Wheat-Free: Strict Avoidance or the Occasional Indulgence?

Celebrations and holidays have a way of dragging on for days and weeks, and they can wreak havoc on your wheat-free diet if you're not ready. Think about all the wedding showers, parties, and dinners leading up to the big event, or that whole gauntlet from Thanksgiving through Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year's.

With all the biscuits, breads, stuffings, gravies, cakes, pies — you name it — it's a wonder anyone resurfaces after the celebration unscathed. But if you create a plan and stick to it, you'll survive the feeding frenzy.

If you slip up, make sure you know your wheat consumption limits. Over-indulging can have serious consequences based on your level of wheat sensitivity.

If you have a tolerable reaction to wheat and accidentally eat too much, allow yourself a break and give yourself permission to cheat a little bit knowing that, as soon as the celebration is over, you'll return to your wheat-free diet. This flexibility can alleviate feelings of deprivation as long as you manage it realistically.

One of the worst things you can do is beat yourself up over a wheat indiscretion. This negativity can lead to frustration and even to your quitting your wheat-free lifestyle altogether. Even the strongest people make mistakes; just own it and get back on track quickly. Don't let your celebrations linger from a dietary standpoint.

Try a cold-turkey approach to removing wheat (and really, all grains) from your diet because of the addictive and comforting effect they have; if you let them linger as you phase them out, you may have trouble getting rid of them completely. After they're gone, though, you may be able to handle letting a little back in on occasion.

Knowing your ability to bounce back after a holiday or celebratory wheat splurge is crucial in determining how far you can or can't go when you face the possibility of going off the wagon. There are two types of people who eliminate wheat from their diet approach festivities and get-togethers: the doers and the relaxers.

Wheat-Free: The doers

Doers are people who are driven to maintain their wheat-free lifestyles. On the rare occasions that they cheat on their diets, they usually pass over the mistake and quickly forget after a short mourning spell has passed.

Doers insist on taking their own lunches to work, to school, on vacation, and even to other people's homes if they're not convinced they'll have a wheat-free meal waiting for them. They're constantly planning ahead and staying on top of their diets.

Friends, family, and coworkers are usually aware of the doers’ habits because wheat-free eating is one of those defining characteristics that overflow into other areas of their lives. Doers can sometimes come across as preachy and judgmental, but usually that's just a matter of their passion for spreading the wheat-free message.

As you may have guessed, doers continue to eliminate all wheat products even during holidays and family celebrations when gluten-filled food is in abundance. From food gifts and stocking stuffers to rehearsal dinners and receptions, doers remain committed to their cause. People tell the doer, “You're so strong. I don't know how you do it,” and, “I wish I had your willpower,” which encourages more of the same behavior.

Wheat-Free: The relaxers

Relaxers are similar to doers in that they're deeply committed to their wheat-free lifestyles. But whereas doers can seem preachy, relaxers tend to inspire those around them rather than discourage. Relaxers navigate food choices in an unassuming way that isn't arrogant or rude. Simply put, they become dietary role models for those considering a change to a wheat- or grain-free program.

When family celebrations and holidays roll around, relaxers are much more flexible in their food choices than doers. They may sneak a piece of wedding cake, have a serving of stuffing and gravy, and eat a chocolate Santa or two out of their stockings, but they don't go crazy with their diets.

They're more willing to make exceptions here and there to fit family celebration and holiday traditions. This approach causes little to no stress to those involved.

Finding the right balance for your wheat-free diet

Are you a doer or a relaxer? If you said “some of both,” then you're right on track. Doers are strong in their determination as they stay on the path. They attend weddings, reunions, and graduations without a dietary blemish and emerge from holidays with a diet worthy of a five-star rating.

However, the doer's attitude can be dampening to others. No one likes to feel judged or preached to. This kind of interaction turns people off before they even have a chance to hear the benefits of living the wheat-free lifestyle.

Relaxers appear to have a handle on the wheat they consume. They mesh seamlessly at family celebrations and on holidays because of their flexibility. They're never an inconvenience to a host. Their nonabrasive approach is often a good recruiter to the wheat-free lifestyle.

However, a too-lax approach, especially during the holidays, can lead to a downward spiral disaster for relaxers. Having to change back to a wheat-free diet from your culinary debauchery can be quite difficult when you've gone too far off track.

Try a happy-medium approach between the two wheat-free dietary styles. Your personality strongly influences the direction you're likely to go, but becoming aware of how your lifestyle may be affecting those around you may give reason to tweak your behaviors a bit.

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