My husband and I stopped eating gluten last September, not because it’s the ‘faddy’ thing to do, but because we do, in fact, have gluten intolerances. The moment the stuff passes his lips, the muscles in his back freak out. Think we’re delusional? Well, we’ve tested it over and over, and the second he eats a pizza, spasm! (Think Meg Ryan in the movie French Kiss when she eats all that cheese – and she’s lactose intolerant. Yeah. That, minus the gastrointestinal distress.)
So we dropped many of our most favourite foods from our diet and braved the cravings in order to avoid not only back spasms, but a laundry list of other symptoms. It was hard. Yet it was worth it. We both felt better and decided that we could stay on it indefinitely. We don’t miss much of what we used to eat anymore.
But I’m not going to lie. There were some hard moments, especially when we first started out and I thought I would share a few of my thoughts in getting through the more difficult times of a diet. I know, there are hundreds of diet tips and tricks out there, but I have found that very few of them mention the most important thing of all when contemplating a diet, cleanse or fast (aside from planning, planning, planning) and that is…
At the risk of overspiritualizing it all, I have to say that prayer and discernment really matter. Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” Asking the Lord what He wants for your family – and many of us ladies are the heads of our kitchens - is paramount. Because you can bet on it, if it’s not His Will, it won’t work. Praying and discerning the issues surrounding a big change in diet is super important; issues like purpose and reason for undertaking the diet, timing, sustainability and suitability for your family all must be taken into account. Taking some time to solidify one’s purpose for dieting, when to start and how to continue is invaluable later on when you or your kids want to swim in a vat of ice cream and banana bread. Prayer and the intercession of Our Lady and the saints also helps tremendously in getting through those moments of cravings, fatigue and withdrawal symptoms. They’re not pretty, but they can be gotten through, and it’s monumentally helpful to have that spiritual sustainment.
Plan to Purge
And by purge, I mean your house and your lifestyle. If you’re a diabetic who’s addicted to cherry coke, and the start date of Project Eradication-of-Pop is all planned out, just get rid of the stuff. Stop buying it. Stop hanging out at the haunts where you normally drink it. Or if you still go to the places, substitute the coke for something else. Have a plan for what you’re going to drink during those times of day when you’re used to drinking pop, like watching tv on Saturday night or when you’re on break at work. Remind yourself that the substitute won’t be the same, because it isn’t the same. You’re never going to find a substitute that tastes exactly like cherry coke, but your pancreas will thank you if you move to water or apple juice instead.
Plan to cheat
This was exceptionally helpful for us. We decided that we would just give ‘er for two weeks solid – go cold turkey gluten free – while planning a cheat day two weeks in. Best thing we could have done. Not only did it help us psychologically by giving us an ‘end date’ of sorts, but the consequences for eating gluten after two weeks of being free of it became more apparent. It clarified for us exactly why we were attempting this experiment. It goes without saying though that if you find out you’re deathly allergic to something, or there will be uber-severe consequences to ingesting a particular substance even once while on detox, this step will likely need to be skipped.
Plan for social outings
A friend of ours has some very severe health problems and has been on an extremely restricted diet for months now, yet he’s a young, single guy and likes to go out with friends. The last time I saw him he was telling me how difficult it was for him to be able to go out because it almost always had something to do with food. He said that he figured out at least one thing on every menu that he could eat/drink just so that he could still go out and be with his friends socially, but still stick to his strick diet. Makes a huge difference. Nowadays going gluten or sugar or casein free is easier than ever because of the possibilities made available on just about every menu. Even though we have to be careful with sauces and condiments, we found out quickly that there is almost always some kind of salad or plain meat and vegetable at every restaurant. There are even restaurants that substitute gluten free breads for the wheat variety – so we really don’t have to go without very much when we’re ‘out on the town’!
Plan disciplinary measures
The grocery store we frequent is right across the street from the ice cream/fast food joint in town. I have sat out front, many a time waiting for my ride watching all the cones and hamburgers and other awesome-ness coming out of that place. It’s really hard for me to resist. The moment my brain sees the stuff that it thinks my mouth wants to taste, it starts rationalizing away everything I’ve worked so hard towards accomplishing. I have to physically remove myself and think about something else. And I have to remember why I’m doing this in the first place. It’s hard. It might never get easier. But I know that when the junk is not in front of me, when I’m at home, I’m fine. I don’t crave it.
And finally plan to tell your friends (and strangers too)
Dieting, fasting or cleansing shouldn’t cause us to become recluses – purposefully saying no to dinner parties or get-togethers with friends because of the whole “food thing”. We found that once we told our family and friends the reasons behind why we were doing what we were doing, they were very supportive and desired to be hospitable. I constantly feel bad for accepting dinner invitations and then pontificating what we can and cannot eat, but usually the host/hostess is very gracious when I explain things to him/her. It sometimes becomes tricky with kids though. A friend of mine was diligent about keeping her kids away from sugar, but was given a hard time at the grocery store once when the lady at the bakery wanted to give her kid a cookie. She ended up having to tell the lady that her boy was allergic to sugar (which he wasn’t) because the lady insisted on giving my friend's kid a cookie, even after several no’s. Your friends and family (and even strangers) mean well, but we can make it easier on ourselves and on them when we let them in on our reasoning.