Coping With Big Changes

Posted by Obake on Jul 9, 2011 in Advice/Tips, Naturally Gluten Free, Ranting |

I would not have taken this on if my hand hadn’t been forced. Though its more resistance to change than anything. I don’t deny that I eat better and healthier as a result of the change, and it has very noticeable health benefits for me. But it is hard. I want to say here that it will be easy for you, but it won’t be. I hoped that too. Unless you like things being overly complicated, it’s not going to be easy.

But, at the same time, the things I thought were going to be hard weren’t. I thought of it like a pathogen, or a poison, which helped get me into a mindset to avoid it, though getting sick from it later really was the thing that hammered it home. It forced me to really look hard into alternatives. And not just things that mimicked what I was used to, but new, exciting things I’d never tried to make before! It should be said that I do not have a job, and have a fair amount of time to dedicate to cooking, so my experience likely will not mirror many people’s experience. Though having time to cook, and having the ambition to are two different things. It’s further complicated by the fact that I tolerate heat poorly, and it is high summer without AC, making it unlikely that I will be doing much standing at a stove.

I have a slight advantage in that I was already familiar with checking labels and reading ingredients, because my father had wheat (celiac maybe, I am not sure and can’t ask), corn, and soy allergies. I had thought naively that I would dodge that genetic timebomb. Nope. I was taught to cook though, so I also had an edge there, I would not be starting from zero here. But the scale is really huge. Like corn, wheat is pervasive as an additive, and those first few days I had to adjust to the reality that I’d be checking ingredients again for myself.

Those first days were hard though. Because the scale is huge. There is suddenly this whole world of things that you can’t eat. And if you live in a culture that likes things like bread and noodles and the like, it’s very difficult to avoid. Comfort foods were suddenly not allowed. Whole aisles of food at stores were full of items I could not eat. Some of the enjoyment I got out of trying new things was now complicated by the question of whether or not it would sicken me to consume it. There is still a lot of frustration to pick up something and see its on the forbidden list. My quest for soy sauce or tamari that is gluten free has been a measure of hell. Its a horrible feeling to crave something and know it will make you sick to consume it and you want it anyway. It’s not about willpower for me though, its about not getting sick. I had a taste of what it felt like to be well, and it hardened my resolve. I still want a cookie dammit!

I find that I don’t miss bread that much, and that I treated it as a vehicle for carrying food, rather than ever enjoying it for what it was.

I am still working through it, and I didn’t tackle everything at once. A few days were dedicated to trying to figure out how to feed myself without noodles, which I’d been leaning on heavily as a source of cheap, quick food. The next day I cleaned out the wheat containing food in the upper cupboards, then the lower ones, and put them all in a box. I am still unsure what to do with the box, and though the husband has been given the go-ahead to eat some of it, he can’t cook, so some of it will have to be inevitably given away. I had to replace many things, and it cost a lot of money to restock everything that I’d had to eliminate. I am still not comfortable with that fact. Yesterday, I de-glutened everything in the kitchen, and with a heavy heart, put my beloved bread machine in storage. Not easy. Especially for someone that loved baking. There are still things I need to replace in my kitchen that are irrevocably contaminated that I don’t have the money or time to replace right now. I am now reasonably safe from contamination in my own home.

I didn’t expect eating out to be so difficult, frustrating, and infuriating. I burst into tears at a Thai restaurant yesterday because I ordered something that had wheat in the sauce, knowing that just the few bites I’d taken would have dire consequences later (and I unfortunately wasn’t disappointed). It’s hard because it’s hot, and I am disinclined to cook for myself in the heat, and eating while we do our other errands is convenient. Since getting sick from contaminated diner food, I am intimately aware that a misstep that I take or the ignorance of a chef or a server could put me in serious pain. But I’m also finding support in unlikely places too! I am becoming more aware of which places may have gluten free options, and which places have entire gluten free menus. Its a lot of information to absorb. It also excludes a lot of small eateries that are my personal preference to chains, so even though there is a lot of info, it’s incomplete. I feel like someone turned the lights out on me and my eyes are adjusting to the light, and it’s taking a long time for my surroundings to be clear.

I am intimately aware that I have 5 months in which to prepare for what I call the “eating” holidays. You know the ones, the major ones that you gather with family and friends and eat until you are so full you feel like you’ll burst. An added complication is that these are my in-laws, and none of them are intimately aware of allergies in the way my family was. It makes me want to cry thinking about it. Because most of the advice I have gotten is along the lines of eating before I go–which defeats the point of going, bringing your own food (rude), or trying to impress the seriousness of the situation to people that will likely not “get” it and risk being ill for a good meal, or worse–not going at all.  None of these options are great ones. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I have time to figure it out.

One step at a time, like everything else so far.



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