Eating plans are easier to follow when we’re first starting out, because we’re motivated and excited to make changes. It’s like being in the honeymoon stage of a new relationship, where everything is warm and fuzzy and special.
Then you catch a whiff of freshly baked bread or have to choose a boring salad at a restaurant again and find yourself wondering if this whole gluten-free thang is worth all the effort. (It is.)
If you’re on the verge of faltering, here are a few ways you can regain your fondness for a gluten-free diet.
Remind yourself how you feel when you eat gluten.
Sure, that rosemary-flecked focaccia seems like a good idea, until you’re doubled over with cramps, have raging diarrhea, feel like your joints are on fire or you can’t concentrate because a gauzy film is ensconced in your brain.
Ask yourself if any of the symptoms you experience in the aftermath of eating gluten are worth the short-lived pleasure of consuming that glutenous temptation. Think about how gluten affects you before that gluten passes your lips. If it helps, write those symptoms down and post them where you’ll see them. You can also ask your friends and loved ones to remind you if you’re feeling vulnerable.
For me, eating gluten isn’t worth the cost. That’s partially due to the immediate consequences, but also because I know that every time I eat gluten, I’m chipping away at my immune system and causing distress on a cellular level that I can’t even consciously feel.
Plan your meals and snacks.
Circumvent gluten cravings by having an arsenal of delicious gluten-free food at your disposal. Carve out time every week to plan your meals, wash and prep vegetables so they’ll be ready when you need them, and cook food in advance. Think big batches. Use your slow cooker.
Bake treats like muffins, granola bars and cookies and keep them in the freezer. Create snacks like trail mixes, portion them into small containers and grab them on your way out the door.
Then you won’t miss gluten, ‘cause you’ll have a heap of other things to eat.
Surround yourself with inspiration and support.
Find the people in your life that will encourage you and motivate you to stay on the gluten-free track. Rely on friends, family, or your favourite health practitioner for advice, or look to blogs and websites written by those who thrive on a gluten-free diet.
Search out like-minded people in an online community or at a support group. I attend my local Canadian Celiac Association chapter meetings, and I don’t even have celiac disease – they’re welcoming to the gluten-intolerant, too.
Make gluten-free eating fun.
Browse your favourite blogs or cookbooks for jaw-droppingly delicious recipes. Approach gluten-free cooking with an open mind, an exploratory spirit and a friendly heart.
Cooking is usually more fun when you have company. Invite your friends over to prepare dinner with you, or transform cooking into a family activity where everyone has a job to do. Have a gluten-free cookie swap, soup exchange or salad jar trade.
Focus on everything you can eat.
Alright, you’re not eating gluten. There are way more things you can safely eat. Focus on the abundance of health-building, tasty, nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, gluten-free grains, sustainable fish and lean meat you can use in your daily diet.
What are your tips for staying on a gluten-free diet?