The longest relationship I have ever ended is the one I had with gluten. After 19 years of a wheat-filled, breadstick-loving life, I was beginning a new chapter. I was going to be challenged by the changes I was about to make, but I knew they would only make me a better person when it was all said and done. But, before you reach the I’m better off without them part of a break up, you have to go through A LOT of crappy emotions, otherwise known as the 5 Stages of Grief:
Stage 1: Denial
I don’t get THAT sick.
When first diagnosed with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance, you may be confused on what the diagnosis is, or even confident that you don’t need to go gluten-free. You don’t really feel THAT sick. You keep going back to gluten even though you are better off without it. Your doctors, family members, and friends tell you that you can’t keep doing this to yourself, but you’re not quite sure they understand what you’re going through. Gluten has been a part of your life for so long that the thought of never having it again deeply saddens you.
Stage 2: Anger
After cutting all ties with gluten and realizing that you are never getting back together, you are angered by the fact that you can’t eat your favorite foods anymore. What ARE you going to eat? Why did this happen to you? Will you ever get used to the fact that there’s no wheat, barley, or rye in your future? Why did you even ever have to fall in love with gluten in the first place? Life would be much easier giving it up if you never experienced the happiness that it once brought your taste buds.
Stage 3: Bargaining
I am entitled to this insert favorite food here because it’s gluten-free
Once you have maintained the gluten-free diet for a certain period of time, you have new favorite foods to enjoy. You may not be able to enjoy cheez-its, onion rings, or fried chicken, but you have found foods to fill that void. The problem with this is that you tend to over-do it a bit on these new “rebound” foods. You start eating french fries in unhealthy amounts because it is a food you can actually eat. You feel entitled to these so-called “binges” because you miss out on so many other occasions. You feel as though you deserve the temporary happiness that it brings you.
Stage 4: Depression
Things will never be the same
You are now educated and experienced when it comes to the gluten-free diet. You know the list of foods you can and cannot eat. You are also having a better time whipping up meals for yourself, and learning what foods to swap out for others. Monday through Friday you are A-OK for breakfast, lunch and dinner. BUT, the things you are not prepared for are the nights out with friends, family dinners, and holiday parties where you are either a) not accommodated, or b) your food doesn’t even compare to the gluten-filled options. You realize you will never have your grandma’s famous meatballs, lasagna, or meatloaf again. These are the moments where you sulk, and may or may not have a mini cry-fest while standing in the kitchen amongst a potluck full of everything you can’t eat.
Stage 5: Acceptance
It’s really not that bad
You’ve been on the gluten-free diet for quite some time now, and have mastered the art of gluten-free cooking. You no longer feel deprived of certain foods because you have found a suitable gluten-free substitute. You are also comfortable eating out as you know what restaurants to go to and what questions to ask. When people talk about their gluten-filled lives, you no longer get jealous or envy the piece of cake on their plate. You know that you are a stronger person without gluten in your life, and feel more confident than ever without the binding protein holding you down.
It always feels empowering when you realize you are better off without something. I can honestly say I have been through all of the above stages, and couldn’t be happier about where my life is now after going gluten-free. My advice to anyone that is in the beginning stages of breaking up with gluten is to know that things will be okay. You are a stronger person because of your diagnosis. You have nothing but good things ahead of you without gluten holding you back!