Think going gluten-free is hard – visualization can help! In spite of increased awareness and availability of gluten-free foods, many of us still find the idea of remaining totally gluten-free intimidating. We just can’t imagine actually having to walk past every croissant displayed in a bakery case in France. We find the thought of giving up our grandmother’s cherry pie with its perfectly flaky pie crust unfathomable. We don’t know what we’ll grab when we’re too hungry and dinner won’t be ready for an hour. Rethinking our habitual lunch spot feels like we’re losing our best friend.
Our mind may tell us there’s plenty of information available and the process won’t be difficult, but it feels monumentally hard. We just can’t see ourselves as bread free, pasta free, doughnut free, cake free, or fried chicken free for a week, much less a lifetime. When you think about it, if we can’t “see” it, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to accomplish it. In fact, if we can’t see it, we may not even be able to consistently take that first step toward making it happen. We’ll stick with what we can see in our mind’s eye.
When I was learning to slalom waterski, I kept falling at the same spot in the wake in the same way over and over again. I remember someone telling me the problem was that I’d learned to fall. Huh? But it was true. When I thought about crossing the wake, what I saw in my mind’s eye was me falling. I didn’t fear it, I just knew it would happen. I had learned to fall.
If we don’t change what we envision, we will subconsciously stick with what we’ve learned. We’re bad at math. We are weak. We are unreliable. We can’t cook. We’ll never amount to anything. We’re lazy. Are we? Do we have to be or have we adopted someone else’s vision of us? Can we see ourselves getting a tutor and excelling at math, lifting weights and becoming strong, only saying yes when we know we can deliver, practicing until cooking seems easy, excelling in life, or working energetically? Changing how we view ourselves can facilitate us changing everything!
Coaches know that visualization can improve athletic performance. In addition to time on the court, they may have a player envision him/herself making free throw after free throw. Scientific studies have shown that visualization does, in fact, improve athletic and academic performance. Pilots-in-training are encouraged to chair fly their airplanes, or, in other words, to visualize themselves flying. Life coaches may incorporate visualization to help a client conquer an obstacle.
When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. If you can see yourself doing something, it’s no big deal to do it. It just feels natural. On the other hand, if you can’t see yourself doing something, it’s a challenge to make the first step toward getting started.
The type of visualization I’m describing isn’t daydreaming. It’s an engaged practice directed to achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle and it can be practiced. For instance, let’s say my greatest difficulty going gluten-free is how I will explain to my elderly aunt that I can’t eat her beef stroganoff. I will create images of myself in which I am brave, strong, and kind when communicating this to her. I imagine myself engaging in some activity that comforts me before and after the communication. Obviously, I can’t control her response, so my visualization focuses on me practicing self-care while addressing my obstacle.
This can go further. I can mentally rehearse several possible responses to my aunt’s imagined reactions. In other words, I can visualize many options I can employ to keep myself feeling centered, supported, and strong. I can also give myself permission to remove myself from the communication if my aunt becomes hysterical, abusive, or unkind. Imagining the many options I have and seeing myself feeling okay no matter how she responds builds my emotional muscles in advance.
With better developed emotional muscles and a mental picture of my many options, I can go into an uncomfortable conversation feeling strong and prepared. Whatever the response, I am prepared to see myself as a person who deserves to be healthy. Remaining gluten-free is critical to my health, so I will remain gluten-free and I will be kind to those who don’t understand because they cannot make me feel bad about treating myself well.
Perhaps your greatest obstacle is financial. It is true that much of the gluten-free convenience food available is more expensive. Gluten-free flours are also more expensive than wheat flour. You can visualize yourself feeling satisfied and happy eating meat, vegetables, cheese, yogurt, fruit, rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, cornbread, corn tortillas, and homemade trail mix. As you imagine roasted chicken, chicken enchiladas, grilled chicken breasts, beef stew, beef roast, grilled steak, pork chops & rice, pork tenderloin, grilled tilapia, fresh green beans with new potatoes, black beans & rice, grapes, peaches, pears, bananas, baked sweet potatoes, sautéed squash & onions, steamed carrots or broccoli, you’ll soon recognize the options are plentiful even on a budget.
Visualizing will also make it easier to develop a pantry plan for your family, meal plans for busy weeks, travel plans so that you always have good gluten-free options, and plans for attending parties or events. As you see yourself successfully navigating these areas, a gluten-free lifestyle will seem less daunting.
Being able to see what can be rather than what will no longer be mitigates the feeling of loss we all experience when we give up something familiar. Visualizing yourself as the pain free, energetic self you used to be can help motivate you to stick with a gluten-free path in order to heal. Seeing yourself enjoying life without a foggy brain, constant itching, tummy pain and discomfort, weakness and fatigue, or achy muscles is great motivation for giving the lifestyle a try.
Can you be successful in maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle to be healthy? Yes, you can! I can see it now!
And when you struggle, we’re always here to help: firstname.lastname@example.org.