If you can tolerate gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) I’m so happy for you. You’re the person that I see whose eyes light up when someone suggests pizza. Go on, you happy, free little thing. Eat your pizza. I’m actually going to enjoy seeing you enjoy it. Don’t mind if I stare. ;)
But for us whose bodies don’t know what to do with gluten, life can be a little complicated. Staring at menus, counting off each item that has gluten (Soooooo I can have a sandwich or a burger or pasta? Salad it is then.), having to disappoint generous bakers of delightful things (sorry, Grandma/Aunt/sweet church lady), explaining to concerned onlookers that yes, you CAN have rice, and worst of all, those people whose mission in life is to try get you to admit that gluten intolerance is a fake malady made up by girls who just want to be skinny, or that I’ve deceived myself into thinking I have an intolerance and imagined all the symptoms of it. :(
But honestly most of this doesn’t even bother me anymore. (Except the last one.) Sure, it’s rough when a plate of pastries makes its way into a gathering and with everyone chowing down, I’m the one gripping my coffee white knuckled and trying not to smell how sweet those danishes are. I’ve learned the hard way that even a few bites of gluten laden food means bad news for me for the next 24-48 hours, so I’m not even all that tempted. In fact, there’s actually a few reasons why I’m thankful that I’m gluten intolerant.
- It keeps me away from junk food. Like most humans, I love junk food, but I know I shouldn’t eat it. Now that I’ve had some experience with the way real food makes me feel versus how I felt eating trash, it’s easier to make my main diet consist of wholesome things. But that doesn’t mean that a package of Oreos or a loaf of french bread or a big old cheesy pizza doesn’t have a particular draw on my taste buds. I want to “cheat”. That’s where gluten intolerance becomes my friend. Suddenly, more than half of the temptation to “cheat” goes away, because it’s not just that I shouldn’t, it’s that I can’t. It sounds like it might feel a little pathetic, but actually, it’s kinda great. I can walk away from a table full of cakes and cookies with little more than a wistful shrug, because the option to pig out on them is no longer mine.
- It makes me more creative and healthful with my food. When you realize that you can’t have gluten, it’s true that a lot of “food” doors slam in your face. Sandwiches, pasta, pizza, cake, muffins, crackers…. none of that is an option anymore…unless it’s a specialty gluten free version. And with most store bought gluten free items being just as bad for you (or in some cases, much worse) as their wheaty counterparts, if you want to eat healthy, you’re going to have to get creative. For me, this means rethinking meals, snacks and menu choices. I don’t want to just have a life of gluten free replacements or leaving out the wheat item that’s often the best part of the meal. I want to really enjoy my food and not feel that I’m missing out on anything. So being gluten free makes me center my meals around something other than the bread. This means I’ve found other grains that I love, like Quinoa and rice. Snacks are usually something that doesn’t come with a package… but that was growing out of the good green earth a little before it came to me. I’ve eaten way more roasted vegetables, fresh fruit and good quality meat. I don’t sit down to meals that are “gluten free” versions of an actually good meal. I sit down to meat, veggies and grains that have been cooked and seasoned well- and trust me- at dinner time, I am never thinking that my meal would be better with gluten in it.
- It helps me make new connections. Surprisingly, there seems to be no better conversation starter than, “I’m actually gluten intolerant.” I try not to bring up my food intolerances unless there’s a good reason for it, as no one wants to be the one who is constantly explaining to everyone why they CAN’T have “that”. But when I do, it’s funny to me how many people are instantly intrigued. If they aren’t gf, they usually have a ton of questions- what I can and can’t eat, what happens if I do eat gluten, whether or not I think that they or their sister/uncle/cousin/husband could be intolerant to gluten too, whether or not I can have rice. (Yes. I can.) And if they are? Man! You would think we’re part of some exclusive secret club! Bam! Instant friend. :) Well, maybe it’s not that simple. But I’ve made connections with people that I might not have ever grown close with just because we have being gf in common. Because food is such an important part of culture, family, life and health, the conversation flows so naturally from “I can’t have the sub sandwiches either” into things that are so much more meaningful and real. I’ve walked away from a lot of conversations like this feeling thankful for common ground that connected me with someone I might not otherwise had much to talk about with.
- It helped me discover one of my passions. When I discovered my gluten intolerance, I changed the way I ate. I cut out wheat, rye and barley… but it didn’t stop there. When I realized that there was a direct connection between what I ate and the way I felt, I realized that there was a connection between how I felt and how I lived. My work, my studies, my sleep, my peace of mind, my goals, my relationships with God and with people- all these things are affected by my body being healthy and well. We are more than just bodies. We are souls and spirits too. When I don’t have peace in my body, it can disrupt my mind and heart. And likewise, when I don’t have peace in my mind or heart, it can affect my body. The realization of this was part of a journey that I am still on today- a journey of learning how much I love to share with people the idea of a whole, happy life and family. It’s possible for the parts of our lives to work in harmony with each other and to be life giving to every part of us. And I can tell that’s one of my passions, because it’s one of those things I can’t shut up about. ;) And that, my friends, is why you’re even reading this blog today. In a way, my gluten intolerance made this blog a thing.
So don’t pity us who are gluten free! There’s actually a lot of great things about not being able to eat like we used to. But don’t get jealous… in fact, (big joke here) I once saw a video about how you can become gluten intolerant too! (If you are gf or you know someone that is gf, this might really make you laugh.) :)
Happy Wednesday, folks! Let’s make it a good one!