When I was a kid, my family had a tradition of going out to get Chinese Food for special occasions. I used to love how richly decorated the restaurants were, with the tall red seats hiding us away in our own little enclave and golden dragons smiling down at us from the walls.
I loved getting pork fried rice and egg rolls, but my absolute favorite was reserved for only the most special of occasions: the pu-pu platter, which had a variety of delicious appetizers elegantly displayed around a small fire pot, so that you could heat them yourself. I loved the little foil packets of shrimp toast or the long teriyaki skewers that you could heat up on the fire pot and then pluck off, hopefully without burning your fingers. You’d open the packets and they’d pour fragrant steam up into the air. But of course, the most fun was eating all of it.
Since I went gluten-free, though, I’ve had to give up most Chinese food. Unfortunately, soy sauce is in almost everything made in American Chinese food…and Chinese soy sauce almost always has gluten in it. (Wheat and water are the top two ingredients!) When I realized the extent of the use of soy sauce, I did actually cry, not only for missing out on the foods themselves, but also because I had lost that connection to my childhood.
When going gluten free, you feel like you have to give up so much: not just your favorite foods and the associated memories, but spontaneity and freedom of choice, and it can cause friction in your relationships with friends and family.
But the thing is, you don’t have to give up any of these things if you reframe them.
Honor that your old normal is gone. Grieve it. It’s definitely a loss. And then roll up your sleeves so that you’re ready to build your new normal. When you start looking for safe solutions, you’ll be surprised at what you can find, and how it almost always comes from a different direction than what you expect.
In the case of losing out on my Chinese food and the attached memories, the solution that worked for me was two-fold. When we eat out, we now get Thai food, which rarely uses soy sauce (always ask your server), and when I still need that hit, I make my favorite Chinese dishes at home using a gluten free tamari. (Tamari should be fine, but you should still read the label just in case.)
Sometimes it’s hard for people to see beyond their own grief and loss. We can forget that it’s not just about replacing foods. It’s also about finding a new way to look at things and being able to pivot. That’s where having a coach can help you. You get the support and accountability so that you can get back on track with a joyful life where you are eating safely for your body.
Have you ever had to replace a favorite food with a new one? Tell me about it in the comments.
Stay strong and keep reading your labels!