This week’s Soften Saturday is from my friend and fellow blogger Tina. She is also one of my culinary coaching clients and has recently been diagnosed with several dietary intolerances. In speaking to her about the necessary changes, I quickly said Pollyanna things like, “It’s going to be ok. No biggie. You can do this!”
And then I remembered that it wasn’t easy in the beginning. I remembered having a meltdown in the doctor’s office parking lot, mourning the loss of donuts, getting mad at the world. I’ve had four years for this to get easier. So I encouraged Tina to share for Soften Saturday what these dietary changes look like for her and how it’s possible to cope, how we all can be a little softer to ourselves in making these leaps to a different way of eating. I relate to what she has shared. You may, too. I’m pretty sure anyone new to making changes will get this. –Johnna
Finding a New Normal with Dietary Changes –written by Tina
I went to the doctor recently. I went to the doctor to get some results from some simple blood work. She wondered if MAYBE some food was upsetting my digestion, causing some pain, and making me feel blah. It’s an easy test. A little blood. No big deal. FINITE results.
I was all for it. Went ahead with it, and thought HERE IS MY ANSWER! I will FINALLY find out if there is anything to this “food intolerance” stuff I had considered.
So I bled for her. Several vials. And four weeks later I went in to get the results. And I thought I was prepared.
She said “Tina, we have some things to talk about.” And she was serious. “It looks like you are exhibiting some intolerances to some foods.” And she went on to name gluten, dairy, eggs, pineapple, soy, cranberries, blueberries, and COFFEE!
I heard a buzz in my head. I held back tears. I felt sheer panic. That is freaking BREAD! EGGS! CHEESE! YOGURT! MILK! ICE CREAM! EVERYTHING!
She was all slow and deliberate, and in my head I was like “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? I LOVE CHEESE!?”
So I walked out of her office and I called my husband, and I cried my freaking eyes out in her parking lot. And then I drove home. Numb.
We were leaving for the weekend to go to Milwaukee. The land of cheese and beer, and I could have NONE of it. I had no idea how I was going to handle this.
My first inclination was that I wouldn’t bother with change until after the weekend. After all… it was a TRIP. I was going to eat out every meal. I’d start later. But then I realized that I would continue to travel, and these problems weren’t going away.
So I decided I could do this. I could change everything about my eating life and make it work. I’m a trooper. It’s what I do.
So I traveled. And when I sat in the restaurant eating a breakfast buffet with my family, and I realized there was nothing but BACON on that buffet that I could eat, I freaked out. I sat and stared at the menu and cried quietly to myself. It was at that exact moment that I realized how incredibly TICKED OFF I was at the whole world. How DARE anyone tell me that I COULDN’T have something. It was at that moment that I realized that my relationship with food was so much more than one to sustain myself. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I froze.
I LOVE FOOD. And this woman is telling me I shouldn’t have some of the things I love anymore.
I feel like a kid whose mom took away her wubby. My security is gone. And I am Sad. Sad to the core. I have cried REAL tears over this. I have had REAL anger over this. I HATE THIS. I HATE having to think about everything I put in my mouth. I feel like I will NEVER be able to eat anywhere ever again. I’m sad.
I know I will get through this. I KNOW I will figure it out. But when I am in the grocery store searching for food I can eat, and trying to get what my family wants, and trying to make ends meet, I GET MAD. I get mad at everyone who doesn’t have to think this way. I get mad at companies who sneak things into food that makes it hard for me. I hate the whole damned thing.
But I can do it. I know I can. And I am discovering the funny in it a little at a time. Like today when I put Veganaise on a HAM sandwich. (on lettuce of course.) I laughed OUT LOUD at myself at the irony of me using vegan mayo on a HAM sandwich. I have discovered that Vanilla Coconut milk tastes like a pina colada. And I have discovered that Earl Grey Tea with coconut milk creamer can sort of replace my morning coffee.
It hasn’t even been a week. I’m adjusting. I feel like a member of my family is somehow gone. But I am trying. In between bouts of depression, anger, and tears….I am trying to find the normal in this. I have amazing support, but am amazed when the wave of crap hits me how hard it is.
This story has a long way to go. But I know….at least this……I like coconut milk. I have great friends. And my husband…who found me food in an airport when I thought I was going to have to live with a hungry tummy.…is a saint. I am trying to find the normal in this.
Thanks to Tina for sharing her thoughts on making dietary changes. You can find Tina online here. If you’ve got suggestions for her on moving forward, leave a comment. We’ll all benefit from the input! –Johnna
Sheryll Ziemer says
I’m finding it easier to adjust to a Paleo way of life, than just saying I’m gluten intolerant. I’ve got allergies to nightshades and wheat. I suspect many more foods. I’ve been going without sugar and grains. I’ve found that the blogs on Facebook have helped tremendously. I’ve also found it’s somewhat easier to say:
I’m sugar free, grain free, nightshade free, alcohol free, and dairy free, rather than say that I can’t have those things. It does suck! But with blogs like these, we’re in this together!!!
Thanks Johnna and Tina!
Shirley @ gfe & All Gluten-Free Desserts says
Tina (and Johnna)–I so remember feeling like you’ve felt and alternating between anger, sadness, moments of strength and hope, etc. Most of us do go through these feelings. While Johnna is right, you do get through it and figure out strategies and, of course, when you see your health improve dramatically, you know it’s worth it and don’t want to go back, but getting there is not straight and narrow path. I actually wrote about all the stages in regard to giving up gluten (as well as other foods) in this post on my blog: http://glutenfreeeasily.com/five-stages-of-loss-of-gluten-plus-one/ I have had many folks add their own experiences in the comments. It might be helpful to you. It is important to know that you are not alone and to allow yourself to feel the feelings and not bury them. Again, yes, we do go on, and most of us end up thriving, but it takes time. Best of luck, dear!
I empathize. 4 yrs later and I still throw mental temper tantrums about being the freak who has to bring her own food, or order dry salad with grilled meat (and having to ask if they are *sure* the grilled meat has no gluten added)and deciding I don’t really like crackers after all because there is only 1 brand I can have & it’s expensive and hard to find.
But I do feel better! And I discovered I can tolerate ghee, and that coconut oil works for me as a butter substitute on many, many things. And I can tolerate goat & sheep cheese — and a local dairy makes awesome goat gouda, bleu & cheddar as well as chevre. I’m allergic to egg whites, but can eat the yolk — and the yellows were always my favorite part!
I try to focus on all the things I can have — and shop the perimeter more than the interior. It means I plan more, and cook more on the weekends for the week ahead — and I’m finding there are very few places *out* with food that don’t leave me feeling we have better food at home for much less expense.
Take the good days with the teary ones. You’re not alone — the blogosphere has some amazing women who’ve paved the way with recipes, suggestions, and encouragement. They got me through it, and it’s okay to be mad and sad — we’re human! And then find something to celebrate that whatever the food is you’re missing can’t replace — like no wrenching gut pain!
Carrie Nash says
Oh, Tina, you brought me to tears and laughter. I’ve been on my journey almost four years, and like any mourning process, it does get easier as time goes by; the tears for what you’ve lost (mainly your innocence of food) and the anger at the food industry get farther apart as time moves on. The tears and anger get replaced by delight at new foods, new friends, and the knowledge that you’re a pioneer and your family benefits from your experience. Keep trudging the path of gluten free, and know that when times get tough, we, your gluten free friends, are here for you. You are not alone. Wishing you many years of health. ~Carrie
Hoboy, do I hear you!! I went through a period of mourning, just like you’re describing here. And I was SO angry!! But you know, that got better. Now I wonder at how easy it is to not eat things that I thought I could not live without. Finding the alternatives that I love, I believe, was the key for me. So don’t give up! It takes time to start feeling “normal” again in your new diet and you’re on the right track! AND hooray for supportive spouses everywhere (including my own) who make it so much easier.
Jackie Edwards says
Hi, I am only on day 17 of being GF. I have worked in the natural wellness industry for 20 years, but never thought I would end up in the same predicament. I am lucky to know of all of the amazing websources and support groups from my years working with other Celiacs.
If you want a coffee substitute I recommend Dandy Blend — I boil water, pour 1-1/2 cups into the blender, add about 3 tsps of Dandy Blend, a healthy dollop (maybe 1/4 cup) of coconut milk & blend until it froths – yum!