The Importance of the Right Attitude: 4 Ways to Improve Your Daily Life in the Face of Dietary Changes


When we have to change our diets–whether you’re going gluten-free because you’ve just been diagnosed with Celiac or your cutting out trigger foods for your IBS, migraines, or other allergies–it can be easy to go into a knee-jerk panic mode concentrating on all the things we’re giving up and how horrible and hard everything is going to be from here on out. I’ve seen it happen with almost every newcomer to the support lists I’ve been involved in from time to time (and not just diet-related ones, there’s a big fear of the unknown in any life changing instance), but it’s meant to be a temporary stage.

You could almost look at it like the 5 stages of grief:

  • Denial & Isolation
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Considering you’re saying goodbye to your old way of life, it’s natural to feel a shift and a bit of loss, but to move forward you have to get to that acceptance point for the sake of your own health as well as those around you. And the sooner, the better!

Educate Yourself

The first thing to do is find the experts in this field and be very careful whose “wisdom” you take as gospel. Consider the source is especially important in health matters, and anyone backed by or promoting a cure-all medicine or supplement is highly suspect in my book. For IBS and Low-FODMAP information I rely on the work of Patsy Catsos and her source: the Monash Institute which pioneered the designation and testing of FODMAPs in our food.

The other thing about choosing your source is choosing one that communicates in a way you understand best. Even though I try to be a good, sane resource for Low-FODMAP information, I’m still learning like everyone else and how I share the information I’ve gleaned may not click with you the way another one would. So even though blogs by those in the thick of it are helpful, always seek out a higher source as well.

Shore Up Support

Unless you’re living the hermit life, you’re going to need to make sure those around you are on board with the changes that need to be made. When I first learned about the Low-FODMAP diet I talked to Todd before we even started the Elimination Phase to make sure he’d be comfortable with it. We enjoy having dinner together each night and he cooks half the time so he needed to be aware of what could no longer go into my food and ways to work around those problem ingredients. The other option would be to cook separate meals each night and, well, that doesn’t make any sense!

It helps to get friends and family up to speed, as well. You don’t have to hold a press conference for everyone to lay down the dietary law, but having resources available for them when they ask the inevitable ‘What can you eat?!’ will help them help you. I’ve lucked up with some amazing friends that do their best to include my ingredient issues when we do pot-lucks here at the house (even though I tell them not to worry–we host most of the time so I can easily provide for myself without inconveniencing anyone).

At the same time, it’s not like I’ve outlawed all wheat, onions, garlic, etc. from our home. Since Todd doesn’t need to adhere to my dietary restrictions he’s free to eat what he wants. It also works out well as he can easily compare the original and modified versions in some cases and, since his tastebuds are still experiencing wheat products, tell me whether my latest wheat-free recipe is as good as the original or needs work. (Obviously in the case of severe allergies or Celiac disease you need to be more vigilant to prevent cross-contamination.)

Shift Your Perspective

Instead of concentrating on all the things you cannot have anymore, focus on what you can have. I know it sounds simple, but when we approach a situation from the negative it prejudices our feelings. If, on the other hand, we look on the bright side or search for the silver lining we’re already in a headspace that’s focusing on the positive. Make up lists of the okay or safe foods and use those when you grocery shop, menu plan, and eat out. Get used to those simple substitutions and make friends with your spice cabinet to add variety.

The worst change for us wasn’t the lack of wheat (though that was a big deal–hello, former pastry chef, here!), nor was it the vigilance over hidden garlic and onion. It’s the restrictions on the fruits and vegetables that are high in FODMAPs that are the most vexing. Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, apples, pears, cherries, mangoes–all of these (and more) no longer grace our table. It’s a bit of a bummer, but at least we’ve got year-round citrus, salad greens, and tomatoes at our disposal!

Concentrate on Your End Goal

Finally–and perhaps the most important thing–remember that you’re doing this for your health. It’s not a fad diet or going with the societal flow: your body is broken and sick and needs these changes to be better. By eliminating the problem items from our daily diets we are improving our situation vastly. And even if it seems like it’s taking forever to feel a difference (I’ve read that it can take up to two years for a Celiac patient’s system to heal from the damage) or we experience a set-back (many times I’ve over done it on an otherwise “safe” food and paid the price, since FODMAPs have a cumulative effect and it’s implausible to eliminate them entirely), it’s an ongoing process in the pursuit of health.

I was lucky, as far as the Low-FODMAP Elimination Diet went: I noticed definite, measurable results within a week and a half. I went from being physically ill each day (usually multiple times a day) to only once or twice a week. I hadn’t even realized bloating was one of my issues until my clothes stopped cutting me in two each day (my clothes would go from fitting in the morning to feeling 2 sizes too small by mid-afternoon). And now that I knew what to avoid, I could travel without fear of becoming ill on the road or waiting to eat until we’d reached our destination.

These steps didn’t turn my life into some animated movie with singing wildlife helping me dress each morning, but they did make me a lot happier with my lot. Yes, there are some things that I miss (doughnuts are probably the main thing, to be honest, but I’m working on my options, there) but for the most part I don’t think about what I can’t have anymore. After a year and a half the substitutions have become second nature, and the increase in awareness and product availability makes things easier, too. Bottom line, my life is so much better having made the change to an overall Low-FODMAP diet that it doesn’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything–quite the opposite, in fact: I’ve gained so much more than I’ve lost, it’s not even a question of going back to the old ways.

Cutting the Cord

Everyday Adventures

Oooh, the change theme continues in Casa de Scraps!

So. For quite some time I’ve been itching to ditch our current cable subscription. Partially to cut our bills down, partially to remove the draw of aimless channel-surfing that sucks away an entire evening when I could be doing something much more productive. It’s a whole save-me-from-myself thing, really.

It’s not that we don’t enjoy certain television shows and channels–we do! I do! That didn’t stop me from watching other things just because they were on, though. And while we loved the freedom that our DVR subscription gave us, even that was loosing some of it’s luster. If it were just me I would have pulled the plug on cable ages ago, but I wanted to be sure that my preferences weren’t going to prove a hardship for Todd, either.

That meant research and looking into what was really available, these days, from legitimate alternate content providers. Turns out, there’s a lot, and the wishes that we could “just pay for the stations we want” are getting closer and closer. In the mean time we’ve opted to rely on the streaming services of Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video to supply our home entertainment needs.

It was sort of ridiculous how much equipment I returned to the cable company at the end of August:

  • 1 HD DVR receiver and remote
  • 2 regular cable receivers with remotes
  • and 1 digital converter with remote

plus all their assorted cords and cables. (I know I took a picture of it, but it seems to be hiding from me!) The transition went fairly smoothly aside from the inevitable up-sell attempts. Always with the bundle up-sell. Do. Not. Want.

The first weekend we were sans cable was Labor Day weekend and we were planning to spend it at home. There was a lot of getting to know our new options going on and we started watching a new show we’d meant to watch when it started 2 months ago, but never got around to adding to the DVR list.

Over the last week or so we’ve been figuring out where our favorite shows are best watched from–some from Hulu Plus if you don’t mind the small commercial breaks, but others we’ve decided we’ll more than likely pay the $1.99 or so per episode to watch uninterrupted on Amazon. Netflix is still our go-to for full seasons of older television favorites, and when I brought home a Roku box we were able to add other stations (including music stations) to play with. So far I loved being able to pull up my Armik station on Pandora and have it play through the television while we ate dinner.

As with all change, there was some hesitation on our part, and a fear early on that I had urged Todd into something he ultimately wasn’t going to like. Being the wise man (different from wiseguy, of course) he is, he also pointed out that we could always add the cable service back should we find that our streaming options just didn’t suit us.

Change Pinches, But It Can Help, Too

Everyday Adventures

So last week I said I was looking to make some changes in my blog-life and in that quirky way the universe has of tossing things together, life threw me another change.

Lessons are sometimes very easy to spot, no?

Driving home from work one day last week there was one of those big light-up road signs declaring one of the roads I take to and from work will be closing for 7 months. Seven months.

And I am, admittedly, a serious creature of habit.

But at least I had two weeks to figure out my plan of action, right? That certainly counts for something.

The funny thing is, I’d changed my route earlier this year, and it’s not one I want to go back to.

See, I used to go a very logical way to work that took my through a very large intersection. That intersection is monitored by a red-light camera and has a huge lead-in between it and the intersection before it. On a good day I’d catch the light before it or clearly come up to it while it was still red, but more mornings than not I’d be in this cosmic game of chicken with the light going 40 mph (the speed limit) trying to gauge how long the left turn signal had been red or what the crosswalk countdown is currently on, all while wondering if I slow down on yellow (like you’re supposed to!) how much damage the car behind me is likely to do.

It was just way too much stress to start every. single. day. with and I had to make a change. And that change–while adding a third school zone to drive through–greatly decreased my pre-work stress and didn’t add any time to my commute.

The route home was simple enough to fix: a single lane change just before the detour and I’m able to scoot around the construction obstruction by way of a stair-step of streets. On the way too work I have a few more options, so I’ve been trying them out one by one, trying to decide which is less likely to cause a fit of road rage.

Changing up our schedules wakes us up.

Have you ever ended up at your usual destination and not remembered the trip at all? We become so entrenched in our routines that our brains go numb. By changing things up, even if you don’t necessarily have to, wakes our brains up and makes new connections in our head. Feeling in a rut? Change up something in your day and see if it helps.

It’s not just the acceptance of change that helps us, it’s looking for the perks, as well. For instance, on my new way home I pass several stores that I forgot were there–Chinese grocery, office supply, and even our smaller–yet more accessible and including the only Barnes & Noble we have left–mall. This opens up all sorts of easy errand-running possibilities!

So while I don’t necessarily relish making this change in routine, I’m learning from it. And I think that’s probably the greater lesson.

Have you encountered any change you could learn from, recently?