Food Allergies, Celiac Disease and the Pursuit of Happiness

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.

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11 Responses to “Food Allergies, Celiac Disease and the Pursuit of Happiness”

  1. glutenfreeforgood Says:

    Very good list of positive affirmations. As a nutritionist specializing in celiac disease and gluten intolerance, I find it fascinating how differently people approach life’s challenges. I often suggest that newly diagnosed people are blessed, lucky and fortunate (they just don’t realize it yet). I truly believe we (those of us who can’t eat gluten) are the red flags for everyone else. Or, at least for a substantial percentage of the population. We are indeed lucky to be on the forefront of this “revolution.” Processed food, whether it contains gluten or not, is not what we should be eating, anyway. Whole foods are GF by default, which is a much healthier way to nourish ourselves. You’re so right — respect your body, treat it well and appreciate the opportunity to do so.

  2. katie Says:

    Love it! I am with you all the way!

  3. Kathleen Reale Says:

    Melissa and Katie-

    Thanks so much for your comments. Positive attitudes do make things so much easier!

    Be Free!

  4. Kim-Cook it Allergy Free Says:

    What a beautiful list to the positive points of our gluten free lifestyle. I say all of the time that this is truly the best thing that ever happened to our family. It has changed the way we look at food FOREVER! And I rarely buy any pre-packaged processed gluten free foods. I want people to understand how truly simple it can be to live happily gluten free by just eating real whole fresh ingredients!
    Thank you so much for sharing this story! I am going to go share your words because you have done a wonderful job of putting into words what I often think!
    Well done! I love this! 😉

  5. Kim Nixon Says:

    I’m getting happy, healing and hey no more migraines! I am learning that eating gluten-free (oat-free, soy, dairy, egg, corn) is good. I did not lose a limb, or breast, or my hair. I have the tiny “c” work not the Big “C” word. I can heal me by the foods I eat. I am powerful. I am learning to be cheerful, too!

  6. Erin Says:

    I was just diagnosed and I am shocked at how positive this feels. Like Kim says, processed foods aren’t that good for us anyway. We can all use an excuse to eat more whole foods. So hooray for healthy eating. It is an adjustment though, and you should excuse yourself for wanting to eat more simply in the beginning. Example, right now I am eating more meat until I can figure out how to fill myself.

  7. Susan Says:

    While all these comments are indeed true, that first few months are very difficult. Most people don’t cook much any more; our landscape is littered with restaurants of all kinds, and our grocery stores are full of “convenience” foods that are decidedly not celiac-friendly. To someone who is newly diagnosed, navigating the maze of the grocery store is intimidating. Not everyone who is diagnosed gets decent guidance; in addition, there are people who have brain fog as a result of celiac symptoms. That makes grocery shopping more difficult since they now have to have the ability to focus and read labels!

    It’s good to think positively, and it’s easier to do that when you’re well. Let’s not forget that the newly-diagnosed celiac is still quite ill and needs realistic support. These are also people who have been told “it’s all in your head” too often! No wonder they’re not happy! So – those who know the drill need to be sure to help those who are new to this “weird” way of eating. We find it easy; they don’t. We’re used to it; they’re used to pizza and beer with their friends and are afraid of being rejected. Even I find myself confused over labels, and I’ve been doing this for over 17 years!

  8. lori Says:

    thank you for your positive attitude. I’m not there yet. It’s been 6 years now,but, my love of food is gone. Can’t have sugars or sugar substitutes, gluten, soy, corn, dairy, or anything from the night shade family. Even fresh fruit has to much sugar at times. But, you make me hopeful, lori

  9. Telly Says:

    I loved reading this post. I was told and diagnosed in March that my “colon doesn’t work.” I am only 17 and I have colonic inertia. Medication doesn’t work and I am seeking a subtotal colectomy. Both heredity and an undiagnosed gluten allergy caused my colon to go to pot. Through out this whole process I have kept a smile on my face. I have seen over 26 doctors and they are always amazed how positive I am. I really liked this post because it shows why we are positive. We aren’t stupid and wearing a mask with a smile, we truly smile because we are happy. We realize that life isn’t just about food. And we are able to see how far we can come. I used to love grocery shopping with my mom and then once I was diagnosed it was awful. It wasn’t fun anymore. But its all a process and each day it gets easier. I am defiantly printing off this blog post and sticking it to my mirror. Thanks 🙂

  10. Gwen Says:

    Thank you for a positive approach to a change of lifestyle for so many of us. I was diagnosed about 2 years ago and before my diagnosis my prayer was that whatever they found would not involve any more medicines added to my list now. I am thankful that I can control this condition without medication and my motto used to be “l live to eat” but has been traded for “I eat to live.” I feel much better after the change of lifestyle and so much of it is the attitude. I even enjoy cooking even more because it is more of a challenge to see if I can still prepare the same dishes that I loved without the gluten and thankfully most can be with all the products out now.

  11. A Blogger A Day: Be Free For Me « Celiac Central: Bits and Bites Says:

    […] Food Allergies, Celiac Disease and the Pursuit of Happiness […]

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