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Coping with Emotions When You're Newly Gluten-Free

Expect Happiness, Anger, Sadness and Frustration in Turn

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Updated February 02, 2012

Coping with Emotions When You're Newly Gluten-Free
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In the first weeks and months you spend on the gluten-free diet, you can experience a jumble of many different emotions.

You may feel relieved or even happy for your diagnosis of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, since it explains what may have been perplexing symptoms. You may feel angry if it took a long time for you finally to be diagnosed. And you may feel sad as the realities of day-to-day gluten-free living sink in, and you realize you no longer can eat the gluten versions of many of your favorite foods.

In fact, it's probably most common to feel sad and a bit angry as you learn how to eat gluten-free. I love this diet because it gave me and my daughter our health back, but there's no denying that it's inconvenient and frustrating at times.

Here are three situations that often trigger really negative emotions when you're newly gluten-free, and some strategies and tips to help you cope.

First Grocery Store Trip May Bring On Frustration, Sadness, Anger

For many people new to the gluten-free diet, that first trip to the grocery store is an exercise in misery, frustration and anger. It's pretty normal to spend several hours in the store, reading labels of foods, but still to walk out with far less than you intended to buy, simply because you couldn't figure out what's gluten-free and what's not.

I've known many people who burst into tears during that first trip because it's so overwhelming and frustrating.

Yes, following the gluten-free diet is getting easier than ever, but there's still a tremendous learning curve involved ... and so much of that learning seems to take place in the aisles of your local supermarket. To make those first few shopping trips easier, check out my extensive gluten-free food list. In it, I provide tips on what's always safe, what's never safe, and what you'll need to check on.

Here's some additional resources that can help as you wade into the gluten-free diet:

What Foods Contain Gluten
How To Identify Gluten on Food Labels
Do Food Labeling Laws Require Disclosure of Gluten Ingredients?
Nine Places Gluten Can Hide
What's Involved In Getting Foods Certified Gluten-Free?
Gluten-Free iPhone Apps To Help You Shop, Eat Out

Print out everything you think might help, study it and highlight it beforehand, and then take it with you — you'll still spend far more time than usual, but you'll be far less frustrated.

Foods You Can't Eat Anymore May Make You Sad

Once you've got your food sorted out and you've got enough gluten-free food to eat, you'll need to deal with your emotions surrounding the fact that you can't eat lots of foods you used to love.

This is another toughie: it's rough to watch your family and friends enjoying your old favorites, especially if you haven't yet found any new favorites to replace them. These feelings are most acute around the holidays and other special occasions, but can occur at any time of the year ... say, when your buddies decide on the spur of the moment to order pizza.

The only way to deal with this is to remove yourself immediately from situations that make you too sad (get out of the room when the pizza arrives), and then work as hard as possible to identify your new favorites.

For example, these days, plenty of restaurants serve gluten-free pizza (some even deliver), or you can enjoy a gluten-free frozen pizza. Independent gluten-free bakeries are springing up in larger towns and cities, too, so you can satisfy your sweet tooth with something really good.

You'll inevitably have some really sad patches (especially around the holidays), but if you focus on finding or creating truly excellent food that's better than the gluten-filled food being served, you can pull yourself out of the doldrums.

Here are some more resources you may find useful:

Should I eat gluten-free food prepared by a friend or a relative?
Gluten-Free Holiday Party Survival Guide
How To Cope with the Gluten-Free Diet Over the Holidays
Holidays Can Be Tough Emotionally on the Gluten-Free Diet

Safely Dining Out Gluten-Free Takes Practice

Many people — me included! — love to eat out. But once you're following the gluten-free diet, it can go from an enjoyable experience to (you guessed it) a frustrating, sad one. I've found myself in sudden, unexpected tears in a restaurant simply because they put a pinch of flour in the otherwise gluten-free crème brûlée, meaning I couldn't have it (or any of the other delicious-looking desserts on the menu, either).

When you're first starting out, I recommend strongly that you visit only restaurants with gluten-free menus. These restaurants are more likely to have trained their staff members on how to handle gluten-free meal requests, so you won't need to do so much explaining.

Once you feel more confident, you can venture outside of your comfort zone and try a new restaurant. However, you always should follow my rules for safely dining out gluten-free.

Here are some additional resources on eating out gluten-free:

Gluten-Free Restaurant Lists
Gluten-Free Ethnic Restaurants
Gluten-Free Fast Food

Yes, you should expect some emotional swings during your first few months on the diet (especially if you experience depression from gluten, as many of us do). But overall, your mood should be on an upward trajectory as your health improves and you learn how to follow the diet more easily.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity
  4. Coping with Celiac Disease
  5. Gluten-Free Emotions
  6. Coping Emotionally with the Gluten-Free Diet

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