It has been roughly 10 years that I have been gluten free. It has been 10 years that I have learned the ins and outs, ups and downs, and the lessons learned that go along with living a fully gluten free diet. You see, my destination really began almost 20 years ago when I was told that I had to cut dairy, caffeine, and anything acidic out of my diet. So, out went cheese, coffee, soda (probably good things), and red sauce that you normally put on pasta or pizza. With all those changes, I was in no better shape. So after my son was born, I decided to give the gluten free lifestyle a try. That decision was almost 10 years ago. And let’s just say that it has not been a walk in the park. There have been many challenges. And at the same time there have been many successes. Were there and are there still speed bumps? Absolutely…but here’s how I did and continue to get over them.
- The first thing I learned is that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. Now, I know that sounds very self-helpish and like complete bullshit, but hear me out. How many times have you eaten something that you know is going to put you in pain (or in the bathroom later on down the evening), and even though it tasted good, the pain is just not worth it? Well, that’s what I mean. Feeling healthy, especially when it comes to an autoimmune disease like Celiac, a gluten sensitivity, or any other disorder that causes you pain or discomfort from gluten (or food, in general), is the most important thing. If you don’t feel good, then so much of the rest of your life becomes askewed.
- You have to be experimental and open-minded. When I first went gluten free, I had to restock my fridge and pantry, which at that time, meant I simply replaced the bread and pasta with gluten free bread and pasta. I needed to try many new breads and food that I never ate before. Recipes that I never made became part of my weekly regimen. I had to be open to new things. I had to put on my microscope when I went out to dinner in order to be sure that what I was ordering was made properly for me (many times I even brought the chef out to create my own meal). I needed to welcome new foods and ways of doing things into my life, otherwise it would be torturous rather than enjoyable and satisfying.
- Forgiveness is key. I’m not talking about forgiving others. I am talking about forgiving yourself. There are going to be times you slip up. Times when your meal or kitchen may not be as clear from gluten as it should be. Maybe you indulged in some gluten-filled goodies when on vacation and you got mad at yourself. I was in Vegas, and went to Gordon Ramsey’s Steakhouse for my anniversary dinner with my husband. The waiter brought out a plate of fresh, homemade bread baked especially for our table. There was no way I was going to pass it up. Now, I do not have Celiac Disease, so my reaction is not as severe as others, so please, do not take this advice if your allergy is extremely severe. However, if there is a time when something sneaks in, or you do indulge if you are not as allergic, then you must find a way to forgive yourself.
- Be your own advocate. Nobody else is going to watch out for your own well being as well as you will. Be sure, when choosing where and what to eat, that you are making choices best for YOU and YOU alone. Of course, as a mom, I am always concerned with my kids and my husband. They tend to eat what I eat, with a few modifications (their pasta is always normal pasta in which I drool over). However, when planning meals, or deciding where to dine out, I always make sure that there is something for me to eat that is nutritious and gluten free.
- It’s not only food that needs to be gluten free. Recently I have had a very itchy head. I would wash my hair, style it, and scratch it all day. Like to the point where anyone watching me would think I had lice or something. After getting checked by the school nurse, friends, and my husband, I learned that it wasn’t lice. I decided to test some theories, and changed my hair products. I stopped washing my hair as often as I did. Still itchy. It wasn’t until I found gluten free shampoo and conditioner that the itching was relieved. But it didn’t sto[ there. the hair products I used were not gluten free. I have naturally curly hair, and the mousse and gel products were making me even more uncomfortable. So I stopped using them altogether, and began using plain lotion on my curls when my hair was wet. Not only did the itch go away, but my curls are amazing (you should definitely try it). Be sure to check your hair products, and makeup. I can tell you that L’oreal sulfate free shampoos and conditioners are gluten free (just be sure to read the back and find the gf symbol)and ELF makeup products, although not certified, are mainly gluten free, as well (just be sure to read the labels fully, like everything else). I also know that Cover Girl makeup is gluten free. I’m sure there are more out there, this is just what I have found recently. Please share any other brands that you have found with this community.
There will be many more lessons, I’m sure, and lessons that I will either excel at or fail. They will all, of course, be part of the process. Part of your process. I wish I could say that it’s a simple formula, or that someone could sit next to you and tell you not to reach for something that is not healthy for you to eat…that which being anything that is not gluten free. But you need to trust yourself, and take these lessons and run with them. It’s your life…live and learn.