Cheating on Your Gluten-Free Diet is Cheating on Your Health
Cheating on Your Gluten-Free Diet is Cheating on Your Health
Are you ever tempted to cheat?
Does walking past a bakery filled with gluten-full foods leave you feeling frustrated and deprived?
How about in restaurants or at parties… ever feel like you’re the only one unable to enjoy breads, cakes, and other gluten-filled dishes?
If you answered yes, to any or all of those questions, you are certainly not alone.
In fact, I’ve recently come across more than a handful of faithful members of the Gluten Free Gigi Family who have emailed or reached out on Facebook or Twitter to say they have cheated on their gluten-free diet. Uh oh.
My Reaction When I Hear that You Cheat
Oh, my gluten-free goodness, it pains me so to hear that happened. It doesn’t disappoint me, I do not judge you and I certainly do not suggest you lack willpower.
In fact, I tend to look within when I receive notes from you revealing that you slipped a bit… What could I do to help inspire you to stay the course? What words of motivation and inspiration can I share to prevent this from happening in the future? How can I help you overcome the feeling of needing to cheat?
No, I’m not a martyr, and I am not delusional, thinking I can save you from yourself. But I do care for each and every one of you. When I tell you it’s the Gluten Free Gigi family, I’m serious. Whether you want me as part of your extended family or not, I consider you part of mine.
Asking myself those questions about what more I can do to provide some encouragement and help to those of you who do struggle from time to time with gluten temptation (or really, any temptation) prompts me to share some tips and strategies with you.
3 Tactics for Dealing with Temptation to Cheat on Your Gluten-Free Diet
This photo is one I took on my recent foodie/fitness adventure where I did take time to relax.
I know, it sounds so simple, but there is more to it than “just chill out”. Let me share some provocative research on the topic of temptation.
According to research from the University of Illinois, individuals who are actively motivated to change undesirable habits (i. e., those who focus on not cheating on their gluten-free diet) may actually be sabotaging their own efforts.
It may sound counter-intuitive; however, in this study on self-control and pursuit of a goal, researchers found a relaxed state is best to squelch temptation.
Specifically, instead of trying to avoid temptation, which is shown to lead to impulsive decisions (like grabbing that gluten-filled cupcake), relax your thought stream and adjust your focus to a more positive aspect (perhaps on healthy living, clean eating, etc.).
Eliminate thoughts of overcoming gluten and controlling yourself and instead, increase thoughts of embracing your gluten-free lifestyle, exploring all the naturally gluten-free edibles out there and healing your body with foods that nourish you.
2. Choose your words wisely.
Before I became a neuroscience researcher specializing in chronic inflammatory pain, I conducted human research. Some of my work involved developing a novel approach to helping individuals exposed to domestic violence regain their confidence and self-esteem using language.
It turns out (evidenced by my research published in the journal, Family Therapy, and from that of a long line of much-better-known linguistics researchers before and since), the words we use to convey our intentions are powerful.
Words create a strong feedback loop in our brain and that influences our behavior.
For example, each time you tell yourself you “can’t” do something, the feedback loop created is one that implieslimitations. Applied to the idea of resisting the temptation to eat gluten-filled foods (and ultimately cheating on your gluten-free diet), this language of “can’t” sends a message of being forced to do something and having no choice in the matter – an unpleasant and negative thought indeed.
On the other hand, telling yourself (or others) you “don’t” do something (I don’t eat gluten-containing foods anymore) creates a feedback loop that reinforces your positive power over your own behavior. With the simple change in language – from “can’t” to “don’t” – you suddenly empower yourself to resist the temptation because you are telling yourself this is your choice.
Over time, these subtle, yet powerful messages we send ourselves play a vital role in helping us remain true to our plan for optimal health and avoid the pitfalls along the way.
3. Do the right thing for your health, even when no one is watching.
In a world where so many have an attitude of “I want it NOW”, it is no surprise that delay of gratification is one of the greatest challenges faced by those trying to avoiding temptation.
An indulgent, decadent gluten-filled cupcake piled high with frosting and sprinkles mocks you from the bakery window you pass by one day.
So what if you buy it and gobble it up in the privacy of your car before you get home? No one would know.
Believe it or not, I have spoken to many a reader with “silent Celiac” who convey to me this idea of “I’m not hurting anyone and no one knows, so why does it matter if I cheat?”
The fact is, those with “silent Celiac” – individuals with confirmed Celiac disease who show no outward symptoms at all – have the most difficult time avoiding the temptation of cheating on their gluten-free diet. It makes sense, too. After all, for those of us who become violently ill after consuming gluten have a little incentive to steer clear, but what if you were symptom-free?
Back to that gluten-filled cupcake in the bakery window…
If you suffer no detectable symptoms of CD, you could discretely purchase one (or two), devour it in the privacy of your car on your way home, wipe the corners of your mouth and make sure no sprinkles toppled onto your shirt while you indulged.
To dispose of any remaining “evidence”, you could pull into a fast food joint and toss the cute cupcake container with bakery logo and all those napkins you used to tidy up. Secret’s safe.
That’d be the perfect plan. Except. Someone. Would. Know. You would.
And chances are, you would feel guilty as heck later. Then, you would have to carry that guilt around with you all the time. Until next time temptation called and you answered. Then, there would be more guilt to heap on top of what was already there. Eventually you’d be carrying around this mountain of guilt about… food.
That is a recipe for disaster when it comes to achieving your wellness goals. Eating is a necessity. That means a healthy relationship with food is, too.
By the way, even for those with “silent Celiac”, someone (well, something, really) else would know… the small intestine.
That’s right. Even if you are completely free from those nasty overt symptoms of CD, you still suffer small intestine damage when you consume gluten.
That means, even if you can’t detect it, your body is launching an auto-immune response, your nutrients are not being properly absorbed and you’re left more susceptible to diseases like certain types of cancer. You are, in effect, shortening your life.
With so many uncontrollable factors that challenge our health (i.e., environmental toxins), it makes sense to maximize the benefit of what we can control… and that means the foods we put in our bodies. Say no to temptation by choosing health. You will thank yourself later, I assure you.
For simple, affordable and nutritious gluten-free recipes (OK, and for a few indulgent ones, too!), be sure to visit theRecipe Index and have a look around. And for tips, strategies and advice on how to achieve optimal health painlessly on your gluten-free (or other free) diet, don’t miss all the articles I share in the Knowledge section on the site.
Stay the course, and be well…
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