ThinkSmall IG (1)
I took this picture during one of my bike rides last year in Manitowish Waters, WI. It got me thinking about perspective and how we view things.

I imagine this sight would be very daunting to an ant as she climbs up this lofty tree. It must seem like an impossible journey.

Do you ever feel like an ant? Where you feel so small, and everything around you seems so large and overwhelming? The tasks you must complete are too complex and too many to count? The knowledge you currently possess feels grossly inadequate? Yeah, me too.

Similar feelings can happen when reality sets in after the doctor gives you a gluten-related disorder diagnosis. You now have an answer for your sickness, but it sets off a rapid-fire chain reaction of questions. What is gluten? What can I eat? What can't I eat? How will I manage work and social functions? What if I don't feel better? What will friends and family think of me? The questions keep coming, and the meltdown begins.

After my Father-In-Law passed away in 2010, we needed to clean out his garage and shop. He was an electrician but also performed home renovation projects. Over his lifetime, he accumulated a lot of "stuff." I saw stuff stacked on stuff, piled on...more stuff. My gosh, where do I start?

"Pick one and look at the others," came down from the heavens. This phrase was my Father-In-Law's advice when deciding upon a card to throw down while playing the card game Sheepshead. Thanks, Lester! Okay, I'll pick one area of the shop and work it until it's clean. Rinse and repeat to the tune of almost 20,000 steps to the dumpster. Whew, I survived Day #1.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

— Lao-Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. Reported to be the author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of Taoism

Let's say you have a goal of running a marathon. Going from the couch to 26.2 miles in one day will bring on a world of hurt. You're setting yourself up for failure before you start. Just getting around the block will be an accomplishment. After the first 100 yards, it'll feel like you're suffering a myocardial infarction (you might be after logging all those extensive couch miles). Out of breath and clutching your chest, you'll say, "I'm done!" You'll get frustrated because you are not mentally or physically ready. It will likely result in aborting the entire endeavor. That is not going to end well. I've been there. I went from a 30-year running hiatus to participating in half-marathons and Duathlons (Run/Bike/Run). It wasn't easy and took time - slowly increasing my fitness from around the block to one mile, then to three to five to six, to 13.1 miles and beyond.

Sometimes seeing the expanse of the big picture is paralyzing. There's so much for the brain to process. Out of frustration, you shut down; you lose focus, you lose motivation. Finally, you give up.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

— Yoda, Jedi Master

When it comes to being gluten-free, giving up is not an option - not if the goal is to rebuild your life and health. What if we approach this gluten-free journey differently? What if we narrow our focus and think small?

But how can we achieve this goal by thinking small?

It is the small changes you make that will add up to something bigger. But in this case, small doesn’t mean easy. It requires focus, dedication and effort that, over time, will start to pay off.

— Owain Service, Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals

When you take a trip, you fire up your GPS app. To start the journey, you enter the destination. After pressing Go, you follow the turn-by-turn directions the GPS feeds you. Your focus is on executing that one command. Then you wait for the next direction, the next lane change, the next turn, the next exit, the next gluten-free snack. [Gotta eat on a road trip, right? Remember to pack your gluten-free cooler!] One-by-one, you reach your journey's way-posts. Before you know it, the destination is on your left. I think you can see where we're going with this.

Do not sell yourself short - you can rock this. When you have a long-range goal in mind, like executing a gluten-free lifestyle, map out a plan to get you there. The key is breaking it into small, manageable goals. How small? Things you can easily accomplish monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, or by the minute if need be. Each breath, each thought, each action brings you closer. Those small successes may not seem like much. Yet, they compound to build the motivation, confidence, and momentum required to propel you forward.

Andy Stumpf, a retired Navy SEAL and SEAL instructor with a decorated 17-year military history asked SEAL candidates why they quit during their training. He discovered they were often overwhelmed even though they had lifelong goals to be an elite SEAL. Stumpf maintains they didn't keep their world small enough.

Stumpf suggests, "Don't look at Hell Week as a five-day pipeline. Just make it to your next meal, because they have to feed you every six hours. Get to the next meal, get a mental reset, and keep stacking those six hours segments. If you apply that resilience and approach to your goals, you can accomplish an insane amount."

This concept is pure brilliance! So many situations can benefit by using this mind-set. I use it almost daily. If it can get someone through SEAL training, it can make you successful in executing the gluten-free lifestyle and beyond.

There is only one way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time.

— Desmond Tutu, South African Anglican cleric, theologian, anti-apartheid, and human rights activist.

Desmond Tutu puts an elegant spin on an African proverb on dealing with an elephant in your path. There is no question about it; transitioning to gluten-free is a big elephant in your way, but you can handle it, one step at a time! The Gluten Intolerance Group has an outstanding how-to guide.

"Getting Started on a Gluten-Free Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide” consists of these five basic steps:

Step 1: Learn What Foods to Include or Avoid
Step 2: Carefully Read Food Labels
Step 3: Explore Gluten-Free Goods
Step 4: Watch Out for Cross-Contact with Gluten
Step 5: Join a GIG Support Group

To learn more, read the article:


Gluten-Free Success

Success Mountain side

This is a companion article to “The Stages of Change: Gluten-Free Edition.” I started out writing Gluten-Free Success, but a quote from Vishwas Chavan sent me down a rabbit hole about how we process and deal with change. Thank you for riding along with me on this trip.

Al Klapperich

How can we even begin to think about success when we're wondering how to survive breakfast?

If you hadn't heard of Tony Robbins, he's is a motivational speaker, author, and famous life coach. I find his formula for success straightforward and commonsensical. I like that. I'm all about being sensibly gluten-free.

While it may happen to some, most people don't blindly stumble into success - particularly with something significant like a lifestyle change. It usually requires some conscious effort - "massive action" as Mr. Robbins calls it.

Let's look at Mr. Robbin's formula and see how it can help create a successful gluten-free life.

Know your outcome

There are many definitions of success, but the best one is the one you've created for yourself. Success is unique - as individual as a fingerprint. One person’s success may be another person’s failure. Whether a newbie or a pro at the gluten-free lifestyle, ask yourself, "What does my success look like?" Let your answer be your guide.

If you've been suffering from an undiagnosed gluten-related disorder, you probably know your outcome already.

“I want to recapture my health and start a new life.”

An excellent long-term success goal, but don't forget to develop a roadmap - a plan to get there.

In "Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success," G. Richard Shell, says, “success is not a static, one-and-done process. It’s dynamic. If you stay in motion, learn as you go, and remain open to the insights you gain on the journey, good things often follow.”

Gluten-free success may be different depending on the day, the hour, or even by the minute. That split moment decision to pass up that piece of gluten-filled birthday cake, the time spent learning what gluten is, or becoming a label reader and finding hidden gluten, helping someone in the gluten-free aisle at the grocery store are all great examples of success. On the surface, some of them might seem insignificant to us, but if we examine them closely, they are important milestones. Those successes add up and contribute to our long-term success goal.

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen

— Coach John Wooden

Know your motivation

Motiviation is "The Why You Do it". That little voice inside you - sometimes whispering - other times SCREAMING that you can do it. Knowing what pushes you forward enables you to be more effective in attaining your success. For many, the motivation is a better life without the constant pain and suffering. For some, it's centered around loved ones - having the ability to fully present for them. For others, it's the opportunity to help others. Spend some time figuring out what gets your mojo working...and keep working it.

Transitioning to the gluten-free lifestyle is filled with numerous distractions; things that will pull you into the weeds. Friends and family members who offer gluten-filled foods, "Donut Day" at work, birthday celebrations, family gatherings, holiday parties. These are just a few events where temptation is present.

Enter stage left - discipline. Discipline is "The What You Do." It's the ability to analyze a situation and make corrections in your behavior. Discipline keeps you on the "straight and narrow"; preventing you from eating that [gluten-filled] donut or giving into friends and family members' offerings. Motivation and discipline work together. When the motivational inspiration wanes, discipline swoops in to save the day.

It's true, you will experience low-motivational days. Probably more than you want, but this is normal. Expect it and prepare for it. Mental preparation will help get you through; stay positive. By focusing on those small (minute-by-minute, day-by-day) successes, you will help raise your motivational energy levels.

There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits.

—Michael Phelps

Take Massive Action

Making a lifestyle change is no small feat. You're re-wiring years [decades] of behaviors and habits. Unlearning your old way of life and replacing it with a brand new one requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and commitment. You've probably noticed the use of the word "lifestyle" instead of "diet." Changing what you eat is only one component. This change will affect every facet of your life from here on out. Convenience – gone. Care-free dining – adios. The joy of family gatherings - replaced with dread and worry. Things that took little or no thought - now rivals the logistics of a Mars Rover launch. Yes, it will require massive action.

A few examples of massive action in the gluten-free lifestyle.

Making the 24x7x365 commitment to gluten-freedom. There are no vacations, no breaks, no “just this once" cheats. Constant vigilance is required. Gluten never sleeps.

Educate yourself about gluten - what is it, learn where and how to find it.

Determine if you can have a gluten-free house. Many variables to consider. Choose what's best for you and your family.

Clean your house from top to bottom. Crumbs matter. Either throw out all the gluten [and gluten-contaminated items] for gluten-free household or arrange [segregate] gluten-free/gluten products accordingly. Setup gluten-free safe zones and develop cross-contact policies and procedures [and make sure household members abide by them].

Educate your friends and family members. Depending on the family this task may be more Sisyphean than Herculean, but it needs to be done.

Join and participate in a support group. Local face-to-face groups are best, but online groups can be beneficial too.

Notice your results and change your approach

The key word in this step is "change." Change isn't always linear with clearly defined starting and stopping points; it's an on-going, evolving process.

Due to the complexity of this lifestyle, you will be making some mistakes in the beginning. Everyone does, it's all part of the process. You didn't go from crawling to walking without a few falls. Don't let these events derail your efforts. Get up, dust yourself off, and try again. Resiliency and adaptivity will take you far on your journey toward gluten-free success.

The important take away here: learn from your mistakes. If you don't you will be spinning your wheels; expending a lot of energy but going nowhere - fast.

When something didn't work out as you expected, or you are not feeling well, take time to analyze what has been happening, why it's happening, and how you can prevent it in the future. Yes, you have to become a "Gluten Detective." Perhaps you've switch products because the store stopped carrying your first choice? Maybe the french fries you ordered at the restaurant were fried in the same fryer as the gluten-full items? What about overlooking gluten in a product's ingredient list?

Only those who are able to adapt to changing scenarios will continue to survive and prosper. Success is directly proportional to the degree of positive adaptation to change.

—Vishwas Chavan

I understand that our health may not always be under our direct control, but I also know that before tackling any challenge, we must first prepare ourselves mentally. Hopefully, the information presented here and in the Stages of Change article will help increase your knowledge, grow your confidence, and elevate your capacity to manage the jumble of emotions you'll experience on this gluten-free journey.

Here’s to your success! Cheers!