Why Go Gluten Free?
Why are you GF? …and some advice for newly diagnosed Celiacs that we can probably all use.
I’m not going to try convince you to give up gluten. If you are here, chances are, you have already done that, by choice, or by instruction from your physician. For me, this is not a choice. I tried to give up gluten once, for a “challenge” before my diagnosis and was terrible at it. Once diagnosed, I understood that I didn’t have a choice that I’ve become very strict and adherent to this diet. This is my whole life now and I refuse to compromise on the taste of the food that I eat and feed to my family every day. So, whatever your reasons, I hope you’ll enjoy cooking along with me as I strive to eat and cook, healthy, flavorful food that people will enjoy.
If you have recently been diagnosed with Celiac or Gluten Intolerance start here:
Okay, so you just got that dreaded diagnosis – Celiac Disease! If you are like me, you are a little shocked, a little confused and a lot disappointed. The realization of what this mean comes in waves. Grocery trips can be extremely overwhelming, restaurants can be scary and the prospect of making a meal intimidating. I’m here to say, it can all be done and you will get past it. Go easy on yourself and be patient.
Some important things to realize:
- You won’t feel better right away – it takes time. For me it took about 3 months to notice an appreciable difference. It may take you longer, or not.
- You will make mistakes and it’s okay.
- You may always miss that perfect NY Bagel or slice of pizza, but you will eventually realize that feeling better makes it totally worth it.
- Adhering to a strict gluten free diet is hard. It takes work, but you will figure it out.
- This one is really important: YOU ARE WORTH IT! You are worth being your own best advocate. You are worth risking hurting someones feelings in order to protect yourself. You are worth occasionally spending $9 on a gluten free cupcake just to feel “normal.” YOU ARE WORTH IT!
“That’s what full feels like”
Now, I know you are looking for some actionable steps toward embracing this new lifestyle. I have those for you too – but indulge me for a moment…
My husband and I have been together since we were 19 years old. For as long as I can remember, I’d complain after we went out to eat about my stomach. He would lovingly look at me and say “That’s what full feels like.” As someone who is always careful about how much I eat, it was logical for him to think that I just over-did it on a date night. We chuckle about it now, 21 years later.
When I received my initial blood test results, my GI doc asked me to continue easting gluten until we were able to confirm the diagnosis with a second blood test and endoscopy. I had mixed feelings about continuing to eat these foods that I knew were making me sick, but was also not ready to accept this new diagnosis fully until it was confirmed for me. So, I decided to make the best of this final two weeks of gluten eating and had a farewell tour to gluten. I ate all of my favorite foods and relished every bite. I knew it was my last time, so I tried to install some perfect memories in place of these off-limit foods. I had fun eating, but spent the two weeks feeling awful. It was the first time it really clicked for me that these foods were in fact making me ill. I think that this helped me immensely in accepting this diagnosis and preparing myself to move forward.
Take a deep breath and jump in!
Here are some 15 things you can do to help you eliminate gluten from your diet and move on to feeling better:
- Get your family on friends on board. This is hard to do alone. Family support is the number one thing that will help you get through these early weeks and months (and years).
- Clean out your pantry. If you share a home with wheat eaters, set aside a place for your food.
- Buy your own stuff and label it – I have my own butter dish, peanut butter jar, jams etc.
- Set aside some time to go to the grocery store. It will take longer at first. Read labels, ask questions. There are some great apps you can download that help a lot. Shopwell & Fooducate are 2 of my favorites
- Go shopping for new cutting boards, toasters and other items that you will keep separate – label everything if you live with wheat eaters.
- Go-online – there are some great Facebook support groups, Celiac non profits, and blogs with tons of information.
- Always have a GF snack in your pocket, desk, car etc. When you are really hungry, you make mistakes. If you have a Kind bar you can reach for, it feels like a life-line.
- Start taking a probiotic. Your gut will take time to heal, this will help.
- Ask questions. Lots of them. Ask your doctor, your nutritionist, your waiters and chefs, your friends.
- Only eat at restaurants that you trust. I’d avoid Asian cuisine or other places that don’t seem like they’d understand the need for avoiding cross contamination.
- Have your speech ready. When you go to a restaurant be ready to tell your waiter. Its okay to scare them a bit, but be sweet so they want to help you. I generally say…”I have Celiac Disease. It means I can’t have anything with gluten – wheat, barley, rye, soy sauce etc. I can’t even have anything cooked on the same surface, stirred with same spoon or fried in the same oil. I get extremely sick if I have any and I’d be SO grateful for your help in guiding me through the menu.” I generally gauge my tip based on how helpful they were. The findme gluten free app is great for finding safe places to eat nearby.
- Learn a few great recipes that you feel comfortable eating and enjoy cooking.
- Go all-in! Don’t dabble in gluten-free. This is your health and maintaining is requires a strict adherence to a gluten free diet. When that bums you out, be glad that this is the treatment and not having to take lots of pills. You get to be in control of your own health.
- Celebrate the small victories. Be proud of yourself for each step you have taken. Is it overwhelming? Yes. Is it doable? Absolutely!
- Be patient and kind with yourself. Its a steep learning curve, but you’ll get the hang of it and you will feel way better than you could ever have imagined feeling.