If you ever hesitate before saying yes to a lunch date, dinner date, or wine dinner at a fine dining restaurant because it feels like you’ll be imposing on the chef, you’ll want to watch this interview with Chef Matt McClure. In the video Chef Matt gives us some tips to make the experience better for both you and the chef. Before you give up your social life, say no to your colleagues, or limit yourself in any way, please spend a few minutes learning more about gluten-free dining from the chef’s perspective.
Chef Matt McClure was trained at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. He worked in the Boston area at fine dining restaurants: No. 9 Park, Troquet, and Harvest before becoming the Sous Chef for Ashley’s at the Capital in Little Rock, Arkansas. Chef Matt has been named Executive Chef for 21C Museum Hotel opening in 2013 near Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Congratulations, Chef Matt!
First I started feeling frightened – a sort of antsy, anxious feeling at the edge of my awareness. I noticed that I felt hungry, but I wanted to be very disciplined about my meal times so I decided to wait awhile before eating. I passed the time by reading an article on anorexia (interesting choice don’t you think?) and looking at some photos of me that I had just uploaded to my laptop.
Soon after daylight savings times begins each year I have one of these days. I feel like my natural body rhythm is out of sync. Oh who am I kidding, I have days where I feel out of sync at least once a week, but I like to blame daylight savings time. Anyway, it was Saturday and I hadn’t made a plan for the day.
I found myself feeling hungry and dissatisfied with how I looked in the photos punctuated by a vague awareness that I may share some emotional characteristics with anorexics, plus I felt anxious and unproductive without a goal for the day.
How often do I feel this way? Not often. But to ask how often and stop with that is to miss the point. The reason I don’t often feel anxiously unproductive is that I manage that anxiety by preventing it.
A preventative approach? “That’s good, you say. How do you do it?” Now before you get ready to start making a list of what I do so you can do it, please read further.
I’m a pretty smart cookie and I can make even the most convoluted adaptation sound good – especially to me. Remember we’re talking about fear of change. So here’s my pattern: I fill each day with a To Do List no one could possibly complete. Once I’ve gotten through 75-80% of the list, I allow myself to feel okay about stopping from exhaustion. I also congratulate myself for being productive thereby making me more likely to repeat this pattern again and again. Don’t get me wrong, I get lots of outside affirmation for this pattern of behavior as well because I can handle massive amounts of work without blinking an eye. No one has ever called me lazy.
The pertinent question isn’t whether I’m productive or whether I’m well-adjusted to societal expectation. The real question is: Is this structure that I’ve created to keep me from feeling anxious also preventing me from being true to myself, experiencing joy, and connecting with people in a fulfilling way? In other words, is my self-protective system for anxiety prevention actually keeping me anxious and stuck along with preventing me from making change?
I know some of you will object to the idea that we willfully create structures of protection that we then become afraid to challenge. Your response may be to say that you know you use anger to protect yourself, but that’s what you learned growing up in an explosive family and while you may lead with anger, you’re never abusive like they were so what’s the big deal? Your response may be to feel way down deep that you ARE your persona of protection and it is YOU. To allow one thought of you without that persona attached may be to imagine that you will disappear, die, cease to exist, never have love, or be shunned. If this is the case, it will feel extremely important for you to prevent that thought from reaching your consciousness and you’ll be willing to use any means necessary to prevent such an occurrence. If that nagging thought should rear it’s ugly head in the back of your mind, you’ll reach for a distraction so fast you may not even realize what you’ve done.
It is often at this point that our relationship with food enters the picture. Some of us use food as a distraction from anxiety or discomfort. We immediately reach for a sweet treat to fool our brain with a sugar-induced euphoria. Some of us are aware that we need a distraction so we’ll go for a walk or go to the gym. Then we believe we deserve a reward or can afford a few extra calories, so we’ll eat an extra yeast roll with dinner. Some of us will add guilt to the formula. We feel guilty for eating the treat or rewarding ourselves. Then guilt feeds anxiety which sends us back into our protective structure where the surroundings feel familiar.
With all these complicated entanglements, our brains may immediately react to a suggested change in diet as if we are being threatened with death. According to Cynthia Kupper, Executive Director of the Gluten Intolerance Group, surveys of Celiac patients have shown that a high percentage of those diagnosed believe their Celiac diagnosis to be worse than a cancer diagnosis. In reality those patients are not facing surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, a need for dangerous medication, or immediate danger of losing their lives. It just feels that way.
Now let’s go back to that recent Saturday I was facing without a plan. Was it tempting to fall back into my normal pattern? Of course it was. But it seemed like the perfect day to explore a different possibility. I decided to change the question I constantly ask myself from what do I NEED to do today to what do I WANT to do today?
What did I want? I wanted to lessen my anxiety. I decided to begin by feeding myself since for me hunger works as an emotional trigger. I also know that when I am in the kitchen preparing food my brain settles down and that vague sense of hunger subsides so I decide that cooking is a good way to move into the day in a different way. I was wanting a really tasty cheese cracker to eat with the soup I had in the fridge, so I grabbed some cheddar cheese, some parmesan cheese, the almond flour and some butter. As I began to cook I felt myself relax. Forty-five minutes later, I plopped on the couch in front of some reality TV with a bowl of crackers beside me. Yum, the result of asking what I want was deliciously cheesy and crunchy.*
How did I feel? I had a much better outlook on the day. I felt less scared, more full, and like being more kind to myself for the rest of the day. I could have moped through the day annoyed and dragging my feet, as I have been known to do when I’m not willing to push myself down the To Do List, followed by feeling guilty on Sunday thus allowing myself to get right back to needing to prevent anxiety by overproducing. Instead, I began what turned out to be a relaxing, renewing weekend by asking myself a different question and being willing to follow where the answer led.
Big changes really are that simple. They can begin by simply stopping yourself from what you “normally” do. Knowing this may help you if you are struggling to remain gluten-free. Our brains trick us into thinking change is hard because we get stuck in the patterns we formed early on to protect us… and we’re scared… and scared feels dangerous. Always remember – big change is just lots of small changes added together and it’s okay to feel scared. Once you are willing to feel your fear long enough to do one thing differently, you will have discovered the secret to embracing change. Rest assured you will not lose yourself in the process, it just may feel that way for a brief moment as you begin to let go of old patterns of behavior.
The other thing you should know is that I was able to shift fairly quickly on that recent Saturday because I have spent several years preparing myself and learning how to be comfortable with, and let go of, those stories I tell myself that hold me back. And you will soon be able benefit from my experience so that you can have success with change in a much shorter period of time than I did! I have taken those years of experience and developed a set of emotional and social support tools to guide you along the way. They’re called the Cooking2Thrive® Essential Utensil Support Tools and they’ll soon be released for publication. Wouldn’t it be easier to take that first step toward change if you knew that there was a guide to prepare you for the next step and the next? That’s just what you get with the Essential Utensil Support Tools. Be the first to learn the secret to becoming your best, healthiest self without a struggle. Keep checking back here. We’ll let you know the minute they’re released and how you can get them!
*My cheese crackers are now called Empire Waist Cheese Crackers and they’re fantastic!
I bought the cutest rock’n’roll flavor shoes! They’re hip, they fit my foot snugly, they have a 3 1/2 inch heel and I can walk in them easily! Score! Finally! With a 5.5 inch W shoe size it’s next to impossible to find this combination. I LOVE these shoes when I have them on.
How can something that feels this perfect be BAD?
These shoes hurt me. At first I didn’t know it was these shoes. I just knew that when I got up in the morning and stepped out of bed, my heels hurt. The right one hurt pretty badly. As time went by, even my hips seemed to hurt when I’d get out of my office chair during the day.
It’s summer so I decided I’d buy some cute flip-flops with a wedge heel and wear those for awhile until I figured out whether I was doing something, other than just getting older, that was causing me to hurt.
I spent an hour trying on flip-flops. I wore each possible selection around the store for 15 minutes. I chose a $50 pair. I wore them for 3 days and the problem got worse. REALLY?
I was careful. I made sure these flip-flops were wide enough, supportive but not hard, felt good walking around, and that they were cute! This time it was obvious pretty quickly that they exacerbated the problem.
I tried again. Three days after I bought the flip flops, I bought a pair of flip-flop sandal hybrids. The hybrids had several bands of rhinestone embellished elastic straps. Again, I took my time. I walked around in them. I bounced up and down shifting my weight to see if I could feel any pressure points. I still felt the point of primary pain at the top of my right heel, but I thought it was just residual and decided these would work. They were regularly $30 and I purchased them on sale for $14.99. I figure I’m $65 in, but that’s not a bad investment if it fixes the problem.
This time I feel even more determined to give the solution a chance, so I wear the new hybrids for a week at which point I can hardly walk when I get up in the morning. I have to go down the stairs sideways planting the ball of my foot and slowly letting down the heel, shuffling as if I’m on the way to the nursing home. Now I feel angry and stupid.
I listened as hard as I could to what my body was telling me. I took my time. I felt like I made the best choices and yet I’m back in the same predicament.
I feel confused. I thought I did everything right, but my problem hasn’t gotten better, it’s gotten worse. I start to feel guilty and ashamed that I could try so hard and be so wrong. I begin to question myself. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the rock’n’roll shoes aren’t the problem at all. After all, my feet feel good when I wear them.
I pull out my comfort clogs and wear them around the house. I even wear them around the office. I can’t bear to wear them in public, so I limit my outings. My feet start to feel better. I schedule some lunch meetings and switch to cute sandals for the meetings. This is tolerable and if I stretch a bit before I get out of bed, I don’t feel crippled every morning.
Now I have to know. Was it my fabulously cute shoes that hurt me? I wear them to one of my lunches and to run errands afterward. The next morning I can hardly walk. Am I an idiot? These shoes feel great when they’re on and destroy my feet at the same time.
Then I remember something I already know from going gluten-free. Until my injury completely heals, I cannot solely rely on what my senses tell me in any given moment. But I know from my GF experience that even if I cannot draw a direct correlation from what I do this minute to how I will feel the next minute, I always fare better in the long run when I choose to stay the course and stick with my healing plan. Now I feel calmer. I know how to take the knowledge I’ve accumulated over time and let deductive reasoning play a part in a healing plan. My feet will be okay. All I have to do is be patient with the healing process.
Wow! I just realized what a good analogy my shoe scenario is for what many of us experience when we go gluten-free. We may have so much existing damage that it is difficult to immediately interpret the signals from our bodies. On those days when we think we feel worse, we may be tempted to decide that gluten wasn’t really the problem. This is the time that it’s important to use some resolve, medical statistics, and the information we can gather from the struggles and successes of others to deductively reason that until we have given the body sufficient time to heal, we cannot rely on its momentary feedback alone.
If you already have a healing plan in place, all you have to do in these moments is relax and follow the plan. If you don’t really have a plan and have viewed this gluten-free thing as an experiment you may want to check out the Cooking2Thrive healing plan guidelines.
In the meantime, be patient with yourself. If you made a bad food choice at lunch, you can make good choices at dinner and breakfast and lunch and dinner and lunch and breakfast and dinner and lunch. Treat yourself well. Don’t just choose something for dinner that’s gluten-free. Pick something that smells fabulous, tastes delicious and has a wonderful texture – something you can sink your teeth into, savor, and enjoy! Then keep enjoying and choosing well, choosing well and enjoying. As you heal, a gluten-free choice will become easier and easier.
Pretty soon, I’m sure I will find some new rock’n’roll, hip, snug fitting, 5.5 W shoes that don’t hurt me, and you will find a gluten-free life isn’t one of deprivation. Or at least I’ll discover that I’m much happier without pain than I am with rock’n’roll shoes and you’ll discover that a gluten-free biscuit can, in fact, hit the spot.