so why would it be any easier for others? Do some research and find documents and articles that clearly explain Celiac Disease and/or the facts of gluten-intolerance and sensitivity. Politely share these with family and friends so they can have better insight as to how this suddenly (NOT) came about for you. Encouraging them to read other peoples accounts might help shed light that this is not something to be ignored, but rather understood. Share with them the positive impact this change in lifestyle is creating for you and your health. Take it slow and steady. Remember that just because this affects your life, whether you like it or not, others don’t necessarily accept the fact that it should impact theirs. Patience with others is important.
3 – I’m tired of not having things to eat – Yes, this can make anyone cranky and frustrated. Having a change in our routine being forced upon us can create resentment and a feeling of being overwhelmed. A few important points to work with: (a) start with foods that are as basic as possible, whole and without additives. Fresh meats and produce can lay the groundwork for healthy and safe foods. Find a few really tasty “embellishments” like condiments and sauces that are gluten free (check out our Pantry Guide) and start experimenting with flavors. This will help break you out of a possible gluten-free rut. (b) Keep an eye open for stores or events in your area that offer gluten-free tasting events. Go sampling! This is a great way to see if a product suits your tastebuds without having to spend money on an unknown. And see our Product Reviews for suggestions. We only share products we really believe in! I’ve personally found that when I like one or two of a manufacturer’s line of goods, I typically like just about all of them. So when you find a brand you enjoy … expand your horizons within their spectrum. Also, use the resources in your health foods stores, internet, magazines, etc to find new recipes to try. And try some of our Recipes. Take the recipes or products that you enjoy and know are reliable, then make a minor twist on them once in awhile. You’ll probably discover that little changes can make a big difference in how “stuck” you feel with your food. The more you play with flavors and choices, the bigger the gluten-free world will feel and you’ll not necessarily be focusing on the “gluten-free” with the same emotional perspective. (c) Early in the gluten-free journey our tastebuds are not accustomed to many of the new flavors. When you body begins to adapt to the changes in “diet”, so will your palate. I’ve found over our journey that we really enjoy many items that seemed so foreign to us in the beginning.
So, again I ask you, “Where are you emotionally on your gluten-free journey?” Wherever you are, I hope this helps you to feel good about where you currently are, or where you’re headed!
Safe food is a journey … Thrive!™