I’ve been eating gluten free for eight years. It’s been so long that I can hardly remember what life was like before celiac disease.
While eating gluten free has become easier for me, it’s still never easy. My struggles, and your struggles, are real.
When you eat gluten free – and when you’re serious about eating gluten free – you need to avoid any and all gluten. You cannot follow a low-gluten diet, nor cheat on your gluten-free diet here and there.
Even just a crumb of gluten can set off an autoimmune attack in people with celiac disease, and can create chronic inflammation in those with gluten sensitivity. It’s no secret that chronic inflammation leads to disease.
There is an emotional burden to the gluten-free diet that people who do not have to eat this way don’t understand. You feel isolated, sad, anxious, and left out of the fun.
This article takes a lighter approach to the plight of the gluten-free eater.
Most of us have to continue justify the way we eat, yet we continued to be dismissed or made fun of as we live in a world void of sympathy for the plight of the gluten-free eater.
Today I’d like to share with you 21 struggles only gluten-free people (you and me!) will truly understand.
(1) Paying More for Less Food
Have you ever noticed that pizza joints offer gluten-free pizza, but they give you a smaller pizza pie and charge you $2+ extra just because it’s gluten-free? “I like paying more for less food,” said no gluten-free person EVER!
(2) I’m Not Trying to be Difficult, But…
If a salad comes with croutons mistakenly placed on it, I have to send it back. Not even a crumb of gluten can touch the plate and, no, I can’t just pick off the croutons.
The same goes for burgers – I cannot remove the bun and eat it because even a tiny bit of gluten causes an autoimmune reaction in my body. No thanks!
I’m not trying to be difficult when I send my food back and request one made sans croutons or bun, but I sure do sound like a diva!
I’m also not trying to be difficult when I order a gluten-free meal and ask a million questions. I’m only trying to eat in a way that is good for me. A little understanding and accommodation goes a long way in helping me do that (and feel normal in the process).
(3) Um, Rice is Actually Gluten Free
Eating out when you’re gluten free is full of fraught and frustration. Many servers have told me I can’t eat something because it has rice in it, however, they don’t know that rice is gluten free.
Few people truly understand what is and isn’t gluten free. Everytime we eat out, we have to take precious time explaining and educating the staff on what we can and can’t eat. It’s exhausting.
(4) I Have a Dozen Different Flours in My Pantry
Baking used to be so easy. I used to have just one flour (all-purpose wheat flour) in my pantry… but now, as someone who bakes exclusively gluten free, I need and use a lot of different flours just to create the same cookies and breads as I used to do so easily before celiac.
I even have a container of xanthan gum in my freezer too – lol!
Only gluten-free people understand the need to have a variety of different flours, starches and gums, all which are needed to get a recipe to taste just right and mimic the taste and texture of baked goods made with wheat flour.
(5) Wait, There’s No Food For Me?
All gluten-free folk have been in this exact situation. We’re at a wedding, special event, work conference, etc., and yep, there’s plenty of food for everyone else, but no gluten-free food for us (even if we requested it ahead of time). Ug!
This is a total bummer and an all-around uncomfortable situation for everyone.
Not only did the host not consider me, but now the people at my table feel uncomfortable eating in front of me. Plus, I’m stuck eating that emergency granola bar I keep in my purse for times like this instead of eating a beautiful, warm meal – ho hum.
When I traveled to Israel, I thought I had done everything right to ensure my tour operator would provide gluten-free meals for me. I contacted them ahead of time and spoke with several people to ensure I would be able to eat during my 10-day all-inclusive trip where I knew I’d be at the whim of a tour operator.
What I found when I got to my destination was a whole other story. No food for me. I was hungry, frustrated and emotional as a result.
Gluten eaters just don’t understand the emotional toll the gluten-free diet takes on us, especially in high-stress, out-of-the-normal type situations. These are times when I can’t eat at home nor can I survive on granola bars. The struggle is real.
(6) It’s Good Even Though It’s Gluten-Free
My cooking and baking gets judged by gluten onlookers often. “It’s not that bad,” I’ll hear, or “I could eat this if I had to.” Geez, thanks for your (gulp!) compliment.
(7) Where’s the Bread?
If you find a decent gluten-free bread, I’d really like to know about it, please.
Update: I do enjoy a few brands of gluten-free bread – like Canyon Bakehouse and Outside the Breadbox (Colorado only), but bread is not the same as it once was. I find toasting gluten-free bread makes a world of difference in taste. Cold bread, forget it. It’s not worth the calories.
(8) Eating at a Friend’s House
While it’s nice to get invited to someone’s house for dinner, for those of us on a gluten-free diet, eating at someone’s house is a big source of anxiety and a lot of work.
There’s a lot of explaining and planning that goes into these rare occasions. Plus, I often find myself spending the day cooking in order to bring a few safe dishes to my friend’s house. I rarely get to sit back and simply be hosted.