Sometimes we think of language other than slang as finite, definite, and unchanging. We give concrete weight to words while the fact is that language is fluid, ever-changing, and words mean different things to different people. At any given moment in history in a specific culture, certain words can come to hold one predominant connotation. At this point, a singular meaning for such words has consonance in the culture. These words take on greater importance and significance than other words while simultaneously losing their power to generate new thought when used in a different intended context.
The words’ multiple definitions and broad reach become lost in a singular concept and as a result, the definitions become quite limited. The process of being simultaneously limited and given elevated significance results in overuse rendering such words meaningless except when used within the bounds of the resulting limit. Words fitting this description are known as the buzzwords of our time.
The problem with buzzwords is that they don’t start out that way and we may sometimes want to use them in a broader sense, but when we do, our meaning is lost. Currently, this is the case when we use the word DIET.
Say DIET and watch how those around you cringe. The word Diet immediately connotes calorie deprivation, food elimination, sacrifice, hunger, restriction, limitation, misery, struggle, and loss. Any other words said in conjunction with diet take on the burden of the limits with which we associate it. Say GLUTEN-FREE DIET and lurking in our subconscious is the thought that we’re headed for additional deprivation. Many of us find this thought so unbearable that we’re willing to endure aching bellies, heartburn, fatigue, weakness, itchy rashes, diarrhea, constipation, anemia, swollen joints, muscle wasting, tingling hands, inflammation, irritability and depression rather than embrace such a “diet”.
Really? We’d rather be SICK than leave gluten behind just because someone said, “diet”?
Yes. Hear the word diet, and we immediately jump into our fear of deprivation. Hear the word diet, and many of us choose to remain sick and endure the resulting symptoms of continuing to damage our brain, nerves, muscles, skin, and gastrointestinal tract. Many of us prefer to increase our chances of dying sooner than the average person by up to 72%. Many of us are willing to dismiss the possibility of optimum health and to sacrifice our quality of life or our longevity rather than to pause long enough to consider that a GLUTEN-FREE DIET may not mean deprivation at all even though it contains the word diet.
Given the huge increases in gluten-sensitivity and gluten-intolerance in our population over the past 50 years, we can no longer afford to allow the misconception to continue. It is time to turn the terminology upside down and inside out so we can get past the WORDS and the fear they create.
For now, let’s leave the word diet behind and use one of its former meanings: Way of Living. When we embrace a WAY OF LIVING that includes ZERO GLUTEN(1), how limited is what can we eat?
Barring other allergies and sensitivities, the following foods can be included in a healthy zero gluten way of living: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, duck, quail, dove, pheasant, bass, crappie, trout, bream, salmon, flounder, cod, tuna, tilapia, halibut, shark, swordfish, mackerel, mahi-mahi, wahoo, sturgeon, snapper, abalone, shrimp, scallops, muscles, clams, lobster, crab, snails, broccoli, yellow squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, chayote, zucchini, carrots, asparagus, Swiss chard, lettuce, endive, eggplant, arugula, spinach, watercress, green beans, parsnips, corn, black beans, pinto beans, white beans, lima beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, green peas, sugar-snap peas, snow peas, lentils, shiitake mushrooms, portabella mushrooms, button mushrooms, peppers, artichokes, cauliflower, cucumber, celery, brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, kale, beets, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, parsnips, radishes, rutabaga, daikon, water chestnuts, onions, garlic, sorrel, basil, parsley, cilantro, sage, rosemary, mint, savory, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, tarragon, thyme, bay leaves, ginger, avocados, tomatoes, apples, apricots, bananas, coconuts, olives, oranges, grapefruit, pears, cherries, grapes, figs, kumquats, plums, peaches, pomegranate, mangoes, lychee, passion fruit, papaya, currants, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries, dates, nectarines, kiwi fruit, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, lemons, limes, almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans, chestnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chocolate, popcorn, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, asiago, parmesan, romano, gouda, manchego, Swiss, gorgonzola, havarti, muenster, feta, queso, bleu, brie, camembert, chevre, gruyere, fontina, mascarpone, monterrey jack, ricotta, roquefort, stilton, and Yorkshire cheese.
The list above contains more than 180 common items without the inclusion of rice, quinoa, tapioca, coffee, tea, and items less commonly found in the grocery store. These 180 foods can be combined into thousands and thousands of tasty, satisfying combinations.
Examine the content of your current meals. Do they regularly include 180 unique items plus thousands and thousands of combinations? If you stop including the foods containing gluten that you currently consume and instead include more of the foods listed here, will it increase or reduce your options? If you find that you will have more options, is it realistic to characterize a zero gluten way of life as restrictive, limiting, or a source of deprivation? Can you find a way to let go of the idea that eliminating gluten will limit your choices? Perhaps a week of adventure will help!
The Cooking2Thrive® One Week Adventure:
Make a one-week commitment to follow a new eating plan. To set the tone for your adventure: relax, get curious, have fun, and allow yourself to enjoy new discoveries. In this new eating plan, eliminate ALL food made from grains for the week. You can add back gluten-free grains later. For purposes of this adventure, just leave them behind for the moment. Incorporate at least one new item or new combination that you do not regularly consume from the above list each day into your meals. If you tend to get hungry often and your tummy doesn’t hurt too much, you may want to include beans and raw leafy greens to help you feel full longer. If your tummy is in distress, bananas, avocados, mushrooms, butternut squash, cheese, yogurt, and chicken are good beginning foods. You can also eat more often. Be sure to include plenty of protein.
Be playful. Experiment with new flavors. Use new recipes or make up your own. Release your creativity and remember that most fruits and vegetables can be eaten raw so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to cook. Take time to savor the depth of flavor and texture in the fresh foods you choose. Shop at the local farmer’s market or visit a different grocery store. Adding variety to the process can help you think differently.
Get the kids involved. Let them help decide which foods you’ll cook for a meal. Have theme meals like: Only Orange (serve chicken with mango salsa, mashed butternut squash or baked sweet potatoes or steamed carrots, cantaloupe or peaches or nectarines); Finger Foods (either cut everything in the shape of fingers, or serve foods that can be eaten with your fingers); European Tour (serve Polish sausage or Spanish mackerel, Italian green beans or English peas, French fries or German potato salad, Greek salad, and Swiss chocolate). Your dinner theme can be focused to support a homework assignment in fractions, geography, history, or science.
At the end of the week, recall and record the moments you enjoyed the most and the foods you found most appealing. Ask your family members about their experience. Use the most enjoyable parts as a starting point for continuing to incorporate change. If you feel you can, make a commitment to a second week of this eating plan. At the end of the second week, note whether it was easier than the first. Do you feel like a more interesting or creative cook? Are you beginning to feel more comfortable making small changes? Note any changes in how you physically feel. Use your notes to develop a plan for continuing to live without including gluten one day and one week at a time while continuing to expand your horizons and your fun factor.
Now back to the term gluten-free diet. The words may still make you cringe and recoil. That’s okay. Try the adventure. Pick your favorite moment or your favorite food from your week of adventure, write it down, and carry it with you or text it to yourself. Each time you start to think gluten-free and feel yourself pull back or resist, count to three and visualize that favorite thing. If you’re having trouble visualizing, pull up the text or pull out your note as a reminder. Perhaps you’ll remember your son’s laughter as he bit into a zucchini finger or your daughter’s excitement when she realized that two 3/4 cups = 1 1/2 cups and recognized that she had just successfully multiplied a fraction.
These moments that make your life more healthy, connected, creative, and whole are what a zero gluten way of living can offer. For me, that feels like a huge gift rather than a dreaded restriction. With practice it can begin to feel that way for you and your family as well.
Big changes are always built with small steps. When it comes to the term GLUTEN-FREE DIET, the first change has to be a shift in our understanding of the words themselves. Once we allow our minds to shift, we can become open to the possibility that our fears of deprivation are unfounded. If you are suffering from an adverse response to gluten, this shift may be one small adventure away. That small adventure can expand your horizons.
(1)The Zero Gluten or Gluten Zero concept is the brainchild of Dr. Rodney Ford. You can read more about it in his book: “Gluten: ZERO Global” available at http://drrodneyford.com/shop/books/gluten-zero-global.html