“How can I live with someone who can eat gluten and dairy when I can’t?”
This is a very common question that I get asked when it comes to getting started with a gluten-free dairy-free lifestyle and diet. And I’ll tell you, as I sat down to answer this question, I realized that it’s a lot more tough to answer than I initially thought. As I got to thinking, it really all comes down to your family and the dynamics that are normal for you.
That said, all I can do – or aim to do with this blog – is share my experiences and tell you what has worked for me and my family. When I started writing, I had a full list of tips I wanted to share with you and then as I wrote, I just wasn’t feeling it. It didn’t feel right. What I had come up with just felt a little too Pollyanna of an answer. “Do what works for your family, keep GFDF versions of foods that you want so you can make easy replacements, etc”
I told my husband I was coming up against a ton of resistance writing this and asked him to help me. He laughed at me, since I was asking him to give me the answer for what I experience as a result of HIM being able to eat the things that I can’t.
The truth is that I’ve been GFDF (or mostly) for so long that I kind of can’t see the forest through the trees anymore. The way we eat and live just feels natural to me now. It most certainly didn’t always feel that way, but after talking to him, I realized that the one thread that I was trying to explain was this.
We met halfway.
When I first went full GFDF, he went with me. We took out all dairy and gluten products of our house and he jumped in head first alongside me. At the time, it felt SO overwhelming and daunting that I just felt like I couldn’t bear to have those foods in my house. In hindsight what a man I have for sticking with me like that!
We made all our changes together. We adopted a very healthy whole foods-based diet and honestly were the healthiest we’ve ever been. Instead of opting to replace all the foods that we couldn’t eat anymore, we started to eat more vegetables and whole grains, and skip things like pizza or gluten and dairy-filled desserts.
Anyhow, we ate almost a full GFDF diet together for a year. At least when we ate at home. He would order things that he could enjoy with both gluten and dairy whenever we went out or had meals at other people’s houses.
As time went on, he expressed to me that he wasn’t really satisfied with eating the same way that I was anymore. He wanted to eat cheese and normal bread again. I agreed and we then began buying two kinds of bread – my gluten-free bread and his normal bread. I think this was the beginning of me adding more “gluten-free” and “dairy-free” products back into my diet.
Remember this was around the time that there weren’t nearly as many gluten-free or dairy-free options in grocery stores. The “gluten-free diet” was just starting to become a “thing” in most areas – even in the very health-conscious area that we lived at the time. So there weren’t a lot of options around locally – and I hadn’t discovered the joy of ordering from Amazon yet.
Since I’m the main cook in our household, I continued to make meals that were GFDF-friendly and he would sometimes eat them that way, or sometimes he’d add a few extras to his meals. He’d throw some cheese on a plate of pasta or add some crackers to his soup. Just small additions and I didn’t feel like it was necessary to make two meals (nor would I have done that anyway if I’m being totally honest).
My motto was (and still is): get on board
or make your own food.
Fast forward to me getting pregnant. I was craving dairy like none other. I felt like my baby was calling out for me to eat yogurt and cheese again and cinnamon rolls (but that was probably just the pregnancy cravings coming for me haha). I’m a firm believer in listening to your body – and this baby inside me was telling me what he wanted. So I gave it to him! I brought dairy back into my diet from about 6 months pregnant to around the time he was 3 months old.
That’s when I started breaking out in hives for two weeks straight and couldn’t make sense of it. I also had mastitis for the first time, which was just plain awful. I went to a naturopath and had my blood sent off to be tested for food allergies. You can see the results of that here.For some reason, my immune system was just going haywire. I cut everything out again – and more. Gluten was gone for good. Dairy for sure. Eggs – a new discovery, but one that was absolutely necessary. I’m still about 95% egg-free now.
>> If you’re interested in finding out what food intolerances you may have, click here.
Going back to eating this way while having a 3-month old and still nursing like crazy, I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to get the nourishment I needed to keep making milk. My husband still had all these foods in the house and I just had to learn to leave. them. alone. Even though it was CRAZY HARD at the time. I had gotten used to eating yogurt and eggs for protein while I making so much milk for my son. I ate more nut butter and meat, got through that blip and moved forward again.
As my son got older, we started letting him eat gluten and dairy – after waiting a loooong time to test them in. I was a nervous wreck that he’d have the same issues as I did – but so far so good. The more snack foods with gluten and dairy we had around, the more I was sneaking bites of them. I didn’t have any major issues until a few months back when I just went for it. I had a lovely Italian dinner with my hubby – full on with bread, cheese, and wine. And I’ll tell you, I didn’t feel like the bloat let up for over a week! Good dinner, not so good after effects.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make in telling you all this is that it’s not easy to make these changes with family members who can foods you can’t. At first, I had to have my husband totally on board so that I would stick with it.
Over time, I realized that if I was ever going to feel my best, it would mean that I had to take responsibility for me – and he wasn’t the one that I would have to rely on to make that happen.
So here’s the real takeaway:
we meet halfway with just about everything.
> He drinks coconut milk instead of normal milk.
> We use vegan butter instead of normal butter.
> We tried about 1,000 coffee creamer substitutions before we settled on coconut creamer that we could both enjoy.
> We still eat pizza – but on gluten-free crust. Usually made at home and I let him add whatever toppings and cheese that he wants to his half. I don’t touch it anymore.
> We eat gluten-free pasta – so many of them don’t taste any different than the normal kind anyway.
> We stock our pantry with gluten-free and dairy-free baking items. This was actually his insistence. A couple years back, he did a full stock-up so that we could be prepared to make whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. That really made a big difference in either of us feeling deprived!
> We keep snacks that we both can eat and some that are just for each of us. My son eats his own snacks or either of ours, depending on what he wants.
> We eat more homemade meals than we did before to make sure I feel good – and I compromise by letting him get (gluten-free sans cheese) tacos at our local taco shop once a week or every other week.
> I make one base meal and he can add whatever he wants to it – and I’m never offended. Tempted to take a bite? Maybe, but I realize that his body is his and his choices are his. It’s not my job to be the food police and make him eat what I want him to.
Honestly, it’s been a REAL learning curve to get to where we are and even sometimes we don’t see eye to eye. He rolls his eyes when I say I’m making vegan gluten-free dessert about 99% of the time. But then again, he knows that if I’m making it he’ll eat it.
… But My biggest advice?
My biggest advice to help you on your journey is to help your loved ones understand why you can’t eat gluten or dairy – that it makes you sick, that you feel foggy, that you get diarrhea (there’s nothing quicker to shut someone up than that!), that you break out like crazy, or you have zero energy. Whatever you have to tell them to get them on your page say it!
Then once they understand, ask them to meet you halfway.
Don’t expect them to go full throttle into this lifestyle with you. It’s YOUR lifestyle, your choice. It’s your job to be good to your body, not to dictate what others do to theirs. If they’re along for the ride, then more power to you – and I applaud your family for being so supportive. It’s not easy – so give them a million “thank you’s” and hugs for being with you along the way.
I hope that if you’ve been dealing with getting family members on board with your diet and lifestyle changes, that this helps even a little bit. I know it was a bit verbose, but hopefully you’ve been inspired to come up with a way to make this work for you and your family.
I get a lot of questions every week via email from women who are just starting to take on a gluten-free dairy-free lifestyle. I usually answer these emails one-to-one, but really I should be sharing these questions and answers more publicly. I am of the mindset that for every one person who asks a question, there are likely 25 more people who are thinking of it but havent spoken up yet.
My number one goal with this blog is to share my been-there-done-that experience of living this lifestyle along with you. Ive been trained as a certified holistic health coach, but Im just a regular woman like you. A busy mom whos just trying to stay healthy so I can have a full happy life and avoid as many doctors visits as I can as I get older.
If you have a question you’d like to ask me to answer here on the blog, click here to submit itand I’ll feature you in a future “Q+A with Rachael” post.
Hey – if you want even more tips on taking on a gluten-free dairy-free diet, be sure to download my GFDF Shopping List below
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