05 Nov Gluten Crutch
Where to start in regards to month two of my self-imposed challenge – with the bad news, the good news, or the better news? The good news is I’m still coffee free and I’m feeling great about it. The better news is I’ve decided to recommit to another month (at least) of being gluten free. The bad news is that I was not as successful as I aimed to be with being gluten free the month of August. Of 31 days in the month, I had gluten about ten times. Given the numbers, some would say I did pretty well, and as much as I aim for 100%, the few times I slipped the underlying factors were because I was simply unprepared and I needed compassion. Sound like excuses? I agree, so please read on.
Omnipresence of Gluten
Before we get into that though, I want to share the little I learned about gluten. The more I learn about it, the more I realize that it is much like Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance – one hot mess.
For starters, gluten is in everything! Not only is it found in wheat and other related grains (e.g. barley and rye), but it is also added to foods low in protein (as it is considered a protein composite), and – get this – in cosmetics, hair products, and dermatological preparations. Gluten (from the Latin gluten which means glue) is troublesome when it breaks down in the small intestine because it combines with water and yeast (a bacteria) to become a sticky, gluey mass that disrupts our assimilation and digestive process. So if you are like the one in every 133 people in developed countries with an intolerance to gluten, going gluten free is not an easy or obvious process. To make matters worse, International Labelling Standards require “gluten-free” to be labeled on foods that normally contain gluten, Canadian standards require gluten to be listed only if more than 10 ppm is present, and in the US gluten might not be listed at all on labels and if the term “gluten free” is used it is because there is less than 20 ppm in the food product. Given all this, I decided at the beginning of the month to be “superficially” gluten-free (give up wheat, and other grains), mostly so I don’t get overwhelmed trying to clear out my medicine cabinet as well as my pantry.
Most of the times I gave in to consuming gluten, it was largely due to the fact that I was unprepared. Leaving the house for a long day without a packed lunch or snacks left me vulnerable. On those days when I had little to no time to eat between classes, appointments, and meetings, grabbing some grub to eat on the go almost always involved gluten (e.g. wraps, sandwiches, granola bars) because that is what the majority of cafés and counters offer.
On the many days when I managed to go without gluten, I felt great – lean, light, and energetic – however, I did begin to miss “feeling full”. By no means was I underfed, but gluten has that special way to weigh you down and make you feel dense. My original replacement habit for the month was rice crackers, but when they proved too insignificant, I moved on to white rice and chips.
As soon as I realized that I was simply going from one crutch to another, I chose to sit with my strong urge to fill myself with substance. I learned that in those moments I was really yearning for validation, recognition, even nurturance. The density that gluten gave me added matter, and made me feel like I mattered. This delicate discovery could not have been found, and felt, if I continued rushing through my days and numbing myself out with those chips, rice, and gluten free substitutes.
Only two months have passed and I have learned so much about what really drives my choices. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I will continue to be gluten-free. The days I wasn’t eating it I felt great, and the days I did eat it with awareness to the why I was being kind to myself. I don’t plan to force myself to be 100% gluten because it is not my personal philosophy to shock my system free from issues. However, I won’t allow gluten to continue being a crutch. I’m throwing out the rice crackers and using meditation and Loving-Kindness as my replacement habits.
See what happens when I give up mascara…