Special Diets/How can I tell my parents that I want to try a gluten free diet?
I'm 15 and for the last few years I've been having a lot of problems with constipation. I don't really feel comfortable talking to either of my parents about it. I would like to try a gluten-free diet to see if that may help the problem. I have researched it a lot and I feel like it will help me. My family doesnt really eat healthy and i try to talk to them about that but they dont care. I just wanted to try it for a week or two. How do you think I should tell my parents or should I just not tell them until I've tried it for a while?
Thanks in advance.
I remember when I started to become interested in an alternative diet to that of my parents around age 15. I was inspired by a friend my parents thought was too "floaty" to become vegetarian. It suited the new way I was starting to relate to life. I started to listen to Indian Classical music and find out more about crystals, mantras, buddhism and all that sort of thing. They must have been worried that I would join a cult next! Parents are like that.
It is usualy not easy to persuade parents of anything. There are several typical reasons for this belonging to the child-parent constellation. Often a parent may feel that you are stepping on their toes, criticising their finest intentions and proudest traditions by trying something (radically) different. That is just human nature! But often they are also worried for their child. In part, it is simply because you are trying something new. It is not easy to vouchsafe the health of another human being, and your parents have invested time and energy in trying to do the best they know how by you. There are many scary or confusing moments along the way in a child's life for any parent. There comes a time, however, when parents need to start letting go. All they can do then is sit back and watch what happens. Of course, they may resent (and have half a right to) picking up the pieces if it all goes pear shaped, but teenagers need to be given some room to do their own thing.
Since you have very good reasons to try a new diet your parents cannot argue that you are being rebellious or anti-social. You are trying to better yourself, and this must be supported. However, they may be right in asking you some critical questions whether your chosen way is the best way to go.
Allow me to echo a reasonable observation, they might share: the constipation need not be related to a gluten intolerance. A gluten-free diet is a fairly radical step to take, and must be done so only upon medical advice. So first, consult a doctor.
It sounds very sensible of you to opt for a trial period, but two weeks will not be long enough, since you have to start very radically to determine what triggers an intolerance. First you cut everything out and then you slowly introduce stuff that's ok for you. It is not easy to decide what to eat in the meantime without going hungry or damaging your growth. Also, there is little indication that this will help your original complaint of constipation, since cutting out gluten can also quickly lead to a shortage of fibre (cereal products) which aggravates constipation.
A gluten free diet if taken strictly (so that it makes sense to others first, and then enables them to take your dietary preferences into consideration) limits your choices and it can work out to be a fairly expensive diet – since there is a booming market for gluten-free products for those people who really have dangerous chronic diseases relating to gluten allergies. Plus, you would be wise to scrutinize what remains in your diet, and whether that is so healthy. E.g. fizzy drinks have no gluten in them, nor do crisps.
Maybe, you are thinking more along the lines of cutting out white stuff: flour, sugar, fat, salt. This would be an amazing thing to do, and the challenge is then to introduce the healthy alternatives instead. Sometimes it's easier to follow a (temporary) trend like gluten-free, or vegan, or raw-food etc, etc, than design your own healthy pick and mix and resist temptation for no dietary reason other than that it's void of natural goodness.
You can only expect your parents to give you the freedom you desire if you take full responsibility over your diet. When I became a vegetarian, I did not merely stop eating the meat I was served, but I looked at the whole picture of a healthier diet, and introduced herbs and garlic, rock salt, apple vinegar, olive oil, wholewheat cereals, nut pastes, surrogate coffee, raw cane sugar, fresh salads, etc (all very radical in 1980s). By the time I turned 16 I did most of my cooking myself, and my mother made room in her larder for my supplies. I made an effort to share part of the family meals, but by the time I was a university student, and still lived at home, I was buying my own organic produce and taking up quite a lot of fridge space. My parents never came round to trying my life-style, which was sad for me at first, but at least they accepted my needs (if warily).
In sum, then, I would not waste any energy on convincing your parents that the diet of your choice is brilliant, but you must be fully convinced that it is right for you, or a natural step in your progression to maturity. This is also valuable to yourself, and will help you take useful lessons from the experiment.
I have already expressed concerns that the particular diet you suggest may not be suitable, but I must commend you highly for desiring to take a pro-active step to a healthier life-style. I would recommend you do a lot more research on the cause of your constipation, and adjust your diet accordingly. If you think you have irritable bowel syndrome you must seek medical advice, because even a gluten-free diet will not be the answer to the far-reaching side-effects of this disorder (malnutrition may still be an issue). Bear in mind there are also psychological issues which play a large part in constipation, including hormonal instabilities. Exercise and hydration are key too. Both must be daily and fully integrated.
When it comes down to the crunch, though, your strongest argument to your parents for why you want to change or modify your diet is exactly your health issue. So you may have to get over any sense of embarassment and tell them you are aiming to improve your digestion and relieve discomfort. Furthermore, a healthy gut, in regular motion, gives you more energy and improves concentration (better grades!). It also improves confidence and enhances the immune system. The Taoists call the belly the seat of health, so it is worthwhile paying special attention to your bowel movements.
If all else fails, you can always try to introduce a few elements which aid digestion: figs, prunes, sauerkraut, bran, aloe vera juice. Try to avoid certain combinations (look up alkaline diets) and go easy on dairy products (use sour milk products, like yoghurt instead). You will want to cultivate a healthy flora in your intestines (plenty of vegetables). Drink lots of good quality water or herbal tea (don't over do it, either!). Cutting out processed foods (from tins, microwave, deepfreezer) wil benefit the whole family. Offer to cook for all of them on a speical day. Try to find recipes the whole family will enjoy and which replace only a few familiar ingredients with healthier options: this is how I am able to serve a meal for my parents now and they are quite content with this healthy treat once in a while.
All change is difficult, and getting to know what works for you is, too. Keep learning as much as you can about healthy eating, and don't forget to cross-reference your sources till you find something that is exactly right for you. Believe in yourself as unique, and if you do so with gratitude to everything your parents have done for you so far, you will probably get everybody on your side in the end.
My best wishes,