Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How strict do I want to be?

My boyfriend and I moved in together seven months ago. Knowing that I have issues with food, he agreed from day one to keep certain things out of the house on a regular basis. Cookies, ice cream, anything that might trigger me to binge was banned...and this wasn't easy since he has a major sweet tooth. But he's been pretty good about it, and when I decided to go gluten-free, I was surprised to hear him say he would try it too. Now that doesn't actually mean he's going to do it, but he said he would try not to buy bread or anything that I couldn't eat.

Now so far (and yes, I know it's only 4 days in) this has been not only easy, but actually fun. Rather than focusing on what I can't eat, I've been having a great time figuring out what I can eat. Since I love cooking, this is like a whole new playground for me. I've been poring over gluten-free websites (a bit obsessively, my boyfriend tells me) and am excited to try new recipes. Last night's dinner? Lime chicken tacos from The Gluten Free Goddess. They were amazing! And tonight, my friend (who has Celiac's) and I are heading to a local health food store where they have a lot of gluten-free items. The funny thing is that I used to live next to that store and go there all the time. But I never paid attention to the gluten-free labels, other than to note that it might be a good place to buy presents for my friend. Now it's a new place to explore, and I can't wait to see what fun things I can pick up.

But here's the tough part for me. When I asked my friend how to get started eating gluten-free, he told me that everyone has different views on how strict you should be, but that he lets some things slide and feels okay. Since I've never been diagnosed with a wheat or gluten allergy and this is simply an experiment for me, I figure I should simply do the best I can to avoid gluten but not stress myself out about it. On the other hand, if I really want to figure out if avoiding gluten will ease some of my digestion problems, I should probably be as strict as possible. So last night I came home and saw that my boyfriend had bought Trader Joe's Tomato Soup. I had been eating their Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup (which is gluten-free and super yummy), so here he was trying to be sweet and buy something I could eat on my new plan. Strangely enough, that soup is on the Trader Joe's list of gluten-free foods online, but the label on the box clearly states that it is made in a plant that processes wheat. So shoot! What do I do? Eat it because it doesn't have wheat in the ingredients list or leave it for my boyfriend to eat because it could be contaminated? (Here's where I pause and stare at the computer for a few minutes, biting my lip.)

I don't have the answer yet, but I know myself well enough to guess that I'll probably end up eating the soup. And I haven't decided if I'm willing to give up sushi with eel either. I always thought giving up bread would be the hardest thing for me, but surprisingly enough I've let that go without even a backward glance. Well, maybe a teeny glance. But it's the smaller things that have been harder. What am I going to do with the cocktail sauce in my fridge that has wheat in it? My boyfriend won't eat it because he's allergic to shrimp, and I won't throw it away because I can't stand to be wasteful. I have a feeling I'm going to have to start inviting friends over to eat my leftover gluten-filled food. And I definitely have to find a gluten-free cocktail sauce. Thank God for wheat-free tamari. If that didn't exist, this whole experiment would have been over before it even started.

So what do you think? Do you let things slide or take it that extra step to stay completely gluten-free?

Update 12.28.09 I've been strictly gluten-free since August, when I went off the gluten-free diet for 3 weeks to get tested for Celiac Disease. The test came back negative, but I felt so awful during those 3 weeks that I decided I need to be 100% gluten-free. I'm much stricter now that when I wrote this post.

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