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The Emotional Side Part 4: New Routines
As an early childhood professional, I understand the importance of routine in a child’s life. Knowing what to expect is comforting. Routine offers security. Inconsistent sleep schedules, consequences, meal times, etc, is just asking for some behavior issues.
Routines Thrown Off Balance
Of course, that security brought by routine isn’t just for kids. What adult hasn’t had an entire day thrown off balance just because their morning schedule was blown? The coffeepot didn’t work. Strawberry jam dripped on that dress you picked out the night before. The dog threw up on the carpet. And it only takes one of these to throw us off kilter.
Our eating habits fall into this category of routine, don’t they? This is true more for some than for others, but our eating habits are generally a routine. When you have to change an entire habit (the way you are used to facing daily meals) it can certainly throw your life out of whack. And the degree to how far off center this throws you depends on oh-so-many factors.
Individual History And Present Circumstance Impact on Routine
The person who doesn’t eat a lot of breads, pastas, and pre-packaged foods is obviously going to be able to make this transition more easily than someone who enjoys a lot of sandwiches, microwave ready meals, and take-out.
The person responsible for planning, meal prep and cooking has an advantage. This person also has the added burden of making this change, however.
The person who is living in an understanding and stable environment is going to transition into this diet more easily. Those with family that is supportive of individual needs is obviously going to have an easier journey than those who live with others who don’t respect their dietary needs.
Let’s face it, there are still many people who just cannot grasp the fact that gluten free is not the latest fad. It happens. A lack of understanding from others is often just a part of life for anyone living with a medically required diet.
#1 Rule: Respect Your Own Health
Whether you are just beginning this journey or have been living gluten free for years, the number one rule is to respect yourself. Respect your health. The only one responsible for you is you. The person you want to be healthy for is: YOU first. You cannot be the best you can be for anyone else in your life if you don’t take care of you first.
Look at it the same way as when the flight attendant instructs passengers to get their own oxygen on first in an emergency situation. You cannot help anyone else if you are unable to function.
I like to compare an eating routine to a hamster wheel. We run on that wheel in one direction for years and years. Having to stop and change directions can feel like driving on a flat tire for a while. It’s going to take some time to get it rolling along smoothly again.
Put your foot on the brakes and bring the wheel to a stop. Start it up slowly, rolling gently in the direction you need to go for a healthier you. Have you ever watched a hamster as it comes to a stop after running on its wheel? Not very graceful. Don’t expect this process to go smoothly. But do keep an open mind. Maintain focus and know this: It DOES get easier.
I CAN Have This ~ I CAN Have That
Speaking of focus, here is something I STRONGLY suggest. Depending on the way you’ve been eating, it may seem like you are unable to eat anything. It may seem like everything has gluten in it. You will be amaaaaazed at all the things you will be able to eat. Do yourself a favor and focus on the can haves. It may not seem like much at first, but trust me, it will grow. There are many, many, MANY things that don’t have gluten, and I’m not just talking about pre-packaged items that include a gluten-free label.
Focus on the perimeter aisles of the grocery store. Fresh produce. Fresh meat. Eggs and cheese. Many of these items are naturally gluten free. So many options!
Decide on one to three things you really don’t want to give up. (One to three, NOT everything.) Focus on what’s important to you. Is it pizza? Maybe it’s those home-baked chocolate chip cookies. Or fried chicken. Isolate no more than three things that are a part of your life and either find suitable replacements or learn how to make them gluten free. Start small and believe me, your list will grow. You CAN do this.
Careful! Don't Swap One Issue For Another
While there is an increasing number of ready-made products, remember—you are going gluten free because your health relies on it. While I’m right there with the next person, buying that favorite gluten-free bread, packaged sandwich cookie, and microwave-ready meal, keep in mind that you are fueling your body. Food’s purpose is not just to fill your belly (and your cravings). Food’s purpose is to provide you with nutrition.
I am not here to be anyone’s judge. I certainly don’t want anyone to judge me when I’m enjoying a cupcake or brownie. But we all need a coach or a cheerleader. And that’s what I hope to be here. You are not going to choose 100% healthy foods. But my intent is to plant a seed that will grow. A seed of thought that helps you put more focus on the foods that heal your body.
As you create new shopping and cooking routines with your new gluten-free life, just be conscious about food choices. Be conscious about what works best for you. Depending on where you are (with health and home), getting those pre-packaged items might be the best way to get yourself started. Or, maybe you are in a place where you want to do all your own cooking from whole, fresh foods. Or–maybe you’re somewhere in between.
Respect. Each of us is living in this world with our own strengths and our own baggage. Although we surely all do it to some extent, we need to work very hard at not judging others. Just because we can do something easily, it doesn’t mean another in a similar situation won’t find it a challenge.
Not everyone finds athletic activities simple, or enjoyable. We aren’t all good at math. Some people don’t like to read for pleasure. And not everyone likes to cook or finds cooking an effortless and enjoyable activity. While one person may be able to face this diet and all its challenges with grace and determination, another might break down in tears on a daily basis.
We all have different histories and varying levels of support (or non-support). Everyone starts at a different level of health. Let’s support one another and let’s joyously celebrate other’s abilities and successes.
And This Includes Social Media
I was thinking of social media groups when I wrote the above paragraph. There are so many gluten-free and celiac related Facebook groups and pages, offering recipes, advice, and support. While blatant mis-information and advertisement of products that are not safe should not be condoned, we need to respect each other for where we are.
Appreciate and take strength from those working hard to not only be gluten free, but to eat in ways they feel their body functions at its best. At the same time we need to respect those who find it a daily struggle just to avoid gluten while getting meals put on the table.
You Are Worth It!
Take today and make it a better one. That’s all any of us can do.
Whether you are on day one, day one-hundred, or day one thousand, look in the mirror and tell yourself, “My health depends on me being gluten free. I’m going to be good to myself.”