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“I’m Not Going to Cheat on My Gluten-Free Diet!”

New Year's Resolutions for People with Celiac Disease


Updated December 30, 2009

“I’m Not Going to Cheat on My Gluten-Free Diet!”
Photo: Tom Grill / Getty Images
It’s easy to find lists of “New Year’s Resolutions” for dieters, but most of them don’t apply to people with celiac disease who are trying to stick to a gluten-free diet. Most “stick-to-your-diet” advice columns tell you it’s OK to cheat once in a while, or even that you should reward yourself every now and then with an off-limits food. Unfortunately, we celiacs can’t afford the luxury of cheating on our diet. Below is a list of New Year’s Resolutions for people with celiac disease. Perhaps one or more will work for you... and if you have any to add, please scroll down and follow the link to "What Resolutions Help YOU Stay Gluten-Free?"

“I’m not going to lie to myself.”

If you tell yourself it’s OK to have a little gluten once in a while, you’re lying to yourself, and you’re setting yourself up for failure by telling yourself that cheating is OK. Even if you don’t have obvious symptoms from eating gluten, every time you eat even a tiny amount, you trigger the cascade of inflammatory activity in your body that damages your intestines and leads to the side effects and complications of celiac disease.

“I’m going to think positively.”

The way you think about your situation has an impact on whether you’ll have trouble sticking to your diet. Which sounds more helpful?
  • "Why did this happen to me? How am I going to survive without beer and pizza and donuts? Who’ll ever date me?"
  • "I don’t need surgery or toxic medications. I can have lots of delicious foods. I’m going to learn where to find gluten-free foods that I like, and I’m going to ask my friends to keep their eyes out for safe foods I might like, too."
The way you think and talk about the gluten-free diet can have an effect on your morale and on your determination to stick to it.

“I’m going to keep reminders handy.”

Carry with you something to look at when you need a reminder of why you’re trying to stay gluten free. For example, this could be a list of diseases that develop when celiac disease is not treated, or an inspiring quote or a characteristic you’d like to exemplify, or photos of people you love and want to be healthy for.

“I’m going to make sure I always have gluten-free comfort foods on hand.”

Don’t wait until you’re feeling sick or sad to starting rummaging around for something to replace your old favorite comfort foods. Plan ahead. Find some new comfort foods, and keep them around for when the need arises. About.com's Guide to Depression, adds that it's a good idea to become aware of your emotional triggers for eating. The Guide suggests, "The next time you pick up a 'comfort food' ask yourself why you are eating it. Bored? Do something you enjoy other than eating. Feeling neglected? Pamper yourself with a bubble bath or a good book."

“I’m going to cut back on sweets and starches.”

The American Heart Association points out: "...eating carbohydrates raises insulin, which then lowers blood sugar. This causes a desire (or craving) for more food..." In other words, high-sugar foods and starchy foods (such as pasta, bread, rice) trigger the release of hormones that make you hungry and lead to food cravings. The hungrier you are, the more tempted you’ll be to cheat, so try to avoid foods that are high in starch or sugar.

“I’m going to get more exercise.”

In addition to benefits for your weight, muscles, and heart, exercise also boosts your mood and curbs your appetite. The better your mood and the less hungry you are, the less you’ll be tempted to cheat. About.com's Guide to Exercise will be happy to help you get started with exercising.

“I’m going to keep gluten-free snacks handy.”

If you’re hungry, you’re more vulnerable to the urge to cheat. Keep gluten-free snacks in your briefcase, car, desk or locker –- anyplace you can get them when you need them.

“I’m not going to do this alone.”

One reason why some celiac patients can't stay gluten-free is that they don't have a support group to help them. Whether you're new to the diet and struggling, or you're a veteran with tips to share, a good support group has emotional and practical benefits. (Kids who are reluctant to attend support groups can find celiac groups on social networking sites.) Also, try to find a buddy to compare diet notes with. If you’re not close with someone who’s gluten-free, sometimes a spouse, co-worker or friend can be a good person for moral support and venting. A friend who likes to cook might become your gluten-free cooking buddy, helping you find new recipes and menu ideas.

“I’m going to see a registered dietitian.”

If you’re having trouble staying gluten-free, stop trying to struggle by yourself. Learn why it's a good idea for people with celiac disease to get professional help from a registered dietitian. To find one, check with one of the celiac disease centers in the U.S. or with the American Dietetic Association.

“I’m going to figure out how to use technology to make it fun!”

In a study of children who needed to keep records of what they were eating while dieting, the kids who were allowed to record what they ate by text messaging instead of in an old-fashioned diary were more likely to lose weight and keep it off. If you’re having trouble (or if your kids are having trouble) staying gluten-free, maybe there are ways for technology to make dieting more fun. Use text messages to communicate with buddies. Download software designed for gluten-free dieters (e.g., from Clan Thompson or the applications available for iPhones and iPods). Join forum discussions or support groups on social networking sites, such as Facebook or here on About.com.

“I’m going to set a good example.”

Research has shown that having a positive parental role model may be a better method for improving a child's diet than attempts at dietary control. In other words, the way you act about food has a huge impact on your child’s ability to follow a healthy diet, now or later in his or her life. Even if you’re not a parent, try to remind yourself that by following the gluten-free diet, even though it’s difficult, you’re setting a good example for others in your life. You might not always realize when someone else -– young or old -- is quietly observing you and modeling his or her own philosophies and behavior on yours.
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