The gluten-free diet is very difficult to follow 100% of the time. There are temptations everywhere we look. For some reason, when we slip up and eat something we shouldn’t, we have overwhelming feelings of guilt. Sometimes this is because we deliberately cheat… Sometimes, it really is by mistake. Nonetheless, I always feel like I failed myself when I have a reaction to gluten. Why can’t we go more easily on ourselves?
I’m not saying those of us with good reasons to be gluten free should just give up and eat whatever we feel like. But striking a balance between careful and accepting of mistakes might be an option. There’s a fine line between being neglectful of our well-being and being too rigid about the rules we have for ourselves. Somehow, we struggle to find the right balance between living our lives and enjoying it, and also protecting our health. Still, Goldilocks found her perfect bowl of porridge… Why can’t we?
There are whole message boards on the Internet discussing people’s plans for cheating. Sometimes they call it a “gluten vacation”. I found one post that talked about the route that she would take driving around her town to all the fast food restaurants for her favorite- but forbidden- foods. She said her family was taking bets on when she would have to stop to find the closest bathroom.
For those of us who react negatively to foods containing gluten, this means we are causing ourselves to have distress on purpose. Let me repeat that: on purpose. It’s true that the foods that we sometimes have to eat can be less enjoyable than, say Krispy Kreme donuts or nice big pack of Twizzlers (Those are my fantasy food to cheat with, by the way). But with the awful consequences, why do we even think about cheating? Maybe it’s because we call it cheating. It seems so sinful… So forbidden. The temptation can be overwhelming. I’m there with the rest of you – I fantasize about it…but then I think about the pain and that’s enough. Even without deliberately cheating, though, I still do some silly things sometimes.
Last week, I went on a vacation in a Mexican resort where no one really understood my needs, and I hadn’t wanted to make the international phone call to make sure they could accommodate me ahead of time. I tried to play it safe, while still trying to find decent foods, but generally felt deprived of the tantalizing burritos and pastries. By the first night, I talked myself into some late night nachos with very questionable cheese sauce.I had two days of pretty significant reactions. I was trying to protect my health and still live my life, but it didn’t work. I was passively neglectful of my diet, but I certainly didn’t do it on purpose. Still, I felt like I failed. I remembered why I went gluten free in the first place. Ouch. That reminds me why I don’t feel like cheating. Because even small amounts by accident make me feel overwhelmingly guilty and filled with regret.
Most of the time, it’s really not worth it, but it’s very easy to forget until our body reminds us. Nearly all people who have cheated later regret it and pay for their choices dearly. Whether we tell ourselves stories to help us think we’re being safe, or whether it’s on purpose, we think we’ve failed. But to be successful all the time is probably unrealistic. Why can’t we learn to go a little easier on ourselves? Mistakes happen, and we learn from them. Next time, I’ll call ahead and will pack more of my own food. We move on, striving to find that “goldilocks” level between enjoying life and staying healthy. I think that’s the most we can ask for.