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.

All Things in Moderation


It’s a new year and with the starting of a new calendar many folks around the world have all vowed to do one thing: lose weight.

And I saw a statistic the other day that was not all that encouraging for their chances.

Me? While my doctor would love to see that scale go down at my 6-month check-up, I’m not as concerned with the numbers as I might have been before. For me, it’s less about losing weight and more about being healthy.

That’s where moderation comes in.

Todd and I are pretty good about eating the “right” things, 9 times out of 10, but lately we’ve been less concerned about portion size. And if lab rats have taught us nothing, we’ve learned that too much of anything–even the good stuff–can be harmful.

Here’s a for instance for you: A while back I participated in the Game On! Diet challenge with some friends (which was a fun way to do things if you’re competitive and wanting to break some old habits, though I don’t completely agree with the way they categorize certain foods). Since we were going by the instigators instructions and not the book itself–and everything was being done via Facebook posts–there was a slight miscommunication/misunderstanding that led to the idea that each of the 5 meals the plan called for needed to include 2 cups of approved veggies.

Folks, there’s a reason cows have 4 stomachs–1 is just not enough to deal with all that roughage in one day!

It didn’t help that, by no longer having a gall bladder, my body was just not equipped to handle such large meals in succession anymore. Basically, to say I was uncomfortable by mid-afternoon would be a severe understatement.

But before I swore off the challenge I dug around a bit and found where I’d gone astray (for the record, only 2 of the 5 meals–easily lunch and dinner–required the 2 cups of fibrous veggies) and the rest of the 4-week challenge went just fine (I even managed to lose 5 pounds, and our team won!).

Back to the point, moderation relies on one major factor: awareness. What you’re eating, how much of it and what it’s made of all play a part in this sort of healthy lifestyle choice. So how can you be more aware?

First, write everything down that you eat and drink. Really. You can do this in a notebook or use a hand website/app like I started playing around with the latter the week before Christmas and found that if I was committed to writing everything down I was less likely to go grab a cookie from the breakroom because I didn’t want to have to write it down. And the time that I was willing to do so, I really appreciated that cookie a bit more.

Second, think about what really constitutes a portion. A 6 oz steak mike look pretty small on your plate, but it’s technically 2 servings of protein. Some folks like to relate portion sizes to the palm of your hand, the size of your closed fist, etc. but all I have to do is look at the size difference between my hand and Todd’s and know that’s not an accurate guide! If might feel weird, but carry around a 1/2-cup measuring cup for a week or two and visually compare it to the food on your plate will give you a much better idea of what a portion is.

Finally, know what you’re putting into your body. Obviously, if French fries are a regular part of your daily diet, you might want to start substituting something less fried for your side. But even the seemingly “healthy” stuff can do you in if you’re not sure of what’s in it. A salad topped with fat-free dressing might sound like a good thing, until you realize all the chemicals that went into making that dressing could be more harmful than a basic oil and vinegar dressing with, yes, fat (but the good kind of fat). If you’ve got the time to make everything from scratch, more power to you–I don’t and don’t expect anyone else to, either. But educating ourselves about ingredients is a step in the right direction and the Fooducate app is, I think, a great tool for making better choices at the grocery store.

That’s my plan, at least, and if the numbers on the scale go down, that’s great. (If not, you won’t find me boo-hooing, though, because quality of life, to me, is more than a number on a scale.)

Do you have any healthy plans for the upcoming year?