I originally was going to call this post 'The GFree Transition' but instead opted to keep with my one-word titles. I like my short titles because they give me something in common with Tool songs.
On to business... I thought what I'd do here is give a few tips to any new glutards out there who may be transitioning. These are things that worked for me that may not necessarily pop up in other advice columns. Or maybe they do. Whatever. You're getting them here, too, because they helped.
1. The best piece of advice I have is to find social support. This can be friends or family or someone you meet through Celiac or Gluten Free support groups, but having someone (or preferably many ones) around to aid in the transition can go along way for easing the growing pains. The transition can be really hard, so having a smiling face can go a long way. I used to exist pretty much solely on sandwiches, pasta, pizza, and cookies. Needless to say, suddenly losing the ability to walk into a grocery store and buy my lazy staple foods hit me hard. It felt like I was no longer in control of my life and that I was missing out on all of the things I used to enjoy. I was lucky, though, because I had someone close to me who was also gluten intolerant who could help me navigate this new path. They consoled me when I was upset, had an optimistic outlook, and -- maybe most importantly -- could offer concrete knowledge about living gluten free. The first-hand experience was great because they could give reviews of products (there's still a lot of gross stuff out there, and a rapidly-expanding selection of delicious options). This saved me the time, disappointment, and money of trying out a product only to discover that it was gross. It also gave me the joy of walking into a grocery store and knowing exactly which waffle to buy when I wanted a carb-y breakfast. I was (note: still am!) also lucky because I had some wonderful, supportive friends. I had friends who were willing to go with me to try new restaurants and to make foods to share that I could partake in. Knowing that I could go to a potluck and eat something other than what I was bringing made me feel loved at a time when it felt like my body hated me. They're still good about modifying things to meet my needs, which makes me feel like less of a freak. Not sayin' that you're going to feel like a freak, but sometimes I still do. And you know what? It is okay. Shit happens and you move on. I happen to move on much quicker because I have a great group of people around me.
I also recommend checking out gluten free blogs because virtual support can help bridge the gap between emotional support you can get from your loved ones and the instrumental support you need to actually thrive on a gfree diet. The people who post on the Celiac and Gluten Free forums have tons of life experience and are willing to share it to help other glutards. There's useful information out there (i.e., Can I still drink gin? If so, which ones can I drink?), plus you get the added bonus of feeling like part of a community. Not just any community, but a community full of rad people who have been there and are there with you. Some areas even have gluten free Meet Ups and such. Knowing that other people are out there successfully living awesome glutard lives helps me feel confident after slip-ups or other disheartening experiences.
2. Related to social support, I also recommend finding a glutard ally. By ally, I mean one person who can be your gfree champion. For me, this was the family member mentioned above who was already living the dream who could help me avoid some of the common landmines in the gfree transition (i.e., soy sauce, foods that are processed on equipment that processes wheat). They don't have to be a glutard, but find someone you trust who is willing to learn and adapt with you. It is a great bonding experience.
3. Mistakes happen. Don't beat yourself up. If you're one of the lucky celiacs out there who is asymptomatic, your body won't beat you up if a mistake happens. If you're not one of those asymptomatic glutards, your body may beat you up. I am super sensitive to gluten, so sometimes I start feeling the negative effects after I did something as minor as eating something that touched gluten. These things serve as reminders that it is much easier to be vigilant in the first place than to be miserable afterwards. Even the best of us can get lulled into a false sense of security by a restaurant, or accidentally miss an ingredient on a label, or get sloppy with food prep. Use these as reminders of how to stay healthy. Remember, it is hard lifestyle to keep, especially when you trust others with your food, but eventually it will become natural and you'll be fine -- until the very sweet Aunt Eugenia forgets to mention that she marinated the meat in soy sauce. Or your friends try to feed you chocolate covered pretzels when you're having a bad day. Go easy on them, and go easy on yourself. We're all learning here.
4. The last nugget I'll drop here for now is to keep an open mind. Sure, some things won't taste or feel like the glutinous products you're used to. But good alternatives exist for almost anything you could want if you put forth the effort to find them. (Aside: Anyone out there know of any good glutard croissants????) Use this as your chance to explore the wide world of foods that you may not have found otherwise. After bingeing on rice in my early transition, I discovered quinoa. Quinoa is a wonder grain and I happen to love it like Lenny loved the bunny, but I would have never discovered that if I hadn't been open to trying this grain I discovered when googling one day. Broaden and build (totally stealing a phrase from positive psychologists there).
Oh, and a reminder. From what I gather, gluten free may be one of the new fad diets. FYI: gluten free products are free of gluten, not calories. A cookie is a cookie regardless of it is made from wheat flour or a rice flour blend. Sometimes, gluten free products have more calories and fat than regular versions since sometimes it takes more butter, chocolate, sugar, or whatever to make the gfree version as tasty. So yeah, be careful out there.
Feel free to chime in with questions or additional tips. Your life experience is just as relevant as mine, or maybe even moreso!