It's been 4 months since I've had french toast or a donut.
Or really anything bread-based, but I've had french toast and donuts on my mind lately so they grabbed the prime headline space. If you were reading this blog back in December, you know that I went gluten free right before Christmas. (You can read this post for all the reasons why.)
About three weeks ago, I eliminated dairy from my diet as well. But that's a story for another post! Today I'm going to dish out some tips and advice for any GF eaters out there. (That's gluten-free eaters...not girlfriend eaters. If you eat your girlfriends, this is not the blog for you. Also, gross.)
(You can re-pin this article here.)
1. You have to mean it.
This isn't a diet -- it's a lifestyle. And it's hard. It's doable, but hard. You won't realize how often people offered you free food in the past until you suddenly can't have any of it. Work functions, social functions, dates, birthday gifts, etc. -- be prepared to turn it all down. If you aren't committed, you'll go gluten free today and cave tomorrow (or in 5 minutes) when your coworker brings a pile of perfectly glazed donuts to work. And on a GF diet, you can't cheat. The whole point is that your intestines are damaged -- and cheating won't just make you sick for the night, it will set you way back in your entire progress. This is a 100% or nothing kind of decision.
2. Be willing to pay for it.
Eating any kind of health or specialty diet is more expensive. It's just the way it is. But, you have to learn to see food as an investment. If you want your body to shut down and act like you treated it cheaply, then buy cheap food. There are places you can cut corners (buy your veggies at a farmers market, look for sales, etc.), but for the most part, just accept the fact that your grocery bill is going to go up.
3. Be assertive.
Fact: inconveniencing other people makes me seriously uncomfortable. I'm not really one to complain at a restaurant, for example, if my order isn't entirely correct. With my new lifestyle, I'm learning to get over this. I don't like being high maintenance, but I have to be comfortable drilling my servers at restaurants about the ingredients in various sauces, or sending a plate of food back if they messed up my order. I'm still working on not being squeamish about this, but I'm making progress!
4. Be patient with other people.
Your friends and family are going to forget about your new gluten-free lifestyle. Often. And some people might treat you like you're a crazy extremist, on a fad diet that you're going to ditch next week. (I'm a lucky girl because my family and friends have been super supportive.) But occasionally, someone forgets. And I don't blame them -- sometimes I can barely stay on top of which restaurants and which brands I can and can't eat. On my birthday, a friend handed me a big slice of cake he'd picked up for me at a bakery. Rather than hand the bag back to him and say, "I can't eat this, you idiot," I just said thank you and took it home to give to my roommate. No big deal. So be patient with the people around you. They'll learn!
5. Find a support group.
I mentioned in my original post about going gluten free that this girl gave me some great advice and support to get me started. You guys, the gluten-free community is alive and well! There are blogs, farmers markets, expos, websites, Facebook groups, local meetups, GF bakeries, and so on. Seek and ye shall find!
6. Be prepared for sugar cravings.
During my second month of not eating gluten, my coworker had a soda in his hand and suddenly every cell in my body was screaming, "GIVE ME A DR. PEPPER RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW. NOWWW." The sugar cravings were intense, and hit me like a brick wall. My med-student friend told me that it made sense, because my body was used to having simple carbs from bread, and wasn't getting those anymore -- so it wanted sugar. I'll admit I cave and just eat sugar sometimes (hey, when you can't eat gluten or dairy, a slushie is your last hallowed ground). But for the most part, I kick those cravings by eating fruit. Keep some fresh fruit on hand (the sweeter the better!) and you'll be good to go when the cravings strike. (Trust me, I suck down snack-pack applesauce on a daily basis.)
7. Research everything.
Ever stood in a grocery store aisle with your smartphone out, Googling recipes or particular brands to see if they're gluten free? Or took twice as long to order at a restaurant because you need to look on Yelp to see if other GF eaters have reviewed the menu? Get used to doing this. And check out your options for gluten-friendly apps -- I have one that lets me scan bar codes at stores and tells me if I can eat it or not, and another that will find me the nearest gluten-free restaurant using my location.
8. Always carry snacks.
Some of the hardest moments not to cave happen when I am running around town and haven't had a meal and there is no GF food in sight. Or, sometimes I'm at a party or work function and I haven't eaten in hours, slight dizziness is starting to set in and there's a whole table of food I can't eat. I should be better about this than I am, but I'm always grateful when I remember to carry GF granola bars or a bag of almonds in my purse or car.
9. Support GF friendly restaurants.
Implementing a GF menu and keeping a kitchen free of contamination isn't easy. So when I find a restaurant that specializes in GF foods or offers a special menu, I want to support it. I eat there, thank them, support them, spread the word, post about it on social media -- these people deserve the recognition! More and more restaurants are offering GF because they see their competitors having success with it. So get out there and fuel the GF market!
10. Don't give up!
It's so easy to want to call it quits. Trust me, I get that. I once cried in a parking lot because I had a bad day and the GF cupcake I picked up didn't taste as good as a normal cupcake. I'm going to Disneyland in two weeks, and I can't have a churro. If you know me, you know I live and breathe by Disneyland churros. When I'm there, I eat like three a day. But, not this time! And let's be honest -- moments like that can really suck in a big way. But...BUT...for me, it's worth it. And it helps to focus on all the delicious food I still CAN eat. So onward, ever onward! (And always remember, Ryan Gosling supports you.)
Any questions? Other advice you'd give?
Or thoughts on this really long blog post at all? Gluten-free churro recipes...? Feel free to re-pin this blog post for future reference.