During my freshman and sophomore years of college, I dealt with the whole, "Am I really allergic to gluten?" thing. I had been experiencing some symptoms that made me feel like it was impossible to function. I got a few simple tests done, got a call, and was told to "lay off the gluten." Now, I wasn't diagnosed with Celiacs, and I didn't immediately vomit if I had a brownie, so this (in my mind) left leeway to cheat. And if your pastry tooth resembles mine in the slightest, you know that cheating would be inevitable.
But based on what I had just gone through, I knew if I kept eating processed and gluten-filled foods, it would build back up in my system and result in another cycle of sickness and tests.
So I began that long and daunting process that is now familiar to so many others – finding out just what the hell gluten was, what I could eat, where I could eat, and how I could do it all on a college budget. The timing was convenient. The whole gluten-free trend was at its height, which was great because that meant options (and was not so great because people rarely took it seriously).
Controlling and limiting the food you eat is damn hard. There was a Starbucks across from my apartment in college, and as a college kid I often frequented the place for dates, outings with friends, and long study sessions. And that chocolate chip coffee cake was my jam.
While going through the process of changing my diet, I remember looking at the case and thinking, I could get that and it could kill me later, or I could not. Sometimes I opted for the first, but slowly, over time I always opted for the latter. And the discipline paid off in more ways than one.
The physical results kind of go without saying. I lost 25 pounds, went down three ring sizes and half a shoe size. My body quite literally shook off all that crap. I felt better and my stomach wasn't in a perpetual state of agony and my energy levels increased. But the physical benefits were only a part of it.
I learned self-control and moderation. When you have to look nearly every food you love in the eye and say, "no thanks" you learn a great deal of self-control. The desserts that were incorporated into my diet thereafter were usually smaller and a little healthier. I was able to have only one cookie (except for Oreos) or a few pieces of a chocolate bar. I grew an appreciation for good, healthy food, and a passion for being aware of what I was consuming and what fueled my body.
I also became more appreciative. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, you'll probably have to carry a granola bar or something in your purse when going to any function where food is provided. There may not be food you're able to eat, and as that does suck, it's just a crappy card you've been handed that you gotta deal with.
But on those occasions, when someone thinks to include a gluten -free option, or went out of their way to accommodate your situation, it should be seen as a big deal because they didn't need to do so. Anytime that's happened to me, I've felt grateful, appreciative, and have taken note to pay their kindness forward.
Am I saying you need to go gluten-free to learn self-control? Of course not. Actually, I hope you never encounter these pesky food problems, because paying seven bucks for bread that only tastes good when toasted truly gets old after a while. But I will say, that learning how to eat well and healthy is bigger than your meal plan. Those habits bleed over into many parts of life, and soon you'll find yourself saying, "I don't really need that pair of shoes" or you'll opt to get outside for some exercise instead of binging on Netflix.
Yes. There is a time and place for binging.
Originally published on BlogHer
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