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Gluten Free: All or Nothing

Updated on April 27, 2013

Can I "Kind of" be Gluten Free?

Those who are gluten intolerant have no choice in the matter of whether they can occasionally indulge in a warm slice of French bread or any other gluten-riddled food item.

It is important to understand that gluten intolerance effects people differently. Some people have severe stomach pain when ingesting even the smallest bit of gluten. Other people feel cumulative effects over time, such as joint pain, digestive issues, and muscle soreness. Either way, the road to a healthy life for anyone who is gluten intolerant involves vigilance. In short, avoiding gluten is an all or nothing endeavor.

Many people try a gluten free diet to lose weight. Perhaps they are not officially gluten intolerant but have heard or seen that being gluten free can lead to significant weight loss. (Check out my blog on gluten free weight loss to find out more.) Same gig. Successful gluten free weight loss is an all or nothing endeavor. Simply eliminating bread (most of the time) is not a gluten free lifestyle. Come on, one slice of bread isn't going to hurt someone who is not even gluten intolerant. While this is true, that someone who indulges in the "occasional" slice of bread, pizza, cake, plate of pasta, etc. will not lose much weight while on a gluten free diet.

For some, especially at the beginning of their gluten-free journey, avoiding gluten altogether can be a daunting task. After all, as my previous posts suggest, learning to be gluten free takes some time and effort.

Keep in mind that, even as people become more accustomed to their new lifestyle over time, being gluten free is an ongoing process. It gets easier as time goes by and people learn more about it. Here are some of the issues people might face along with some remedies to make it easier:

  • Gluten free grocery shopping can take longer until an established shopping plan is identified. Over time, gluten free shoppers develop a list of gluten free go-to items. Until that happens, all labels must be reviewed to ensure no gluten is involved.
  • Dining out can be a debacle when menus do not provide gluten free fare. Sometimes friends might want you to dine at a restaurant that is not particularly known for supporting a gluten free diet. What's a gluten free person to do? Most restaurants have some kind of salad on the menu. That might be the best bet, as long as croutons are eliminated. Don't be afraid to ask for specific cooking processes. Ask for a plainly grilled chicken breast or hunk of steak to have on the side, or on top of the salad. Stick with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, as many prepared salad dressings contain gluten.
  • Gluten free dining can become monotonous. You will need to put some effort into learning more about fresh, whole foods and how great they taste. Being gluten free typically leads to dining on fresh, whole, natural foods. This is because a vast majority of processed foods contain some form of gluten. As time goes by, eliminating processed food leads to a reawakening to the nuances of real food. Suddenly, carrots taste super sweet and an apple is juicy, tart, and wonderful. Simultaneously, processed foods start having a "processed" taste and mouth feel; like the chemicals are the main flavor. This might remind you of when you were a kid and you could actually smell the grass outside. Similarly, your taste buds revert to a time in your life when everything was new and fresh and delightful. Kind of like when you were a kid!
  • Every now and then, you might miss a slice of pizza or freshly baked bread. After all, we are all human. This usually happens when a person is just starting a gluten free lifestyle and is in transition to a healthier diet. It is important to understand that much of this craving comes from old habit. Most Americans grew up on processed and fast foods and these are the definitions of "food" for many people. When these junk foods are eliminated, many people are left wondering what they are actually supposed to eat. Very occasionally, a gluten free alternative can come in handy. Understand that gluten free pizza, bread, cake, etc. is not exactly the same as the real thing. While these may be an occasional indulgence, over time, many people find that substitutes are not really worth it and avoiding these foods, whether gluten free or not, gets easier all the time. For those who want to lose weight, avoiding gluten free substitutions is essential. See my article on gluten free weight loss for more information.

How do you successfully start a gluten free lifestyle?

The best approach is to go cold turkey on the gluten free items. Go through your pantry and refrigerator and identify the gluten-riddled items. This involves reading labels and being honest with yourself. Donate items you can no longer eat. There is no halfway or sooner or later approach to going gluten free.

How do you eliminate processed foods?

Try eating real food, nothing out of a box, for six weeks. It has been said that a habit takes six weeks to form. You will be surprised at how quickly your brain and taste buds get used to your new, healthy habit of eating real food. As mentioned above, real food starts tasting amazing when processed foods are eliminated.

What can you eat?

The list is endless! Retrain your brain and you will enjoy the vast array of fresh, whole, natural foods. Focus on what you CAN eat and check out my article on gluten-free grocery shopping to find out more.

Can you "kind of" be gluten free?

The answer is a resounding no! But don't think of this as a bad thing. Embrace your new lifestyle with gusto and dedication and you will find yourself healthier than you have ever been. You will feel sharp, and fit, and clear-minded. All of this is worth the effort of eliminating gluten from your life.

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