Once upon a time there was a woman who had a spectacular sweet tooth, loved freshly baked bread, lived for a great deli sandwich and enjoyed the occasional breaded fried food. She tried to “eat healthy,” as she was a professional athlete and needed to make sure the fuel going into her body was of good quality, but there was always that little voice in the back of her head saying, “It’s OK to have that dessert. You killed that workout earlier.” Well, as surprising as it may be, that little voice got the better of her healthful choices a few times more than she would have liked, so she decided she needed to make a change if she wanted to be as great as her potential hinted at.

window shopping

My sister eyes the baked goods while on vacation. #jealous

Obviously that woman was me and I decided to go gluten free in the fall of 2010 after a string of injuries that were all adhesion related (my muscle fibers were sticking together and causing range of motion restriction). Why did this matter? My coach explained to me that gluten– a protein found in wheat, malt, barley and rye- served as a kind of glue in my body because it’s sticky (it is what gives dough its elastic texture and, really, the word starts with “glu.” Dead giveaway.) and was causing all sorts of fascia and muscle fibers to adhere to one another, which was clearly affecting my training, as I was having pain from limited mobility in some important motions.

The one injury that sent me over the edge was an adductor/high hamstring issue that went something like this: Having serious groin pain for several weeks, trying to train through it (don’t judge, you know you do it, too!), dragging my leg around because it hurts even when I walk, and then one day when doing some medicine ball exercises, I squatted, jumped up to the release the ball upwards and felt and heard a pop in that groin area, which lead to even more excruciating pain. It turns out that my adductor and high hamstring had attached themselves and become besties and refused to function independently of each other. That final squat and jump ripped those friends apart and they were not happy with me for upwards of 8 weeks. A rough go.

So that was my decision-maker. I was set to try something that would not only limit those pesky adhesions, but keep me more on the straight and narrow with my diet. I thought that I was really going to struggle with going gluten free, given my penchant for all things baked goods, but I didn’t find it that hard at all. What was also helpful was that my two training partners were also gluten free, and supportive, though one had Celiac Disease and HAD to avoid gluten in order to avoid awful repercussions.

Read on if you’re looking for a couple tips to help you figure out if you’d like to bid adieu to gluten:

Don’t Cut Out Everything, Find Substitutes.

You know when you try to make a drastic change in your diet or lifestyle and you’re good for about 2 or 3 days, but by day 4 you either want to kick someone or go back to the way things were? Yeah, that’s what non-incremental changes or total elimination tactics will do. While I was able to embark on my new GF lifestyle pretty easily, I will not say it was because I tricked myself into thinking I hated bread products. It was because I prepared myself to find substitutes for my favorite gluten-y foods. I found some decent GF bread for sandwiches and toast, heisted the stock of wheat-free waffles from Trader Joe’s, discovered the world’s most AWESOME GF bakery and café for donuts and bagels, and figured out which local restaurants offered a delicious GF menu. It definitely helped that going GF was becoming big not long after I switched diets, because wait staff was more aware of keeping dishes safe and heck, Domino’s even started making a GF pizza crust (I haven’t tried it).

gluten free

See? Gluten free can be easy and delicious!

Plan Ahead.

So it’s 3pm and you’re out for a quick pick me up snack and I know you’re not reaching for that “satisfying handful of almonds.” What do you do while your co-workers or friends snag a scone or panini? You whip out the GF snack that you brought along, of course! See, I’m a big snacker as it is, so I have always had to plan ahead and bring foodstuffs that will be delicious when I get hungry, which is roughly once every 45-50 minutes. When you’re GF, you can’t bank that any restaurant or coffee shop will carry a snack that doesn’t contain wheat or flour, so be prepared and assume you’ll have to BYOS while everyone else orders off the menu. It’s really not that difficult, you just have to be able to think to what your day holds and accommodate your own needs ahead of time.

Check back for part 2 of my 3-part series on going gluten free. I’ll give you some insider tips on getting satisfying GF meals when you’re out and food you can eat no matter what.