Today is the last day of Celiac Awareness Month and we’ve had a blast featuring celiac bloggers and their tips for living gluten-free. Last but definitely not least, celiac blogger, super-mom and cheerleader for us living the gluten-free life, Jessica!
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
I’d love to tell you a sweet story of the easy transition from living in a world of gluten, to being happily gluten free. In this precious rendition, I would tell you that when you take the leap to eat gluten free you will instantly feel better. You’ll body will morph into that of a supermodel or superhero, your choice, and you will never miss the old gluten-containing foods you used to love. But those things might not be true for you. Those things might not be true for anybody! Let me tell you what is true though – if you have Celiac Disease, the long term benefit of eliminating gluten from your life will be oh-so worth it. Like rest after a long night-shift, a good night’s sleep as a new mom, aloe vera gel on a sun burn. Your body will thank you for your commitment to actually live free of gluten! And, let me tell you something crazy – it is entirely possible to never eat gluten again, and firmly believe that food is amazing. In our family, we are serious foodies – even our kids. We love to eat, and although we haven’t touched gluten in 6 years we don’t feel like we are missing out on anything – isn’t it wild that gluten free food can be so good!?
We all know that making any big change in life is hard, and this is no exception – while you will eventually find yourself in a blissful world of gluten free food, it will take some time. This is an important change and not just one that you’ll want to last for a month or two – it’s a change that will likely serve you best if it lasts a lifetime. This means that one of the most important things is to take the most efficient route from being deprived, to thriving. I have 4 tips for you to help you tackle this challenge, and I’m here cheering you on all the way!
1. Look ahead six months on your calendar, and mark that day. You’re about to have a huge learning curve – not only learning, but changing habits, restructuring your social life, and figuring out exactly how to mesh the ideas of being gluten free and also enjoying life. It. Is. Possible. I promise! But it will take some time, so mark that date on your calendar and if you can trust me and hang in there until then, the hardest part will be behind you!
(if you’re stuck on ‘restructuring your social life’, take a deep breath. You don’t have to choose new, gluten free friends, but you will have to switch up a few of your pastimes, or at least how you approach them. If you solve your marital problems by picking up an Orange Julius and taking a stroll around the mall, like we did (pre-celiac diagnosis), you’re going to want to find a new tactic. If you love having potlucks with your friends, you’ll just want to learn to navigate that a little bit differently. If your Friday nights are best spent at your favorite restaurant, fret-not, you will still be able to go out and enjoy food, you will just need to either work with your favorite restaurant to create some gluten free options and practices to keep you safe, or find a new favorite place that already knows their stuff!)
2. Find a go-to food for the time being, to bridge the gap between eliminating your old favorites and finding your new ones. For me, it was crepes – I would whisk up some rice flour, tapioca flour, an egg and a little bit of almond milk and crepe it up. Add some maple syrup on top and I felt super satisfied! I must have made crepes daily for the first couple of months after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and it’s what I went to in a pinch – if someone around me was snacking on something that looked good, I made crepes. If I came home and was so hungry I couldn’t figure out what to make to eat, I would make crepes to tide me over. If I was feeling sorry for myself in the evening and dreaming of eating one of my old favs, I made crepes. You get the picture! It needs to be something accessible, and quick. It doesn’t have to be homemade, and it doesn’t have to be healthy. Hear me out – I am all for eating great, nutritious meals and snacks made from whole, healthy ingredients… But you can’t conquer the world all in one day. In this season of your life, your focus is on setting down some gluten free roots that you can actually stick to, that have longevity. There is plenty of time for healthy, but this go-to snack is more about indulgence and mental health!
3. Don’t let yourself get hungry – that’s where the unravelling happens! And it usually happens when you’re out and about, without your kitchen cupboard or fridge within reach – and if you’re anything like me, I’m an ugly crier and being out in public for a hungry meltdown is a bad scene! I would strongly suggest that you invest in a cooler – one that you like. I even dare you to splurge on it a little. You are about to pack more food on a daily basis than you ever imagined necessary, and you’ll be packing that cooler with you everywhere you go – or at least that’s what I’d recommend! Bring something with you every time you leave the house to help you avoid those wild moments where hungry meets exhausted on the corner of overwhelmed. It will be an ugly encounter so do your due diligence and pack snacks!
4. Last but not least, while you are about to live a gluten-free lifestyle (or maybe you’ve already begun), that part of your life will eventually become just a small part of what makes up your great self. Right now it feels huge, but eventually, once you get the hang of it, it will fade into being just one piece of the puzzle of your life. The danger is becoming Mr. or Mrs. Gluten Free. We’ve all met them – the ones who try to educate everyone in sight about the ins and outs of being g.f., who get angry at a restaurant for not having a gluten free menu, who lecture other people on how they, too, should stop eating gluten, and regardless of where they are, their favorite words are ‘Gluten Free… Gluten free…. Gluten free…”. Yes, we are an amazing group of people and we have to work darn hard to take care of our bodies and keep the wild gluten at bay. I am your biggest fan and the biggest fan of you doing what is going to give you the best chance at wellness – and the reality is, for many, people (if not all) eliminating gluten is at least a part of that solution. But not everyone wants to hear that, and not everyone is ready to for your journey to be their own. So have grace for the people around you – never eat something you don’t feel confident is completely gluten free, but at the same time, don’t hold that against the rest of the world who will never be as educated on the topic as you and I are. When you encounter restaurant staff who doesn’t understand what your needs are, remember it’s not their responsibility to know your condition as well as you do. Thank them for being honest that they can’t cater to your needs, and go find another restaurant – on an adventure, not a rampage. You are your own advocate, so ask the questions, and make the best choices you can with what you’ve learned. Try to take a deep breath and know that you will find great things to eat, and great places to eat out. Your friends and family will eventually get it, but have grace and patience, it will take some time.
It will all get better with time, so look forward to that date on your calendar, find a go-to bit of gluten free deliciousness and hold tight to that. Pack snacks and get to know your quick pick-up options, and breathe. Like a big glass of water after a run on a hot day, like climbing in the hot tub when you’re chilled to the bone. Relief will come and you will live a longer, healthier life as a result of your choice and commitment to turn the gluten free corner. After all, we have one of the only diseases that can be completely controlled by our choices – we’re pretty lucky! So great call on taking care of yourself, friend, you are giving a great gift to yourself, and to the people who love you. You can do it, I’m cheering you on big time!
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