How about this substitute?

Substitutions happen all the time. Teachers get days off, and a substitute fills in for the day…good or bad, depending on the student’s perspective and/or substitute teacher chosen. Arriving at the car rental counter may result in an exchange if your chosen vehicle class is unavailable. This can be good news if they offer an upgrade at no cost or less than ideal if only sub-compacts are available (even with discount). Too many travelers have experienced changes in flights or seating depending on whether the flight is overbooked or rescheduled. Once, they upgraded me to first class at no extra cost as a substitute for my “trouble.” How I wish that flight wasn’t so short so I could have enjoyed the perks longer.

Substitutions can be good or bad, especially so with food choices. Having Celiac Disease requires replacing many common food items with gluten-free (GF) options. Over the 8 years since they diagnosed me, I have experimented with products from many companies. My past experiences with Pasta showed me that there are definitely some good ones out there; I just didn’t choose one for my first attempt. The first batch transformed from hard and crunchy to inedible mush in the nanosecond I blinked. I learned that while “normal” gluten-filled pasta is forgiving, most GF versions are serious when they say 7.47936 minutes to boil – they mean it. (It sure seems to be that precise.) I have since found an outstanding GF pasta that is not so finicky, and my family can’t tell it’s GF – a truly successful substitution.

Over the years, I have tried many food items and eventually found good substitutes for my kitchen staples and other meal items. My family now refuses to eat regular cornbread because we found a box mix that tastes better than their gluten-filled version. I gave up making both and only provide GF now. I have slowly substituted ingredients to make nearly every meal item GF and they are usually surprised that they couldn’t tell the difference. It is a matter of trying options and adapting to substitutes.

My local stores carry quite a few GF items, but their availability can be iffy. During the pandemic lockdowns and because some of my GF items are easier to get online, I started using online orders for items I frequently buy. Some sites offer savings for regular shipments. Amazon, for example, offers additional savings if you have a certain number of different items in your cart for that month’s shipment. Besides GF items, I have added other items to meet the minimum items to achieve maximum savings.

One such item is tea bags for making sweet tea in 1/2 gallon or gallon quantities. For sweet tea, I like it super sweet like the style made and served in the deep south – you know – the kind that has sugar water mixed with a little iced tea. I was “hooked” from my first taste. I am grateful I don’t also have diabetes… Celiac is hard enough on my food choices.

Over the past few months, my favorite brand of sweet tea has apparently become short in supply. I received an email suggesting a replacement. In the past, when this happened, the item suggested was another brand of the same thing. When my GF pancake mix of choice was unavailable, I substituted it with GF pancake mix from another company. This gives me a chance to try a different company and sometimes, I like the substitute better and switch brands.

I had to wonder, however, about who or what was suggesting the sweet tea substitute.

I hoped it was some sort of AI having a bad day and not a real person who thought bar soap or flour were good items to substitute. By definition, a substitute is: “a person or thing acting or serving in place of another; to take the place of; replace.” I was seeking something to satisfy my thirst (and sweet tooth). A substitute should have met those criteria – soap and flour do not even come close.

It made me wonder though, how often I think a substitute – any substitute – will do. For food items, many substitutes work well (unless you follow the above advice for tea, of course). Most people trying to lose weight can find recipes that make healthier substitutions for ingredients to reduce fat content and/or calories. People on a budget could identify activities that are enjoyable and cost less. Visiting local attractions and day trips offer family fun without the time and expense of long vacations. These and other substitutions work well because they offer the same benefits (good food or good times).

Substitutions that don’t work (like soap for tea) defy understanding, but I am guilty of making the same mistake. Anytime I fall victim to emotional eating, I have tried to use food to deal with emotions like boredom, anger, fear, etc. Instead of addressing the emotion, I substitute food. One lesson I am working on this year is to use food for hunger, and go to God when my emotions pull me to food as a solution (a poor substitute).

Barb Raveling has been a resource that I highly recommend. Last year, I read Freedom from Emotional Eating: A Weight Loss Bible Study by this author. While offering great ideas for healthy eating, I discovered spiritual benefits as well. My faith was encouraged, and it prepared me to continue the journey to permanent weight loss and making healthier choices. These bad habits didn’t take root overnight and they won’t be defeated after a few weeks. I have had a rough couple of months to start the year, but frankly, I’m weary of my own excuses. I am recommitting to fight this battle using Barb’s newest book, Say Goodbye to Emotional Eating: 100 Renewing Exercises to Help you Break Free from the Control of Food. I have enlisted accountability partners for this journey and seeking to depend on God more and run to food less often.

Instead of using the wrong substitute, I’m putting food into perspective. Food can be tasty and enjoyable, but it is for hunger and nutrition. I’m tired of trying to make the food behave. It’s past time to learn self-control and love God instead of food. And that is NOT a substitute – God is real help when emotions flare up.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…Be still and know that I am God…

Ps 46:1, 2a, 10a ESV

… and I’ll probably have to drink less sweet tea too. My pancreas could use a rest!

2 thoughts on “How about this substitute?

  1. Great Blog! I had stomach surgery in 2018. I had bariatric surgery due to my severe IBS.
    I have fought the food battle! I need to be in a gluten-free diet. I try but I have had good and bad gluten choices. Thank you for the recommendations! Look forward to your next blog!


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