I Need To Be On A -Free Diet. Now What?

Gluten-free Bread using a recipe from Ginger Lemon Girl

It is not easy being told or coming to the realization that you need to cut something out of your diet that has sent your body into turmoil for years.  I changed to a whole foods diet months before I cut gluten, dairy, and eggs out of my diet for a trial.  I chose to cut out refined flours and sugars from my diet.  I refrained from buying those processed foods I used to love so much.  I knew those foods were interfering with my thyroid functioning and every time I had a craving, I envisioned what would happen to my body if I chose to eat the food I was craving.  Just shifting my entire diet the way I did help me to lose weight during the holidays while everyone else was gaining weight.

It was a little different when I did the gluten-free trial and had a reaction to it when I had one silly little piece of sprouted grain bread.  I knew that was it.  I wasn’t going to have gluten again.  If you are doing a gluten-free trial, understand you may not have a reaction until the following day like I did.  I was completely fine the entire day after having a piece of toast and that was the only thing with gluten I had.

It is one thing to choose not to eat certain foods.  It is entirely different knowing you can never have something again.  Shirley (gluten-free easily) did a great post on Grieving Gluten.  This applies to any food you cannot have because it causes some kind of reaction in your body.  I went through the stages and I realized after 6 weeks how much better I felt.  The Embracement Stage that Shirley added in is a sign of moving forward into living in recovery.   At that stage you really are making changes and moving in the direction of better health.  Do I miss being able to eat what everyone else eats?  Yes.  Do I wish I could just eat whatever I want?  Absolutely.  Am I better off having to attend to what I eat more than I used to?  You betcha.

The first thing I did after having the reaction (once I was able to get moving) was to clean out the pantry and fridge of all offending items.  Except for any snacks that Chaz may have bought for himself.  I had not gotten rid of all the other foods I chose to give up. I was transitioning out of those foods and after months, I realized I wasn’t even touching them.  Those went out, too.  I know some people have given away their food to other families.  I tossed mine.  I had 3 30 gallon trash bags full of stuff I couldn’t have or chose not to have anymore.  You might be cringing and thinking, what a waste.  Yes, it was a waste.  My thinking was, and still is, if you can’t eat it or would choose not to eat it, why would you want to give it to someone else to eat?

For those of us who must eat gluten-free, we’ve learned just what it does to the body.  I learned before I even did the trial.  I also learned how people are underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed.  So, if I gave all my gluten containing foods to someone who might have Celiac or gluten intolerance but don’t know it yet, how am I helping them?

If you are reading this and you are new to a gluten-free diet, you might have still been eating a lot of processed foods when you were told or discovered on your own that gluten was the root of your problem.  My transition was easier even though I was grieving the fact I could never eat what I wanted again.  I had already cut out a lot of gluten containing foods.  I was eating mostly produce and meats.  I was making my own broths and soups.  I made my own salad dressings.  If you were eating a lot of processed foods you will be tempted to replace all those processed foods with gluten-free processed foods.  A lot of the products out on the market now are better tasting than when I first went gluten-free, but just because it says it’s gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

This is the perfect time to re-evaluate what is really good for you and habits that need changing or could be healthier.   I wasn’t eating much processed foods when I went gluten-free.  I’m now in a place where I find myself not consuming a lot of gluten-free grains either.  I find myself using more bean and nut flours when I’m doing recipe development and if I happen to make gluten-free bread, it’s not very often.  I just don’t feel I need the grains as much as I was taught to think I needed them.  I like that I fill up mostly on produce and meat.  There are times I feel that I need some grains, but not at every meal.

Things to think about/do when you food becomes the offender:

  • Who in the home is affected?
  • Who will be following the -free diet?  Myself? A few people? The whole house?
  • How will I keep my home safe if some people are still going to consume the offender?
  • What must I get rid of and what can I get rid of?
  • If I have a mixed home, how will I organize everything to prevent cross-contact?
  • What kind of processed -free foods will be okay to bring home and how often?

This is also the time to change your thinking.  A diet is simply what we we eat.  It’s not some fad like society had turned it into.  We are all on a diet.  If we weren’t, we’d starve to death.  A -free diet is just that.  What you eat without the offender present in your meals/snacks.  A “diet” is only as limiting as you believe it to be.  If you didn’t know me and I told you I follow a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, some might thing, What do you eat?  I eat everything in the produce section and everything in the meat/seafood cases.  That’s what shopping was like way back when, right?  Simple fresh foods.  Sometimes I buy canned or frozen fruits or vegetables when I need a shortcut.  I stay out of the aisles as much as I can.  That’s where I lose a lot of time shopping anyway.  Those of you who follow me regularly know I love my food and I am not lacking.

When you focus on your health and eating truly healthier foods, weight and weight-loss can become a back burner.  Our society places a lot of emphasis on weight, size, and weight-loss.  One problem is bone thin women are now the ideal supermodels when they look nothing like the rest of the world.  You walk into a grandma’s house, especially mine, and look that thin, they will be shoving food down you because to them, that’s not healthy.  The other problem is the scale tells you nothing but a number.  It will tell you if the number is more, less, or the same each time you step on it.  It does not tell you how much fat you are losing or how much muscle you are building.  Yet, we constantly set ourselves up to fail by stepping on that scale day after day, week after week.  Johnathan Roche will re-frame a lot for callers who call in frustrated that they aren’t losing weight.  He will ask, “How do you feel?  How do your clothes fit?”  I follow Johnathan’s approach for doing interval training just for doing the intervals and the impact they have on the mitochondria in our bodies.  You can do more for yourself doing 20 minutes of intervals than you can do an hour of anything else.  That said, most of you already know I love my yoga, too.  I’m always amazed at the people who never seem to think they should evaluate how they feel or how their clothes fit.  A number on the scale won’t tell you how healthy you are.  Evaluating how you feel and how your clothes fit will tell you more than any silly number.

Someone either told me or I read somewhere that I needed to get rid of all my cookbooks.  If anyone told you this or you read it somewhere, it is not true!  Don’t do it!  Once you have a firm footing of this new way of eating, you will be able to easily convert your favorite recipes.  I still have many of my cookbooks along with some new gluten-free cookbooks.  I still buy regular cookbooks because I know I can convert the recipes to be gluten-free and dairy-free.

Are you ready for this journey down the -free road?  It will be really freeing once you hit that Embracement Stage.



  1. Debi,
    That was such an amazing post! When you’re first giving up foods that aren’t working for you, it’s so hard to know that some day, you will “embrace” your new-found good health and relish your new way of eating.

  2. Have had your post feed sitting in my In Box as a reminder to come read this one. Another awesome job, Debi! You would be amazed at how many people use frugality as the reason for not starting a gf diet, because they have all this food that they “paid good money for”! They can’t even imagine giving it to anyone, much less throwing it away … even when they acknowledge that gluten is their issue. It’s really hard to understand that kind of thinking. And I almost did the toss out all the cookbooks and recipe cards thing … so glad I didn’t throw them away! It’s one awesome moment when you realize you can make those recipes work, and pretty easily, too. I know that both you and I have gotten more than a few blog posts out of previously gluten-full recipes. 😉

    Thanks for this common sense post and sharing more of your journey, Debi! xo,

    • I think what kept me from it was the fact that we did the South Beach Diet back in 2004/2005 and while on it, I realized I could convert some of my favorite dishes to be South Beach friendly. I figured if I could convert those to South Beach, why not convert to gf? And you’re right about the posts of conversions. And more still to come! I did take the opportunity to get rid of a few that weren’t being use or I didn’t think I would use again. Made a little more room for the new gf and df cookbooks! 😀

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