A Modern Day Guide to Therapeutic Lifestyle Design and Healing Chronic Stress from the Inside Out!

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area

Christina Pandolfo, MS, OTR/L, NC

thetherapeuticfoodie@gmail.com

Q & A Therapeutic Thursday: Newly Gluten-Free and Having Difficulty in Social Situations

Q & A Therapeutic Thursday: Newly Gluten-Free and Having Difficulty in Social Situations

Question:

After a few years of not feeling well, I found out I have several food sensitivities contributing to my health issues, including gluten. I know I’m not supposed to eat foods containing gluten, but I am really struggling with the restrictions, especially when I go out to dinner with my friends, and in social situations. I am constantly feeling tempted to cheat, and don’t know how to cope with this. Do you have any advice that would help me?

 

This is a really great question. First of all, I want to say I understand how you feel. When I first found out that gluten was a source of my own health issues in 2009, it was initially a challenging transition for me – especially coming from an Italian family! In the beginning there were some instances when I did deviate from my diet, and after some reflection I identified the main trigger as extreme hunger and not being prepared with healthy snacks.

We are human, and lifestyle transitions, especially in the beginning can take time. Don’t beat yourself up too much, especially in the beginning. Yes, it may be challenging, but it can be done! Here are some guidelines I have created for myself, and I will share them with you and the other readers out there that may be facing a similar struggle.

 

  1. To me, cope = a depressing word. I feel that in order for the GF transition to be successful, we must get really excited about it, as if it’s a whole new adventure. Try to focus on all the things you can eat vs. focusing on all the foods you can’t have anymore. To borrow one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Wayne Dyer, “change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change”. Ok, so typical Italian pasta and pizza may not be an option anymore when you go out, but what about the plethora of other types of food out there? I never tried Vietnamese food before I went gluten – free, now it is a favorite of mine. Many Asian cuisines use rice noodles in their foods, and taste amazing. Mexican is also a great option, as many of their dishes are naturally gluten – free. For the times you are craving Italian food, there are plenty of great tasting alternative options now such as brown rice pasta, and gluten-free pizza at many restaurants.

In the beginning you may be tempted to try to replace all of your old gluten favorites with gluten-free options – such as bread, crackers, and baked goods- I was. The problem with that was I was not eating a very nutrient-dense diet, because I was just substituting out one processed food for a gluten-free version of a processed food.

  1. Watch your hunger levels. I know from my own experience, when I am beyond starving is when I can be tempted to cheat and eat anything in sight. Plan your day ahead and bring gluten – free and healthy snacks with you at work or if you are away from home.
  1. Find a supportive gluten – free community. We are so lucky in this digital age to have support and resources at our fingertips through gluten -free forums, blogs, and websites. I am not sure what town you live in, but you can check online to see if there are any clubs or gatherings in your area. I live in the Bay Area, and I have seen groups that host GF potlucks and meetings.
  1. If you are going out to dinner with friends, sometimes it can be helpful to eat a little something first before you go out, if you feel you will be tempted to deviate from your diet. Excessive hunger can help to fuel the temptation. This was the case with my examples of cheating above. Do your friends give you a hard time for being gluten – free? Hopefully they are supportive of you and your diet. Many restaurants now are starting to have gluten – free menus, which makes it easier to go out to eat. And don’t forget to think outside the box, in terms of different ethnic restaurants that have naturally gluten – free options (such as Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Mexican).
  1. Think ahead – fast forward to the possible consequences of eating gluten. This is probably one of the most important points for me. If I take a moment to think about what I will feel like if I eat something with gluten, it is enough to turn me off to the point where I am not tempted anymore. I can now sit at the dinner table with my friends and the bread basket right in front of me….yes I can. It took a lot of will power in the early years, but now the temptation is pretty much gone.

No matter what your diet preference is (omnivore, vegan, etc), there are so many resources now that can help you get started. A few of my favorite gluten-free resources include: Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward (plant-based and gluten-free recipes), and The 21 Day Sugar Detox and Practical Paleo, both by Diane Sanfilippo.

I hope this helps, and if anything else comes to mind I will let you know. Good luck, you can do it!

If you have any questions you would like answered on Q & A Therapeutic Thursday (every 1st Thursday of the month) regarding holistic living, self-care, wellness, stress busters, recipes, and recipe adaptations, feel free to email me at: thetherapeuticfoodie@gmail.com. See you soon!

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