I had a high school student email me this weekend asking me if I had any advice for people with Celiac Disease and similar conditions on how to enjoy the moment. Essentially, he was asking me my tips on how to enjoy a gluten-free life.
I realize that enjoying a gluten-free life might look different for everyone, but reflecting back on my own process I have a few tips I think could be helpful.
Tips on How to Enjoy a Gluten-Free Life
Find & Build Support
My first tip on how to enjoy a gluten-free life is to find and build a solid support system. Commonly, people who have to live gluten-free feel isolated and left out (sometimes even judged) in social situations that involve food. To create a better experience, it’s important to find support in those around you.
I wrote a post all about the importance of support and ways to find it if you want to read more about it. One thing I failed to mention in that post was finding or building support in your loved ones. This can be hard and I think it’s a very common struggle for people living gluten-free. It’s difficult for people who’ve watched you grow up eating anything to grasp that suddenly you can’t have gluten.
“I just don’t understand why suddenly NOW you can’t have gluten” – sound familiar?
Of course, your loved ones don’t wish you any harm they just don’t understand. Unfortunately, that means you’re going to have to help them. Find materials online and share it with them. Sit down with them the next time you see them and walk them through your condition and needs. Explain to them that this isn’t a fad diet and that you aren’t going to simply pick up eating gluten in a few weeks. Also explain to them that if you did, they should be concerned for your health.
I can’t promise you that everyone will jump on board your support train, but helping educating people and having them advocate for you on your behalf can make a world of a difference when trying to enjoy the moment.
Remember you are your best advocate, but it’s nice to know other people have your back too; it takes some of the stress and pressure off your shoulders.
Explore Your Kitchen
Before my Celiac Disease diagnosis, I had no real idea of how to cook beyond hamburger helper, pasta, and precooked meals. Borrowing awesome cookbooks from the library, reading books on fermentation, and going to the farmers market and talking to vendors about how they like to prepare what they’re selling, all helped me find a passion for cooking for myself.
Learning to cook safe and delicious meals for myself and my family helped me accept my condition. I learned that often naturally gluten-free foods were more satisfying and enjoyable to me than gluten-free alternatives. Additionally, I found that cooking safe food for myself was a great form of self-care. Investing time into making sure I was honoring my body and its needs really helped me grow to love it again.
Sounds too stressful to just go on a gluten-free cooking expedition? Believe me I get it. Perhaps challenging yourself to try cooking a new gluten-free meal once a week to add to your “arsenal” is more doable.
Basically, my 2nd tip on how to enjoy a gluten-free life is to fall in love with food again. Find the safe gluten-free meals that you and your family loves. Find the food that satisfies you and leaves you feeling good and not disappointed.
Make Sure You’re Practicing Self-Care
Like I mentioned before, a living gluten-free can be stressful, isolating, overwhelming, and burdensome. While finding support and getting comfortable in your kitchen is important, so is having strong forms of self-care in your toolbox.
Self-care is important because living gluten-free can be exhausting. Self-care can help you cope with the unique stresses that come with living gluten-free. It can make sure that your cup is full and ready to pour from so that you can advocate for yourself fearlessly and hopefully, effortlessly.
I wrote a whole post on how to develop a self-care routine (including when you’re sick/glutened). You can also sign-up for my newsletter and get a free “self-care planner”. This planner walks you through how to set up a self-care plan yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, and when you’re sick; just fill out the form below.
But you don’t need to plan for self-care, just knowing of things that make you feel good and doing them when you need too can be enough. Things like journaling, listing things you’re grateful for, walking your dog, calling a friend, etc.
If you don’t know the right forms of self-care for you, that’s okay. It’s not something that is really taught. Exploring different things that you enjoy and taking care of yourself are great places to start.
There are Many Ways to Enjoy a Gluten-Free Life
Yeah, this list of how to enjoy a gluten-free life is so cheesy. All of these things aren’t immediate things you can just do. They all take time and come with exploring your new gluten-free life. My last tip as I conclude this blog post is to be patient with yourself. You are living a life that is likely new to you and is far from societal norms. It’s going to take time to accept it and thrive in it.