I Survived the Holidays, Gluten-Free!

When I decided to go gluten-free right before the holidays, I knew it would be a challenge, but I also knew that if I could do it at this time of year, I could do it anytime, anywhere.

Well, I did it, and I feel triumphant.

It wasn’t easy, but I was never truly tempted to cheat.  I knew going in that there would be lots of temptations, so I was prepared to be strong. The thing with gluten-free is, you really can’t cheat. You’re either gluten-free or you’re not. If you’re going to cheat, you might as well not bother avoiding gluten at all. As Nora Gedgaudas is fond of saying, being mostly gluten-free is like being a little bit pregnant. Even trace amounts of gluten can cause prolonged inflammation and other symptoms. [source] For that reason, cheating really isn’t an option.

And that is why I have been so diligent about keeping gluten out of my diet. It seems extreme, I know, but it’s an all or nothing kind of deal, so I set out to do this 100%. Otherwise, any level of sacrifice would be in vain. The only way to know if I’m truly sensitive and if going gluten-free can heal my gut is to avoid it completely for a few months.

The other reason I refuse to cheat is because I know that even one exception to the rule would be the beginning of the end. I’ve been on fad diets several times over the years, and I know from experience that the first itty-bitty cheat is the gateway to more cheats, bigger cheats. It may be just a morsel, but that one deviation from the rules, no matter how small and innocent it may seem at the time, gives you permission to cheat again. The human subconscious is a powerful thing. Anyone who has ever been on a strict diet knows that each successive cheat has a way of getting more substantial and more frequent. Sure, you can tighten the reigns again and make a fresh start, but I don’t want to be on that roller coaster ever again.

I knew that if I allowed myself just one taste of those homemade sweet rolls or just one bite of that homemade cherry pie when I was at my mother’s house last weekend, unless it made me sick enough to never want to touch gluten again, it would have just opened the door to trying the next gluten-full treat that looks too good to resist.

So I abstained.

I sat beside my daughter as she slathered butter on those homemade herb rolls, and I ate pork and veggies.

I sat at the table while everyone dined on homemade sweet rolls, and I ate an egg.

I sipped coffee when everyone else ate dessert.

And I focused on how good I feel now. When I was tempted to swipe just a bite, I thought about how I used to go to bed and wake up in the night sweating and nauseous after a dinner full of gluten. Suddenly that pie didn’t look so good anymore.

(Although those rolls still looked pretty darn good!) Bread is my thing, can you tell?

But truthfully, it was never really THAT hard to resist.  It wasn’t hard because I feel better than I ever have in my life, and I don’t ever want to go back.

I came home feeling empowered. Now I know that I can do this for the long haul, if need be.

And guess what greeted me upon our arrival at home!? A box of Udi’s Gluten Free bread products was on my kitchen counter. It had arrived while I was gone. It felt like a mini-reward for sticking to the plan all month.

When Udi’s contacted me about trying some of their products, my initial reaction was to decline. After all, I’m focusing on getting more healthy fats and protein and veggies into my diet, and even gluten-free carbs tempt me to overeat. And there’s the issue of processed foods. But when I took a look at the ingredient lists, I was thrilled with what I found. They use real eggs in their products, they are sweetened with evaporated cane juice, and I can pronounce just about every ingredient on the list. I did give them some constructive feedback about the canola oil, but other than that everything looked great. I was eager to give it a try. Even if I don’t make them a regular part of my diet, just to have an occasional treat is such a luxury now that I’ve been without my beloved baked goods for so long.

I truly didn’t expect them to taste that good. I’m pretty snobby when it comes to prepackaged foods, but they are actually DELICIOUS. I had a chocolate muffin for breakfast yesterday and a blueberry this morning. They really do taste like they could have been made in my kitchen. And slathered with butter and with a side of coffee . . . DIVINE. I’m really going to have to pace myself with these guys.

Honestly, I didn’t set out to write a tribute to Udi’s in this post. In fact, I wasn’t asked to blog about them at all (although I will be writing some articles for their website about my gluten-free journey; I’ll let you know when they go up) but it was such a treat to enjoy a muffin again, and ironic that I was munching away while writing this post, that I couldn’t help but share.

So here I am, with 2011 barely underway, and I am so glad I started this experiment when I did. I feel like I’ve gotten over the hump, and now all I have to do is coast.

As an aside, I cannot BELIEVE I just wrote 2011. Which brings me to the ever-present question, do you say two-thousand-eleven or twenty-eleven? Inquiring minds wanna know.