The 10 Stages of Going Gluten-Free
Not yet in love with going gluten-free diet yet? Don’t worry – you’re not alone!
Getting motivated to switch to a gluten-free diet can be challenging. Whether a medical necessity, a sensitivity or a choice, eliminating gluten from your diet may bring up a whole slew of emotions.
We’re here to make living gluten-free easier for everyone – from those who choose to go gluten-free to those who have no choice if they want to remain healthy – and in some cases, alive.
To help you feel less alone, we’ve compiled “10 Stages of Going Gluten-Free“ based on many of our own experiences.
What stage are you at?
I can’t believe I have to give it up.
If you’ve received a diagnosis, you might be entering your gluten-free journey at this first stage. Finding out you have celiac disease or some other medical issue that forces you to eliminate gluten from your diet can rock your world. Shock may be accompanied by disbelief – “I can’t believe this is happening.” Don’t worry though – that “deer in the headlights” feeling does go away relatively quickly. Check out Going Gluten-Free One Step at a Time.
Sometimes when you don’t feel in control of a situation, you might experience anger. Anger can crop up and act as an emotional protection when the real emotion is fear. Getting any kind of medical diagnosis can be a relief but also frightening. Some of us mask our fears with anger and irritability. If you experience anger, know that it is a natural reaction that shouldn’t last as you move through the stages.
Who gave this to me?
If you’re fearful and it’s coming out sideways as anger, you might lash out and blame someone else for your situation. Because celiac disease and other auto-immune conditions can be inherited, you might find yourself shaking a fist at your ancestors or blaming your parents. Nothing good comes from blaming, but it is a way people deflect from their own fears.
It’s not true. Let me eat some gluten…
Unless you have major, life-threatening reactions to gluten, you may not believe you have an issue with it. You might go back to eating something with gluten in it and then dismiss the discomfort you feel. Denial is one way of keeping a diagnosis at arm’s length. If it isn’t true, it isn’t real. But if it is true, then when you re-introduce gluten back into your diet after eliminating it, your symptoms will come right back, and you could be causing damage to your digestive system. We don’t recommend it!
I shouldn’t have eaten that gluten! I feel terrible!
So, you cheated. Or you dropped into the Denial stage and indulged. Or you might have forgotten to check a label or give clear instructions when ordering food. Not only are you feeling the physical pains of your actions, but they might be accompanied with a dollop of guilt. Don’t spend time kicking yourself for making the mistake. Get back on board your gluten-free diet plan ASAP as getting over the symptoms from ingesting gluten will take time once you remove it again. Don’t have a diet plan? Here’s a simple one: 4-Week Gluten-Free Meal Plan
How can I enjoy eating if I can’t have gluten?
When something is taken from us, we can feel a sense of loss, and that sense of loss can lead to feeling depressed. This type of depression could be situational depression – you’re losing something you’ve known and are used to having – but it can also be the effects of gluten on your brain. Even after you stop ingesting gluten, you might still experience lingering symptoms of your sensitivity. This, too, shall pass. Check out Overcoming The Emotional Obstacles of Going Gluten-Free.
I need to deal with my gluten sensitivity/allergy.
As the symptoms of ingesting gluten clear your system, you might feel brighter, more energetic, and clearer-headed. Or you may be getting used to your new way of eating and living gluten-free. One way to speed up getting to the Turnaround stage is to get support from peers in your community. GIG’s Adult Support groups and youth support through Generation GF are here to help you move quickly through the first 6 steps toward figuring out your new gluten-free way of life.
Hey, look at all these gluten-free products – and recipes!
Once you start to get the hang of living gluten-free, you realize that it really isn’t as hard as you originally thought. There are gluten-free cookbooks, gluten-free sections in your local store, even gluten-free menus at many restaurants, none of which you probably noticed before your diagnosis. So many resources exist now for those living gluten-free including GFCO’s Searchable Database of certified gluten-free goods and a growing GFFS Searchable Database of Gluten-Free Safe Spots.
Wow, I feel so much better without gluten.
For some, eliminating gluten from one’s diet brings rapid results. For others, feeling better is a gradual process and should include incorporating other healthy, habits like exercising and getting enough sleep, to enhance a changed diet. Once you start feeling better, the relief can be tremendous. You can finally exhale after months, or years, of dealing with the stress of being unwell.
Gluten-free is my new way of life.
You’ve got this. Gluten-free living is easier with the right resources, support systems, and tools. Being gluten-free is the way you live, not just the food choices you make. With acceptance comes motivation to be more vigilant about how you eat and the joy of discovery when you find new gluten-free products. At this stage, you realize and accept that you’re going to be gluten-free from now on. GIG is here with you every step of the way!
Check out more resources at gluten.org/resources.