When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Sure They’re Gluten Free

Admittedly, I have had this title in my head for a couple of weeks since I first heard I might have Celiac Disease. Two weeks later, I am writing with an official diagnosis .

So, I guess this means I’m now that girl. That girl who can’t eat gluten and requests a special menu and refuses to eat your (delicious and tempting) pizza. Curse you, gluten!

Back in December, I had some routine bloodwork done which showed heightened liver enzymes. Given my history of eating disorders, I felt it necessary to look into this, as my behavior certainly has internal (and unseen) consequences.

In January I had a liver ultrasound which showed that my liver was normal (thank goodness!), so my doctor thought it wise to see a gastroenterologist to get to the bottom of things. After a few more vials of blood were drawn, they told me my bloodwork tested positive for Celiac antibodies. Excuse me?!

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Well, gluten…

This was such a shock as I felt totally fine (I feel very lucky about that!), and I know that often people who find out about their gluten intolerance feel utterly awful. But, I marched on and today had an endoscopy/biopsy of my small intestine which showed that I have Celiac Disease.

It’s crazy to find out such a thing at 23 years old, as you wonder how long this has been going on/how it just developed. And it’s also crazy that even though I felt fine, internally my body was struggling. I’m SO grateful for the medical care I received, including the encouragement and insistence that I look into the issues found in my bloodwork.

Now, I know this all seems kind of odd considering my eating disorder history, but I was told the Celiac Disease is likely unrelated. And, I know that people will say things like “well now you have an excuse to be more restrictive,” but reality is, I have to avoid gluten for my health, and I am not purposefully doing this to “cut carbs.” Like anyone, I want to do what’s best for my body and for me, that means cutting out gluten (per doctor’s orders).

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So, while this will be a major lifestyle change for me, I’ve tried to thing of a few pros (and some cons) of this diagnosis:

PROS:

  • I HATE beer (always have), and now have a legit excuse as to why I refuse to drink it!
  • Gluten free pizza dough is available at so many yummy places (lookin’ at you Mellow Mushroom & Papa Murphy’s)
  • I prefer corn tortillas to flour – long live my Mexican food addiction
  • I truly love fresh, natural and whole foods – fruits, veggies, meat, etc.
  • One of my favorite blogs, Iowa Girl Eats, is now exclusively gluten-free after author Kristin was diagnosed with Celiac (“later” in life like me!)

CONS:

  • I will have to become an avid label reader (not totally bad, but may slow down my grocery trips)
  • I will have to be very vigilant when out to eat/at social events
  • Biggest of all, I love baking and will have to learn how to whip up some gluten free goodies (although, I did see that Pillsbury makes gluten-free Funfetti mix – PRAISE!)

All in all, I feel content about this diagnosis. While it is definitely not ideal, it is not a death sentence and it is doable. I am grateful that we live in a world that has adapted so much and now has so many gluten-free options. And, most of all, I am grateful to know what was causing the crazy results of my bloodwork because it is never fun to drive yourself insane and wonder what’s wrong with you!

So, now I must begin my gluten-free journey! I have to educate myself on all the dos and don’t’s, and all of the gluten-free options out there. My hope is that I can find some delicious recipes and restaurants with gluten-free offerings and share them with you all! And, if you have any advice or tidbits you’d like to share with me on Celiac Disease or gluten-free diets, please let me know!

XOXO

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The Truth Will Set You Free…

It always upsets me that there’s such a stigma around mental illnesses, especially as they are so common. Despite the fact that I am upset by this, I still refuse to openly talk about my own battle with mental health, simply because I’m embarrassed and afraid to be judged. Quite the contradiction – I hate the stigma, yet I clearly let it live on by not talking about my own battles.

In the spring of my freshman year of high school (2007), I decided to give up sweets for Lent. Innocent, right? Well one thing led to another and I was no longer avoiding sweets, I was avoiding anything I deemed “unhealthy” and overly restricting my calorie intake. I was exercising excessively and dropping weight extremely quickly.

My poor, sweet friends confronted me with their concerns, and I agreed, I had a problem and told them I would stop. Inside, though, their comments only fueled my fire. I accepted their concerns about my weight as a compliment, and used this to drive me to more weight loss.

As school let out for the summer, I had more or less removed myself from any relationships I had with people. I spent my days working out, restricting food and being utterly miserable. I can still picture the meals I ate. 3/4 of a cup of Special K (no milk of course). A can of tuna (no mayo) with pepper and a sliced tomato. Minimal intake of whatever my mom cooked for dinner. Writing that brings me to tears, because I feel the misery and hopelessness I felt back then. And it’s suffocating.

I vividly remember getting up from a chair by the pool, and blacking out and falling to the ground, because my blood pressure was so low. At my worst, my heart rate was 44 and I weighed 88 pounds. Keep in mind I’m 5 foot 5 inches. Terrifying.

After being told if I didn’t get better (by the 3 doctors I saw each week) that I would be sent to treatment, I had hit rock bottom. And I was able to heal and move forward, with the help of my family and friends and a great team of doctors.

Fast forward to junior year of college (2012-2013). My life felt like it was falling apart. My dad was undergoing chemo, my grandmother was dying of ovarian cancer and I was utterly devastated. I turned back to the control of the eating disorder to avoid the hurt.

I would wake up at 6 am to workout before class. I would barely eat at (delicious!) sorority meals. I blacked out at parties. I removed myself from friends, and I know I scared people. Some sorority sisters of mine reached out to my parents, who once again came to help.

I sought treatment at school and seemed to be getting better. Better enough, in fact, that I moved to LA to complete an internship.

I was doing well, but I missed my parents and sisters. I worried about my body, because I didn’t belong to a gym. I felt out of control, and that’s when the anorexia morphed to bulimia (as it often does). After one particular episode that summer, I ended up in the hospital. You’d think that would be rock bottom, like when a drug addict OD’s, but even that didn’t stop my behavior.


And, to be frank, it still hasn’t. I still struggle. To this day. It has been 8 years, and I know it will be a lifelong struggle. Which scares the bah-jesus out of me.

I’m writing this today, after 8 years in this battle, because I am determined to do something. While I’m still figuring out what that something is, I’m calling on you all for help. Help to remove the stigma around mental health. Help and support as I make my decision for what’s next. Prayers for recovery.

Most immediately, I’m asking for donations.  On Saturday, November 14th, I will be participating in a National Eating Disorder’s Association walk in West Chester, PA. You can access the donation link here: http://neda.nationaleatingdisorders.org/site/TR/NEDAWalk/General?px=1547384&pg=personal&fr_id=3910

I want to show that I have accepted my problem, and I’m ready to raise awareness and start a dialogue that needs to be started. We as a society have to change, have to stop putting pressure on people to look and act a certain way. We have to stop perpetuating the belief that there is norm we need to prescribe to. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, and I’m damn sure there’s not just one best way for us to look and act.

Yet, while I’m damn sure, I’ve still fallen victim to this belief and I fight a daily battle as a result. And I know I’m not the only one, despite often feeling so alone. So please consider giving in some way, even if it’s just saying a prayer. It all matters. Not just for me, but for the millions of people who suffer.

This is the scariest, most honest piece I’ve ever written. I’m fearful of the judgment I will receive for being so open. But I know, the stigma won’t end without the conversation and, let’s be honest, when do I ever pass up the chance to start a conversation.

XOXO.