Day 10 - Emotional Support

Welcome to Day 10! You're officially half way through 20 days to gluten free. You may be wondering why emotional support is a part of this course? If you haven't already noticed going on a gluten free free diet is hard. It can feel like such an unexpected and negative imposition on your life. Today i'm going to talk about how to deal with the emotional aspects that come with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and a gluten free diet. 

What you'll learn:
1. Is your moodiness, depression and anxiety because of your condition?
2, How to cope with the life change that comes with a gluten free diet
3. The stages you may go through after a gluten free condition diagnosis.
4. How to stay positive when you aren't getting results as quickly as you'd wish

Handling the news of a gluten related diagnosis:
When you first find out you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity you may be surprised, upset, relieved, confused or plenty of other emotions. You were probably feeling ill for a while and knew something was up but not sure what. It's normal to go through a sense of denial and have feelings of loss and sadness. It's perfectly normal to feel a large array of emotions after a diagnosis. You may feel upset that you weren't diagnosed sooner or that your symptoms may have been told to you that they were "all in your head".

So once you have the diagnosis how do you stay positive and cope with the life change?
Catch negative thoughts and replace them
When you find yourself feeling sad and becoming upset take the negative thoughts and say to yourself something positive instead. Like how you're going to start feeling a lot better now that you're on a gluten free diet, or how your diet is going to be healthier without fast foods and processed foods. I know, easier said then done, I'll be honest I wasn't the best at this. I remember getting very upset in the baked goods section at the grocery store. I also hated feeling left out, like I was the "gluten free girl". I can assure you that as time passes you will come to fully accept your gluten free diet.

Know you aren't alone
One of the most helpful things is talking to someone with your condition. Joining a local support group or finding a gluten free group online can give you a feeling of community. It's very comforting to have friendships with those on a gluten free diet. You can share recipes, talk about the struggles and be a support system. Getting support and encouragement from family and friends is also important for those tough times adjusting to a new lifestyle.

Learn to cook good food
One thing that can make a gluten free diet a lot more fun and enjoyable is learning to cook delicious foods that you love! Earlier in the course you learned about some of the gluten free cooking basics. It's going to take some practice and learning how what foods and flavours you like, but it's so worth it! This can stop you from feeling deprived and it really empowers you to have control over your condition.

Gluten Free Grief
Learning that you have to make major changes to your diet, and that you can NEVER eat some of your favourite foods again (at least not as you know them) constitutes a pretty major loss, and is very often accompanied by grief. Losing certain traditional family meals and your favourite restaurants is sad and hard to come to terms with at first. I remember sobbing outside of the doctors office when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I felt scared that I was diagnosed with a disease and saddened because my diet was 99% white flour. But I found ways to cope and eventually you get to a place of acceptance. 

People are unique and everyone experiences grief differently. Not everyone goes through all the stages. Some will get stuck in one stage; some will rollercoaster back and forth between the stages before they are able to move on. You may of heard of the five stages of grief before in relation to a loss. I'm sure you'll relate to these stages of grief when giving up gluten:

1. Denial

  • This cannot be right. I don’t believe it.

  • The test must be wrong, or too sensitive and picking up everybody.

  • But I don’t get symptoms from all gluten-containing foods, so surely I don’t have to cut them all out.

  • But I don’t have any gut problems at all, so this can’t be right.

  • Yes, but gluten-free is so fashionable now, they’re just telling everyone that they have to give it up. In a couple of years they’ll move onto the next thing, so there’s no point in me really giving it up completely.

2. Anger

  • This SUCKS!!

  • Everyone else can eat whatever they want, whenever they want. Why do I have to give up all those delicious foods??!! It’s not fair!!!

  • Eating completely gluten free is IMPOSSIBLE. It’s in EVERYTHING. I’m never going to be able to eat out again. I’ll just have to stay home and eat that horrible gluten-free pasta that falls apart and tastes like glue.

  • Oh My God, I’ve been sick for all these years and nobody told me it was gluten! Nobody even mentioned it to me! I’m going to go back to that doctor / those doctors and give them a piece of my mind!

  • AAARGH THIS SUCKS!!!!!!!!

3. Bargaining

  • Well, I’ve been eating gluten this long, If I just do the 80:20 rule then I’m sure it’ll be ok. I’ll be really really good during the 80, and then the rest won’t matter.

  • My sister is getting married next month. I will have to eat ‘normal’ food for her wedding, and have at least a piece of cake. One piece of cake never hurt anyone! I will go back to being gluten free after that.

  • But our friends have gone to all the trouble of cooking dinner for us. It would be so rude not to eat the food they’ve prepared specially.

4. Depression

  • My life is over. My life will never be the same again.

  • There’s nothing I can eat when we go out. I cannot face another salad while everyone else has pasta. I’m just going to stay home from now on.

  • None of my friends or family wants to deal with my food issues. I’m a social pariah.

  • I’m so sick of feeling like a ‘fussy eater’ and I hate feeling like such a pain when I have to eat at someone else’s house or in a restaurant.

5. Acceptance

  • Wine is gluten free – yahoo!

  • I guess this is okay. I definitely feel better. I’m so glad I’m not in so much pain any more, and I love having more energy.

  • I can eat before I go out, or bring my own food.

  • It’s not such a big deal to have that conversation with the waitress. It’s much better than getting sick again!!

  • I don’t remember the last time I felt this good. I love this. I’m so happy that I found this out.

What happens when I don't see a quick improvement?
We've all heard the fact that many with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity feel better really quickly on a gluten free diet. Yes that happens with some, but many especially if you're older, will continue to get symptoms for months after diagnosis. So on an emotional side this can feel disheartening and frustrating. Go to your doctor rule out any other health concerns, focus on a healing diet, and do the best you can. Know that as time passes you will feel better and that this is normal. As long as you're seeing improvements even if they're slow, that's a good sign. Stay positive and continue to get tests and look for help from your doctor if you aren't feeling better.

Handouts: