Getting Past the Gluten-Free Blues

Falafel, ready to eat

I recently had a conversation with a colleague. It went something like this:

Her: Yeah, two doctors told me I needed to eliminate gluten. I try, but, you know, you have to cheat sometimes.

Me (being as polite as possible): Cheat? No, I never cheat.

Her (looking at me like I’ve grown another head): Really? I cheat all the time.

Me (not saying, “this is why you feel so horrible”): So, we had a great experience with one of your staff last week…

Yeah, I could have gone on for a good hour about why cheating on your GF diet is bad, but when you’re having a conversation with a highly-educated, forty-something person about her personal decisions, sometimes it’s better to shut up.

If she wants advice, she knows where to find me.

Here’s my thing: you cannot be a little bit gluten free. Okay, if you’re following this diet by choice, you can have all the gluten you want. If you’re gluten free because it’s critical to your health, there are no cheat days. The first thing you have to do is accept that this is your life now.

And there will be bad days. There will be days when you go to the ballpark and watch while everyone else eats hotdogs and pretzels while drinking beer. You’ll pull out your pathetic little tuna sandwich that looked so yummy when you made it. You’ll drink water or really bad, really wine.

There will be days when you’re told they’ll be bringing in lunch at work for some reason or another. And you’ll know, without asking, that you’ll still have to bring your own lunch. And you’ll have to eat it in front of everyone. And you’ll have to answer questions about why you can’t eat the pizza.

Days when you’re eating potato chips for dinner because bad timing and communication (plus a lousy commute) meant you didn’t have time to cook anything before racing out the door to a social commitment. Days when you thought you’d packed your lunch, but didn’t. Days when you’re traveling and don’t have anything to eat.

These seem like first-world problems — and, to some extent, they are — but there will be days that the celiac, intolerance, whatever you have overwhelms you. You’ll be cruising along, the master of the gluten-free world, and something happens that makes you crash.

You’ll know, intellectually, that being mad at the world won’t change anything. Neither will a temper tantrum. Or cheating with a big plate of gluten.

But you’ll want to, if only to make it easier.

Of course you won’t. The storm will pass. You’ll have a great gluten-free meal, and you’ll feel strong and healthy (and very, very full). You’ll remember there are are more foods that you can eat than foods you can’t. You’ll shrug when your co-workers tease you about eating chicken pho. Again. And again.

Hey, it’s the safest thing served within a half mile of your office…. Also, it is so good! Seriously, the blues will pass, and you will be happier for not succumbing to them (or to gluten!).

How do you get past the gluten-free blues?

Tip of the Week

When I cook falafel or make black bean burgers, I prefer to start with dried beans, soaking them overnight and cooking the beans, rather than using canned. I find the canned beans absorb too much flavor, and, sigh, often have other ingredients (salt, sugar) added. The salt, in particular, really throws off the balance of other ingredients. The good news is you can freeze soaked, uncooked beans (just cook ’em later). And, course, you can freeze the cooked beans, so you’ll have them ready for quick meals!

Menu of the Week

In my neighborhood, falafel and rice pilaf are staples. I no longer eat these fantastic, favorites in restaurants because of the gluten. Luckily, both are easy to make at home, particularly if I have soaked garbanzo beans on hand. The pilaf is made in the oven, which I’ve found is one of the more foolproof methods for making rice dishes.

(Plus anything rice is my go-to comfort food!)

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One thought on “Getting Past the Gluten-Free Blues”

  1. Kassia,
    Nice job of not only describing my position about being GF, but also “up and down” bits about the daily diet! Most times it is not a problem at all, mostly when eating at home, but go out into the real world and you are faced with all of those examples of challenges. I have begun doing things like bringing my own bread or a french baguette (GF of course), or my own beer or other things I like to munch on. It helps! Lee

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