Today when I was grocery shopping I was accused of being “too happy”.
This accusation, my friends, came from a young gal who was just recently diagnosed with celiac disease and a dairy intolerance. I randomly met this girl in the gluten-free section of the supermarket.
As I approached the section, a girl was just standing and staring at the shelves of gluten-free products. After I selected a few packages of pretzels and crackers and started to walk away, the girl turned towards me, and barked, “Don’t you just hate eating gluten-free?”
I stopped dead in my tracks, turned, and stared. I had to actually rewind in my mind what she had just asked me.
Don’t you just hate eating gluten-free.
And without much hesitation, I looked at this despondent girl and said, “No, I don’t hate eating gluten-free, and the trick is to stay positive and enthusiastic.”
Quizzically she looked at me blankly, then asked how anyone could ever be happy about eating gluten-free, never mind positive and enthusiastic. I then started jotting down names of great resource books; gluten and dairy-free products that are must-haves; and tidbits of information that any newly diagnosed would ever need.
Halfway through my frantic scribbling of resources and tips on the back of my shopping list, she stopped me, looked me square in the eye, and asked me to help her with the real question she had asked: How can you be happy eating gluten free.
Caught off guard, I asked her to give me time to think about the question, and that I would answer it on this blog within a day. With some guidance and tips about finding happiness from the book, “The How of Happiness” by Sonia Lyubomirsky, here is how I have become a happy, positive and enthusiastic celiac – who, matter of fact, does loves to eat gluten-free.
Don’t Stew: After I got diagnosed with celiac disease I gave myself one day, and one day only, to grieve the loss of the foods I could never eat again. That day was full of crying and venting. It sounds crazy but it actually helped me to mourn the loss of bread, crumpets, pizza and beer, as I once knew it. After that day, I moved on and start living my life without it. No tears allowed!
Which leads us to the next tip…
Count Your Blessings: Being gluten free has helped to appreciate the little things in life. Things like simple sliced strawberries for dessert, fresh vegetables from my garden, a gluten-free cupcake made by your best friend so you can share in a birthday celebration. Every day find the little things that you appreciate, and maybe took for granted before your diagnosis.
Look on the Bright Side: There are plenty of people in this world that have worse problems than not being able to eat bread, beer from a keg, or ice cream. Get over it.
Build Relationships: Do what I did and join a celiac or food allergy support group. Share, share and share! Remember, you’re not in this alone!
Manage Stress Serenely: When times get tough, and yes indeed they will, don’t get angry, pout or feel sorry for yourself. When I start to feel the stress, I go for a walk, page through a cookbook packed with yummy gluten-free recipes, or call my sister who also has celiac disease. For me – fitness, food and family always make things better.
Respect Your Body: I know its cliché, but your body really is your temple. Take good care of it physically and emotionally. Also, sneaking a bit of gluten here and there and cheating on this diet is a HUGE no-no. Don’t do it. Ever.
Pursue a Life-Long Goal that You’ve Been Neglecting: Have you always wanted to get involved in volunteer work? Help out with projects at your local support group. Have you secretly wanted to write and publish your thoughts? Start a blog about your new allergen-free journey. Interested in cooking? Sign up for an allergen or gluten-free cooking class.
Whatever it is you desire, use your recent diagnosis as a spring board to reach your goals. I’ve done this… and it makes my life that much more meaningful, and my celiac diagnosis a reason to make myself, and the world I live a happier & better place – even without gluten.