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Removing gluten from your diet is easy in theory: it’s just taking one food component out of rotation. But in practice, it can be difficult. What will I eat? Can I have sandwiches, pasta, pizza? What happens when I got out to eat?

I recommend that you pick a time when you’re not going to be tempted with parties, celebrations, or any big events that can throw you off track in the beginning. Plan to give yourself three weeks. Just three weeks. You can do anything for 21 days! Then, guess what? On day 22, go nuts. Eat all the pasta, pizza, and pancakes you can stomach and observe. If you feel terrible, avoid gluten, because you are intolerant. If you feel fine, then you’re not gluten intolerant, so you can continue to eat wheat products. I’ve personally maybe seen this happen like once, as gluten is a gummy, hard-to-digest protein that can cause constant fatigue and constipation, bloating, or other digestive disturbances. But it does happen, sure.

Anyway. Let’s take the first 3 weeks. Maybe you’re the type of person who gets motivated about something and just does it, never looking behind. Or, maybe you like to ease into something new. Either way, you’re basically breaking an addiction, so give yourself a break. Stay motivated but don’t beat yourself up if there are set-backs. Just move on and get back on track. Don’t use it as an excuse to completely derail.

I don’t recommend that you titrate down slowly in this case, because it really does work better if you quit cold turkey and mentally prep yourself to go gluten free for 3 weeks. Think about what you’ll be missing. Is it pasta? Cake? Pizza? Cookies? Cereal? Sandwiches? Well, most of these products are comprised of refined foods. This means they have had vital nutrients stripped from them, and when you eat them, it actually robs your body of nutrients to metabolize them. That’s why you still feel hungry or have cravings or find yourself overeating and dreaming of 3pm when you can have a muffin: because you’re not meeting your nutritional needs.

So, while there are substitutions for every product I mentioned, take this opportunity to make some changes and additions. Instead of “fortified” wheat bran cereal for breakfast, try a nutrient-dense smoothie with whey protein, flax for fiber, spirulina or a superfood addition, seasonal fruit, or even almonds or almond butter (pair well with bananas and is filling). Try a hot gluten-free cereal with dates and nuts and cinnamon. Out for lunch? Have a salad with chicken. Or, go Mexican and get corn tortillas, black beans, guac, chicken or fish or carnitas. Need a snack? Try fruit with nuts; turkey slices with hummus and veggies or avocado; or, if you’re really craving something bread-y, grab a gluten free muffin (often made with flax and pumpkin. Actually very good), or have some rice bread with tahini and apple slices. Dinner: skip the bread basket, if you’re out; ask that it not be brought to the table at all. Try fish, sweet potato, kale or spinach, brown rice, anything that doesn’t come in a box. Do some research. Find some delicious recipes. Whole foods truly nourish your body, and your body will thank you. Stable blood sugar and nutrient -dense foods mean no crash and no cravings.

End of week one. Are you dying? Can’t get cookies off your mind? Fine, have one. Did you lose control and eat the whole box? Well, this is good information. When you are intolerant/addicted to a substance, it’s not uncommon to lose control and binge. You’re filling feel-good endorphin receptors in your brain. Step away from the cookies and start over, knowing that it’ll be difficult, but if you can make it for a couple weeks, your cravings will disappear. Really. Try more protein, take a mineral supplement and a multi, or try 5-HTP. It really helps with cravings.

There are plenty of substitutions: brown rice pasta, rice-almond bread, flax muffins, gluten-free cereals and grains. The gluten free world is growing. Keep a food journal. Use this as an opportunity to gauge how you feel. You’ll likely be rewarded for your efforts with clearer skin, weight loss, less bloating and digestive symptoms, more energy. We were not evolved to eat such hard-to-digest grains. Life may be easier for you without. Give it a try and let us know how it goes.