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Making Changes


I've always resisted change.

Although I'm working on it, I know I can be and have been stubborn.  The way I saw change was that it was not my friend.  It was scary and out of my control. I know many people feel this way. and that the prospect of making changes to their diet is also scary.  It doesn't usually happen on a whim.  From what I've seen, it usually takes a fairly serious health issue to even get someone to consider giving up whole food groups.

Many people look at me and assume I changed my diet as soon as I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease (when my intestine ruptured).  I nearly died, I had major life-saving surgery, and then I quickly set about changing everything as a result, right?

WRONG!  Nothing could be further from the truth.  All the knowledge I have gained and the changes I've made have literally taken years…YEARS!  So take heart if you're struggling with it all and read on for some practical advice on how to make some of these changes in the real world.

Ever since I started selling cakes in cafes, and began meeting new people, I realised a lot of them saw me as an expert on all things cake and health, particularly gut health.  I was (and still am) being asked the same questions over and over.  Whilst I'm nowhere near an expert I have realised that I do know more than the average Joe about health issues...and cake of course.  The most common advice sought is how to make drastic changes instantly, such as "How do I go gluten/sugar free?  What should I buy when I go shopping? What should I snack on? What can I order when I eat out? and so on and so forth.  My advice is always the same;

"Rather than making big changes all at once and setting yourself up for failure, make small changes slowly."

Remember that even with my near death experience, I didn't go fully gluten free until a few years ago.  I'm stubborn remember.  Small changes are manageable and achievable.  Once you've mastered one small change, add another small change, and eventually, combined, they will become the drastic change you were looking to make.

My addiction, apart from sugar, was bread.  Oh my god, how much did I love bread?!  After tasting the gluten free bread options available in the supermarket I thought, "I'd rather poke myself in the eye with a blunt pencil than eat this."

So I bought corn and rice thins/cakes instead.  Let's just say that my addiction to these bland snacks was nothing short of horrifying.  I could eat a whole packet in one sitting with lashings of butter on every piece.  Yes, they were gluten free, but they still didn't fill the hunger void, nor were  they a good replacement for a sandwich.  

So I tried rye bread.  I found King Henry's Bakehouse 100% Rye Sourdough sliced bread.  Not gluten free but one step better than wheat bread, with an agreeable taste as long as it is fresh.  I still buy this bread for my kids to eat sometimes.  It is readily available in Coles and Woolies, and not too expensive.  

My next discovery was sliced organic Oat Sourdough by Ancient Grains.  I found it in Flannery's and other health food stores.  Wow, the only sliced bread that had a normal bread flavour and texture yet without the wheat.  Very nice.  Still not technically gluten free but I found I could stomach this bread easily and I really enjoyed it.  The only problem was that it was expensive, like all food was/is in health food stores, and I had to go out of my way to get it.  Around that same time, a friend sent me a fantastic gf bread recipe that was easily made in the thermomix, without any kneading necessary.  It was/is delicious but cost a fair bit to make, and involved planning ahead.  I'm pretty lazy and want to be able to go to one shop to buy everything. 

On one of my many Flannery's shopping trips, I found a very good gf spaghetti made with brown rice.  It is a Qld brand called Berconia.  I have since discovered that my local IGA also stocks this brand in their gf section.  This spaghetti has a good flavour and texture of its own, it is inexpensive,  and it's the closest thing to durum wheat pasta I have found to date.

Are you getting the picture of how long this all took?  All I've focussed on is the main source of gluten in my diet which was bread and pasta. There were many other small changes and discoveries I made throughout that time, and that I continue to make today.

Something I did notice from all the different alternatives I was trying, was that I was no longer bloated.  In fact, I felt pretty good all round.  This realisation convinced me that I was on the right track.  If my gut was happy, I was happy.

In a way I'm glad I never did find the perfect gf bread that was delicious, inexpensive, and readily available, because it forced me to look at non-bread alternatives for lunch.  I was naturally steered towards more protein so that I felt fuller for longer.  I would have smoked salmon/trout or tuna slices with avocado and plain Sakata rice crackers rather than a sandwich. When I was out and wanted a snack I would always get a tuna sushi roll, and I'd get the same for my kids.

So, over the course of more years than I'd like to admit to, I had found healthy gluten free alternatives to bread, pasta, and most importantly, CAKE!  My gut was happy and I was feeling less 'foggy'.  It was a natural next step to cut out gluten altogether because I'd made small changes slowly.

I also decided to reduce my lactose and refined sugar intake….I was more than halfway there anyway.  Notice I didn't say I would cut sugar out, simply reduce it.  This is because I am a human being, not a robot.  I enjoy my food, and I have a sweet tooth.  I see no point in denying myself something that brings me pleasure.  If I feel like some chocolate, especially at a certain time of the month, I'm gonna eat me some chocolate.  If I happen to live near one of the best gelaterias in Qld, I'm gonna enjoy that gelato, knowing full well I'm basically eating shiploads of refined sugar and milk.  By the way, authentic artisan gelato, made with real ingredients rather than concentrated flavour pastes, is worth seeking out. Talk to the person who makes the gelato; If he/she is never available or the gelato isn't made onsite, it's most probably not the real deal.

Very occasionally I will break my gluten free diet for an authentic wood-fired pizza, made with Italian ingredients, the Neapolitan way.  Have I mentioned I'm a wog?  I grew up eating pasta and crusty bread almost every night, and I took Nutella sandwiches to school on sliced white bread (it was the 70's - 80's).

I digress.  My point of this whole post is that I know how hard it is to make changes because it has taken me so very long, even after my ordeal.   Make small changes slowly, not drastic changes all at once.  If you have a bad day, or week, or month, don't worry about it, just get back on track.

Trust your gut; It will let you know if its happy or not.  Learn to listen to it.  Learn to love it.

You may just find, like I did, that the process of healing your body through your food has become the first step in learning to love yourself.

 


3 comments


  • Tara

    Great post Carmel! A realistic description of the gradual process that people navigate.


  • Janelle Kamp

    Hi Carmel, I love reading your blogs! I don’t like change either (probably why we’ve been married for 40 years lol) I have changed to a gf diet, not too hard as Nicole has been a coeliac for a few years now and I know basically what to eat. However, I suffer chronic pain and just don’t know if my diet can be improved to help with the pain instead of living on pain meds?? Thought you may have some ideas. Thanks,


  • Connie Alifano

    Very interesting and inspiring Carmel. Although I’m not gluten intolerant I will make the changes because I LOVE bread of all descriptions. I need to cut down, and reading your story I realise I need to do it SLOWLY to achieve my goal. Love your website.


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