Being Gluten Free Sucks! And How To Make It Suck Less


It’s so hard to eat gluten free, let alone living gluten free for years. It isn’t a temporary situation – it’s lifelong. And let’s get this out of the way. It sucks!

Gluten free is a difficult diet to maintain for years as the diagnosis of Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity requires. It creates social isolation and can lead to depression, anxiety, other mental health conditions. To make it easier, find other people, get informed, and find gluten free options you enjoy.

As someone who has been gluten free for years, it does get easier. But it still sucks. There are many reasons it sucks, and to avoid being too negative, let’s talk about some ways to make it suck a little bit less.

Why It Sucks To Be Gluten Free And What To Do About It

Gluten Free Sucks! Ok, that’s probably clear by now. But really, it is so challenging to live this way. And one of the worst things is no one else seems to get it.

I had a gluten free food cart for a few years and dealt with plenty of people who thought they were funny. “I’ll take mine with extra gluten!” was a common one. But they don’t even know what gluten is.

Being the designated gluten free friend, I get asked questions all the time about it. And I’m happy to answer them. But one thing I won’t tell anyone to do is try a gluten free diet. While it may work for them, I don’t want to be the one who is the source of such a life-changing decision.

Food costs so much more, especially when you go out to eat. Sure, you can stick to fresh vegetables, rice, and dried beans to keep things cheap. But to have a diet that resembles a typical American diet costs more money. Plus, the options aren’t available!

And when you cook at home or try gluten free packaged foods, they are just never quite the same. Gluten free foods are usually pretty good when warm, but the problem is untoasted bread, cold pasta salad, and anything else. And some gluten free food sold in-store is plain gross.

So instead of paying more for food and still getting sick from cross-contamination, you end up staying home. And since most social opportunities happen around food, you lose friends and find yourself isolated. All because of this one type of grain you can’t eat.

Going out instead of staying home will inevitably tell people to eat gluten free because we focus on food for any social events in our culture.

And when they learn you are gluten free, you get their opinion on the matter. And it’s not usually a pleasant one to hear when you don’t have a choice if you eat gluten free or not.

Unfortunately, these are primarily out of your control. You can make going out around food better, and you get used to the comments. You can find recipes that you like and accept how your life is now.

I Love You, Gluten – And Why That Isn’t Helpful

I’ll take extra gluten on mine! I don’t think I can stop the eye roll when I hear this phrase.

Typically, it is said by those that have no idea what gluten is, where it is, or why you might need to remove it from your diet. It’s the most ignorant of statements. And there are plenty out there.

Once, someone told me that they could never give up gluten; they love it too much. As this person sat enjoying the (gluten free) food in front of them.

I didn’t tend to let people know my food cart was gluten free with big neon signs. I was extremely strict on protocols on the food cart and even purchased all new equipment and even had the cart built to avoid potential cross-contamination. But I put up signs that said “Celiac Safe” so people who needed it would know.

Since it was not obviously a gluten free business, there were plenty of snarky comments whenever customers brought up gluten free.

By people who didn’t realize they were eating gluten free and enjoying themselves.

The one exception I will make to people telling me they love gluten is bakers. They know what gluten is, where it comes from, and what it does. They know the science behind it and have based their career around what gluten does. They would also have no idea where to start when it comes to making gluten free products.

But for the most part, people say they love gluten, believing that “gluten free food is cardboard” or some such thing they heard someone else say.

I Won’t Tell Anyone To Try A Gluten Free Diet – Because It Sucks!

So my gluten free story goes further back than my son.

When I was growing up, my stepmom was gluten free and vegan. I don’t remember what my stepmom ate, but it wasn’t much. Corn tortillas and grilled tofu mostly, I think. So that was my first experience with it. My sister made her senior year project about creating gluten free bread.

So I’ve experienced gluten free since the 90s in some form or other. And with all the changes and progress since that time, it still sucks!

I’ve seen how much it sucks for over 20 years.

And this means that people come to ask me about starting a gluten free diet. They ask if they will lose weight to make them feel better from this symptom or that. And my answer is always the same: gluten free sucks.

You won’t find advice on this site about if you should start a gluten free diet because I know so many people that regret ever trying it. And so many more that regret jumping into it before getting tested.

So that is always my advice. Will it help? Maybe it will. Perhaps it is the answer to all your problems, who knows? But talk to your doctor first, run the tests, and if you don’t have to eat gluten free for medical reasons, it’s probably better not to. Sometimes these are the people that find organic wheat or Spelt to help them feel better.

So if you are here to find out if you should start a gluten free diet, you won’t find information on that here. It sucks, it’s hard, but some of us have no choice. As soon as you figure out that this is what you need to do, I’ve got a wealth of information to help you out.

Paying More For Food Sucks

Gluten free food always costs more whether you go out to eat at restaurants or buy food to eat at home. And it is nearly always smaller portions.

You go out to get pizza if you can find someplace with a separate space to prepare and cook it, only to pay extra and get a pizza half the size of the regular. Gluten free flour causes more, plain and simple. It costs the restaurants more to buy the food, prepare it in a separate space, and cook it in a dedicated area.

I don’t fault the restaurant for charging more, but it still sucks that this is our gluten free reality.

Here is a tiny sliver of the bright side. I did some research for an article I wrote and was able to get over 100 families to respond. It turns out that people who don’t eat gluten free tend to go out more and spend less on groceries. When you average it out and add on the cost of eating out, gluten free families spent less per person on food.

At least it’s something. I’d still rather have the option to grab Chinese food on my way home.

Gluten Free Food Sucks

So the cost is one thing, and even if we aren’t spending more overall than those who eat gluten, the food choices themselves kind of suck.

For companies to make money selling gluten free food, they like to market it to more than one group of people with special diets. Whether it is keto, paleo, or vegan, there is usually some other special diet noted on the box.

The confusion is so common that people are even confused if keto is the same as gluten free and veganism is the same as gluten free. Hint: they’re not.

Some keto products have wheat gluten on the ingredients list; they put so much of it in there! And vegan is the polar opposite of gluten free. But if gluten free bread doesn’t contain honey, milk, eggs, etc., they can put that label on there too!

These diets have a higher chance of containing gluten than a typical diet. Keto bread uses extra gluten to make up for the lack of starch and carbs. And vegans use gluten as a protein and call it Seitan.

If you go to look up food to make at home, there are many recipes out there! Who are you supposed to trust? They are all so different, and with the cost of gluten free flour and specialty ingredients, who wants to risk it?

I can recognize that at least now we have some options in the stores. We can buy bread that is gluten free; I can even get bagels and English muffins usually. And some aren’t all bad either, and there are even some loaves with normal-sized bread!

But none of that makes it easy or fun. And disappointment is ordinary and reasonable with the choices available; without being told, you just haven’t tried the right one yet (even if that is the case). Sometimes, eating gluten free sucks.

Gluten Free Isolation Sucks

Isolation. Anxiety. Depression.

The three friends you are given after going gluten free that you never wanted or expected. But everyone who makes this transition goes through this to some extent or other.

Even if you haven’t gone gluten free but need to support a child or family member who needs to be, you may have this lovely gift as well. And really, there isn’t a whole lot to be done about it.

In our society, food plays an integral role in just about every social gathering. Birthday parties have food and cake. Are you going out with friends you haven’t seen? Grab a bite to eat at a restaurant. Even holiday parties for your job will involve food in some sense.

Avoiding these situations is so tricky and leads to isolation. But engaging in them means you give in to the temptation to fit in and eat with everyone else or make gluten free a central talking point everywhere you go.

People tend to either isolate themselves or continue to eat gluten, knowing the health risks it poses.

Even if isolation isn’t the strategy, it happens because people stop inviting the challenging person to feed. The more complicated things are outside of the social interaction, the more likely they will become excluded.

People also tend to avoid these situations when they are gluten free because it is so hard to keep fighting and making the right decisions when temptation is right in front of you. If you need some strategies for going out, check this out and know that it is not rude to bring your food.

Opinions About Gluten Free Suck

One thing that doesn’t help the isolation from food sensitivities, allergies, and needs is other people’s opinions. People inconvenienced by your diet think you should have just a tiny bite this one time.

People have extreme opinions about gluten free, stronger views than tend to go with any other food sensitivity. I’ve often thought about it and wondered why.

There are some strong opinions about not allowing nuts or peanuts in school, but not about whether the diagnosed people need to avoid them.

On the other hand, everyone has an opinion about gluten free. These people may know what a peanut is, where it comes from, and mostly how to avoid it. But they have no idea about gluten. The problem is that gluten is in three grains. It would be so much easier to say wheat-free and have people understand.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. The exact issue is the gluten inside the grain. The outside of the grain is gluten free as can be seen in gluten free wheat starch. See the link for an article on all forms of wheat and if they are gluten free. It also contains substitution suggestions.

People that are gluten free follow this diet due to medical needs. They have actual physical symptoms and things that happen when they eat gluten. Some get long-term effects, such as cancer. But it is still associated with optional diets like keto and vegan.

I find that it is associated with an entirely different diet. Vegans eat a certain way because of their ideologies, although some do report some well-being effects. But this is not a typical diet that a doctor is prescribing. It also uses wheat gluten as a protein where they cook, sift, and concentrate it and then use it in place of meat.

I won’t keep going on about veganism; if you want to know a little more about all their differences, check out the article I wrote on it. I don’t have anything against vegans; I only wish people wouldn’t push them together as much.

There are YouTube videos that go viral every so often, making fun of gluten free people. Articles that come out “proving” no one needs to be gluten free. And none of this is helpful in the least. If they ate something that made them unable to function, would they continue to eat it?

And why exactly is everyone so concerned about us not eating gluten? Gluten is not nutrient-dense; the only issues are vitamins fortified into gluten foods, which can be easily supplemented by taking a daily vitamin.

How To Make Gluten Free Suck A Little Less

All of this is true, and all of this sucks. But I’ve been doing this for a few years, so how can we make it suck a little bit less?

When you have to do something, it’s not a choice. So somehow you do it, you live with it.

And then, you get used to it. It becomes a habit. One day it is your new normal.

The food choices suck, going out sucks, people’s opinions about gluten free suck, and the isolation sucks. None of this changes in any meaningful way. But once there is no more gluten in your life and your body, you notice that things are better.

If nothing else, the reaction from eating gluten either accidentally or on purpose makes your resolve more robust, and you do what you can to not feel so awful so much of the time.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a secret to fixing all of this. But I promise it gets easier to handle.

Fawn

My passion is supporting those who need to be gluten free. After my family had to transition to eating gluten free I realized how difficult it is. It is more than finding a recipe. It is about how to navigate social situations, deal with isolation, and other things that come along with it. I live in Oregon with my family, cats, and chickens.

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