When I first went gluten-free, I learned a lot about celiac disease and gluten-free living. Somewhere along the way, between the blogs I read about how wonderful it was to be gluten-free and the anecdotes I heard about how a friend’s friend went gluten-free and started winning marathons, I conjured up an image of what the ideal gluten-free girl was like.
In my mind, the “perfect” gluten-free girl is unattainable. Now that she’s gluten-free, her life is wonderful. She’s always cheerful, is in excellent health, and for some reason is always wearing a sports bra and tight workout shorts. (For the record, in my mind she also has a glorious tan, which I do not.) If Plato instead of I had imagined her, he would have thought she was the pure form of a gluten-free girl. Here are three ways I’m not this perfect gluten-free figment of my imagination.
1) I get grumpy about being gluten-free.
Let’s say my imaginary gluten-free comrade (let’s call her Celia Yay) and I are out to lunch. I see something that sounds delicious on the menu. What’s more, it sounds gluten-free. I try to pick a second option in case it’s not, but I’m sure it is, and I’m sure that it’s the only thing I want. So when the waitress tells me it’s not gluten-free, I don’t take it lightly. I have my moment of “GRRRRRR!” and then get on with the only thing I can really do — order something else.
But Celia Yay, the perfect gluten-free girl, would not have had that “grrrrrr” moment. Because she knows that in the end it’s just food, and there are plenty of delicious gluten-free options, and she’s just grateful that she found out she had celiac before doing a lot of damage. She’s right, of course. But she’s also not a human being. She’s a figment of my imagination. And human beings get frustrated.
2) I eat “gluten-free” foods.
Yes, my usual diet consists of things that don’t need a food label, but I also really like cupcakes. And cookies, and pancakes, and pasta. Plus, I love to bake. So every once in a while I eat these things, whether I bake them myself or buy them from the store.
Celia Yay would never eat such things. She sticks to her supremely healthy diet, never touching processed foods, and I’m always impressed when she turns down dessert even on holidays. But really, eating gluten-free cookies every so often isn’t going to have a huge impact on my overall health. While her strict discipline may work for her, I prefer to be a little more lenient.
3) I don’t feel gung ho to work out every day — especially in the morning.
As of right now, I work out about 5-6 days per week. While I always enjoy exercise when I’m actually in the middle of it, it’s the last thing I want to think about in the morning when I first wake up. Even if I wake up at 8 a.m. and know I won’t start working out until noon, until I’ve wrestled off my sleep inertia, I sometimes grumble at the idea.
Celia Yay, however, hops out of bed even before her alarm goes off and jets straight to the gym to jump-start her day. She’s excited about exercising, even on the sixth day when she’s tired. She’s thrilled that she no longer feels chronically fatigued after going gluten-free.
While I’m happy that I have more energy now too, I still sometimes want to press “snooze” 15 times before I start my day. But I don’t let that prevent me from dragging myself out of bed, and once I’m up I leap into the day, glad that I didn’t press snooze.
While I don’t feel pressure to be like Celia Yay, I use her as an inspiration. She is the voice of reason when I get grumpy about being gluten-free. She is the girl who keeps my cookie consumption to one instead of one box, and the force that pulls me out of bed when all I want to do is sleep in. She reminds me of how lucky I am that I went gluten-free before serious damage was done, and puts me back on track to becoming the best gluten-free girl I can be, pale skin and all.
Originally published on The Huffington Post.