Filling Your Niche

Focus on what’s good instead

A couple months ago, I found out that I have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. At the same time, I found out I probably have a lactose or casein intolerance of some kind.

“It’ll be way easier for me to give up gluten than dairy,” I said to my doctor. I’m hypoglycemic, so I have problems maintaining my blood sugar at reasonable levels. Lots of protein helps with this; dairy is one of my major protein sources. And also because of the blood sugar thing, I’m not a huge carb eater anyway.

“We can start with that,” she said.

It turns out that going gluten-free– while about a million times easier today than it would have been even 5 or 10 years ago– is way more of a pain in the ass than I realized it would be.

Gluten, by its nature, is all sticky and gluey, so it hides in things like wooden cutting boards. Also, if you live with other people who are still eating gluten, there are all kinds of cross-contamination concerns. Like, bread crumbs in the butter. Dipping a knife into the mayo, spreading it on bread, dipping it in mayo again. Learning that there’s gluten in soy sauce, of all places. And my grocery trips take twice as long now, because I have to read every single ingredient on every single package. Modified food starch? Usually wheat-based, and a common ingredient in things like salad dressings. Oh, and malt vinegar is out too.

As involved as all this is, I will also say that it is far, far less of a pain for me than it is for many. I’m not a carb queen, I don’t eat many things with long ingredient lists anyway, and I cook most things from scratch rather than using dips, mixes, or eating out. And I’m not so sensitive that just opening a bag of flour has me sick for days. Plus I don’t actually have celiac disease, so that’s good.

That being said, it’s still a pain in the ass.

One of the things that every single book or website about celiac disease, non-celiac sensitivity, and eating gluten free says again and again is to think about all the great foods you ARE allowed instead of bemoaning all the stuff you can’t eat.

You just focus on the good instead.

And it’s true that the list of things that do have gluten in them is much, much shorter than the list of things that don’t:

  • Fresh fruits and veggies
  • Homemade chili
  • Split pea soup
  • Steak, baked potatoes loaded with butter and sour cream, and a green salad with tons of avocado and a nice balsamic vinaigrette on the side
  • Enchiladas, if I use corn tortillas and buy gluten-free enchilada sauce
  • Homemade granola, if I use gluten-free oats
  • 15-bean soup, with a handful of sautéed apple-gouda sausage and kale tossed in
  • Roasted autumn vegetable bake– sweet potatoes, parsnips, yukon gold potatoes, onions
  • Pasticcio made with this pasta, my favorite of all the brands I’ve tried so far
  • Mushroom alfredo over chicken instead of fettuccini
  • Gluten-free pizza from Beau Jo’s that’s actually delicious
  • Sushi, dipped in tamari instead of soy sauce

Much like gluten, the less-ideal things in our lives feel sticky and everywhere a lot of the time. Relationship problems. Money stress. Dull cubicle jobs. The daily grind. It’s easy to get hung up on these things, give them weight, dwell on what you wish they were. Mire yourself in lack.

But, just like wishing my unpleasantly dry and crumbly gluten-free toast were a thick slab of delicious whole-grain goodness slathered with fresh apple butter, wishing doesn’t make it so.

I focus on what’s good instead.

  • A husband who puts up with my nonsense and makes me laugh every day
  • My teenage daughter who, as yet, is not doing drugs or having sex, and has decent grades to boot (except in Spanish, and I’m willing to overlook that)
  • Ever-decreasing back pain; ever-improving overall health (quirky gluten issues notwithstanding)
  • A job that has become the impossible pipe dream I would’ve sold my soul for two years ago
  • Fruition everywhere
Every day, my life looks a little closer to ideal.

The stuff that takes you further from your ideal? Get it out of there. At the very least, refuse to dwell.

Focus on what’s good instead.

Maarit • 10/15/2013

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  1. Natalie 10/16/2013 - 5:26 pm


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