1. any heavenly body.
2. a person's destiny, temperament, etc.

Whether you’re reading this because you’re gluten intolerant, suffer from PVFS or CFS, are starting to grow your own veggies, embracing natural and/or alternative remedies, or just want to enjoy the journey with us, please remember I’m not a medical expert, nor am I here to debate global warming. Being diagnosed with a life-changing illness, looking for answers or changing the way one lives can all be overwhelming events, so I hope that by sharing the triumphs and tragedies, you too will benefit in some way from our journey.

I hope you enjoy the journey and if you leave this blog having learnt only one new recipe or started to think about finding your star, then this blog’s purpose has been served.

My two favourite sayings:
Pondering the choices we make at the crossroads is like revision in the school of life. Regretting the mistakes or taking for granted the successes means we have learnt nought.
An attentive student will gain wisdom from the mistakes and joy from the successes. Cartillyer – 2008

'Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.' Mohandas Gandhi

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The 7 Stages of My Gluten Grief

I think that loss is one of the hardest things in life to deal with. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a limb, or a lifestyle enjoyed for decades, one is faced with an array of emotions as they adjust to the changes in their life. 

Although my loss is certainly not comparable to the loss of a loved one, it is still something that I had to learn to accept and live with. Not everyone goes through the same emotions or in the same order, but I’m sure anyone who has discovered they can no longer consume a food, which has been a much bigger part of their life than they realised, will relate to a few of the following stages. I also hope it helps those still trying to adjust to a lifestyle change.

Denial: Despite being officially told I couldn't eat wheat or gluten without it affecting me, I continued to eat foods that contained small amounts of the offending ingredients. I knew that a product that had thickener 1422 in it could have gluten in it if it didn’t specifically state it was gluten free, but I ignored this and ate it.* Even after reacting several times, I still did it.

I had very good excuses for not telling others about it. I didn’t insist on gluten free meals when eating at restaurants, because I didn’t want to put anyone out. It was the same when visiting friends. I’d talk it down rather than up, because I didn’t want to put them out, and I had no idea how to explain something I was still struggling to understand. The truth was that I didn’t want to face it, let alone accept that my life had to change.

Frustration: When I finally stopped denying the problem and put all of my efforts into learning what contained gluten or wheat, and reading ingredient lists to ensure they were gluten and wheat free, I was overwhelmed by the amount of numbers and strange names that contained gluten or wheat.

The more offending ingredients I eliminated, the more I discovered that I’d missed. It didn’t take long for the continual frustration to turn into…

Anger: I got so angry. I was angry at fate for turning my life upside down. I was angry with everyone else, who could eat gluten and wheat. I even felt anger towards innocent people, who didn’t understand and inadvertently served me products containing wheat. (Even though it was my fault for not ensuring they were fully informed, because I didn’t want to make a fuss!) Eventually the anger was directed at myself for failing time after time after time. I was convinced that I’d failed. The changes I had to make were overwhelming. I had no idea how to do it, let alone succeed at it.

Depression: As the anger subsided, I became really depressed. Despite Mr T’s wonderful support, I felt really alone. My health had improved dramatically with the elimination of most gluten and wheat, but the small amounts that I kept letting into my system ensured I remained on the fatigue rollercoaster. I was exhausted mentally and emotionally because I was still focussing on the wrong things – what I couldn’t eat and the effects I’d suffer if I did. When I finally turned my attention to embracing something positive, I found…

The Upward Turn: I started looking for gluten-free alternatives to some of our favourite dinners, so that life didn’t have to change too much (a bit of residual denial!), when I discovered that there really are some yummy gluten-free meals out there. I also discovered that eliminating wheat from my diet and reducing it in my family’s diet, was improving our health. This led to us eating whole foods more often. And it didn’t stop there!

Finding new recipes and flavours became a new interest for me. I had started the reconstruction of my life.

Reconstruction: As I became proactive in reconstructing my lifestyle, I learned about the condition of the fresh fruit and vegetables that we buy in the supermarkets (the use of pesticides and how old so-called fresh fruit was), so I started to grow our own produce. I started seeking better quality honey, bread and meat for my family. My desire to reduce my family’s wheat intake also became a desire to eliminate preservatives, additives, and colours and increase our nutrition through good quality wholefoods.

I also started reading books that helped me focus on the positives in life and let go of the negatives. I learned that mental, emotional and physical wellness is connected and each is as important as the other. And I unearthed a dream I’d buried a long time ago – to live on a property and be as self-sufficient as possible.

Acceptance and Hope: I’ve well and truly accepted my situation and hope for a better life for my family as I learn so much about our bodies and our lifestyles, and how to change the latter. Each day, of each week, of each month, I read, experiment and work towards our dream.

This wasn’t the end for my family or me. It was the beginning of a journey of discovery as we worked towards our dream.

Next Week: A closer look at how I mastered gluten-free living.

*According to Food Standards Australia: ‘It should be noted that in the Code, where a cereal or source of starch is wheat, rye, barley, oats or spelt then the specific name of the cereal must be declared (Standard 1.2.4)’, so if thickener 1422 is made from wheat, it should include the word ‘wheat’ after 1422.

If you’re happy to trust all food manufacturers to understand and obey the rules, then go ahead. Personally, I prefer to live by the rule, ‘If in doubt, leave it out’. Experience has taught me to not trust food labelling, even more so if it’s not made in Australia. (For those outside of Australia, please refer to your country’s food safety and labelling body.)

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