Happy Friday, friends! I'm officially back in DC and am gearing up for a busy weekend, visiting with family, photographing an engagement session, an anniversary session, and second shooting a New Years Eve wedding! Phew...I am so excited to finish 2017 strong while starting 2018 in an amazing way!
Now...I'm not going to lie, sharing a post like this is kind actually pretty scary for me! My health is something that I take extremely personally. But, I recently realized that I have never shared anything like this on my blog, and it is so important that I do! My celiac disease and resulting gluten free lifestyle is pretty hard to miss if you know me well, but I realized that this is something I've never really chatted about on my blog or social media. As someone with celiac, I have recently realized that it is so important that I act as an advocate for the lifestyle that my body needs and the community of gluten free people that also live like I do. For many, being gluten free is a lifestyle that they require to live symptom-free. It may be a little more expensive and a little more time consuming, but making this simple change has honestly saved my life.
About a month ago, I celebrated 5 years gluten free (time flies!!). For those that don't know, I have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that I manage with a gluten free diet and active lifestyle. It really is that simple! I went gluten free in November of 2012 at the end of my first semester of my freshman year of college. I knew I had celiac, after a series of tests I had run back in high school. I, of course, thought they totally had it wrong! I didn't really see any symptoms, until I went to college. Well...what do you know, a wonderful typical-brand new freshman diet of pasta, late night pizza, Natty Light and additive-filled dining hall food left me with debilitating stomach aches, a weak immune system, fatigue, anemia, depression and crazy gluten-brain (gluten brain fog is a real thing y'all!). Celiac is sneaky like that! There are so many symptoms that so many people don't realize are an indicator of something that they are eating that doesn't agree with them. I missed so many of them for such a long time, until one night, something clicked!
I decided enough was enough and cut gluten out of my diet. Since then, I have learned so much and have loved connecting with other people that also have celiac or a gluten intolerance. For starters, eating gluten free IS possible, and it can also be a lot of fun! There are so many great products on the market now (some are good for you, and some not-so-good!), and I'm not going to lie, it feels a little bit like winning the lottery every time I see a little gluten free stamp on one of my favorite products! I also learned that my body is a lot happier without sugar, grain (corn & rice) and dairy (I'm still working on getting there--right now, I'm just gluten free!).
Today, I wanted to share a little bit about my own gluten free journey--just a bit of what I've learned since going gluten free and what may help you if you're thinking about going gluten free! I am excited to share a little more about wellness on this little blog of mine, so please let me know if you have any questions--I'm an open book! If you are gluten free, think you may need to live gluten free or may be going gluten free soon, let's connect! I am always so excited to make another friend. In the meantime, I'm sharing 5 things I've learned in the 5 years I've been gluten free! Check it out below:
Read the labels on everything.
Did you know that wheat flour is the second ingredient in Twizzlers (one of my pre-gluten free favorite beach treats!)? Did you know it is in soy sauce, salad dressing, chewing gum, nose sprays, and even maple syrup? I've also found gluten in deep conditioners, fragrances, shampoos, skin care products and makeup. It sounds crazy, but they really DO make people with celiac and gluten intolerances sick! (Acne, hives and itchy skin are no fun! Remember...your skin is your body's largest organ and it DOES absorb the things you put on it!) I've found gluten in medication and most protein bars. I've found gluten in SO many places that I never expected, but I have also found that there is usually a gluten free option for almost everything I crave or need! These days, products are labeled well, but you really do have to READ these labels to make sure the ingredients are safe for you. From food on the shelves of the grocery store to menu items and self care products, reading all your labels really does make a difference when it comes to feeling good.
It pays to bring your own snacks.
Bring your own snacks/meal or risk being hangry. One of the things that makes me the most self conscious about my celiac is having to request a special meal or having to send something back because it has bread on or near it. If I am ever uncertain that I will be able to eat, I have found that it is so much safer to just bring my own food along (I'm a lot happier too when I'm not hungry!). When in doubt, it is always safer to assume that you can't eat at a restaurant or party or work gathering than it is to assume that you can. As a bonus, it is always SO much fun when you learn that you CAN eat somewhere and get to share your snacks with all your friends later!
Some people will get it; some people won't. You can't worry about the ones that don't understand!
I've had friends go out of their way to make gluten free treats for me and I have also had servers look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them I need a gluten free meal and later deliver my hamburger with a bun. Some people will understand that this isn't just a fad diet you are following (if only going gluten free made me lose weight!!), and some people won't. If you're gluten free, it's not your responsibility to change anyone's mindset about gluten free lifestyles in a 5 minute period, but it is your responsibility to stick up for your health! If you are a lucky human that does not have an allergy or sensitivity to any food ingredients, this is my plea for you to understand that all allergies are serious and important and valid and should be treated with equal care. You never know when someone may end up with a 104 degree fever because of the croutons that were on their salad!
Going gluten free isn't a death sentence for your social life.
So many people have come to me over the last couple of years for advice on going gluten free. After we chat about safe food and I give them my list of go-to gluten free restaurants, I am usually met with the question: But I can still go out with my friends, right? Yes, duh! Your going gluten free is most definitely not a death sentence for your social life. Yes, you can still go out to the bars with your friends--you just have to be more mindful of what you are consuming! (Yes, wine is gluten free. Praise the Lord!) If you're drinking liquor, make sure you're checking that it is safe for you. (Pro tip: I've found that my body really doesn't do great with what is in the well!) Also, yes! You can still go out to eat with your friends! You just need to make informed menu decisions and let your server know that you can't tolerate gluten. One trick that I love using is checking the menu online before I even get to the restaurant. That way, I'll be aware of what is available for me to eat and drink and ordering will be a breeze! I do have to admit that going out to eat with new people is something that still causes me a lot of anxiety, but it is possible to go and have fun without having any issues. Preparing ahead helps a lot!
Being gluten free really isn't all that bad.
Guys, I'm not lying when I say that life is actually a lot better now that I'm gluten free! I can think clearly, my stomach no longer leaves me horizontal after 7PM, and gluten free food is really good! I still get to eat tacos and mashed potatoes and Chipotle and food when I travel and all of my favorite things! As someone with celiac, my body is SO much happier living life without gluten, and so, I am so much happier living life without gluten. After 5 years of being gluten free, I hardly even notice that I live life differently. I don't think I have ever craved food containing gluten, and I really do love eating vicariously through friends when I can't have what is on the menu. I am often asked if I will ever try gluten again, and my answer is always a pretty solid NOPE! The unpredictable and long-lasting reaction that I have gotten from consuming gluten accidentally has SO not been worth it. I truly wouldn’t be able to live the life that I do with gluten, and I am so thankful for the science and recent research that has helped expand the gluten free community! I am also so grateful that we were able to identify the issue so early in my life. Thankfully, celiac has never held me back!
Thanks for tuning in, friends! If you have made it this far, you need to go get yourself a gluten free cookie! If you have questions or just want to chat, you know where to find me!