When you’re at the beginning of a major life change, knowing what to expect down the road is very helpful. When we were about to start traveling full-time (we’re touring the U.S. in an RV as I write this) we read a book that told us to expect a major emotional crisis after a month or so on the road.
Hearing that at the beginning was a joy-killer, but when we all started getting cranky and snapping at each other after living in a super-small space for a few weeks, it was nice to know that the bad moods were a normal phase and that we’d soon get past that point.
So, today’s lesson will not be all pink ribbons and lollipops. You’re about to embark on a big life change and you need to know what bumps are ahead of you on the road. This is a tough love email, so let’s get through it and get done!
Expect to make mistakes. First off, you’re going to be learning a lot of new things about cooking, baking, and grocery shopping in the next weeks and months. Don’t expect to get it all right the first time. If you keep learning, day after day, then you’ll be phenomenal at being gluten free in a relatively short time.
Don’t expect immediate miracles. Some of you may see immediate improvements in the symptoms that led you to try a gluten free diet. For others, it may take months for your body to heal. Expect healing to take a while and monitor your body carefully. Being gluten free can not harm you, so give your body time to heal before making a judgment as to whether this is going to work.
Make room in your life to go gluten free. Feeding your body well – so that it can be healthy – takes time. Especially at first, your cooking, baking, and grocery shopping are going to take longer than usual. What can you temporarily set aside to make room for this? If you can carve out time to learn to do this well, you’ll find that the transition is less stressful.
Expect resistance. Most people don’t like change at all – in themselves, in their environment, or in others. Expect to get some negative reactions…from somebody, even if it’s only your inner child. Expect it and then persevere through it. The gluten free diet is not a fad diet. It can truly heal your body. Isn’t that amazing?! So stick with it and give it time to work.
Set yourself up for success. I have very little self-control when it comes to food. I’m not happy about it, but I’m not embarrassed to admit it. If there is wheat in my house, then I will probably eat it. So….I don’t keep wheat in my house. If temptations and cravings are an issue, get the gluten completely out of the house.
Learn to skip a meal. At some point you will find yourself in a situation where the only available food has gluten. Your choice at that point it to eat gluten or skip a meal. I’ll be quite honest – for many years I chose to eat the gluten. Skipping a meal scared me!
Luckily, skipping a meal is a skill that you can learn, and you need to learn to do it quickly. Get over the fear that skipping a meal will be painful (drastically reducing the sugar and grains in your diet will help with this) so that you can handle this situation without giving in and harming your body.
Be ready to learn. Even if you’re already good at baking, there are a lot of things about gluten free cooking and baking that are just plain different. Don’t get discouraged. Approach it as a Grand Experiment and see what you can learn. I honestly think that the gluten free community can figure out how to bake anything!
Take responsibility for your enjoyment of food. Ultimately you are responsible for making sure that you enjoy the food that you eat on a Gluten Free or Gluten Free Plus diet. My job is to tell you that it’s possible, but you’re responsible for the follow-up.
This may mean drawing attention to yourself when you’d rather not (e.g. asking about food at restaurants), possibly appearing selfish (e.g. by insisting that everyone go to a restaurant where you can safely eat), doing some cooking research on your own, or adjusting your household budget so that there’s more room for gluten-free groceries.
I know that these things can be difficult. I really do. But please take care of yourself, so that you can take care of the ones that you love.
You’re going to want to cheat. Seriously, at some point you will want to eat something that has gluten in it. It will look like food from heaven and you’ll want it so badly. DO NOT EAT IT!
Vividly imagine all of the harm that gluten does to your body and then remove yourself from the tempting situation. If that doesn’t work, then imagine that something horribly disgusting was done to the food before you saw it. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself from eating gluten.
Expect to have an emotional crisis at some point. Someday, somewhere, sometime, you’re just going to hate this diet. It may be when you drop $15 of flour all over the kitchen floor. It may be when your child refuses to eat the gluten-free bread that cost $5 a loaf. It may be when you’re puking your guts up because wheat somehow got into your food at a restaurant.
I don’t know what it will be that will send you over the edge. I just know that it will happen. Expect it. Deal with it. And then stay gluten free.
To be perfectly honest, despite the depressing tone of this email, you are going to feel so much better on a gluten free diet that those painful moments are going to be totally worth it. And those moments are few and far between.
I double-pinkie swear that gluten free food can be the most delicious food you’ve ever eaten. Double-pinkie swear!! (And my next email will cover some of the delicious food that we do get to eat!)