From time to time, someone will ask me if I have a hard time sticking to a gluten-free diet. They ask it cautiously, almost apologetically. Usually, they’re newly gluten-free and—I assume—having a tough time managing the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle.
The switch was never a difficult one for me. I embraced gluten-free fully. It’s been 5.5 solid years since I’ve intentionally ingested any gluten-ous foods. I can go out to a restaurant with friends, a basket of warm, fresh bread can come out to the table, and it doesn’t bother me in the least. There’s zero temptation to cross over to the “dark side.”
Why? One simple reason: I’m healthy now, and I remember how sick I once was … and how sick eating a piece of that bread would make me.
But our older daughter, Marin—who turns 4 later this year—has taught us lessons of her own about embracing a gluten-free life. She’s basically been gluten-free her entire life. Other than a handful of times when she and I have gotten sick from the same cross-contaminated meals, she knows no other way. For her, gluten is a great unknown that other people can eat but she can’t. And for her, gluten-free is life.
As parents, Kelli and I wonder how she’ll embrace her gluten-free life as she grows older, makes friends, and enters social situations in school, clubs, sports, etc. But for now, at least, she’s embraced her gluten-free life as well as anyone I know.
She has invented a role playing game, entirely of her own imagination, that’s now become a favorite for us to play. It’s called “The Gluten and Gluten-Free Game,” and it goes something like this: We take turns pretending to be a piece of food—a cookie, a pretzel, a piece of bread, whatever—on the supermarket shelf. The other person is a shopper, who happens upon the food and asks, “Are you gluten or gluten-free?”
If you are gluten, you get left on the shelf, and the shopper comes back later to ask again. (Or, if you take an accidental nibble, you get sick and your stomach hurts.) But if you’re gluten-free, you get gobbled up immediately! Then we switch roles. To my delight (and to hers), the game involves much roaring laughter.
Marin has never questioned her need to be gluten-free. She has committed to it, and is surprisingly vigilant with it, especially given her young age. We could all—myself included—learn a thing or to about embracing the life we’re given, and doing so with passion and joy.