Posted on 12-01-2011
Ten Tips to Help You or Your Child Love the Gluten-Free Lifestyle
If you’re feeling resentful or unhappy about your gluten-free lifestyle, Danna Korn
has some welcome tips to help you change your mind…and expand your menu.
Hoboken, NJ (November 2011)—If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease or you’ve adopted the diet to simply become healthier, you know that you have the knowledge and willpower to stay away from gluten. But liking, much less loving, your new diet? Well, that’s another matter entirely. Many individuals who live a gluten-free lifestyle find themselves missing their old diets, and they especially dread being taunted by friends who seem to gobble gluten at every turn.
If this sounds familiar, Danna Korn has some welcome encouragement: Hang in there. You can learn to live—and love—this lifestyle.
“Going gluten-free is a physical transition, yes—but it’s also a psychological one,” says Korn, author of Living Gluten-Free For Dummies®, 2nd Edition (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-58589-4, $19.99). “It’s natural to experience feelings of loss and jealousy regarding ‘forbidden foods,’ but the good news is that you can learn to think of your gluten-free lifestyle in very positive terms.”
If you or a family member must live gluten-free and you’re ready to see your lifestyle in a whole new light, read on for ten of Korn’s tried-and-true tips:
Focus on what you can eat. When your brain is focused on gluten, it can seem to be surrounding you even more closely than oxygen molecules. However, looking at the big picture will show you that the list of things you can eat is a lot longer than the list of things you can’t.
“Focus on the foods you can eat and put a special emphasis on those that you especially enjoy,” Korn suggests. “Try to think outside the box and explore foods you may not have otherwise tried, or figure out how to make your favorite glutenous meal into a gluten-freebie.”
Expand your culinary horizons with adventuresome alternatives. Many of us tend to eat the same types of foods over and over and over again—so living gluten-free is a great opportunity to try new ingredients, tastes, and dishes.
“A bold, gluten-free world awaits you, filled with foods some people have never heard of,” Korn confirms. “Quinoa, amaranth, teff, millet, buckwheat, acai, kefir, and sorghum top the list of my faves. If you’re a parent, don’t underestimate your kids’ willingness to try new foods—they may broaden their horizons with surprising ease.”
Enjoy ethnic fare. Unlike Western culture, many societies around the world live practically gluten-free without even realizing it.
“Let your taste buds take a world tour,” says Korn. “Many Asian cuisines, including Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean, are often gluten-free, as are many Mexican and Indian dishes. You can do some research on the Internet or explore cookbooks featuring recipes from around the world.”
Control the diet. To some extent your gluten-free lifestyle will determine what you eat, when and where you eat, with whom you eat, and even how you eat—but you’ll have a lot more control if you are knowledgeable and plan ahead.
“Educate yourself on menu planning,” suggests Korn. “This will help you to shop smart, and it will also help ensure that something’s always available for you when you’re hungry. A crucial part of being in control of the diet is being able to get out and about and know that you can eat safely when you’re not at home. This is true for children as well—people usually underestimate kids’ abilities to follow the diet on their own.”
Eat to live; don’t live to eat. Your body is designed to use food as a fuel, not as a comforter, pacifier, stress reliever, or partner replacer. Make sure that your relationship with food is a healthy one.
“Sure, food has become a huge part of society and interpersonal relationships, and by definition, social functions usually revolve around food,” agrees Korn. “But that doesn’t mean food is the social function, nor does that mean you have to eat the food that’s there.”
Remember: You’re different. So what? If you’re on the gluten-free diet, your bread may look a little different, and you may sometimes appear to be a tad high maintenance at a restaurant. So what? You’re not alone, and there’s no real reason to feel embarrassed.
“Lots of people ‘customize’ a menu,” reminds Korn. “Vegetarians skip a huge portion of the buffet line. Some people don’t like chicken, others don’t do dairy, and some can die if they eat the wrong foods, like peanuts. Luckily, your diet happens to be both healthy and delicious.”
Go ahead—enjoy a (gluten-free) splurge. Whether they are supposed to stay away from a certain ingredient or severely limit their portions, many dieters eventually begin to resent these restrictions, sparking a return to eating habits that feel more fulfilling.
“Give yourself a break occasionally,” urges Korn. “Indulge from time to time in your favorite gluten-free extravagance, whether it happens to be a sweet treat or a baked potato loaded with sour cream and butter. Finding and maintaining a good balance is an important part of any lifestyle.”
Tune in to the benefits. If you’re going to stick with anything long-term, it helps to know the positive “whys” rather than just blindly following a set of rules.
“If you think it would be helpful to write down all the good things about being gluten-free, do it,” says Korn. “Post the list on the fridge, if you want a daily reminder, or keep a list in a journal on your desk. When you focus on the reasons being gluten-free is a good thing in your life, you can gain a new or renewed appreciation for the lifestyle itself.”
Turn away from temptation. Avoid putting yourself in tempting situations whenever you can, saving your strength for when you have no choice in the matter.
“No, you probably shouldn’t take that job at the bakery,” confirms Korn. “And don’t think you’re building character by holding a slice of pizza to your nose and taking a big whiff. This world has plenty of gluten in it, and you’re going to run across some ‘forbidden foods’ whether you look for them or not. So don’t purposefully set yourself up for temptation and frustration.”
Deal with it; don’t dwell on it. If you’re mad, sad, grief stricken, confused, frustrated, agitated, and ticked off about having to live without gluten, that’s okay. Lots of people experience those feelings, especially if they’re forced to embark upon an entirely new—and sometimes very different—lifestyle. However, it’s important to deal with those feelings and move on.
“Call on your friends, family, and support groups; share with them how you’re feeling and let them help you work through the feelings,” instructs Korn. “If you need professional help, get it. Not wallowing in the negativity of your circumstances is important, because your thoughts may intensify and can even end up causing other physical and emotional problems.”
“Ultimately, when you educate yourself on the realities of living gluten-free and get your mind in the right place, you’ll be surprised by how much you’re enjoying each meal,” concludes Korn. “You may even look back fondly on your gluten-free transition as one of the most positive menu-expanding events in your life!”