With so many having issues with gluten these days, it is getting easier to find gluten free options. I have many clients who ARE gluten free due to intolerance issues, and feel as if the “task at hand” is just too daunting for them.
I wanted to share a school mate’s journey over this past year as HOPE to those of you just embarking on the path as means of inspiration. I will attach a link for information regarding a Living Gluten & Wheat Free-First Steps Teleconference to be held monthly at the end of this blog. Enjoy!
1 Year Gluten Free!
One year ago today, if you told me I would be where I am today, I would have thought you were crazy. February 10, 2013 began my gluten free journey; one that I thought there was no way I could survive. But when you feel as miserable as I did, I was willing to do whatever I had to in order to feel better again.
My first step was to research what had gluten in it and get it out of my house. I was shocked when all I had left was half of one cabinet shelf with food on it and two things in my freezer. If I had thought it was going to be hard to cut out gluten before that, I was very overwhelmed now. It was time to restock the kitchen so I did some more research and found what I COULD eat and made a list. I started with simple things that I knew I would enjoy and started there. Trying to restock and entire kitchen in one step is not only overwhelming, but costly. Over time, I was able to replenish what was lost with gluten free options.
By the time I was at the point where gluten free was next on the list to try, I was beyond miserable. My body was trying to tell me something that I did not understand, nor wanted to hear. The thought or smell of food made me nauseous, my belly was bloated and painful to the touch, and the only thing I could stomach to eat was Cheerios (which doesn’t make sense since they are full of gluten). So what I was eating to feel better was only making it worse. I was looking for instant relief, only to find out that switching to gluten free was not a quick fix. The first week without gluten seemed to last forever but I made it to the end, yet still felt miserable. I didn’t realize it would take a couple weeks to get the bad out of my system, but I kept pressing on. And finally, day 16, I felt like a brand new person. I couldn’t remember that last time I had felt so good but it was definitely the motivation I needed to keep moving forward. How could I go back to putting that poison in my body, knowing how bad it made me feel?
My doctor had told me to eliminate gluten for 30 days then eat something that had gluten in it to see how I felt. That was going to determine if that was the issue. Well, after 30 days, I thought she was crazy. I already had my answer at day 16 so I was not about to put anything back in my body. I was just going to continue living gluten free and feeling great. If only it were that easy. Time passes and cravings happen. It began to get harder and harder to resist the gluten goodness that I once loved. So began a new group of struggles.
After a couple of months, I couldn’t resist things that I was craving. I would allow myself to eat a gluten “treat” now and then. Sometimes, I would feel fine and other times, I’d be sick before I even finished it. I’ve learned what I can and cannot put in my body through trial and error. I’m human though and sometimes, I just want what I want. However, I’ve learned in the last year there are ways to have the things that I crave but in a gluten free version.
Thankfully, gluten free items are popping up almost everywhere!!! Even in the short one year since I made the switch, it’s so much easier to go to the store (and slowly they are getting cheaper too) or to your favorite restaurant and find gluten free options. This makes it easier to still enjoy a meal out of the house without stress, something I really dreaded at first because I didn’t feel I could go out to eat with friends and still be able to eat a real meal. As time passes and the more common gluten free eating is, the easier it is to stay on track!
With such a significant change in life does not come without challenges and struggles. How could it not when so much of what we once knew, grew up loving, or craved now had to be removed? Change is hard, no matter the reasoning behind it, but nothing is impossible! Personally, I struggled with knowing what to eat, not wanting to spend time cooking, and not being able to eat my favorite foods. But knowing this was going to be my new life, I had to find ways to be successful.
Looking back over the year, it was with the help of 3 P’s that I was able to succeed: planning, perseverance, and Pinterest. Without these three, I might be right back where I started.
Planning is crucial to most anything in life, and key to the gluten free life. This is most important from day one. I was lost when I went to the grocery store if I hadn’t planned out ahead of time what brands I could buy or what ingredients to look for. I found an application for my phone that was able to scan barcodes and tell me if there was gluten in it; this helped tremendously as reading labels can be tricky. The more I went, the easier it was to find what I could eat, rather than what I couldn’t.
Meal planning also helps me to succeed. After a long day at work, the last thing I want to think about when I get home is what I can eat. Having those decisions made ahead of time helps deter me from wanting to grab something I shouldn’t be eating. I often cook meals on the weekend and put them in the freezer for my lunches during the week or have things started for quick prep on a week night. I have a lot of room for improvement here but it’s definitely a work in progress. I’m always learning new ways to plan ahead.
The second P, perseverance, is key in any aspect in life. There are going to be days that are more challenging than others, and there have been plenty in the last year, but if I give in and eat something gluten, I try to think about what I could have done to prevent it and move forward. I could beat myself up about what I ate (sometimes my body does that for me), or I can learn from it and keep on going. I’ve learned that this is not just a sprint; it’s a marathon for a lifetime of health. I haven’t had my last slip up, but I know I will not give up; I will persevere!
And lastly, the final P, Pinterest. Where would I be without this amazing tool full of gluten free goodness? I had never used it prior to becoming gluten free but it’s been a lifesaver! We all know cookbooks can be helpful but they are usually full of more of what we don’t like versus what we do. I’d much rather go to the internet or Pinterest to find a recipe than a cookbook. Plus, we tend to have them at our fingertips more often than not. I use Pinterest the most to satisfy my cravings typically, but it is handy for crock pot meals and new ideas to add to my meal planning. My first search was for donuts, a weakness of mine, and I have since tried a couple recipes that I love. I am not sure I could have made it through the fall without all the pumpkin goodness recipes I found and tried. Birthday and holiday treats are other hot topics to search for ideas. I’ve learned too that finding these recipes to satisfy the cravings I have for foods I once thought I could not eat again has lessened my cravings for them. Knowing I can’t have something naturally makes me want it more, but now I know there are alternatives I can have, which allow me to just eat them every once in a while, as I’m not deprived.
Looking back over the last year, I can see how far I’ve come. My health has dramatically improved and I’ve begun to see food in a new light. I spent so many years using food as comfort and enjoyment, rather than a means to fuel my body to live and be healthy. I still have much room for improvement and am constantly looking for ways to eat better. Becoming gluten free once seemed truly impossible to me, just thinking about the possibility of having to eliminate it from my life was overwhelming. However, taking the process one meal at a time, one day at a time made it much more manageable. As with anything, there will be setbacks, but that just sets me up for an opportunity to persevere and comeback! And my one final tip before I sign off, positive thinking is a POWERFUL tool! Believe you can, and you will! ~Jess
The Living Gluten & Wheat Free – First Steps is offered the 2nd Thursday of each month as a way for those just learning to be Gluten Free to get information and strategies for success! Suzie Sunkel is an amazing woman who is an EXPERT on GLUTEN FREE!
For additional information, please feel free to contact me!