The entire month of May is Celiac Disease Awareness month. I am writing these articles in order to increase awareness of Celiac Disease and other gluten-intolerance diseases that involve a gluten-free diet or lifestyle. As I have stated in previous posts, I have been living a Gluten-free for over a year. The process of going Gluten-free has been a total lifestyle change. It really has been a time of learning and making adjustments during the process. There are many lessons that I have along the way. In this article, I am going to share some of the lessons that I have had to learn along the way.
1. NEVER, ever, ever, ever, ever make assumptions – This is one lesson that I have had to learn over and over again. The recent time that I have had this come up was during my extended weekend in San Francisco/Sonoma Valley for a half-marathon that I was participating in. I had to go to Whole Food in Santa Rosa for some pre-race supplies since we were staying in a hotel near the Start/Finish of the race in Burlingame. I made the BAD assumption that this particular location would have my favorite pancakes stocked. Uh…NOPE! I also assumed that they had my favorite coconut water that I love in warmer race conditions. Again…NOPE! I had to be a little flexible and make adjustments so I would have something to eat before the race even though it ended up tasting really, really HORRIBLE.
2. Do your research!! - It is important to do that for almost anything. I found that the more that I know about certain product really helps to eliminate the fear of cross-contamination. I have to do my research before I go out to eat especially with a group of people. I double-check to make sure if there's something for me to eat and avoid an "unforgettable" evening. Talk to the general manager or hostess before the event and not at a time that they will be busy so you are not rushed off the phone during a lunch or dinner rush.
3. Do not be afraid to speak up! - When I am served at restaurant, I mention that I have a food allergy so I can know what is safe to eat. I will admit that it was very difficult to do that in the beginning so I did not have a draw attention to myself. There are cards out there for you can use if you go to a foreign country translated into various language explaining that you can not eat gluten and have an allergy.
4. Put yourself FIRST! - Yes, sister, it is okay to be #1! No one else should be responsible for making sure that you avoid the right foods. Do not worry about anyone else says - no matter how stupid it is. If people do not understand what foods that you need to avoid, educate them. If they are not receptive right away, do not take it personally. Educate them and then move on.
5. Always learn to be flexible! - I have had times in the last year where I went to a destination and they did not have the food that could eat. During those times, I would look for something else or wait until I had an opportunity to go somewhere else. This is why planning ahead is very important in order to be one step ahead of the game.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. - If you are struggling with the gluten-free diet and lifestyle, do not be afraid of asking for help from your doctor and ask for help. He or she should be able to refer you to a dietician or a list of resources to try. Be sure to check out other social media for a list of resources. Googling for information is another great way to educate yourself through registered organizations.
7. Make living Gluten-free fun by being creative! - I have had to cope with living this lifestyle with a lot of challenge. Over the entire process, I have learned to be very creative in the way that I handle it. When I am out of town, I create a list of places that I know that I dine at or know of being nearby to shop for supplies to have in my hotel room. I also learn to pack items in my suitcase that I can bring with me in my suitcase or make sure that I have in my carry-on bag. I also make sure that I have snack in my work desk because I know that there are vending machines without gluten-free treats when I am hungry. It is all about being ready while having full control.
8. If you want something gluten-free, make it yourself! - I have had to do this quite a few times. I have wanted sometime like a peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or brownies, I have had to make it myself. Some of the recipes have been created by good ol' trial and error. Personally, I am going to try to attempt to make gluten-free cannoli with vegan pistachio filling. That's my challenge this summer.
10. Focus on the things that you can still do (or eat!) - I have had to remember this when I find a place where I can't eat or something that I miss. I have considered by non-celiac gluten intolerance to be blessing at times. I have been to avoid company parties where cakes and treats are served. It has saved me from being over 200 lbs and in a sugar coma.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I do plan to post a few more articles before the month of May is complete. Until next time...