7 years! Wow! That seems like such a long time now. Some days it seems like I've been gluten-free my entire life, but others it doesn't, and I can feel the divide. On November 3rd, 2008, I committed to a life long lifestyle change and diet of gluten-free due to my discovery and diagnoses of Celiac Disease. Looking back, I can recall all the moments in my life where there were huge glaring red flags, indicating there was a problem. Then it all came to a head, the summer before I entered 8th grade, sick, so sick. I couldn't stomach anything and was down to some meager amounts of rice chex and iceburg lettuce. I missed so many days of school the beginning of that year. Sick, on the couch or in bed. It was pure horror to the girl who rarely got sick who was one of the most adventurous eaters her entire life.
When I learned that the only course of action to take would be to remake my entire lifestyle and diet (for the first time ever), I actually jumped and ran with it. I was so sick of feeling so sick! Going gluten-free was the key to my survival and I would finally be able to heal my insides and eat again! I wasn't scared, I wasn't sad, and I wasn't angry. I gladly accepted my new gluten-free/celiac life. The first "gluten-free" dinner I had (I remember so vividly) was DeBoles brown rice penne with broth, eaten in a bowl while on the computer. Yes, we got fancy in my house (but I was still so sick at that point). Of course things kept moving from there and with a Thanksgiving holiday coming up, I needed to do some research. That's when I got into reading food blogs, found Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef blog, which lead me to the inspiration for my first ever homemade gluten-free recipe, my gluten-free vegan stuffing for Thanksgiving (which is not a tradition within the family to make)! That success started my love for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen and eventually, the birth of this blog. A place to share my recipes and celiac life with others like me.
Well that's the shortest rundown for you, but you can read all my specific gluten-free lifestyle posts here. Today, I'm going to share 7 gems of wisdom as a 7 year celiac.
1. Make your first gluten-free meal simple and enjoyable. This isn't the time to try your hand at a 7 layer gluten-free cake from scratch. That may leave you discouraged and hating your new gluten-free diet before you've even given it a real chance. I went with some safe simple pasta. Yes it tasted totally different from good old semolina, but it wasn't a stressful meal for my first night. I still had all the hope in the world (but really, at that point, any substantial food tasted good!).
2. Your diagnosis isn't a death sentence, it is an invitation to freedom, health, and LIFE! Your celiac diagnosis just gave you the (mandatory) opportunity to save your own life. You now will have the knowledge and direction you need to follow so you can (and will) be happy ad healthy again! You're body won't keep attacking itself 24/7, but will begin to heal and be able to keep you alive!
3. Adapt, accommodate, alter. The triple A's will be your new motto. You'll be adapting to your new gluten-free life better and better every day and with every experience. You'll have to accommodate your own needs as well as help those your interact with, accommodate you. You'll also be altering just about everything. From recipes to new toasters, but soon enough you'll be a pro and you'll be whipping up gluten-free pancakes that deceive everyone (even yourself!).
4. Planning ahead will be a way of life. Even if you've never been a great planner, you learn quickly that it's now a must. Looking at a restaurants menu before hand, packing safe food for trips, always being ready for the unexpected. It may seem like a burden at first, but in the long run, it will actually safe you a lot of time. (Time that would have been wasted being sick on the couch or doubled over in pain in the bathroom!).
5. You'll become so appreciative and grateful of the safe meals you eat that don't leave you sick, but leave your soul singing. Depending on how long you suffered with symptoms before diagnosis, you may have a hard time coming to sit down to a meal and trusting that you'll feel okay 30 minutes afterward. Once you change your diet and learn how to prepare safe healthy foods, you'll be so grateful for every morsel that enters your mouth, knowing that it will nourish and replenish, not attack and destroy.
6. Food isn't just food. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. A bad thing because that box of oats is not actually gluten-free. Oats are a gluten-free food, but are sadly cross contaminated (even when they're "sorted"). Reading labels and doing research on new products will become second nature. Then you'll realize that the less processed, the better and safer. Whole foods like fruits, veggies, gluten-free grains, nuts, beans, lean proteins, are all safe in their natural form. These foods aren't just foods anymore. They are the building blocks and essentials to your new healthy and safe diet. The lifelines you can trust and then prepare into beautiful works of art. Trying new produce and cooking techniques will become a joy. You'll be eating a much lager variety than ever before in your life; a larger variety than those without celiac. Food will not just be food anymore. But a fun, beautiful medicine to heal. You won't mindlessly be reaching for that cookie in the office lunchroom, but thinking about the choices you make and have to make to continue thriving with your autoimmune disease.
7. It's not hard, but it's also not always rainbows and sunshine. Celiac is not hard to manage once you have the proper knowledge and how to live your celiac-safe lifestyle. You'll learn to be grateful for it. But with that said, there will be hard days, events, and crisis once in a while. You will miss a REAL gluten-packed bagel from your favorite bakery. You will find a substitute, maybe even make your own, but it won't be the same (of course). You'll have to deal with people in your life, friends, relatives, coworkers, who just will never understand. You might order some fries without asking about dedicated fryers and become ill. But for the most part, being a celiac will just become another part of you. Like the color of your eyes, it will be there, but you probably once think twice about it going from day-to-day. It's so ingrained in me now, in my life, that I don't have to think about being gluten-free or having celiac disease. My other health conditions are more prevalent, and after 7 years, I just don't have to worry so much about my celiac disease. Everything is second nature and nothing is a hassle anymore.
I always celebrate my gluten-free anniversary, and always will. It makes a "rebirth" of sorts. The day makes a new phase of life. A healthier life due to my autoimmune disease. I'm grateful that I don't struggle with this and can hopefully help others who do. That will always be the foundation of this blog. Strength and Sunshine, strength and celiac, strength and health. xoxo
So tell me:
+ If you're a fellow celiac, how long has it been since your diagnosis?
+ Do you celebrate events like this from days that changed your life?Strength and Sunshine Twitter: @RebeccaGF666 Instagram: rebeccagf666 Pinterest: RebeccaGF666 Bloglovin’: Strength and Sunshine Google+: Rebecca Pytell