I’ve known for many years that I have gluten intolerance, but that doesn’t mean I’m always upbeat about it. I try to be happy and cheerful, but I have my “days”. I personally think that’s normal. When people try to say you should always be cheerful, I think they’re being unreasonable. No one is always happy.
Of course, when you have gluten intolerance, it’s easy to ride the emotional roller coaster. On Monday I may be saying, “No sweat! I can live gluten free without any problems.” On Saturday, I find myself thinking, “This gluten free lifestyle business is tough. I really resent I can’t eat my favorite food.” That’s how the conversation in my head can progress. If you could read my mind (which I’m glad you can’t), you’d find Jekyll and Hyde at times.
One of the emotional side effects of having Celiac disease is the feelings of isolation. The world revolves around food, but it goes deeper than that even. I am one of those people who appreciates “comfort food”. When I have a hard day, the thought of reading the paper while I munch on several iced cookies is heaven. When I have an argument with my husband (yes, it happens at times), my first thought is to run to the refrigerator. I can find a lot of comfort on a refrigerator shelf.
Of course, when I want to talk to my best friend in order to share my woes, the first reaction is to pull out some food. Food is so much more than just sustenance. You can emotionally see it as a “friend”. Doesn’t that sound a bit strange? But it’s true. Just think about all the times you reached for food or drink because you’re happy or sad or celebratory or angry.
With gluten intolerance, I have to be really careful about what I reach for when looking for a “friend”. It’s so easy to slip up and say, “I don’t care right now because I’m angry.” Or it would be incredibly simple to say, “I deserve to celebrate just like everyone else.” These are critical moments that can make or break a gluten free lifestyle.
If you are newly diagnosed with gluten intolerance, you have to be ready to recognize the moments in your life when emotional reactions threaten to take control. The problem is that if you decide to indulge in foods with gluten, there are two reactions. Of course, you have to deal with the physical reaction. But you also have to handle the emotional baggage. When I have slipped up (and everyone does at some point), I have to tell myself that I’m human and not perfect. But I also have to give myself a severe lecture and re-establish the rules.
Living a gluten free lifestyle is not hard, but it does take constant vigilance and planning. I seldom slip up anymore, because I’ve learned to recognize the thought processes that lead to eating the wrong foods. That’s what you have to do also. You have to learn to identify when your thinking process is leading you to eat gluten. If you change your thinking, the comfort food filled with gluten will stop calling to you.
Of course, that’s exactly why I always have emergency gluten free snacks and desserts on hand! I discovered I can find just as much comfort in a gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookie!