Things I Wish I Had Known Before Becoming Gluten Free

As with any lifestyle change, everything tends to change a little bit.  When I altered my diet, I expected what I ate to be different, but not much else.  I wish I had known that making a major diet change that would last the rest of my life would affect some other things.  While I have adjusted mostly to these changes after just a year, I will always be getting used it a little bit.  Here are some things that I wish I’d know before becoming gluten free.

Not everyone will be understanding.

Additionally, not everyone will make an effort to understand.  Even close friends and family members will not, which is what was hardest for me at first.  While there are some great friends and people in my life that became accommodating, learned about the dietary lifestyle with me, and made a conscious effort, others did not, and frequently offered me things I couldn’t eat or drink, claiming to “forget” over and over, or acting inconvenienced that I couldn’t accept it.  Some people simply won’t understand, so the best thing to do is to just be patient and educate them.  We are all human and I don’t expect people to remember my dietary restrictions all the time.  Iit is ok if they forget once in a while.  It was the people that forgot over and over that made it clear to me that they didn’t care, and were actually endangering my health in this way. I just wish I had known that some people in my life will be there for me with this huge lifestyle switch, while others will not, and that is okay.  It is up to me to keep the ones around that are caring, accommodating, and unerstanding, and to be patient with those who are trying but haven’t yet gotten there, but to also get away from the ones who never will or don’t want to.

Social situations will be harder.

When it comes to social situations, they quite often revolve around food or drink.  Think about it: holiday gatherings, family dinners, dinner parties, going out to a restaurant or bar with friends.  Even work meetings, club meetings, etc. all usually feature some type of food or drink.  This presented some unique challenges to me which I discussed in my last post.  However, before being diagnosed and switching my diet, I was not really ever aware of the sheer amount of gatherings and social activities that featured food and drink.  It wasn’t until I had to be acutely aware of my diet that I noticed this. If the event is something that I need to eat at, like a dinner, I research the restaurant ahead of time, and sometimes call to ask if I haven’t been there before.  By now I usually know which restaurants have gluten free menus and options, and the good news is that so many of them do now.

If it really seems like the restaurant will be completely unaccommodating (which is actually very rare) I will eat ahead of time or plan to just get a drink and socialize at the event without eating.  If the event is catered (for example my sorority often does this) I will inform whoever is planning the event/food of my restriction and ask if they have considered people with food allergies/restrictions (usually they have) and ask them what my options are.  Most people are great about this, because if they are planning an event for a large number of people, they usually have to take different diets into consideration.  I usually always pack a snack or two in my purse just in case.  I like to carry something filling, like a Luna bar or other snack bar that has 200 calories so I can be full for a bit.

I also deal with lactose intolerance, and I don’t always expect things to be dairy free as often as they are gluten free.  Since the consequences of eating dairy for me are not nearly as serious (although it does actually give me worse symptoms) I just make sure to always have Lactaid pills with me so I can eat whatever they serve that might be gluten free but contains dairy, and I’ll be fine! All it takes is a little planning ahead, which can seem tedious at first, but I have gotten used to it quite quickly.

I won’t be able to eat out as much or eat what other people make/offer me. My life will be less spontaneous.

This one kind of goes along with the other two, but it has been hard to accept that my life is far less spontaneous now as it used to be.  I can no longer try out a trendy new restaurant without first extensively researching the website, online menu, and/or calling ahead.  I can’t be surprised with a meal someone cooks me, and I can’t graciously accept when someone offers me a bite of their food or a snack they have extra of.  I can’t go to bake sales, I have to accept that I can’t eat free food at every event where it is offered, and dinner parties and family meals will be harder.  However, none of these things mean that I should give up entirely on spontaneity or that I can never eat out again.  It just means that with some simple planning ahead and researching, informing people, and bringing some snacks, I can still enjoy all of these situations.  As I said before, it is easy to learn which restaurants I can frequent and which ones I can’t.  I actually still eat out a decent amount.

My lifestyle and diet will actually become healthier.

Now that I have to read labels for everything, I find myself choosing healthier options.  I never before really read labels, so now that I read them to check for gluten or dairy, I also see all the additional things added to foods, and will often stray away from them for something healthier.  I definitely make more conscious decisions, and cook more of my own food.  If anything this change has made me become healthier.

So for anyone becoming gluten free or changing their diet, be aware that many of these things will apply, and may be things you didn’t think of.  In no way should these things stray you away from your new lifestyle! Keep these in mind for your new diet, and good luck!

Chloe Dyer

About Chloe Dyer

Chloe graduated from UMaine Orono with a BA in Mass Communication and a minor in Political Science. In addition to writing for the BDN, she has been Editor in Chief of Her Campus UMaine, Contributing Editor of Odyssey UMaine, and a Staff Writer for The Maine Campus . She has known about her Celiac Disease for about two years and has been eating gluten free as well as sometimes dairy free. She is from Chebeague Island, Maine, where she grew up, but has also lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria in addition to Orono.