By Alexander Hymowitz, high school junior and NFCA volunteer
Hello. I am Alexander Hymowitz, and for many years after my diagnosis with celiac disease, I tried everything I could to NOT follow a strict gluten-free diet. I have learned a lot from this endeavor, and I am here to offer some tips from a former cheater.
5 Lessons from a Former Gluten Cheater
1. Take the first step.
One of the biggest issues I had becoming gluten-free was taking the first step. I always thought that becoming gluten-free would be magic and that one day I would just all of the sudden become gluten-free. Well, I hate to break to everyone who has just been diagnosed and is lost and confused, but you have to take the first step. Taking the first step is the same with every single person, ranging from the newly diagnosed to people diagnosed with celiac disease who have not stuck to a gluten-free diet. The first step is telling yourself, “I must become gluten-free and must stick to this diet.” I know it is difficult, but trust me when I say that once you take this first step, the rest of the journey is easy sailing.
2. It gets easier.
Being newly diagnosed with celiac disease can seem very daunting; it was for me. I was scared and confused and had no idea how to deal with this illness. Sometimes, it is good to be told from someone who was and is on the same path as you how much better the road ahead looks. Well, the road ahead looks great and easy. As a former cheater without the same resources as there are today, it was difficult and I was always looking for some guidance, may it be telling me how to eat gluten free or the consequences of not following a gluten-free diet. Becoming gluten-free is not a curse, but rather an adventure with mentors, such as myself and others. Who isn’t looking forward to some adventure?
3. Once you start, do not go back.
Becoming gluten-free is a whole-hearted decision that needs to be made by you. It cannot be made by your parents, spouse or even a website. You have to want to become gluten-free. Many times during the first years of my diagnosis, I would try the gluten-free diet because others told me to. None of those times got me anywhere closer to becoming completely gluten-free. After many different attempts, I made becoming gluten-free my job and I needed to put it in my head that being gluten-free was my job. No one can tell you to follow a gluten-free diet other than yourself.
4. You are not alone.
When I was diagnosed, I felt like my body was against me and there was no one in the world who could help me out. I was wrong. There are many different websites and people who know exactly what you are going through and want to help you. I know from experience as a newly diagnosed kid and now someone who has been gluten-free for a while. There are tons of people in your position who would like to share their stories and share their ideas. Whenever you feel abandoned and feel like this gluten-free stuff is awful, take a second and know there are people, such as myself, who been in the position and know exactly what to do.
5. Cheating is just not worth it.
Before you take the next bite out of a slice of pizza or pop mushroom ravioli into your mouth, remember it is just not worth it. Those 30 minutes of greatness come with a price. A huge price. Some may feel the consequences immediately; others may never actually feel it, but whenever you have some gluten, you are hurting yourself. The villi in your stomach get hurt and although many may not feel it, it is not worth that bite of 99-cent pizza. Bring gluten-free food into work or school. Just remember that slice of gluteny pizza is not worth the pain.
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