Should You Buy It?

When companies and news organizations peddle fear, should you buy it? As we’re bombarded by information that may be less than reliable, it can be hard to discern which messages to trust. Unfortunately, the medical community also peddles fear. So how do you determine whether you should buy the product or message?

  • If a spouse/partner wants you to buy a pair of shoes that hurt, should you buy them?
  • If a doctor consistently advises the most extreme treatment, should you get a second opinion?
  • If a news organization edits video that changes perception of a situation, should you base your opinion on partial information?

Determining whether or not to buy or buy into something has some commonalities:

  • It ain’t easy!
  • It’s time consuming!
  • It probably won’t be fun.

I say this, not to discourage you, but to prepare you for a task that is less than desirable but still important to your health, well-being, and quality of life.

Those of us who are avoiding gluten may be tuned into health messaging and labels more than most making us especially vulnerable to the constant bombardment of fear-based messaging.

Let’s make things easier by starting with a few things you can stop worrying about:

Gluten in shampoo or cosmetics – The gluten molecule is too large to be absorbed through your skin. (If you have an allergy to wheat, rye, barley, or malt as opposed to an intolerance, this may still be of concern.) Also, don’t eat the cosmetics. Ingested gluten is still a problem.

Longstanding childhood vaccines – These are safe, effective, and have all but eliminated suffering from smallpox, polio, and tetanus. With any medicine, there is the potential for an adverse reaction in a small number of people. That’s true of antibiotics, birth control pills, and over-the-counter pain relievers. Check ingredient list for allergens & look for recalls. Barring those, get vaccinated.

MRNA vaccines – They do not change your genetic makeup. They do not contain microchips. They do not produce severe adverse reactions in most people. This type of vaccine is easy to adapt to a variety of viruses. That means we will most likely see more and more of these. Adopt with the level of caution you approach any medication, but there’s no reason to dismiss these out of hand.

Taking nutritional supplements – If you are healthy and eat a well-balanced diet, there’s no real benefit to taking supplements.

Eating eggs – While eggs contain cholesterol, they don’t seem to raise blood cholesterol and are a near-perfect food. They may also help with nutrient absorption when eaten in raw salads.

With those out of the way, how can we determine what to embrace or leave behind?

Develop a list of reliable sources – Twitter has been a great tool for this. You could follow experts in any field to get their take on infinite topics. Now it’s a bit more dicey but look for doctors and researchers who are well respected by other scientists. Look for news sources that feel balanced. Watch for bias. Don’t give too much credence to the most visible faces on TV or those who speak for politicians. Look at track records. Get several opinions about any product or issue. Do some background research to see which of those opinions align with rigid, well-controlled studies; reflect verifiable facts; and are not reactionary.

Learn the difference between fact and opinion – It’s common to see someone online ask a “what if” question that leads to a whole narrative based on nothing but flight of fancy that’s treated as fact. And news networks often have “experts” offer lots of opinions based on zero facts. You can tell the difference, but you must listen carefully.

Beware of magical thinking – As humans, we’re always tempted to take the easy way out. We want immediate results and miracle cures. But just because we want something to be a quick fix doesn’t mean it is. Or it could mean we’ll only see short-term positive results. If you find yourself leaning into something because it sounds easier or faster than something you know will work long-term, question yourself.

Today’s example would be using a diabetes prevention drug strictly for weight loss. It’s all the rage! But we also know that once you stop using one of these drugs, the weight comes back. That means a temporary “cure” at best. And we don’t know the long-term health effects of using these drugs. That’s a risk you’re blindly assuming.

Never assume you need anything just because an ad says so – Advertising isn’t about education. It’s not about public service. It’s about getting you to buy a product or service. It may do a public service or educate at the same time, but that’s not its primary purpose.

If fear or shame is involved, beware – It’s unfortunate that companies or professions use emotional manipulation to accomplish their goals. If you feel yourself compelled to buy or buy into something because you’re afraid or feel ashamed, take a minute. Your emotions may be undermining your best judgement. Wait for the feelings to pass, then reevaluate.

Ask questions – Someone in a particular field will have a depth of knowledge you do not. Feel free to ask questions. Most are happy to share their expertise. If you hear them say, “that’s not how this works,” believe them.

The most important thing is to allow yourself to learn and shift. Sometimes new information will challenge a long-held belief. If this NEVER happens, there’s a problem. It’s statistically unlikely that you will be absolutely 100% correct all the time.

Even if you’ve carefully researched your opinion, science will advance; policies will result in unintended consequences that are not acceptable; drugs will be recalled; new facts will be revealed. All of these require adjustment.

Sometimes this means you should no longer buy something that was reasonable yesterday. This can be true in the universal sense. It can also be true on a personal level because we change, our situations change, and our health changes.

There can’t be an absolute answer to the question, should you buy it. And sometimes, we’ll make decisions we regret later. But if we’ve gathered the most reliable information we can find, reflected on potential consequences based on that information, and made a decision that we are willing to reevaluate if necessary, we’ve done all we can do. It’s okay to lean into a plan and feel good about it.

What Lies Beneath

Everything can look good on the surface, but what lies beneath can be the key to improvement. I grew up in a small town. Everyone knew everyone’s business. At least everyone knew how to keep up appearances. It was clear then, and is clear now, keeping up appearances can interfere with building healthier lives.


More and more of us are getting caught in this trap because social media functions much like a small town. You can put your best face forward, control the narrative, and avoid the need to make any substantial change to your real life.

We all want to present ourselves in the best possible light. That’s human nature and good marketing. And there’s nothing wrong with that…to a point. But the temptation is to become so married to a particular narrative that we stop telling ourselves the truth. This is especially true when the warped version of the truth is gaining us positive attention or accolades.

The opposite can also be true. If we are accustomed to being treated as though our accomplishments don’t matter, we may become married to a story that doesn’t allow us to recognize and celebrate real achievement. Or we may repeatedly take on the role of the victim or downtrodden.

I know from years of interviewing job candidates, most of us are either terrible self-assessors or remarkable fibbers. And it seems like we’ve become more thin-skinned. Knowing this, it’s difficult to get reliable, balanced feedback. This in turn feeds our skewed vision of ourselves.

So what, you may ask. If I want to see myself as perfect, isn’t that a reflection of good self-esteem? Uh no, no one is perfect. If I don’t take credit, isn’t that a reflection of my humility? Uh, maybe. But it could also be that you don’t take credit because you might be asked to perform at a higher level next time and you don’t want to put out any more effort.

Honest assessment of ourselves and our environment, situation, values, limits, and abilities are key to maximizing health. Without it, improvement programs will not work other than for a short period of time. Or we’ll never embark on a journey toward betterment because we simply won’t see the need.

What can we do to support honest evaluation of what lies beneath?

Learn about our relationship to shame. If shame is getting in the way, learn techniques for bypassing this obstacle. Dr. Brené Brown is a great resource for this exploration.

Flip the script. Challenge yourself to answer questions with answers opposite to your normal response then sit with the reverse answer and see how it feels. We know the truth deep down. If the opposite feels like there’s some truth to it, begin further investigation. You don’t have to do this in an environment that would threaten your job or family. Use online personality assessments, interest surveys, dating sites, etc. for this purpose (read privacy policies carefully).

Listen to friends who aren’t afraid to deliver bad news. The friend who tells you your shoes don’t smell bad when you know you just stepped in dog poop is not a reliable resource. They can still be your friends, just don’t include them when you need reliable feedback. Skips the opinion of friends who specialize in bad news as well. Their bias is unhelpful as well.

Practice self-care. Hearing the truth will sometimes be hard and temporarily painful. Regular self-care practices will create some insulation that makes be pain feel less intense.

Remember the benefit. Like GI Joe said, “Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that. Once we clearly understand who we are and where we are in our journey, we can move forward efficiently and effectively. Think of honest assessment as removing half the obstacles. Whew! Who wouldn’t want to do that?

I know that realistic self-assessment is easier said than done when we dig deep into those things we’ve never spoken out loud. At one point, I just stood in the mirror and asked myself to name the worst thing I’d ever done. Once I did that, I asked myself whether I could forgive a friend who had done the same thing. The answer felt freeing.

I followed that by asking myself if there was any way I could begin to view the moment in which I experienced the worst thing ever done to me as one in which the universe was as it was meant to be. This one is really hard. But when bad things happen to other people, we often take this view. Why not try on how it might feel from the inside? Again, the answer felt freeing. It didn’t immediately change anything, but it did take away some of the feeling of being personally targeted.

The success of many projects is determined by the preparation that precedes it. Exploring what lies beneath the appearance we project can be the key to achieving better health.

When It Rains

We all know the idiom: when it rains, it pours. They even put it on a salt container. I’m feeling it this week after literal rain poured so hard it flooded my building.

microwave rice

To keep things in context, there is damage that it will take time and money to fix, but it is minor compared to the losses suffered by my community in a recent tornado. In other words, this is annoying, but not that big a deal.

On the other hand, it has been a time drain during a period when I have a lot on my plate. That has made it difficult to put gluten-free, low histamine food on the table in a timely manner. And that’s how it is sometimes. No matter how organized and efficient you are, life gets ahead of you.

A well-stocked pantry and freezer can make those times easier. But I’m really not good at freezing and using things. And having to avoid ham, sausage, bacon, deli meat, fish unless it was just caught, and anything canned adds another layer of time required to prepare a meal.

Prepared or semi-prepared foods are helpful during overwhelming weeks. What I can tolerate well may differ slightly from what someone else can, but here are a few of my hurry-up go-tos:

Microwaveable rice. There are several gluten-free brands and styles to choose from – restaurant-style sticky white rice, brown & wild rice, jasmine rice, etc. Rice is a quick, filling carb and small portion packaging means no waste. Use as a base for any kind of bowl.

roasted chicken

Whole roasted chicken. Many grocery stores sell rotisserie or roasted chickens in their deli. Some offer a variety of seasonings like lemon & rosemary, roasted butter garlic thyme, or white wine and herbs. This chicken can be sliced and eaten alongside carrot sticks or frozen vegetables. It can be diced for chicken salad or shredded for wraps or enchiladas. It can also be served over microwaveable rice.

Frozen vegetables. English peas and corn are what I use most, but the options here are numerous. I also like to keep edamame handy. It makes a great salty snack that’s healthier than chips. Frozen vegetables cook quickly. Many can be steamed in the bag to save cleanup time. They’re healthier than canned. And they can be used alone or in combination with other foods.

Microwave ready potatoes or sweet potatoes. You don’t have to wash these. Just throw them in the microwave as per package directions. You’ll have potatoes in less than 10 minutes. Eat them like baked potatoes or top with a mixture of leftover chicken, vegetables, and cheese for an entrée potato.

Gluten-free bread. In my case, I keep gluten-free bagels or French bread. (Many packaged sandwich breads cause me to break out in a rash.) I am better about using breads and muffins from the freezer so that’s where the bread lives until the previous package has been used. I can make sandwiches using almond butter or a slice of roasted chicken.

Boiled eggs. You can boil your own to keep in the refrigerator, but you can also buy peeled boiled eggs in a bag from the store. Use them to make egg salad. Add them to chicken salad. Slice or dice into a green salad. Or add to pasta dishes.

You may prefer foods that have not been processed. I do too. But sometimes it’s good to have some quicker go-to options ‘cause when it rains, it pours!


Tolerating Discomfort

When you’re tired of tolerating discomfort, you may have to learn to tolerate discomfort. Why does paradox always feel as though life is laughing at you?


For years, my tummy hurt. My joints ached. My muscles were weak. I broke out. I itched. My eyes were dry. I couldn’t sleep because I was so uncomfortable. Getting better meant I had to tolerate a different kind of discomfort. That’s often how healing goes.

It would be nice if things were always upward and onward, but they just don’t work that way. While the general trajectory may be up, there will be times that feel like dips. During those times, we have to endure and increase our window of tolerance so that we have more resilience when the next hurdle comes along.

You can think of this as emotional weightlifting. The resolve to continue on a healthier path is often affected by emotions. And sometimes, the body has trapped a traumatic response in its muscle memory. Releasing that requires a special kind of tolerance for discomfort.

When it comes to tummy troubles, most of us want to get rid of pain. That’s why we seek medical attention. Getting better begins with refusing to tolerate discomfort. But when we hit a dip in improvement or a treatment plan increases pain, refusing to tolerate momentary discomfort can derail healing. We need to be able to stick with the plan in spite of how we feel.

When it comes to emotional pain left from trauma, it’s possible to experience more discomfort from attempting to let it go from remaining caught in familiar pain. That doesn’t mean you like how you feel. It just means letting go may feel scary to the point of terrifying.

Either way, increasing tolerance for discomfort can be the key to staying on track. So how can you increase tolerance?

Patience. We all think our minds can stay ahead of our bodies. But the lower brain is wired to protect us from perceived danger. If it gets triggered, our behavior can sometimes surprise us. This is a normal part of the process. It’s messy but it doesn’t mean you’ll forever be out of control.

Stillness. You can’t learn to sit with discomfort unless you allow yourself to feel it. That won’t happen if you’re constantly moving, medicating, working, or otherwise distracting yourself.

Practice. Like any sort of desensitization, tolerance is built one step at a time. At first, a minute or two may be all you can handle but each moment will build on the next.

Balance. Regularly including an equal balance of something fun, joyous, pleasurable, or exciting will give you a space to move into that feels good once you’ve reached your current tolerance for discomfort.

Structure. When you feel messy inside, it’s beneficial to have routines, deadlines, accountability partners, and community to provide an environment that feels solid and stable.

Like everything, learning to tolerate discomfort is a process. The experience will be slightly different for each of us. The only thing we all have in common is that to build tolerance, we must start the process. Otherwise, it will not happen.

Talking about it won’t make it happen. Making promises won’t make it happen. Continuing to numb or distract will prevent it from happening.

We are all capable of more than we believe. We can tolerate more discomfort than we think we can. Don’t overthink. Just begin. Slowly, but surely, good things will happen.