How to Cut Back on Gluten, in 3 Easy Steps

There’s an abundance of misinformation about gluten, that very misunderstood sticky protein which has been collectively demonized over the past few years. One of the most dangerous misconceptions is that going GF is a quick path to weight loss — especially if it just means buying up GF cookies, pancakes, and bagels. As such, being gluten-free is practically “basic” at this point.

Case in point.

On the flip side, If you’ve stepped into a grocery store in the past three years, you’ve probably noticed a huge spike in the number of GF products availabe, or even just a larger font-size notifying shoppers that rice cakes always have been and continue to be gluten free. In 2014, that’s just smart marketing. It’s also fantastic for those of us who’ve learned to avoid the mysterious, binding protein in so many foods (even soy sauce!).

But steering clear of gluten — even when you know you need to and know how — isn't always easy. One of my favorite health professionals to consult is Jennifer Mielke, a holistic coach at the highly revered Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City (see some more of her opinions on GF matters here). First of all, take comfort in the notion that even Jennifer laughed as I confessed my see-saw between stomach aches and cupcake cravings. “I used to eat gluten at basically 3 meals a day/7 days a week! I feel your pain, trust me,” she lamented. Here are her three tips for staying motivated to stay away from gluten, even (no, especially!) when the office has a platter of free cupcakes.

Be Honest with Yourself

As it is for many of us, for Jennifer the process of parting with gluten was a long, drawn-out one. “What worked the best for me was just to start being more selective about when I would have gluten. Did I really relish the toast/bagel/muffin in the morning? Nope. So I dropped it. Did I really need to eat a slice of the mediocre bread that's plopped on most restaurant tables? Nope, dropped it. The meh cake that is served at most birthdays? When I took an honest look I realized these things gave me a stomach ache almost every time, and who wants that? But — do I really love that grilled cheese/tomato soup combo at my favorite lunch spot? YES! So I eat it once in a long while.”

Have a Buddy

If you live with, or are close to someone else who is gluten intolerant, you have a built-in support system already. Look to that person in moments of weakness for encouragement and to remind you how bad you'll feel later if you eat those four slices of pizza. Jennifer also recommends not keeping products containing gluten in the house. It’s pretty simple — that way you just won’t cook with them.

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“If you're struggling to give up gluten,” says Jenny, “I think the most important thing is to find foods you love that you can eat, and focus on them. The simple act of switching your perspective from deprivation works wonders.” Yes, it’s easier said than done, but it’s absolutely true.