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.