Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How To Start A Gluten-Free Diet: Building A Community

When I first decided to eat gluten-free, I had no idea what that would mean. It was a random decision that became permanent once I realized how awful I felt when I tried to eat gluten again. But one of the aspects of becoming gluten-free that I never realized was that it would set me apart. As anyone who eats differently than the mainstream knows, our social lives often revolve around food. And when you can't eat with everyone else, it changes your perspective. 
Luckily, the gluten-free lifestyle has become much more mainstream, and even in the two years I've been eating this way, I've noticed a difference in how people respond to hearing that I'm gluten-free. People are much more aware of what it is now, and I assume that will only improve with time. Of course, I still get the occasional blank stares, but I can only imagine how hard it must have been for others who have been eating gluten-free much longer than I have been. If you're starting out now, you're in a good spot because there are so many more options available to you. 

However, having a gluten-free aisle in the grocery store doesn't take away from the fact that you'll feel isolated sometimes. There will be moments when you'll be in a social situation and look around at everyone eating, and feel a bit lonely. Those moments will come less and less, but they'll still happen. Which is why building a gluten-free community is so important. It was my intention to write a whole post on this, but my dear friend, Debi, just wrote a post saying everything I was thinking. So I'll let her tell you why it's important to be a part of a gluten-free community

By the way, I've only ever met Debi online - through our blogs, through Facebook and Twitter. She is a part of my gluten-free community, and if you're reading this, then that means you're a part too. It's a community that comes with a lot of perks: free recipes, tips and advice, support, and friendship. Definitely take advantage of the wealth of knowledge being shared online!

Speaking of taking advantage, I have definitely soaked up as much as I could from this community. My first pitiful attempt at gluten-free baking (I simply substituted rice flour for regular flour in my lemon square recipe) would have been ten times better had I known about all of these gluten-free blogs. Since then, everything I've learned about cooking and baking gluten-free, I've learned through recipes and tips I've found online. 

One of the first blogs I noticed was one called The Gluten-Free Dish, written by a fabulous woman named Debbie. It took me a while to try one of her recipes, but I kept going back to her blog. Her style was like mine...that is to say, she had as many food sensitivities to deal with as I did, and knew how to get creative. Eventually, Debbie and I became friends on Facebook (see the power of the online community?) and she was always there with a kind word or gesture of support. In fact, when she made this cookie recipe, I was delighted to see that I could easily adapt it to my needs, and she admitted that she had been thinking of me when she came up with the recipe. How's that for community!?

I decided to "adopt" Debbie last month as part of Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger, the monthly blog event started at Book of Yum, encouraging bloggers to get to know each other and try out new recipes. Her pecan sandies had been calling to me, so I whipped up a batch - seriously, they were really easy to make - by substituting the pecans with sunflower seeds. The result was amazing, and because the ingredients are so healthy, I enjoyed these with breakfast for days, eating some on their own and crumbling some into my oatmeal. Sadly, I didn't get to make any of the other recipes I had bookmarked, but I'm still planning to, starting with Debbie's Chicken Stew and Dumplings. Once I get caught up on school work, it's the first thing I'm going to do!


The Gluten-free 'Dish' said...

Iris, you are a dear for including me in this great post! Thank you for your sweet words that brought love to my day...possibly year! I will carry them around in my heart in my special place where I store kind words and thoughts that uplift me just when I need it.

Your writing touched me in those emotional spaces that really never completely go away when you eat differently. Those spaces get smaller, as time goes on. It is better, as you wrote, because we find our place in a loving community that welcomes, encourages and uplifts.

I never had anybody do that for me when I ate gluten!

Facebook is a great way to find that gluten-free community. Thanks for your friendship, Iris.

Barb said...

I found Debbie's blog recently and subscribed. I'm planning on trying some of her recipes for when my sister comes to town. I haven't gotten back to tweaking your biscuit recipe yet but I will get to it! I wish I had known about gf blogs 2 years ago when I was diagnosed with celiac disease but better late than never!

hunterslyonesse said...

Great post as always, Iris. :D Thank you for sharing my post, too. I love how we can all become friends with one another without ever meeting each other face to face. I'm honored to have you as a part of my community. :D

Carol, Simply...Gluten Free said...

I so agree with you about how helpful it is to be part of a community - and I love our gluten free community!!! Thanks for pointing out this important but oft neglected fact!

Kristin said...

It has been so helpful to me to read everyone's blogs. I would be lost without it!

If you can see this the comment test worked:)

Linda said...

Great post Iris. Community is so important. There are a lot of ways to find it online, but I also think that local support groups are important.

Debbie is a sweetheart and I'm so glad you two found each other.

gfe--gluten free easily said...

Debbie is a dear for sure! And the gluten-free community has helped all of us. I feel so badly for those gf folks who know nobody else gluten free and don't reach out to others. It truly makes a world of difference! My life is so much richer today because of this online community and I see the importance of community and knowing that others "get it" when my support group meets monthly. It's so very important.



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