The Girl with the Scarlet Letter

Have you ever had one of those moments where someone told you something and for a split second you had built it up to be so magnificent in your mind, only to drop down about 14 levels of joy once you figured out what it really was?  I had one of those moments yesterday.

I have come to accept the fact that I probably won’t be able to eat (with any confidence anyway) at most places. I no longer throw the early-diagnosis-esque tantrums like I once did if the menu doesn’t have a gluten-free option.

Yesterday was no different…I was going to a cornhole tournament/football watching function at a local bar…where yes, everyone does know your name.  I had confirmed that there would in fact be Woodchuck Cider available (my favorite GF beer!) but since I hadn’t been there since my diagnosis, I already expected that there would be nothing ‘safe’ for me to eat.  My pre-diagnosis trips had included quick glances at the menu to find the greasiest menu item available in an attempt to soak up a portion of the beer that I was undoubtedly ingesting, of course none of the items being gluten-free.

Right before I walked into the door after setting up cornhole boards, the girl that was in charge of the function said something to me about being gluten-free. Then she said, ‘I have something for you to eat.”  What?! I about wet my pants. Had I hallucinated that I’d have a safe food? Could it be that I wouldn’t have to sit there for hours without something to snack on (i.e. something to soak up the alcohol)?!  I was in disbelief.  I felt like Charlie Bucket discovering his golden ticket!

I wondered what it was…a GF dip of some sort…a burger without the bun…a delicious salad with GF dressing. It was a bar after all, so the food running through my mind was not exactly all diet friendly.  What could it be?! What was in store?!

She turned to reach in her bag to pull out my GF surprise…my mind was running like a slot machine….Chips…Fries…Chips…Jackpot!!!!  She reached in….oh I can’t handle the suspense anymore…hand in her bag…I’m salivating…she grabbed the bag…stop the madness already, I’m starving…and she pulled out my treat…

A perfect peach.

Trust me…I am more than grateful and so incredibly humbled that she thought of me and thought enough to even offer me something to eat.  Her kindness to someone she had only just met meant a great deal to me.  And trust me, I know that a peach was a far, far better choice than what I might have previously ordered. And for that, my waistline thanks you, Tricia.

But amongst the smell of burning grease, beer, and hot dogs…I was momentarily deflated.  This is what my ‘cheat days’ have turned into: GF beer and fruit.

I didn’t eat it there because I tend to end up looking like the child below when I eat peaches…half my makeup dripping off the bottom half of my face but sticky and smelling like summer.  I did absolutely destroy it when I got home and it was delicious!!!

I do want to mention that it is not a requirement for me to eat when I go out. However, being able to have a little snack while the rest of my friends are indulging on Eat This Not That’s worst offenders does allow me to feel a slight sense of normalcy…something I haven’t felt since I was diagnosed.   I can’t hide in my own kitchen forever.  I know I need to suck it up and deal with it.

I’ve become that girl that restaurants hate.  I’m the one that walks in and the kitchen staff instantly starts whispering “There’s the girl with all the demands…There’s the girl that is adamant about salt and pepper only on her salmon and absolutely no other bulk seasoning…There’s the girl that requests that we change our gloves and utensils so we don’t contaminate her food…There’s the girl that proclaims that if we accidentally give her something with gluten that she will get violently ill on the spot and run off all the other customers.” (Ok so I won’t exactly get violently ill the second it hits my tongue but I do say that if I feel like the waiter/waitress isn’t listening to me. You’d be surprised how well they pay attention if they feel like they might to have to clean up vomit if they don’t comply.)

I feel at times I need to wear a t-shirt with my demands. I need a nametag with my requirements.  I should be sporting a scarlet letter of my own.  There’s THAT girl….the marked girl…the different girl…the girl with the scarlet G.

But, THAT girl lost weight this week….

 

I’m slowly learning not to sweat what I can’t control.  And that my body is much happier in the long run. I may have had beer and fruit at the bar…but by God my stomach didn’t hurt afterwards!  And for that I did truly hit the jackpot.

And you better believe I’ve got peaches on my grocery list…

“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”

~ Chinese Proverb

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The Gluten-Free Kid

Ugly part out of the way first…I can’t seem to get out of this 211-213 range…am I destined to be bulky forever?!

 

 

 My motivation has started to wane. I’m eating wrong – I’m eating too much…and by god I have to say that my digestive system has never felt better… Not that it’s any excuse to blow any semblance of a diet.

My old feelings of failure are starting to rise back up in my throat.  That awful horrid voice in the back of my head saying “Here you go again…you know you’ll never be skinny.” I can’t seem to get the nutrition part squared away right now. I love food far too much and am actually enjoying eating it and feeling pain free.  Dammit I love cooking!!! I cannot possibly explain the joy and ecstasy I feel when I’m standing in the kitchen creating an amazing gluten-free meal for myself. I lay awake at night thinking about all the ways I can reinvent dishes that I used to have in a way that won’t hurt my tummy.  If only I’d find a love for cooking cabbage and tofu instead of amazing variations of risottos and beurre blancs.   Here’s an example of both…one of the best dishes I’ve ever made! 

Pan seared scallops over risotto and roasted asparagus with a grapefruit beurre blanc - not low-cal, but it was delicious!

 

And speaking of cooking…I had an amazingly eye-opening experience this weekend.  I was in Charlotte for a housewarming party at my sister’s house.  Chili was on the menu, and to save her some time in getting all the other things together, I offered to make it.  For two reasons…1) I make a mean chili.  Wow…that was conceited. Let’s just say I know my way around the kitchen.  2) I wanted to control what’s in it so I knew it was ‘safe’. 

I’ve gone through a very distinct up and down with regards to food confidence.  I had such tremendous fear of cross-contamination and accidental glutening when I was first diagnosed.  Then I transitioned into a period of ease…comfort…I knew what I could have and didn’t question like I should have.  Then we come to my current state…distrust.  I don’t care if the menu states it’s gluten-free…or if I’m convinced that all that the dish contains is lettuce and red bell peppers…I don’t trust it if I didn’t make it.  The longer I go, the more I’m convinced that there are truly very few people that understand exactly what gluten is and how severe a reaction from even the slightest cross-contamination can be. I’ve gotten lazy about demanding to know every ingredient and I’m paying the price. At the end of the day, I’d rather do it all myself. I’d rather know that it wasn’t vegetable broth in a sauce or that someone didn’t grab a hamburger bun before plating my dinner.  I’d rather know that the mayonnaise is safe and that the prep surfaces were cleaned thoroughly. 

‘Chefing’ it up for the party was a success, and little did I know what a poignant experience my pot of chili would turn out to be….

One of the people that attended the party at my sister’s was a 10-year old named Marc.  Amazing kid…great sense of humor. And Marc has Celiac Disease.  

The look on his face when he knew he could eat the chili without fear, and the look on his face as he enjoyed his bowl is one that sticks with me now.  It makes me feel amazing.  I feel so blessed that I could help create that moment…that moment of trust in what you’re eating…that moment without fear of the unknown…That moment that I’ve lost when I’ve gone out to eat.

I can’t imagine coping with all of this as a 10 year old. How difficult it might be to prepare for unexpected birthday parties and food-oriented activities at school, church, and elsewhere.  How to deal with grandparents, babysitters, and “helpful” friends who offer gluten-containing foods…All without making them feel different. 

Marc handled the party much better than I’ve handled ones with unknown menus.  I saw him when he arrived and he didn’t have a look of shear panic like I’ve had when I’ve been unsure what was being served. He didn’t look like he was on the verge of throwing a temper tantrum like I’ve been if I find out there might not be anything ‘safe’ for me to eat. And for that, I admire him. 

I would love to get to know Marc better…I was diagnosed at 29…but I want to know what it’s like from his perspective. From that of a 10-year old.  Does he feel jipped? Does it make him sad? Does he feel different? I know kids can be disgustingly cruel to others that they perceive as different…and wonder if there’s any ‘dietary bullying’ that he’s ever had to deal with.  And I want to help. 

It’s situations like his, and the bliss on his face while he sat with his bowl of chili, that make me want to do so much more.  Thank you, Marc, for your incredible inspiration.  

I’ve decided that I’m blessed to have celiac disease…it has provided me with an opportunity to reach out and help others.  I want to do more than be an advocate for Celiac Disease. I want to do more than just be an encyclopedia of knowledge on the condition.

I want to seek a way of serving that corresponds to my unique abilities and propensities, a way that engages all of me. I want to help others directly. I want to cook safe meals for the CD masses.  I want to help give everyone with CD that look I saw on Marc’s face Saturday night.  

I believe that God really does have a plan for every single one of us…I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease for a reason…perhaps I am finally discovering my life’s purpose…

 

“I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

 

Happy NCAD!

Happy National Celiac Awareness Day!  (It’s officially tomorrow, but I want to get a head start!)

The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution designating Sept. 13 as National Celiac Disease Awareness Day. The “Day” is intended to honor those affected by celiac disease, and to also commemorate the birth of Dr. Samuel Gee, a pioneer in celiac disease research.

In honor of NCAD – here are some fun tidbits about Celiac Disease:

  1. 1 in 133 people in the US has Celiac Disease.

     

  2. 1 in 22 people with a first degree relative (parent, child, sibling) with Celiac Disease are also afflicted.

     

  3. 21% of patients with a positive Celiac antibody test could not receive a biopsy due to the refusal of their physician to perform the procedure or the insurance company to pay for it.  – I am so blessed to have had such an amazing doctor…finally!

     

  4. The number of people with Celiac Disease in the U.S. would fill 4,400 Boeing 747 airplanes.

     

  5. The exact cause of celiac disease is still a mystery. Research indicates that celic disease can be triggered by a stressful event such as pregnancy, surgery, childbirth or even a bout of gastroenteritis.

     

  6.  The only treatment for celiac disease is a 100% gluten-free diet. – While it does somewhat pain me to know that there are certain things I’ll never have again, it does give me some satisfaction to know that my treatment is 100% in my control.

     

  7. If Left Untreated, Celiac Disease Can Have Serious Consequences…think seizures (due to inadequate absorption of folic acid which causes calcifications in the brain), a leaky gut, or certain types of bowel cancer.

     

  8. GF foods are, on average, 242% more expensive than their non-GF counterparts.

     

  9. People with CD dine out 80% less than they used to before diagnosis and believe less than 10% of eating establishments have a ‘very good’ or ‘good’ understanding of GF diets. – I would absolutely agree!

     

  10. CD affects more people in the US than Crohn’s Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease combined.

     

  11. 2.5 babies are born every minute in the USA with the genetic makeup to have CD – A little worried about that half baby though 🙂

     

  12. 610,000 women in the US experience unexplained fertility: 6% (36,000) might never learn that the reason for their infertility is Celiac Disease.

     

  13. Americans with celiac could fill Soldier Field (home of the Chicago Bears)– THIRTY SEVEN TIMES!

     

  14. Eating gluten-free is not a weight loss diet. Many gluten-free breads and other baked goods are not only expensive, but high in fat and calories. Many people with celiac disease gain weight on a gluten-free diet as the body heals and begins properly absorbing nutrients. Not this week!!!!

 

The fact that I’ve hardly eaten in 2 days probably helped that number a little. These stupid accidental glutenings are really starting to get on my nerves! Crazy how the side effects get worse the longer I’ve gone without gluten in my life. They may have been bad before but I was already so sick that I didn’t know the difference.

 

I’m not sure what got to me this time, I have a sneaking suspicion that it was a new brand of corn tortillas that I tried and the end result was BAD. It’s like the flu without the fever. And good gracious am I ever a bitch when I’ve been glutened…It tends to bring out my snippy, Cruella De Vil side! (Minus the affinity for skinning puppies for the sake of my fashion habits.)

 

 

Aside from being sick to my stomach, it was like night of the living dead in the house – I think I slept 35 hours this past weekend. And when I’m up, everything is in slow motion. Is this what I used to be like all the time?! It’s crazy to think that I might have been in that weird Zombie-like state for the last 12 years and I’m just now finding some type of semblance of feeling ‘normal.’ Makes me want to have a mulligan on some things I wish I’d put a little more effort into before like college or attempting losing weight the other 100 times. I might have been a little more focused and driven if my energy wasn’t literally going in one end and out the other since nothing was essentially being absorbed. (Sorry for the bad visual.)

Wow what a difference the last 4 months have made!

So how are you going to celebrate tomorrow’s ‘holiday’? Why don’t you bake something gluten-free, sign 1in133.org’s letter to the FDA regarding GF labeling, review the Celiac Symptoms Checklist if you think you or someone you know might be affected, or tell your doctor ‘Sorry’ isn’t good enough and end the cycle of misdiagnosis once and for all!

I’m going to spend the day enjoying how good it feels to be free of gluten and full of life!

 

Happy National Celiac Awareness Day to the world!

 

“You must begin to think of yourself as becoming the person you want to be.”  ~ David Viscott

Penchant de Fromage

I love cheese. And who doesn’t?! Saying you dislike cheese is as disturbing to me as someone saying they hate puppies and children.

Did you know that the root of the English word cheese comes from the Latin caseus, which also gives us the word casein, the milk protein that is the basis of cheese? (More on casein in a minute).

Did you know that that Egypt brings us the earliest archeological evidence of cheesemaking which was found in tomb murals that date back to 2000 BC? Or that these cheeses were likely to have been very sour and salty and similar to a cottage cheese or feta in texture?

Did you know that, According to the British Cheese Board, Britain has approximately 700 distinct local cheeses?  It is thought that France and Italy have perhaps 400 each.

Did you know that The United States is the top producer of cheese in the world, with Wisconsin and California leading the states in production? And while the US is the top producer, Greece and France are the top in terms of consumption?

So what does this talk about fromage have to do with anything?

Well, there I was again today…in the grocery store. Same route every time…I stroll through the produce section…always check out the arugula to see if it’s on sale, then my intent is to head towards the meat counter. But, as it always happens, I get distracted along the way…every time. Halfway between the steak and the lettuce, sits my happy place…the small island I seem to get sucked into every time…my Bermuda triangle: The Cheese Section.

I am unable to divert. Sucked in by an invisible force. If I could buy it all I would (aside from goat cheese, of course, which I despise).  The feta in herbed brine, the fresh smoked mozzarella, big hunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano and of course my favorite: BRIE. Also known as the “Queen of Cheeses”…and with good reason. I certainly worship her. The crust is thin, fluffy and white. The cheese is straw yellow, creamy and soft. And it is my drug.

I am legitimately hooked on cheese. Good cheese. Quality cheese. Double your grocery bill cheese. If only I had grown up on cheez whiz instead of brie and gorgonzola I’d have a lot more money in my grocery budget!

I blame my family for exposing me to the culinary delight of it all.  Salads with feta or blue cheese, appetizers of Boursin or Aloutte, tangy bites of ricotta salata or horseradish cheddar.  And I have loved every bite.

There is one thing I know I can count on with 100% certainty when I go to my grandparents’ house. While some grandchildren know that they’ll have fresh baked cookies waiting inside, I always know there will be at least one variety of brie in their house. And it has been that way for as long as I can remember.

Trust me…I am not complaining!  I’m just trying to peel away 29 years of fromage binge.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “The average American consumes 23 gallons of milk and 30 pounds of cheese a year.” I’d give up the milk and eat 53 pounds instead!

I could give up give up every other food in the grocery store if you let me stay on my little dairy island. I am in the midst of full-blown addition. Do you or someone you know have an addition to cheese?

Here are the signs:

1.  Desperate Need for More Cheese

2. Desire to eat only cheese

3. Constipation

4. Nightmares

5. Hallucinations

6. Hearing Voices

7. Social Ineptitude

8. Hearing Convincing Arguments Claiming You Should Hurt Your Neighbor, Carrot Top or Paula Abdul

9. Need for more Cowbell

10. Weight Gain…:(

 

But on a serious note…is cheese really an addictive substance?

Well, much to my surprise and a little bit of research, it appears to be…but why?

Well, it’s certainly not because of its aroma, which is startlingly close to old socks. The first hint of a biochemical explanation came in 1981, when scientists at Wellcome Research Laboratories in Research Triangle Park, N.C., found a substance in dairy products that looked remarkably like morphine. After a complex series of tests, they determined that, surprisingly enough, it actually was morphine. Morphine!!!!!!

By a fluke of nature, the enzymes that produce opiates are not confined to poppies — they also hide inside cows’ livers. The morphine is produced in order to create a calming effect on their young.  This makes sure that their young bond with them and that their young continue to feed.

So traces of morphine can pass into the cow’s bloodstream and end up in milk and milk products. The amounts are far too small to explain cheese’s appeal. But nonetheless, the discovery led scientists on their search for opiate compounds in dairy products.

And as it turns out, milk contains more than just morphine, it also contains casein, which when broken down in digestion releases a lot of opiates!  In cheese, casein is in a much higher concentration so cheese can be far more addictive than milk.

So it’s confirmed…it is possible that I am really and truly, physiologically addicted to cheese!!!  That explains my constant need for more cowbell and desire to tie Paula Abdul up so I never have to hear her whiny voice again!

I need to detox from the dairy. I need to give my body a break.  Having gone gluten-free has led me to be a lot more reliant on dairy than I was before. I know most cheeses are safe so I’ve been a little too dependent on it as a staple to my daily diet. And I can feel it all like a lead weight.

Can I take a break from it for a while? I am seriously worried about dairy withdrawal and worried that the withdrawal will lead to an uncontrollable bender. I just can’t quit you, Cheese!

I’m gonna try…with all my might I’m going to focus on the other food groups. Well…the ones that are left that I can have.  Grains/Wheat, Dairy, Vegetables, Proteins, Fruit…I know I can do it and the anti-dairy possibilities are endless!  And I know I’ll feel less weighed down next week, too.  Until then, I’ll see you in my dreams, Cheese island!

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese? ~ Charles De Gaulle