46 Days of Being Gluten Free and Lovin' It

My daughter Ruthie set me a challenge 46 days ago to become 'gluten free'.  It all started while on holiday in Cyprus.  Although for the most part eating out gluten free in Cyprus was fairly easy, there were times when restaurant owners and staff were decidedly unclear about which dishes would be suitable. This inevitably caused tension and made us both feel on edge. Having to be on guard takes the fun out of eating out. For Ruth it is a matter of extreme importance as even a very small amount of gluten will result in her being very ill.

Ruth’s position is that although I know all about gluten free, I don’t really experience first hand what it’s like and why it’s so annoying – her favourite word at the moment- when other people just don’t get it.   So in the spirit of getting into the mindset of what it’s really like to not eat gluten, I took up the challenge. The first few days I felt hungry and I felt I was missing something. This is despite the fact that 99% of what we eat at home is gluten free and has been for over 8 years. I became aware that gluten was creeping into my diet and although I felt I wasn’t really eating very much gluten, I was in fact not facing up to the fact that a little gluten goes an awfully long way. So that pitta bread or bit of baklava or those little wafer biscuits on the side of my cappuccino- they all add up. And although medically I am not diagnosed as being gluten intolerant, I was experiencing some IBS type symptoms.   The other issue I am aware of is that if you have an intolerance of any kind, you really have to plan your food on a daily basis. In order to stick to a diet, you can’t just wing it. You have to be prepared at all times either to go without food or make sure you bring something with you that is safe to eat. I’ve been doing this for my daughter for the last 8 years, but now, I was having to also look after myself as well . And yes, I very quickly realised that it can be extremely annoying when you are hungry and need a little food, to find that nothing is suitable for you. I’ve always expected Ruthie to cope with this and now experiencing it for myself, I can see why it’s such a bore. You just can’t be spontaneous and you can't rely on logic.   But despite this, I soon began to feel some very positive effects to going gluten free. The cravings for bready things disappeared and my energy levels increased. My 4 pm sugar cravings disappeared. Then my clothes fit more comfortably and I could see that my stomach was starting to feel less bloated and although I’ve not got a washboard tummy by any stretch of the imagination(that will take some doing), I can see that what I thought was my genetic disposition to having a ‘pot belly’ is really largely due to too much gluten!   46 days on I and I am seriously feeling the benefits. I make sure I eat something filling and nourishing just before mid day, perhaps a home made soup (made in my thermomix of course) or an omelette or some warm ups from the night before. If I know I am going to be out and about, then I pack a container with some seeds, nuts and dried fruit and maybe some corn crackers with peanut butter. If I’m in the supermarket and I suddenly feel famished I will buy a punnet of fresh fruit and a pot of Greek yoghurt and sprinkle some pumpkin seeds over the top. I avoid the high street coffee chains and stick closer to home, which is not only saving me a whole load of calories, but also saving me loads of money.   As far as restaurant and café staff are concerned, well I can really see Ruthie’s point of view. It can’t be beyond them to offer some naturally gluten free alternatives which are not sandwich based and are not laden with sugar and calories. Us gluten free people don’t want to eat a brownie for lunch- we’d like a fresh salad, made with quinoa and fresh veggies and a hearty soup or maybe a generous pot of curry, or a flavourful bowl of brown rice with lots of fresh herbs, feta cheese and any other protein you’ve got to hand.   So to all you café owners and lunch time eateries and snack bars, ditch those dreary leathery baked potatoes and get with the programme. There are loads of us out there who for whatever reason don’t eat gluten. Surprise us and put some tasty gluten free items on your menus and make a gluten free person really really happy.
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