About a month ago, after years of fighting against what I knew I really needed to do, I cut gluten out of my diet. When I was in high school, I asked a doctor about these bouts of bloating and fatigue I’d struggled with since childhood. He asked me what I typically ate in a day—and before we even got to dinner, he suggested I cut gluten out of my diet. What? Cut gluten out? What is this going to mean?
My wonderful, supportive parents helped me create a new way of eating that was wheat- and gluten-free, which lasted for a while. But after that while, it was just too easy to slip out of eating strictly gluten-free. My mom and I began commuting into a county that was over an hour away from our home around two or three times and week and our lives just became so full that I think we slowly let the discipline of eating wheat-free/gluten-free be carried away by busyness and convenience. Let’s face it: it is NOT the easiest diet in the world to maintain—there are many more gluten-free options available in restaurants and regular grocery stores than there were even 8-10 years ago, but it still takes a lot of discipline to not only avoid gluten or gluten-contaminated food while eating out, but also to make certain gluten-free foods at home (as many pre-made foods are still somewhat expensive—though many are not!).
As time wore on, I knew that deep down, despite the lure of Twinkies and cupcakes and Pop-Tarts and all those other wonderful gluten-full items (yes, former junk food junkie here), I harkened back to the suggestion of that doctor and knew I needed to go gluten-free to be finally rid of the bloating, the digestive issues, and the haze of tiredness that consumed my world. In fact, after only a few days of eating gluten-free (once I stuck with it completely), I felt so much better. I no longer feel bloated after eating, I’m not feeling yucky after eating pasta or pizza (though I don’t eat them all that often anymore), and I have more energy. I’ve noticed that I’m also forced to eat healthier, actually, substituting a lot of the gluten-y snacks and sides I used to eat with vegetables and fruit. It’s been a little hard finding healthy snacks with substance (I’m a grazer, so snacks are essential) as I’m also somewhat lactose intolerant, aaaand want to avoid soy as much as possible, but I’ve found some great ways around that: veggies with peanut butter, lactose-free cheese and milk, and alternative yogurt (thank the Lord above for COCONUT!). My husband isn’t exactly on board with a gluten-free diet, which I completely understand, so oftentimes I make two different ingredients for some dishes (but other times I just make the whole thing gluten-free and, you know, forget to tell him…shhh). Baking has been an interesting experiment thus far; it’s a bit of a gamble trying to find the right gluten-free all purpose flour, and even to try and make one myself, so I haven’t actually baked a whole lot since starting the diet (something which I’m sure my husband is thankful for, as it’s been too hot to use the oven, and he can’t resist sweets!). But I’ll be experimenting a little more in the Fall (which I’ll hopefully be posting about!).
In time, I know I’ll learn to make a gluten-free version of many of the items I miss. My parents aaaand my wonderful husband all gave me great gluten-free cookbooks for my birthday this year and not only have I enjoyed reading them and learning more about all the great things I CAN eat, but the recipes I’ve tried so far are all so good! I just need to spend a little more time in the kitchen now, is all 😉
Overall, though, it’s been a good change. It’s made me appreciate the food I eat a lot more than before, to savor the new (and old) flavors of different ingredient combinations and gluten-free substitutes. It’s a lot harder to eat out, but so many restaurants have specifically marked gluten-free options and others will try to prepare your food with as little cross-contamination as possible. Those options are mainly, however, for someone who just has an intolerance for gluten; I know that for someone with celiac disease, it’s nigh near impossible to eat out. And it’s always a gamble, not knowing whether you will encounter cross-contamination. But it’s also a great encouragement to make and eat more homemade food, food with no mystery ingredients, no chemicals, no artificial additives… just the good stuff, because you put all those ingredients in there yourself.
I haven’t gone completely gluten-free, including personal products in the lineup as well, as many I know have. Perhaps, in time, I will. But for now, it’s just the food.
It can be done! And enjoyed 🙂
[As a side note, I’m not a healthcare professional and I’m not promoting the diet. As always, consulting with a healthcare professional about drastic diet changes is a good idea! Going gluten-free may not be for everyone. I’m just posting about my experience as an update on what’s going on in my life at the moment and hopefully as an encouragement to someone else going gluten-free, too :)]