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Jul 17, 2013

food for thought


Every morning on a typical week day I make a breakfast shake or smoothie of some sort.

This morning, I had some extra time and decided I wanted to sit down and enjoy a nice breakfast with my coffee. But what to have?

The same old cereal gets old after a while. I have pretty limited choices. It narrows down to Rice Chex, Fruity Pebbles and so far I have done well with Reese's Puffs believe it or not. I don't keep those little oatmeal packets, frozen waffles or muffins around. 

I was craving an omelette. I felt like I wasn't deserving of an omelette, though. I like to reserve those with the husband on Sunday mornings.

Ooooo, I know. Let's try a fresh bowl of strawberries.

Nope.  My package of strawberries was [gasp] moldy so they were tossed. No big deal. They were from the 4th anyways.

I know, let's have some toast! With grape jelly! 

Boring right? Not for this girl.

I pulled out my beloved and treasured $7 teeny loaf of bread from the freezer. Ah yes, there it was. Bread. Not something I have very often. 

Not very many restaurants or stores carry gluten free bread and it's expensive. I try to save it for a treat or when I may be craving bread. Toast among other things is one of the many foods I took for granted most of my life. 3.5 years ago I had to go on a gluten free diet because of celiac disease which is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine. People with this disease are gluten intolerant and the only way to save yourself from the damage that can be caused to your body is to eat a %100 gluten free diet. Gluten is found in barley, malt, wheat and rye. It's hidden everywhere in things you wouldn't think of like soy sauce, real vanilla extract (luckily we are a world of imitation these days), condensed soups, gummy snacks, gravies and even some chocolate drink powders. It's unreal what all goes into the processed foods we buy.

I have learned a lot about what I can and can't have over last three years but I still have my moments where I open fridge, open cupboard, open fridge, open cuppboard. I struggle when the Schwan's man comes. Oh to be able to order those little cheese stuffed pretzel things. Fairs are nearly impossible. Elephant ears, corn dogs, funnel cakes, breaded everything, oh my! 

I try to do without a lot of processed foods because gluten free goods can be expensive. By the time you buy a couple of frozen dinners, few bags of pasta, bag of pretzels, some granola bars, a loaf of bread, Boxed mac and cheese, muffins and cookies, you're looking at a $100 grocery bill easily. That's without all the essentials like milk, sour cream, lunch meat, produce etc. A typical bag of gluten free pretzels can range from $6-9 around here. I'll stick with potato chips.

I'm not writing this for anyone to sit back and feel sorry for me. I don't feel sorry for myself. Or anyone with celiac disease. We've got this. It's just a matter of self control and a life style change. It's no different then smoking, drinking or eating junk food everyday. We choose what we put into our bodies. We teach our friends and family to be respectful and supportive. That helps the most. Mine and my husband's family have gone above and beyond to include me at get togethers. I am pretty sure my mother and mother in law have mastered more gluten free recipes than I have. I think they see it as a fun, new challenge. 

The struggle is when you have the ones who say "oh come on, just eat the donut. It's all in your head. It won't kill you" .... No it may not kill me, but I surely don't want to deal with intestinal inflammation, psoriasis, blood shot eyes, anxiety, ulcers, fatigue, numbness/tingling, canker sores, joint pain, arthritis and even infertility the rest of my life either. 

I actually had a coworker tell me one time that it was all in my head. All in my head. Really? 

I encourage you, if you have a friend, relative or coworker you spend a lot of time with who has a disorder like celiac disease, do some research and enable yourself to understand their lifestyle and eating habits a little better. Especially if you spend a lot of time with and care sbout them. It always warms my heart when someone will tell me about a friend or relative of theirs' with celiac or a similar disorder and they are seemingly very educated on the subject. I don't have to explain it one bit because they already know. Three years ago it was almost unheard of. Now, going gluten free almost seems to be an epidemic and it is getting a lot easier.

I have a few friends who are finding their children have to eat gluten free and it breaks my heart but at the same time I am happy that these babies and toddlers can learn at a young age how to eat and take care of themselves. They will go through life never eating an elephant ear at the fair (well I shouldn't say never.... gluten free elephant ear may be an option at the fair some day) but they also won't know what they're missing, either.

Growing up with frequent Olive Garden trips, Wooden Peel Pizza and yes, elephant ears, I know what I am missing and that's what makes it tough sometimes. I went to 17 weddings the year I got married. Yes, 17. Insanely crazy but we had a good time. I never got to experience the cake my friends ooed and ahhhed over for months after their tastings. However, I did sneak back to the kitchen a time or two and scrape up all the frosting I could. Hey, we will take what we can get! 

In fact, I missed out on my own wedding cake. Sure there was the gluten free alternative cupcake but it just wasn't the same. 

Sometimes I am upset because there are different forms of celiac and it effects everyone differently. Some people go through their whole lives with no symptoms not realizing they have it and have no idea of the damage being done to their body. I happen to have the kind that caused me to have other symptoms that made me aware something was wrong and gain weight rather than lose weight. Most people with celiac have a growth stunt and aren't getting the right nutrients absorbed into their bodies. If only I could be that skinny I would think to myself. How silly it was for me to wish that upon myself not knowing what that skinny girl was going through. Not knowing she would have given anything to be my size. Now after being educated, I am so thankful that my body was not emaciated and lacking nutrients. I am very thankful to be strong and healthy. Curves and all! 

So yes, it could be worse. Far worse. 

Things like toast and jelly are still taken for granted but l thank God everyday for my gluten intolerance and the fact that I am no longer damaging my body. I could have been stuck with so much worse. I know some people who are allergic to it and can't have a trace of it or even be in the same room with it. I know some traces get through every now and then but I do the best I can for now. That's all you can do. 

And pray that some day Olive Garden will have gluten free breadsticks. :)

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