How Celiac Disease helped me find the one

I know  I’ve talked before about how tough dating can be when you have chronic illness, as well as strict dietary restrictions such as being gluten free. This is true, and it’s exceedingly difficult to explain to people the importance of the diet and the nature of the consequences if it isn’t followed to a T. Having said this, I struggled through the dating scene for a while, meeting various guys that I either just plain didn’t like, as well as guys that seemed decent, until the Celiac conversation came up that is.

The thing about this disease that eventually helped me find the man I know I’m meant to have a future with (who can say how long, I’m not psychic after all) is that it showed me who was really IN this with me. I met a guy on a popular dating app and we went on a date (at a restaurant of my choosing so I knew the food would be safe of course). Now, we talked and hit it off and I believe my  CD came up on this very first night. He seemed confused, like most guys I’d tried to explain it to, but also appeared open to my needs as well as respectful which was a huge thing for me! As the weeks went on, all the restaurants we frequented he made sure to check that they had gf options before we ate there. Then, when it came time for me to meet his family, he had shopped and read up and prepared me a gluten free, celiac safe meal! Those of you with celiac disease and experience cooking gluten free will appreciate how impressive this really was- I certainly did!

As the months went on, I would occasionally become glutened accidentally from restaurants that claimed to be gluten free etc (you know the deal) and this was when I worried.. Of course the symptoms aren’t always pretty and definitely not fun, but what did he do? He spent lazy days and even lazier nights in with me while I was too sick to go out. He did laps to and from the microwave, heating and reheating my hot bag, gave back rubs and dispensed pain meds at various intervals… sound chivalrous yet? Well wait for this, he held my hair back while I threw up in the sink….multiple times. Winning moment for me? Far from it. Winning moment for him? Yes, because he truly did win my heart no matter how cliche that might sound.

I guess the moral of this story is that my illness helped me see early on that he truly does care, that he has a protective and comforting side and that he really will go to lengths to make sure I’m healthy, safe and happy. He may not understand the extent of my pain, but he’s learning, trying to prevent it and there for me when it can’t be prevented. With a life long illness, we look for qualities like this in people we want to be with, because the illness will always be a part of the relationship, whether we like it or not. Having someone who can deal with it while helping me deal with it is huge and something I think can be rare and know for a fact, is hard to find.

He cooks me gluten free meals daily and checks the menus of places we go to eat. He comforts me when I’m sick and relishes in the rare days I’m actually feeling good. He’s stuck by me through this, and I have a pretty good feeling that he’ll stick by me through whatever has yet to come. And this, is how I think that my Celiac Disease has somehow helped me find my one.

Yes, I know that rhymed, but it seemed kind of fitting, right? No? Oh well, I tried.

Judge me if you must. 

I find it interesting that with every single person I encounter and grow closer to over time, they each have their own individual view about my celiac disease and the fact that I live 100% gluten-free. I know you’re probably thinking that this shouldn’t be so surprising. Everyone is different after all and you can’t expect everyone to have the exact same opinion. But hold on a second, the key question here is…did I ask? Did I ask you whether you understand the incredible pain I’ve been in for the last 4 year? Did I ask you for your medical expertise on the gluten-free diet and whether its “actually necessary”? Well, unless I blacked out or had some sort of lapse in judgement, I don’t believe I did ask you.

I think everyone living gluten-free has encountered this at some point since their diagnosis but it still baffles me every time as to why people feel that its their business or that I’m somehow in need of their obvious knowledge (yes, sarcasm) of my health issues. Maybe I’m too sensitive, but am I really? I guess it’s  all a matter of opinion and yes, some people look at gluten-free diet as a fad, but the thing is, I’m not on a gluten-free diet, I’m living a gluten-free life. The health and weight loss experts always talk about the difference between diet and lifestyle and I’m sorry to say that I’ve finally accepted that they’re right. It applies to living gluten-free too. A diet implies that it will end at some point or that you’re eating a certain way to reach some sort of short-term goal, but in reality, health is a long term goal and it truly takes a long time for your body to heal from gluten. I never thought that my lifestyle would change so drastically over the last 8 months or so since my diagnosis, but “you gotta do what you gotta do” as they say. This can be a major life transition and who needs to be given opinions (uneducated opinions might I add) about how you need to take care of you. 

I guess it’s just another annoyance, but sucks for the people who judge because they will never have an excuse to eat those delicious gluten free brownies we all have stored away on the top shelf. HA 

6 easy ways to stay contamination-free in a shared kitchen

Living with Celiac disease can be tricky, especially when you share living spaces with others who don’t have to eat gluten-free…especially the kitchen. The following is a list of ways that you can avoid contamination when sharing the kitchen with fellow gluten-lovers. Yes, some of these may seem obvious, but there’s surprisingly lots of people who don’t bother and then can’t figure out why their symptoms are so persistent.

  1. Toast Temptation– Maybe this one has occurred to you but you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother with it. If you’re sharing a toaster to toast your gluten free bread, bagels and other goodies…..don’t. You’re already making the effort to prepare your own food at home so don’t be set back by all the crumbs of gluten lurking in the bottom. Just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. (That may be a good motto for other situations but not here) Ditch that toast you just made and head to the nearest department store to pick yourself up a shiny new toaster. Yes, I AM giving you permission to spend money in a department store (maybe I’m the only one who loves department stores though…awkward)
  2. Better Butter– You use the knife to rub butter on your bread and then go back for more so why wouldn’t somebody else? I have become the butter ninja in my house… impressive, I know. Always call first dibs and scoop yourself some butter to be kept in an air-tight container just for you throughout the week. Hint: I always take way too much but since going gluten-free I eat way less bread than before so take only a little at first to avoid it going bad before consumption. You could always buy your own butter stick of course but we can’t ALL be that fancy…big spender.
  3. Fixing Fixings– Okay, same with the butter people. Just because we might not see crumbs, we all live with at least one shameless double-dipper. You have a few options. Either be the first to all of your favourite condiments and scoop into separate containers for future use, or buy separate condiments all together. DON’T FORGET TO LABEL. My cupboards scream “possession issues” with everything labeled “GF-keep out” but it’s a matter of health here and I can’t be worried that someone’s been dipping in my jam jar. Another option is picking up lids (from any grocery store or Walmart) and attach them to all your shared condiments, so that you can squirt them (jams, peanut butter, mayonnaise) instead of spreading it!
  4. Oven Lovin’– One product that I am constantly running out of since beginning life gluten-free is foil. Ahh, magical life-saving foil. Place whatever you’re cooking on a piece of foil and there you go (I like to fold mine so it’s stronger and doesn’t tear). This is great for heating up pizza, bruschetta or anything that you don’t want to put on a tray. I also find that trays are really hard to clean and thus, more likely to have remaining gluten, even after a wash. Save yourself and just use foil, or at least line your trays with foil just in case.
  5. Dishes for Days– This one is a tricky one because unfortunately, we can’t see tiny gluten particles but that doesn’t make them too small to make us sick. When washing dishes, make sure you’re using hot water and a rough cloth for scrubbing. I’m lazy so I usually just use the dishwasher, best. invention. EVER. But remember that it’s best to keep a separate wash cloth for your dishes to avoid scrubbing gluten particles onto the plates you will be eating on.
  6. Storing Safely– I may be repeating myself but this is probably the tip I use the most. Clear yourself a shelf in your kitchen designated to gluten-free foods, and ONLY these foods. I’m talking crackers, brownies, pancake mix, and any other goodies you’ve gotten your hands on. This keeps them out of sight therefore less temptation for others who don’t actually need to eat it. Am I the only one or is everyone always saying they feel bad that you’re gluten-free and then end up stealing your food to eat? I keep it tucked away to avoid being mixed up with other foods or contaminated and on top of that I LABEL it. Write “Gluten-free” on everything, even shared items like mustard to ensure that others remember to keep it as contamination-free as possible.

3 Things to NEVER Do While on a Date With a Celiac

Dating can be tricky at the best of times, trying to impress the other person while not seeming too eager to impress but also not so nonchalant that you seem uninterested. Hey, it’s a hard life as a single person these days, but there’s just some things that I’ve noticed (and hated) when being out with someone since my Celiac diagnosis.

  1. Never and I mean NEVER skip dinner because I “can’t eat anything”

If you decided to ask me out thinking that I’d be a cheap date from lack of meal purchasing then I am terribly sorry to disappoint. I do hope you realize that as a fully functioning human being capable of putting up with your uncomfortable first date awkwardness, I do, in fact, need occasional nourishment. No, I won’t be the best company at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, but this amazing tool called Google can most likely point you in the right direction of somewhere that has food I will be able to eat. Oh and by the way, saying you’ll drop me off “before dinner time” wouldn’t be on the top of my list of most romantic gestures.

2.  No, being around people eating gluten doesn’t make me sad

So, I’ve finally convinced you that dinner out is a good idea because I do, contrary to popular belief, require food. Please do not try to order what I’m having just because it’s gluten free…. I BEG YOU. Just because you’re eating a meal that contains gluten doesn’t mean I’m sitting there staring longingly at your plate. If only I could eat that bread stick like everybody else and feel like I’m dying for the next 2 weeks! Please just order your meal and let me enjoy mine, we are there for each other’s company after all, right? I guess unless you really were here for a cheap date… sorry buddy.

3. Don’t say you can’t kiss me because you ate gluten and then do it anyway.

Yes, it’s awfully sweet of you for seeming so considerate of my health by saying you don’t want to get me sick from contamination but then you go ahead and do it anyway…Really? Because now I’m just thinking you’re an asshole. Of course I’m not going to let you go the rest of the night without kissing me but do you really HAVE to say it out loud? At least if you shut up about it I can pretend it didn’t occur to you and you can pretend you’re not making me sick to my stomach for what will feel like an eternity and we can go on our merry way. Think of it as a “Don’t-ask-don’t-tell” kind of arrangement.

Anyone have any others? I’d love to hear all the strange/crazy and of course wonderful things that you may have encountered on a date, these are just some of the ones that come to mind.

There’s more than just calories on the label, you know.

Maybe it takes something big. Maybe it takes something so big and life altering to make you open your eyes to what the word “health” really means. For me, I think that is exactly what it took. Part of having a disease like Celiac Disease is having to be on a constant look out and to become a constant nag about what you consume and how it is prepared. I never really thought much about what I ate, nor did I really care, prior to being diagnosed of course. I mean, who else LOVES checking each label thoroughly in the grocery store, taking twice as long to go though the isles, pissing off just about everyone else trying to pick up their items in the same section? ME! Not to mention getting to the checkout and feeling nauseated at the sight of the receipt and swearing “I really want a coffee but I need to cut back. I WILL cut back on my Tim Hortons, starting today” to only find yourself in the drive thru a mere 45 minutes later (once the shock has worn off of course). I mean, forgetting the cost for a while (or at least try really hard, like me after a trip to the grocery store), it really does make you think. I stand in the isle reading through each ingredient carefully, thrown off every once in a while by a suspicious ingredient or two (What the hell is “caramel colour” anyways and why is it in literally everything?!) and then the last line…. “May Contain: peanuts, tree nuts, mustard, Wheat”…. WHAT? Did I seriously read through all the ingredients and start to get excited for the last line to say WHEAT? Really? Disappointment? sure it’s disappointing but then once, this guy behind me said “Miss, a half cup has 150 calories in it, isn’t that all you really need to know?”. Need I say more? So now the dilemma begins; do I correct him and start to lecture about my disease and why it is so important to read the label? Or, do I get offended by the fact that he assumes I count/have to count my calories? There’s also the slightly more cinematic option of slapping him in the face (obviously like a strong and independent woman would do….I mean duh) but I mean, I attempt to be slightly more classy than that as I flash a sarcastic smile and pass him the box of gluten-packed Granola Bars he’s reaching for.

Any seasoned Celiac will tell you, eventually you get a hang of the grocery shopping and you learn what to buy, what not to buy, and I’ve been learning this, but it seems as though every time I grocery shop, it’s some kind of adventure. I don’t mean the kind of adventure where while strolling through the Gluten-free isle, I bump into a stranger only to look up and realize it’s a handsome (do people even use that word anymore?) man who chuckles and says “have you tried these organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, lactose-free cookies? They’re to die for” and then whisks me away to his condo where he cooks delicious gluten-free pasta and we kiss without worrying and fall madly in gluten-free love (I have clearly put too much thought into that one). But no, not that kind of adventure, I’m talking about the sweatpants, 2 days unwashed hair trip to the store where you go in for a few gluten free items, run into that girl you never really liked and end up in a conversation about what celiac disease is and if you think that’s why you “gained all that weight last year”. Yes. Not as much thought went into that adventure as unfortunately, it was not only a figment of my imagination, I don’t happen to be that lucky.

I have to admit, the gluten-free food isn’t nearly as bad as it was in the beginning. I’ve adapted pretty well to the point that believe it or not, I actually like the taste of GF bread more than I liked the taste of the regular stuff. Shocking, I know. I just find the ignorance of some people to be too much to take some days. It could be because I typically grocery shop on an empty stomach (bad idea, I know) so I’m just a hungry, oily haired, sweat pant wearing mess with no money in the bank when I finally get the chance to pick up groceries. Hey, at least I no longer pick up a lot of the junk food I use to eat, but that doesn’t mean I miss it from time to time.

I guess the moral of my rant is that putting this much thought into what you are going to be eating really changes the way you think about food over time. I started to think of food as actual fuel for my body rather than blindly picking up a bunch of junk off the shelves because it looked like it might taste good. Sure, I still do that sometimes while in the GF dedicated isle, but it’s almost as if it doesn’t have the same effect on me anymore. When you realize that Celiac Disease is actually keeping your body from absorbing a lot of the nutrients that you need, it’s kind of like “OH YEAH, my body actually needs those things called vitamins and minerals, who knew?!”. So, now I spend even more time reading labels because I also want to check all this mystery stuff like protein and fiber… I DON’T EVEN RECOGNIZE MYSELF ANYMORE! But I guess that’s a good thing, actually caring about what you eat and what it does to your body; it can only mean good things, right? Maybe for you, but for others, not so much. The struggle is real when all your friends want to go out to McDonalds and all you can think about is the 500 calorie fries (containing hardly any protein or fiber by the way) and the fact that that’s pretty much all you can eat there (unless you have a sudden hankering for relish, that’s A-Okay gluten-wise). Maybe even though celiac disease is just as it sounds (a disease) it will actually lead me to a healthier life. I have already lost about 45lbs (much of this I gained in the last couple months before my diagnosis due to debilitating pain and hardly leaving my bed for weeks) but it’s definitely a start. You can’t stay I don’t try to look at the bright side now can you? I’ve always been more of a glass-half-irrelevant kind of girl, but I guess it’s never too late to start…. or maybe it is, who knows, I’m not saying I’m an expert or anything. Funny how weirdly optimistic I sound right now, as I prepare to leave for my grocery shopping for the week. See? I knew something was up, I will soon be back to my normal self when I unwind with a glass of wine after my voyage to the gluten-free isle.

First of Many

If you have tripped and fallen into this blog, I am going to assume that you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. If so, congratulations! Not that this is considered a badge of honour… childhood dream come true anyone? But as someone who has spent years suffering and completely un-diagnosed, I would say that a diagnosis is a pretty big step *pats on the back for everyone!* If you’re someone who  doesn’t have a clue what I’m rambling on about then I’d say that you my friend, have some seriously weird Googling methods but hey,  maybe this site will help you fully appreciate the luxury of a healthy villi-plentiful gut.

As you may have already guessed, I have celiac disease. Yes, I am a celiac, and I heard somewhere that admitting it is the first step so I’d say it’s going pretty well so far. Unfortunately, that is about as far as I’ve gotten attitude-wise. I don’t need to bore you with a synopsis of my hospital antics over the last 3, almost 4 years now- maybe another time. Let’s just say that the last time you were in an ER and saw a girl yelling “In my head? Did you just say that my pain is IN MY HEAD?” at the doctors and nurses, that was probably me. So….. nice to finally meet you as I sit here calm with a cup of tea, you wouldn’t even recognize me now!

Throughout this blog I want to share some of my day-to-day experiences, problems, hard life stories and yes, maybe even positive outcomes with everyone. I have lots of recipes I have tried (before I became totally lazy) that I wish to share along with some of my favourite advice, quotes, books, products and resources. If anyone has anything to share with me that won’t totally make me broke and living on the streets (unable to read any further posts on my ever-weakening wifi signal) I would love to hear it. But seriously, GF stuff is expensive and I’m a struggling student here!

In all seriousness, it takes one hell of a strong moth*rf*cker to have celiac disease and I can’t wait to get to know all you tough b*tches out there!

Your Unapologetic Celiac