Joy Duginske, MA, Certified Health Coach, is the owner of Joy to Wellness Health Coaching in Chicago, IL. Once an unhealthy vegetarian, she transformed her own health by changing her diet, which included eliminating gluten. Joy specializes in helping women establish and maintain healthy lifestyles, and believes achieving wellness is about personal empowerment. She created her Gluten-Free Coaching Program to help others make the transition to a gluten-free diet easier and more enjoyable. For gluten-free lifestyle tips, check out her Joy to Gluten-Free Blog.
As a health coach, I help clients get rid of gluten. But we never talk about it as a “sacrifice” or “giving something up.” So please repeat after me:
I know…sounds cheesy, right? But go ahead, say it out loud (you know you want to!). Then check out this list of naturally gluten-free foods on my blog, which proves that your options on a gluten-free diet really are endless. (And note that my list doesn’t even begin to cover all the foods in the world that are naturally gluten-free!)
If you’re reading this, you or a family member probably is gluten-free or at least considering it. And if you’re like most GF people, it’s because you’re looking to improve your health.
You’re not alone! The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness says 21 million Americans have gluten-related disorders. Or, if you’re one of the lucky ones, you don’t have a medical condition, but still find the diet appealing because you’ve gotten wind of how great it’s made others feel. Just recently, the New York Times published the article “Gluten-Free Eating Appears to Be Here to Stay” which features a top New York chef who has even embraced it in his Italian restaurant.
But back to “sacrifice.” You know from your own experience that going gluten-free sounds like giving up something you really, really love to eat. That’s how it made me feel in the beginning. And it’s true, at first, a life without gluten seems like a tremendous loss. For starters, who doesn’t love baguettes and homemade pasta?!
But who enjoys feeling sick?! If, like me, you’ve struggled with issues like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or eczema, or even received a definitive diagnosis of Celiac Disease, you’re the first to trade those awful symptoms for your beloved bread or beer.
I remember the day I was talking with my healthcare practitioner, glumly listing all the stuff I couldn’t eat, and he said to me, “Why not look at it from a different point of view? Focus on what you can eat.” From that day on, I did exactly as he advised, and my relationship with food changed forever.
Before, I was an unhealthy vegetarian eating a diet full of processed foods, fake meats, and gluten-containing grains. On that great day I began to open myself up to a world of variety and flavor! Today I’m a fearless eater and I’m more open to trying new foods than I ever imagined I could be. My food life is simply grand, and it all started when I committed to a gluten-free diet and adopted my personal mantra, “It’s about what I can eat!”
What made adopting this mantra possible? A commitment to what really matters – my health. Not only did I have to reprogram my attitude toward food, but also ask myself the question “Why does my health matter?” and now I want you to do the same.
Your answer to this question will be a personal one, and undoubtedly linked to what matters to you in your own life. This could be your children, your spouse, your pet, your work…again, it’s personal. And when you have figured it out, you’ll find it much easier to prioritize your health, which includes a gluten-free diet.
Having trouble making the connection? Think about your life with gluten and without gluten. The former works against your health, while the latter works in favor. And when you don’t have your health, you can’t live your life to the fullest.
For example – going gluten-free helped me regain energy and healthy digestion, and diminished my joint pain. But for me personally, these health benefits meant so much more – I literally gained my life back. I could go to work without the fear of falling asleep at my desk or in a meeting (gluten made me extremely tired). I could enjoy dinner with friends and family and not worry that my stomach would become upset (I suffered from severe IBS for nearly 15 years).
Best of all, my husband and I began enjoying the outdoors with vacations out west. Before going gluten-free, I had agonizing knee pain and a lack of energy, which limited my interest in an active lifestyle. Today, outdoor activities like biking, hiking (and even surfing!) are mainstays in all of our travels. Last year alone we traveled to Hawaii, Nevada and Arizona.
My clients have also experienced positive life changes after adopting their new mantras. Take my client Kate, for instance. Going gluten-free meant relief from excruciating eczema that she’d been suffering from for years. Once off the gluten, not only did her skin begin to improve, but she also started down a path of paying attention to the foods she put into her body with the goal of eating for her health. Today she is at her ideal weight, frequently working out and a member of a soccer league. To her, a Celiac diagnosis and a gluten-free diet helped her create the active and healthy lifestyle she’d always dreamed about.
What I’m getting at here is that going gluten-free can literally give someone his or her life back. It did for me and it has done the same for many of my clients. And for someone with Celiac Disease or a non-Celiac gluten-sensitivity, there is so much to gain with a gluten-free lifestyle.
So, if you’ve convinced yourself that a gluten-free lifestyle is too hard, or not worth the pain, or something to feel bad about, think again. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Why does my health matter?” This will lead you down a more positive path, and empower you to embrace a gluten-free lifestyle. What’s more, you’ll be taking control of your health and in turn, your life.
You can read more about why your health matters on my blog.
And…enjoy your gluten-free life – it’s going to be AMAZING!
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