I vividly remember the overwhelming sense of helplessness following my diagnosis with celiac disease. At the time, I didn’t even know what gluten was, but a quick Internet search made it seem like it was in everything. This was back in 2013 before the gluten-free diet became the cultural phenomenon that it is today; I cannot even imagine facing my diagnosis 20 years prior when gluten-free products were virtually nonexistent. Luckily, I learned that my diagnosis did not mark the end of the world as I knew it. However, certain pieces of wisdom would have made for a more seamless, stress-free adjustment period.
3. Prepare yourself for common misconceptions about celiac
While the rise of the gluten-free diet has helped increase the prevalence of gluten-free options in stores and restaurants, its close ties to modern diet and wellness culture can sometimes do more harm than good. Not only do we run the risk of people not understanding the severity of our situation, but we must also face people’s misconceptions that the absence of gluten in one’s diet equates to a superior level of “health.”
Those of us with celiac disease or gluten intolerance understand that gluten-free and “healthy” are two independent adjectives. However, gluten-free alternatives for processed food exists, and I am grateful for that fact. In my opinion, it is much more healthful to freely eat the foods that you desire than to live with a constant preoccupation with the self-imposed virtue of your food.
A friend once told me that she wished she had celiac disease so she would be forced to eat healthily. While that statement definitely takes the lead as the most outrageous comment I have received regarding my celiac disease, you may benefit from preparing yourself to hear comments along similar lines. Responding to such sentiments with anger or frustration helps no one. Understand that they do not fully understand the implications of their comments, and do not judge them for their lack of knowledge. In fact, I cannot help but experience a certain degree of sadness for anyone who would wish an autoimmune disease upon themselves in hopes to shrink or manipulate their body. Your diagnosis does not change anything about you except for the fact that you must now avoid ingesting a single type of protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
2. Accept your celiac diagnosis as reality
Once you accept your diagnosis, you can redirect your focus to bigger and better things. Aside from the aforementioned “health” comments relating to my gluten-free diet, people also comment on the fact that it “must be so hard” because “gluten is in everything” and they “could never live without gluten”. If you are struggling to come to terms with your new diagnosis, these comments may only exacerbate your feelings of confusion. However, once you get past the transition phase of learning about and adjusting to your new situation, a gluten-free diet becomes second nature. The sooner you take ownership over your new lifestyle, the quicker you will adjust and learn that there is no reason to feel embarrassed or disheartened about your condition. Celiac disease only plays a minuscule role in forming a multifaceted individual, and accepting your reality allows you to cultivate and develop the more interesting parts of your life.
1. Learn to research and prepare gluten-free snacks
Any difficult situation for those with celiac disease typically stems from a lack of preparation in some shape or form. This tip is rather simple, and it becomes instinctive over time. While I have already written an entire article covering this topic, it essentially boils down to conducting research in advance and bringing snacks.
If you are struggling to cope with your new diagnosis, know that you are not alone. While you may have to make a few lifestyle adjustments, life gets so much better once you move past the initial transition phase. By preparing yourself for the misconceptions regarding your gluten-free diet, accepting your diagnosis, and preventing uncomfortable situations, you can enjoy living your full, vibrant, and gluten-free life.