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

Monday, December 10, 2012

The First Steps To Changing Your Lifestyle

Changing Your Lifestyle is NOT the Same as Dieting

My lifestyle change related to food because of my food intolerances, but whether your lifestyle change is a choice or a necessity, it has the potential to be one of the greatest challenges you ever face. The most important lesson I learned when I had to remove gluten and wheat from my diet was that I was guaranteed to fail if I didn’t do it one step at a time.

I am sure there are many people reading this, who have, at some point in their life, gone on a diet. You go from eating what you want, when you want to bang, having to make new recipes that the diet book swears are nutritious and tasty and only eating when the book tells you to. You’re consumed by your diet, because it’s so intense.

Whether you succeed at torturing yourself for three, five or 14 days, no matter how much weight you’ve lost, you put it back on as soon as you stop dieting and start to slip back into your old eating pattern. And to make matters worse, you add a couple of extra kilos/pounds that you didn’t have to begin with.

The difference between dieting and changing one’s lifestyle:


Lifestyle Change
  • Only lasts two weeks

  • Lasts forever

  • Lose a heap of weight fast

  • Takes a lot longer to lose weight but it stays off

  • Can be tedious and taste awful

  • Interesting and you choose the food

  • Put the weight back on when you stop

  • Keep the weight off. You never stop because it’s your new life

  • Two weeks of torture for what?

  • A new lifestyle often opens avenues for new interests

  • Immediate hard work consumes you

  • Gradually changing your lifestyle ensures you still have time for the rest of your life

  • Stressful

  • Relax and enjoy the changes one step at a time

Wouldn’t you rather change your daily diet gradually, so that it tastes good, is prepared to suit your busy schedule, is not stressful, and your weight loss is permanent, because your new healthier eating has become a lifestyle that you enjoy? I would!

If you’re changing your lifestyle due to health issues, you may have already experienced a certain amount of depression, anger, fear, and sadness after being diagnosed with a food allergy/intolerance. Now you have the added pressure of turning your lifestyle upside down. And it’s often after suffering several months/years of constant illness and riding an emotional roller coaster.

This is why I believe it should be done at one’s own pace, if health issues don’t require immediate changes. (Unfortunately, for some people, severe health issues may require they expedite their lifestyle change, and if this is your situation, I strongly suggest that you follow your doctor’s recommendations.)

If you don’t have the added pressure of needing to change your lifestyle urgently, it’s important to be comfortable and happy with each step before moving onto the next one. The more confident and happier you are after each successful step forward, the more likely you will successfully change your lifestyle.

But, and, as we know, ‘but’ means that the statement following it contradicts the statement preceding it, you will still need to put a certain amount of pressure on yourself, so you don’t become too complacent. To do this, you need to know who you are.

Identify and Use Your Flaws to Your Advantage

How you pressure yourself to succeed will depend on your personality. Some people will desire the changes so much that their desire is enough to keep driving them. For those that have no choice in their lifestyle change, think about what has driven you to success in the past. Especially think about when you’ve been indecisive and ended up arguing with yourself.

Are you competitive? If so use that competitive streak to beat your last success. Compete with yourself and each time you win punch the air and say ‘In your face’ to the other you. Think of your new self winning against your old self.

Do you often seek other’s approval?  Then start seeking your own approval. Nod your head with approval each time you succeed and then start looking for your own approval again in the next step.

Do you feel guilty if you let others down? Does that guilt then drive you to do all you can to rectify the situation? Remind yourself of why you’re doing the changes.  Use that guilt to drive you to stay on track.

Are you just plain stubborn? Do you often cut your nose off to spite your face? Well it’s time to spite yourself. Each time you start to feel momentum slowing in your progress, say to yourself, ‘I told you that you couldn’t do it’. Then let the spiteful side of you kick in. ‘Like hell, I can’t. I’ll do it and there’s nothing you can do about it!’

I know this all sounds a little weird and even creepy, but it works. Each time I tried to quit smoking and failed, I got really angry with myself. I couldn’t rely on others to push me. They didn’t know what buttons to push to get results; they didn’t know me like I did, so I pushed myself. Each time I told myself I was useless and couldn’t do it, my stubborn streak would kick in and I’d be determined to prove myself wrong.

The Preparation

Plan Your Steps
Firstly, think about what order you’re going to change things. For me, it was like this:
 1. Breakfast – it contains the highest level of gluten and wheat in it, so this was the priority meal to get sorted. I figured the others would be much easier after getting over this hurdle.

2. Lunch – I often cooked a little extra dinner each night and ate a reheated dinner for lunch, but when I didn't do this, lunch usually had bread in it, so it was the next difficult meal I wanted to sort out.

3. Snacks – No more reaching for the cookie jar when I wanted a quick snack on the run! I needed something for when I was in a hurry or out and about without a gluten-free option available.
4. Takeaway food – Before I was diagnosed, I was often too fatigued to cook dinner, so we ate a lot more takeaway than usual. Unfortunately, most takeaway foods are loaded with gluten and wheat, not to mention fat. I needed a takeaway option for any nights when I was too tired/unwell to cook.
5. Dinner – We’ve always been eaters of fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, so this wasn’t too much of a challenge. I just had to readjust my cooking to cut out pre-packaged products (e.g. wheat-based pasta, frozen lasagne) and recipe mixes (e.g. lamb ragout packet mix that you just add a tin of peeled tomatoes and ½ cup of water to, to create a sauce to cook lamb chops in or gravy mix.)

6. Restaurant meals – The first time we went to a restaurant after my diagnosis, I found myself eating the only meal on the menu that didn’t contain gluten. Not that it tasted bad, I just really wanted to be able to ‘choose’ a meal rather than be ‘stuck’ with a meal.

7. Eating at friends’ homes – This is near the end of my list because I hate telling people what they can and can’t cook in their own homes, just because I’m coming to visit. It’s not easy to get used to, but is a necessity.

8. Birthdays – This is last because I really didn’t think about it until I had to make a cake for one of the kids’ birthdays. Not that they couldn’t eat gluten, but I would like to join in the festivities too! It’s also handy when throwing a birthday party and some of the guests can’t consume gluten. It feels good to be able to include everyone.

If you’re trying to give up a bad habit, for example smoking, you may find it easier to get rid of one of the cigarettes that make up a group and less likely to be missed. For example, you smoke three cigarettes in the car on the way to work. Try cutting out the second cigarette on the way to work. If you’re like me and want to get the hardest hurdle out of the way first, try giving up your favourite cigarette first. (FYI, when I quit smoking many years ago, I gave up my favourite cigarette last!)

Gather Alternatives

Alternative Situations
It’s helpful if you can avoid the worst situations in the early days, at least until you’ve built your confidence up so you’re better equipped to handle them. For example, I avoided eating at friends’ homes for a while. I had enough trouble getting my head around what I could and couldn’t eat and wasn’t comfortable telling them what they could and couldn’t cook for me, especially when it involved reading the ingredients of every item they used. I felt like a food Nazi!

If you’re trying to quit smoking, avoid social gatherings that involve alcohol. I think all smokers will know exactly what I mean, so after Christmas is a much better time to quite smoking. That doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with cutting back on cigarettes or testing out nicotine gum and patches in preparation for your first step.

Alternative foods/tools/methods
If you’re replacing a food item, have a couple of alternatives in place, just in case one tastes like crap. The taste of gluten-free food has improved greatly over the last ten years, but tastebuds that have spent the last 20–30 years eating gluten and wheat might not agree. It’s not just your lifestyle you’re changing, you’re also retraining your tastebuds and they get pretty disgusted when you change the flavour of their favourite food.

The same principle applies if you’re quitting a bad habit. Have a healthy alternative in place in case you’re tempted to reach for that bad habit. Munch an apple, drink water or chew gum. I knew someone who quit smoking by chewing/sucking on the end of straws. Drinking a glass of water each time will also help flush the addictive toxins from your body.

If you’re starting a new exercise routine, consider incorporating it in your everyday life instead of setting the alarm to get up an hour earlier and punish yourself. Get off the bus at an earlier stop and walk the extra distance to work. Not only are you already up and about, you can escape all of those hot, stinky bodies that you’re crammed against during peak hour.

Many baby steps help to introduce new habits gradually, so that they stay with you. Always remember that this is a long-term goal – something that you want to do for the rest of your life – so it’s okay to take longer to implement the changes. I’d rather take a year to change my lifestyle and keep the new lifestyle forever rather than change it all in a month and find that I’d slipped back into old habits a year later.

Dealing with Adversaries

Negative People
Despite the fact you’re making positive steps towards a better life for yourself, which is usually a positive step for those closest to you as well, you will find some people who try to sabotage your progress. The majority of them don’t even realise they’re doing it.

They will say things that they think are supportive, but they’re really quite negative. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight and keep it off, someone who has tried crash diets and/or lifestyle changes and failed might say, “Oh, I tried that, but it doesn’t work. I’m sure you’ll do it, though.”

They’ll then go on to tell you how hard it is and all the ‘bad’ things that ruined it for them. They believe that they’re warning you of the things that can go wrong, but what they’re really doing is chipping away at your self-confidence and your belief that you can and will improve your life. Get up and run as fast and as far away as you can from them and their negative thoughts.

For those who don’t want to look weird running away, politely interrupt the diatribe of their experiential woes and ask them about the positive side of their experience. Did they find any interesting foods that were healthy and tasted good? What was their favourite exercise? If they can’t give you any positive answers, then find someone who can.

I have a friend that always says positive things about my dreams. She’s even more positive about them than I am! When I spoke about our dream to one day live in a rural area and be as self-sufficient as possible I’d always say, ‘If we did it’, but she corrected me. She said, ‘Not “if”, it’s “when” you do it.’

If you ever feel that it’s all too hard, call that positive friend and chat about it, they’ll soon remind you that you’re special and that your goals will happen. It’s not a matter of if you can do it, but when it happens. For some, it takes a little longer, but you will do it. And if you don’t have a positive friend, leave a comment on here and I’ll remind you of how wonderful your progress is.

No one sabotages your progress as much as yourself. You tell yourself that one little lolly that has traces of gluten won’t hurt or that you can refrain from smoking when out drinking with your mates when you know you’re not ready for that big a challenge yet.

This is when you need to identify and use your flaws. Use them to get you past that weak moment.

Enjoy the Changes

People think that being healthy always means doing/eating things they won’t enjoy. If you plan to exercise more, don’t join a boot camp if you’re not comfortable with someone yelling at you. (Not that I know what goes on at boot camp, but the words ‘boot camp’ always create images of some ex-army guy that was never promoted, for obvious reasons, screaming at a bunch of poor overweight people that really don’t need some egotistical tosser telling them they’re fat and need him to improve their life.) Try swimming if you enjoy it, going to the gym or walking with a group of like-minded people in the park. The more you enjoy your changes, the more you’ll keep doing them.

If you want to consume more antioxidants, don’t sprinkle dried Acai berries all over your breakfast and then gag every time you try to swallow a mouthful. (One of my less successful dietary changes!) Instead, incorporate more tasty foods that are high in antioxidants into your diet.


So to summarise your preparation for changing your lifestyle:

 1. Identify your flaws and how you can use them to help you.

2. Plan the steps you’re going to take.

3. Have alternative foods/tools/methods on hand.

4. Don’t add the pressure of time to your plan unless health requirements make it necessary. 

5. Ensure the changes are enjoyable so you want to keep doing them.

Please remember that I am not a doctor or a psychologist. These are simply the methods that I found useful when I was forced to change my lifestyle for health reasons.

There will be further posts to follow that contain more details about my successes and failures in each step, and the new ideas, interests and discoveries that my lifestyle change brought me.

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