by Karen Anderson, LCSWR,RD,CDN,CSSD
On October 15, 1995 I was presented an unusual birthday gift: the diagnosis of Celiac. This was a brand new, never-before-imagined present for me, turning 36. With it came challenge both nutritionally and emotionally. My resolution to be gluten-free was an un-chosen, non-refundable and resisted thing. Why me? Was it not enough to live with three other autoimmune conditions? Wow, being healthy is certainly trying, I thought. Such is life. However, after many questions and expressed concerns… after asking for the gift of sympathy in addition to this diagnosis…AND after consuming about 20 Snickers bars over the course of 2 months (“Why?”, my dentist asked. “Because I CAN”! I exclaimed), I accepted the challenge and a brand new year in my life began. And now another new year, 2012, begins. What better time to reflect on facing challenges, changes and resolutions. In honor of 2012, I bring you 12 thoughts to support a happy and healthy outlook for the New Year:
- Take a POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE. Reframe celiac as a clearer picture; a gift of knowing. All you need is the right lens to make gluten-free eating acceptable and workable for you. The positive of being GF, by the way, is being WELL!
- SEE an RD. A registered dietitian who is specialized in gluten-free nutrition AND is upbeat will help you to see the growing amount of gluten-free choices there are. The idea is to focus is on what you CAN eat more than on what you cannot.
- DO NOT ISOLATE yourself. Because you live with Celiac does not mean life is over. And you are not alone. Almost 1% of the US population has Celiac. Connect with others who understand, can educate and can support you. Support groups, printed resources, web information, health care providers, vendors of gluten-free products…the resources are growing…as are the number of chefs educated about GF eating and restaurants offering more and more GF choices.
- EXPECT EMOTION. Frustration, anger, relief, sadness, jealousy, disappointment, fear, whatever you may feel that comes with the “gift” of gluten-free living. Expect and accept where you “are at”. Find healthy outlets of expression. It is less about what we are given to deal with and more about how we deal with it.
- BECOME INVOLVED. If you can’t beat Celiac, well bring it on and join a support group….get blogging…go to a favorite restaurant and request a new GF entree…If you don’t see a desired GF product at Price Chopper, ASK! (They listen!)…volunteer at community groups to educate others on eating GF…the sky is the limit as to how you stay connected and accepting.
- Spend TIME WITH FRIENDS. Friends are the gifts we give ourselves. Do not shut them out. They are your friends. They want to spend time with you. Let them in. They can help you be you and be there if you need to vent too.
- GET PHYSICAL. Move. Get fit. Yes, it is good for managing the now absorbable calories you are consuming being GF, good for your immune system and many other health reasons, but exercise is also great for stress busting and mood elevating! You do not know how good you can feel!
- BE REALISTIC. Set realistic short and long term goals for being healthy. Meet GF challenges one at a time and as best as you can.
- ACCEPT CELIAC. The first step toward meeting any goals and getting anyplace is accepting where you are at. Accepting the need to be gluten-free is the first step toward being happy and well.
- STAY CURRENT. Processed product ingredients can change. When in doubt (Is this still gluten-free?), check it out. Also, change it up: Just as you hanker for a change in wall color or a new wardrobe item, you will be looking for a change in GF food choices as time goes on. Try a new gluten-free grain….a new recipe, baked good, combination of GF foods….a new place to eat, etc. There is more to choose from every day!!!
- THINK MORE NOT LESS. Thinking about what can you eat more of vs. less of is a more positive mindset and a good coping strategy for meeting the challenge. More whole foods, fruits and veggies, water, proteins… More new choices and new recipes…more energy and good health! This thinking counters the thought of having to “give up” things and the feeling of loss and deprivation.
- RELAX AND REFRESH. Get a good night’s sleep. Take a mid-day break. Remember your strengths. Take a slow deep breath. Get a massage. Treat yourself. Reflect on what you DO have. Picture yourself in a wonderful place. GF living is easier when relaxed.
Happy New Year!