Friday, February 17, 2017

7 Random Acts of Kindness for Loved Ones with a Chronic Illness

Sometimes the difference between a bad day and an awesome one is only a few minutes. It can be finding five dollars on the street, a neighbor's kind smile or even reading a blog post that speaks to you that day. As we celebrate National Random Acts of Kindness Day, though, I'm focusing on a unique type of moment:

The moments that can especially trigger smiles in people with a chronic illness, whether it's celiac disease, a food allergy or anything in between. Because, as much as we may want to fit in with everyone else, life with a permanent medical condition its quirks. Ready to spread some love? Here are seven easy acts of kindness to give someone with a chronic illness the best day ever!

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness

1. Make a (friend) date...where food isn't even included. 

Whether you have a nut allergy, celiac disease or have discovered that certain foods exacerbate your symptoms, chronic illnesses can make social outings...awkward. I still vividly remember my first date, only a week after I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Unfortunately, I remember getting glutened by popcorn more than watching the actual movie! 

To take the dietary awkwardness out of the day, design a date where food isn't even mentioned. Some of my favorite dates recently involved meeting after dinner to walk down to the cliffs (when I lived beside the ocean at college!), watching Netflix on a blanket under the stars or hammocking with friends. Food is often tied to social activities - especially in college where "pizza party" is a guaranteed winner - but it doesn't have to be. 

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, potato chip rock
Like hiking up Potato Chip Rock!
In fact, surprising someone with a food-free adventure might be the easiest way to take the stress out of socializing! 

2. Spend 15 minutes researching their disease online - as long as they haven't told you not to.

For some people, I know this is a touchy subject. I have one friend with a heart condition who won't reveal the name of her disease because she doesn't want people researching it. She wants people to focus on time with her right now - not her illness or future possible complications

While I completely understand her decision, I have a different perspective. As my blog would imply, talking about celiac disease or fibromyalgia comes easily for me - and I appreciate when others put in the effort to learn. I still remember when my dad offhandedly mentioned reading some posts at Gluten Dude shortly after I was diagnosed, and I felt lucky to have someone that dedicated to understanding what I was going through. 

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, celiac disease

Not only that, but research can also help you sidestep asking the same questions people hear all the time - like "What do you even eat!?!" I don't mind raising awareness and educating others...but that doesn't mean I'm not impressed when friends already know some of the basics. 

3. Call shotgun and scope out the best allergy free bakeries or bistros within two hours. 

If your friend isn't a foodie, maybe this isn't the perfect choice for you both. However, I'll rarely ever turn down a surprise visit to a restaurant where I can actually eat. Considering that when restaurants adopt allergy free menus, their business can increase by 25 percent, I'm obviously not the only diet-restricted foodie!

One of my college senior year highlights is still the day when my friend Natalie and I scoped out a 100% raw, vegan and gluten free restaurant nearby our college. Neither of us are raw or vegan...but she was willing to go out of  her comfort zone with me. In the end, we both loved our orders - mushroom stroganoff for her and mushroom quesadilla with kale chips for me - and I loved being able to order anything off the menu without worry. 

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, peace pies
Me at Peace Pies!
You can even turn this into a mini road trip, stopping by historical landmarks, natural parks or bucket list sights on your way to and back from eating. After all, you'll need some way to burn off breakfast and get hungry for lunch! 

4. Ask what helps during health flares - and remember to do it. 

This is one of the simplest things you can do for someone with a chronic illness. Period. When I'm glutened or in more pain than usual, sometime the last thing I want to do is explain what I need. I just want someone to know, as unfair as that may sound. 

When you ask ahead of time, you'll be prepared when your loved one's body takes a turn for the worse. You'll know whether they need company and cuddles...or they just want to be left alone. Every person differs in what makes them feel better, so this is one topic you really need to talk about instead of Google. 
7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness. college
Our swag selfie skills...
As much ask I may hate friends seeing me at my lowest...I also know that my friends and their love can help lift me up again. 

5. Let them cook you a "safe" meal or snack...and eat it with an open mind. 

This may be more applicable for people whose chronic illness drastically limits their diet, like cutting out gluten or following a strict autoimmune paleo protocol. However, when people love (or at least tolerate) my "special" food, my meal really tastes that much better

As crazy as it sounds, the food we eat helps construct who we are. We make statements about our personal values and beliefs when we reach for broccoli instead of chips, or follow a vegan diet versus a meat-heavy paleo one. So, when people make gross faces at my meals, it hurts - especially when going gluten free wasn't my choice

So, the next time someone with dietary restrictions invites you over for dinner, eat the rice pasta without loudly comparing it to wheat. Try the black bean brownies without automatically calling them "weird" in your mind. Sure, you might not like the food - and that's entirely allowed. But that can be due to your personal taste buds just as much as your friend's diet. 

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, frontier Bites
Case in point: my dad eventually enjoyed the "gerbil food" that is Frontier Bites
And who knows? The food might even surprise you in the most delicious of ways. 

6. Be flexible with your plans. 

I hate to say it, but chronic illness are major drama queens. I can eat the same thing two days, and my stomach will freak out randomly on the second. I can work-work-work for a week straight...and then suddenly be hit with major burn out

The truth is, I don't like to cancel plans. I don't like to turn down dinner invitations when I was drooling at the idea of Chipotle a few days before. But sometimes, to care for my body properly, I have to. And I greatly appreciate it when my loved ones understand

So, if you're friend has a flare up and can't go dancing on a Friday night, offer a night of PF Changs and Netflix instead. If they are too tired to go on a far adventure, set up a blanket and watch the sunset right outside their house (or dorm). The more flexible you are, the more comfortable your friends may feel in letting you know what they're really up to that day. 

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, celiac mantra
Some kind words don't either...
And when they do feel better...the adventures you originally planned will be twice as awesome!

7. Remind them that they are more than their chronic illness - and you love them just the same. 

We all play a variety of roles in life. Sibling. Blogger. College student. Parent. Employee. Friend. Lover. Mentor. The list goes on and on. When one of those roles - the role of being someone with a chronic illness - impacts all the others, though, it's hard to not consider it your entire identity. 

If my college friends have taught me anything, though, it's how much I have to offer beyond my medical statuses. I can be a soul sister to Meghan. A foodie mentor to Belinda. A Netflix partner-in-crime to Chris. A good listener to Hannah. I'm lucky enough to have friends and family who remind me every day how much more I am - and that is one of the greatest gifts you can give to any loved one with a chronic illness. 

When they're struggling, remind them how far they've come or the accomplishments they can still make. When they're feeling socially isolated, take them out (or join them inside) and show them how much fun they can still have. And when they're hating their body for betraying them...tell them that you love them just the same.

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, celiac disease
Some of my favorite supporters...
Because, really, love is the secret ingredient to any "best day ever." And this is one random act of kindness that can never go out of style. 

*Also found at Pretty Pintastic, Flaunt it FridayDare to Share, Link Love!*

How will you celebrate National Random Act of Kindness Day? What ways do you show your loved ones random acts of kindness? Tell me your ideas below!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why You Don't Need to Be 100% Healthy to Be 100% Worthy of Love

As a child, Valentine's Day is one of the most magical holidays of the year. It's the day of true love and Prince Charming and fairytales. As we grow older, though, the romantic daydreams start to lose their shine. We realize love is more complicated than finding the perfect glass slipper...yet, somehow, we still expect ourselves to fit the role of princess (or prince).

We still chase perfection, not only in of ourselves but also in our partners...and, when you have a chronic illness, that laundry list of "must have's" turns into a paper barricade for true love. In fact, one rumored statistic even claims that 75 percent of marriages involving chronic illness end in divorce.

Casey the College Celiac shares how you are still worthy of love when you have a chronic illness.

The more I thought about love this Valentine's Day, the more I wondered: is that why I'm always looking for the next, greatest fix? I know I'll have celiac disease for life. That's just a fact. But I also know that my food journey has been full of different "panaceas." Low-processed paleo. Low fodmap. Plant based. Yoga to aid digestion, charcoal pills to help with gas (or being glutened) and too many hours spent researching online to count. Maybe the idea of "better (chronically ill) body on the other side" isn't necessary just a search for greater self worth. It's also a desperate attempt to creep closer to that acclaimed 100% healthy...and then be 100% worthy of love.

Because, when I'm honest, I know I have niggling doubts about my "date-ability," as one could call it. I can't be the girlfriend who can meet his family for Thanksgiving dinner without lugging around my own Tupperware feast. I can't be the girlfriend who can randomly try out the new Chinese restaurant down the street or accept a kiss without asking, "Did you brush your teeth?" And when my fibro flares up, I'm not exactly the most exciting of company...and you probably won't find see my gussied up in anything than an old T-shirt and thrift shop shorts.

And yet.

I've shared nervous first dates, both, ironically enough, at Chipotle. (Because what says romance more than "burrito bowls to go"?)

Casey the College Celiac shares how you are still worthy of love when you have a chronic illness.
PF Changs is a close second for date night...
I've watched the sun set over the ocean as I huddled against a new body for warmth.

I've had another family welcome me into their home - even when I eat my own gluten free dinner out of a lunch box while they enjoy homemade pizza.

I've tasted first kisses, last kisses, in-between kisses (and still many more kisses to explore, I'm sure).

I've imagined what having a family would be like...even if I'm still not sure what kind of children those would be.

I've been told I'm beautiful - when I don't feel it. I've felt like I'm beautiful, even when no one is there to tell me.

I've fallen in love, tripped over broken hearts and had others fall over me.

Casey the College Celiac shares how you are still worthy of love when you have a chronic illness.
When you almost face plant while photographing yourself...
I'm not 100% healthy, and I will never be. But I've still been in love, and hope I'll find it again. And, deep down, I know that I am - and anyone with a chronic illness is - worthy of it, no matter the doubts that pop into my head.

Because I don't need to be able to eat "normal" food to have a date night. I don't need to be ignorant of daily pain to also know moments of daily joy. I just need to learn to love myself enough to let someone else see me for all of my faults - and love me through them.

And isn't that what Valentine's Day - and love overall - should really be about? Giving up the chase for perfection and enjoying time with the people we adore instead. Enjoying the chocolates instead of worrying how you'll work them off. Laughing that your boyfriend forgot to trim the thorns before handing you the roses...again. Maybe even enjoying the whole day to yourself, and not feeling jealous when you see couples walking by, hand-in-hand.

I don't claim to know what love is or to be an expert on relationships. But, from what life has taught me so far, I do know this: I don't have to be 100% healthy to be 100% worthy of love.

Casey the College Celiac shares how you are still worthy of love when you have a chronic illness.

And if that isn't magical, I don't know what else is.

Happy (belated) Valentine's Day everyone!

*Also found at Terrific Tuesday, Wine'd Down Wednesday, Wow Me Wednesday, RunningwithSpoons,  Share FestThis is How We Roll*

What do you think about finding love with a chronic illness? Tell me your thoughts - and love stories, if you like! - below. :)

Monday, February 13, 2017

8 Gluten Free Desserts for One to Celebrate Single Awareness Day

In high school, I had a quirky history teacher who, every Valentine's Day, would proudly scrawl, "Happy Single Awareness Day!" on the white board in bright red marker - complete with a broken heart, of course. Now, I'm as big a fan of Valentine's Day as anyone else.

(Heck, one of my favorite posts - ever - is a February throwback called "8 Reasons to Date a Celiac.") However, Single Awareness Day will always be close to my heart (pun intended).

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day , celiac, vegan

I mean, what other day can you not just acknowledge but also celebrate being a single woman (or man)? And on what other day - besides your birthday perhaps - can you dive into dessert and lick the plate clean, all on your own? This year, to celebrate the most self-love-packed holiday of 2017 so far, I thought I'd round up eight of the best single-serve gluten free desserts in the blogosphere.

And if you just have to spend the 14th with someone you love...simply double these gluten free desserts for a perfect treat for two!

1. Chocolate Lava Mug Cake (Vegan and Paleo)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, casey the college celiac

Nothings "Valentine's Day" more than chocolate cake for dessert (or even breakfast) - especially when it's relatively healthy and takes less than five minutes to make. Talk dark chocolate to me...

2. Chocolate Caramel Affogato (Vegan)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, strength and sunshine

I'll admit I had never heard of an "affogato" before I saw this recipe...but now this is definitely a dessert I can I've "gato" try! 'Cause what could be better than creamy So Delicious ice cream + warm caramel and chocolate sauce?

3. Cherry Cobbler for One (8 Ingredients)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, gluten free palate

When mug cake meets pie. This is definitely one of the best things you can EVER create with just your microwave!

4. 1-Minute Funfetti Mug Cake (Vegan, depending on cake mix used)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, what the fork

If you have some cake mix you're dying to use but don't want to turn on your oven, this is the holy grail of recipes. Apparently 3-2-1 is a magic ratio when it comes to cake mix, water and time in the microwave! Who would've thunk?

5. Zucchini Bread Nana Ice Cream (Vegan and Paleo)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, casey the college celiac

Because sometimes you still want to sneak in some veggies to your dessert...and with this recipe, you won't even notice the difference!

6. Quick Fix Dark Hot Chocolate Shots (Paleo)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, raias recipes

Just when you think hot chocolate can't get any better, you find this adult upgrade...

7. Allergy Free Mug Cake (Top 8 Allergen Free)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, there is life after wheat

A chocolate mug cake kicked up a notch with whipped cream and caramel sauce on top. And the idea of a "mug cake bar" full of toppings for everyone to choose from sounds like the perfect "Galentine" celebration!

8. Espresso Avocado Chocolate Mousse (Vegan, Paleo)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, unconventional baker

Now this is one dessert that really is "phat," as all the cool kids used to say. Five simple ingredients + one blender = (healthy) chocolate heaven.

Are you drooling yet? I know I am...but that's always a risk when surrounded by recipes that are not only gluten free and delicious (which some would consider a feat in itself), but also allll for one person (AKA, me!).

After all, it may seem like this week of the year is all about true love, couples and relationships. However, don't let Valentine's Day overshadow the most important aspect of love: self love. That means remembering how awesome you are on your own, fueling your body and, sometimes, feeding your cravings with a chocolate dessert made for one.

So, whether you're in a steady relationship or kicking ass on your own, let's make this year's Single Awareness Day sweeter than ever bite at a time!

*Also found at What'd You Do This Weekend, Made By You Monday, Snickerdoodle Sunday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Create Link Inspire, Tasty Tuesday, What's Cookin' Wednesday, VegetarianMama, Saucy Saturday, Snickerdoodle Sunday*

What is your favorite chocolatey dessert? What do you do for Valentine's Day - or Single Awareness Day?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Berry-ful "Be My Valentine" Bagels (Gluten Free, Vegan)

I have a lot of true loves in my life. My bed. Loaded smoothie bowls. Even one or two humans make the list. As Valentine's Day creeps closer, however, something else is winning over my heart and taste buds: these berry-ful "Be My Valentine" Bagels.

Thanks to some help from BFree Foods, this is the easiest - and one of the tastiest - Valentine's breakfasts you can ever make your loved one. It's also one of the most allergy friendly: besides being gluten free and vegan, this recipe is also free of soy, nut, dairy and wheat. And who would turn down a bagel that is (baked and/or decorated) full of love!?!

casey the college celiac Valentine's Day gluten free Bagels

It also doesn't hurt that yesterday was National Bagel Day...making this breakfast the perfect late celebration. And what's a better way to celebrate than digging into a fluffy, light bagel topped with creamy sunflower butter, juicy berry hearts, crunchy seeds and chewy raisins? 

I have another confession to make, too. BFree Foods recently sent me a sample of all of their products...and Cupid must've hit me with his arrow because I am addicted. So far, my family and I have tried the plain hot dog buns (a little fragile, but super fluffy!); the quinoa and chia wrap (according to my gluten-lovin' dad: "Not bad." And the extra protein sure doesn't hurt!); the multigrain wrap (I used it for a pizza toasted up nicely and held its own against all my veggie toppings!) and, of course, lots of plain bagels.

True, I've never baked my own bagels before...but I don't know why I'd want to with these babies only a shopping cart away! Fluffy yet not falling apart, and plain but with no funky gluten free aftertaste. Just in time for Valentine's Day, I am most definitely in love...

casey the college celiac Valentine's Day gluten free bagels
A few of my favorite taste tests so far...
To get your own bagel bonanza started, gather a few simple ingredients. As usual, think of this recipe as more of a blueprint than hard-and-fast rules. Now let's get rollin' (pun intended).

For one half of a bagel:

1 bagel slice (I use BFree Foods, but you can choose your favorite homemade or store-bought bagel)
1 jar of nut butter of choice (I love sunflower butter and Kalot Superfood's chocolate cashew butter)
Fruit like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and banana
Pumpkin, sunflower and chia seeds (feel free to use crushed nuts as well)
Homemade chocolate sauce (mix a little water or coconut oil with cacao powder) or homemade acai sauce (mix a little water or coconut oil with acai powder instead)

This recipe is as simple as breakfast can get. You can either start with a plain bagel or toast it in the toaster or broiler. Then, cover half the bagel in sunbutter and half in chocolate cashew butter. Cut your berries or banana in heart shapes and place them on the bagel. Then, sprinkle on your seeds, mix and drizzle the sauce and add another swirl of nut butter if you feel so inclined.

casey the college celiac Valentine's Day gluten free bagel
That close up...
As usual, feel free to go crazy with the toppings. If you're craving a creamy, cold treat, add chia seed pudding or coconut yogurt. For a more decadent taste, add chocolate chips and microwave/bake the bagel until melted. Other kinds of nut butter, whipped cream (or aquafaba), white chocolate or candy is totally game. After all, it is almost Valentine's Day (AKA the national holiday of chocolate)!

And, sometimes, we don't have time for a complex Valentine's Day brunch - as much as we might hope we would. Or, sometimes we burn the pancakes, forget to buy more eggs or feel more like lying in bed with our loved ones than slaving over the stove. And this Valentine's Day, I'm here to reassure you that a lazy holiday is A-freakin'-OK...especially when you have bagels on your side.

casey the college celiac Valentine's Day gluten free bagels
Excuse the dark circles...hopefully this bagel is a cure for a crazy work schedule!
Because nothing says, "Be My Valentine" like a bagel full of berry-licious love...

*I receive these products in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts, opinions and recipes are my own.*

*Also found at VegetarianMama, What's Cookin' Wednesday, Pretty Pintastic, Saucy Saturdays, What's Cookin' Wednesday, Snickerdoodle Sunday*

What's your favorite Valentine's Day breakfast? What would you top this bagel with? Tell me your thoughts before!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why My Diet is More Diverse As a Gluten Free Celiac

Even though it's been four years since my celiac diagnosis, one question always seems to pop up when I meet someone new. Something like: "You can't eat gluten? What do you even eat!?!"

Whether it's celiac disease, a food allergy or a lifestyle choice like going paleo or vegan, "limitation" seems to be the common denominator. If you can't eat something, you diet just must be insanely restrictive. And in certain aspects, that's true

However, I have a different side of the story to tell. In fact, my diet has more variety than ever since I went gluten free. How can less ingredients mean more dietary diversity? And how can you add some spice to your life, even if you have food restrictions?

casey the college celiac diverse diet gluten free

Here's four reasons why I'm eating more types of food than ever...after celiac forced me to go gluten free

1. You're forced to get creative in the kitchen.

How many times have you reached for the same ingredients or followed the same recipe just because "that's what you've always done"? Maybe it's the enchilada recipe that's been passed down in your family for centuries...or maybe it's just an American classic like grilled cheese that you've never bothered to make your own. 

When an entire food group gets kicked to the (dietary) curb, being creative in the kitchen isn't a privilege; it's a necessity. You have to find new tortillas - taste testing everything from potato-based Potapas to your own paleo Cassava creations to simple rice tortillas from
Food for Life - to replace the flour ones you've used for years. You may even have to try entire new recipes, experimenting with foreign names like buckwheat groats, chia seeds and coconut oil

The truth is, before I was diagnosed, I could cook approximately three meals: a baked potato, boxed mac n' cheese and any baked good that came with instructions. Being forced to go gluten free also forced me to leave my comfort zone of meat-potatoes-and-the-odd veggie. I wouldn't call myself a chef...but I do know how to pronounce quinoa correctly! 

casey the college celiac diverse gluten free diet
My second-to-last non-GF birthday!
2. You have the best motivator ever to try new (naturally gluten free) foods. 

Maybe you've been gluten free for years, or maybe it's only been a few days since your edible world was thrown upside down. Either way, it's the perfect time to take a field trip to your local grocery store's produce aisle. 

I have another confession to make. Pre diagnosis, I had never tried avocado, kale, zucchini, squash, chickpeas and countless other foods. I turned up my nose at sweet potato and ate a smoothie once a year, if not less (how times have changed!). I ate a lot of food in terms of volume...but most of it fell within the realm of processed foods, canned vegetables and "stick-to-your-ribs" meat and potatoes. 

But, when so many of my old go-to's were made off limits, I discovered something: there was a rainbow of naturally gluten free options just waiting to be tasted. Sure, maybe your diet was more well-rounded than mine before you went gluten free. However, there's probably still one or two unique pieces of produce - ranging from dragonfruit to purple sweet potatoes to jicama to beets - that you haven't regarding including in your diet

casey the college celiac diverse gluten free diet
Some of my favorite new finds...
It's impossible to not grieve for the foods - and, perhaps even more so, the ease of eating - that you've lost. Heck, sometimes I still smell my dad or sister's gluten-stuffed meal and and wish I could sneak a bite. But the more adventurous you get with safe foods, the less restrictive your diet will feel. 

I can now say that I eat zucchini, spaghetti squash, radishes, buckwheat, rice flakes, figs, avocado and countless other foods I'd never even heard of on a daily basis. And I have celiac - and the limited diet it gave me - to thank

3. You're in charge of your own food safety...

I've talked before about how much trust it takes to thrive with celiac disease. You have to trust restaurant chefs to avoid cross contamination and trust your significant other to brush their teeth before kissing you. However, the safety of your food really lies mostly within you - and the more you know about food, the safer you'll be. 

For instance, I know that couscous and seitan are made of straight wheat...and when I've been offered samples or have seen them at the Whole Foods bar, it's easy to quickly turn them down or walk away. I know that gluten can hide in anything from soup to BBQ sauce to dressings. And, because of that knowledge, I don't eat something thinking it "should be" or "probably is" gluten free. 

casey the college celiac hospitalization

When I was first diagnosed, food transformed from tasty, enjoyable fuel to something scary - and even dangerous. Food could literally kill me, and I didn't feel ready to accept that responsibility. Ironically enough, though, celiac has taught me more about nutrition, food labels and dietary health than my high school or college nutrition classes ever did. And the more I learned, the more confident I became in exploring new foods and cuisines. 

Yes, food can be frightening when you have celiac, a food allergy or intense intolerance. But once you've educated yourself on what you can or can't eat, you're closer to feeling empowered enough to expand your diet as much as possible. 

4. ...and you're in control of how restrictive you really want your diet to be. 

On that same note, you're also in charge of how restrictive you want your diet to be. This idea has especially been on my mind in the last few weeks, thanks to the Whole30 movement. Every time Whole30 comes up, I can't stop myself from wondering, "Is that what I need to do? I'm eating more processed foods and sugar lately...maybe going full turkey is what my stomach really needs."

At the same time, though, I know I don't need to jump on the Whole30 train. I'm healthy, my stomach has more good days than bad, and, to be honest, my diet is already freakin' restrictive enough. I never have gluten, rarely have dairy and often steer away from soy. Some of those choices are medically necessary; others just help me feel my best. I would never say everyone should eat like I do, but it works for me.

casey the college celiac gluten free eats
Some of my favorite eats...
The point of that two-paragraph rant? Basically, when you realize you are in control of your own diet, you may feel like you have more dietary options than ever. Despite my limitations, I have enough recipes bookmarked to last my whole life (though, to be honest, I'll probably never make them all). And, despite whatever limitations you have, your diet only has as much variety as you work for. 

That may mean putting extra time and energy into finding the perfect nut butter replacement for peanut butter, a breakfast that tastes like oatmeal but is free of oats or old family comfort food (mac n' cheese anyone?) that fits your new restrictions. But, at the end of the day, this time and energy is worth it when it makes your everyday life feel that much more free. 

When you're determined and excited about adding some new foods to your life, celiac ain't nothing more than a small speed bump

Even though I am constantly asked about what I really eat, I've yet to perfect my answer. Sometimes it's, "Everything - as long as it doesn't have gluten or dairy." Other times, I simply laugh and say, "You'd be surprised." 

Because, if these past four years have taught me anything, it's that my weekly meal plan can still boast plenty of gluten free surprises. Heck, I still have a long range of foods or recipes I need to try, from a cashew cheese sauce to pistachios (one of my favorite hobbies sophomore year was shocking my foodie roommate with the foods I'd never tasted. I'd you're reading this, Bri, I can feel your disapproving glance from here!).

casey the college celiac granola sunflower butter
An honest portrayal of my two true loves: Sunflower butter and homemade granola!
In a lot of ways, I'm even thankful for the diet celiac has given me. I'm eating healthier than ever before (at least in terms of getting more veggies and less red meat, sugar and un-pronounceable ingredients). I'm also eating a bigger variety of foods than I ever imagined. 

So, if you're feeling like your diet is dwindling after a medical diagnosis, I understand your pain. But I also have come to understand that we're the masters of our (foodie) fates in a lot of ways. 

And the first time you try a new, delicious food that also fits within your new diet? Let's just say that there's nothing sweeter than that. 

Have you ever found your diet expanding after it become more limited? What's your favorite trick to add more variety to a medically restricted diet? I'm always looking for new inspiration! 

Monday, February 6, 2017

#Glutenfree Monthly Favorites: College Graduation, Vitamix Reunions & Vegan Scones

It may be a new year, but the months of 2017 are going by just as fast as 2016's. Of course, a busy schedule might be partly to blame. Not only have we survived New Year's and the Presidential Inauguration, but we've also enjoyed fun holidays like National Gluten Free Day or National Peanut Butter Lovers Day

So what has this celiac been up to when she wasn't celebrating some special day of the year? College graduations, Whole Foods field trips, my first big job and more.

casey the college celiac vegan smoothie bowl

To hear all about the January highlights that haven't made it on the blog - plus my plans for February (including some mega giveaways!) - keep on scrolling! 

What I'm Eating

The creamiest, silkiest smoothie bowls ever thanks to the return of my beloved Vitamix. My parent (thanks again!) drove my car back from college in San Diego to our new home in Colorado Springs after I graduated. Since I couldn't fit my Vitamix in my suitcase, it got to hang out in my ex-roomie's closet for one month. Sure, the Nutribullet does the trick for smoothies...but Vitamix creations literally taste like dessert

Scones...homemade gluten free and vegan that even my gluten-lovin' dad enjoyed. I didn't make any official New Year's resolutions, but I do want to escape my recipe rut. So when I saw this genius recipe, I decided I should bake scones - even though I've never even tasted them before! It took a few tries, but I'd now consider myself a decent scone chef...and I'm certainly a scone lover.

casey the college celiac smoothie bowl Whole Foods
All the yum!
Smashed black bean spreads on EVERYTHING. I rediscovered my love of refried beans thanks to the amazing Whole Foods hot bar (one of the best surprises this Christmas was winning Canyon Bakehouse's giveaway for bagels and a Whole Foods gift card!). So, I've been smashing my black beans with a little oregano and thyme for a delicious dip for potatoes and chips. If you haven't tried this combo before, fix that oversight ASAP!

What I'm Doing

Recovering from a memory-packed college graduation weekend in San Diego. I wouldn't call the trip "perfect." (I am definitely sooooo over flights and flight delays!). However, it went about as well as I could hope. I got to spend some precious extra hours hanging out with friends. We enjoyed ridiculously gorgeous weather on the day of the ceremony, even though it has been raining for days before and a huge storm hit a few days later. The traveling was definitely brutal, but the memories are totally worth it!

Taking every chance I get to enjoy long walks on sunny winter days. I know...I've talked about walks countless times before, but my love for them can't be denied! I can't walk alongside the ocean anymore. Hiking up nearly abandoned mountain sides, though, makes for a decent trade. I enjoyed a long hike on the weekend that I was 100% burned out from graduation, travel and work...and some time outdoors was just the medicine I needed (plus rest and food, of course). 

casey the college celiac colorado springs
My most recent hike!
Embracing my first "real" job with Entity Magazine...and celebrating my first semi-viral article. My first job has definitely been more challenging than I imagined, but it's also been super rewarding. I've learned plenty of Wordpress ninja tricks and interviewed countless experts for articles (ranging from famous artists to sex experts!). Perhaps my most proud accomplishment so far is having one of my articles - "What It's Like to Live with a Disease Everyone Assumes is Fake" - go semi-viral. Educating the world about chronic illness, one article at a time!

What I'm Planning

Some adventures with the family, ranging from seeing a Cirque du Soleil show all about bugs to checking out the closest Sprouts grocery store (which is sadly 20 minutes away) to many more hot yoga classes with my dad. Sometimes simple days and pleasures are the best!

Keeping my fingers crossed and asking for prayers/positive thoughts about grad school. So far, I've received two replies...both rejections. One school even said that they had 475 applicants for 4 spots - a new record. I still have 9 schools to go, and I'm praying I get into just one! Until I hear back from more, I'll be thinking lots of positive thoughts...

A looooooot of product reviews, sponsored recipes and even a few mega giveaways! In the next few weeks, I have some delicious reviews coming your way, including recipes featuring Frontier Bites and BFree Foods. I'm also mentally working out the logistics of hosting a big giveaway to celebrate four years of the keep your eyes out.

casey the college celiac frontier bites BFree Foods
Some snapshots of what's to come...
I know I say this with every monthly favorite post, but it's hard to believe that we're already in our second month of 2017. However, I also am somewhat glad to leave January - the month of strict resolutions and prevalent attempts to "make up for" or "catch up from" the holidays - behind. February should be different; it is the month of love after all!

I don't want this month to be filled with only romantic love, though. I hope February is also the month cupid urges you to fall in love with yourself. Because if I - or anyone else - is going to kick some major booty this month, we need all the self love and confidence we can get! 

What were some of your highlights from January? What are you planning in February? Tell me below!  

Friday, February 3, 2017

When You "Forget" You Have a Chronic Illness

It sounds crazy, but sometimes I forget.

I forget that I have fibromyalgia and living in pain is not normal.

I forget that I have celiac disease and a single crumb of gluten can make me feel like a zombie for days.

To put it simply, I forget that I have a chronic illness.

casey the college celiac chronic illness

I consider myself lucky that I have the privilege of being able to not "feel" sick 24/7. I do not have a life-threatening illness. I can usually go about my day without having to make any medically-forced long as I have access to plenty of gluten free food and some extra hours of sleep.

But sometimes, I'm reminded. Brutally.

I'm reminded that gluten really is my kryptonite when I try to use a new shampoo and realize it contained gluten when I feel like an extra from the Walking Dead a few days later. Some believe that gluten free shampoos and beauty supplies aren't 100% necessary for celiacs. After this experience, I'd say I stand pretty strongly in the other camp.

I'm reminded that my body isn't "normal" when I fly to and from San Diego for my college graduation, work for two weeks and, by the time I reach last weekend, want to do nothing more than lie in bed all day.

casey the college celiac chronic illness
The final pictures are in...

I've always known that I'm different - that my body is different. But nothing has shown it more clearly than working my first real job. In college, I always pushed myself. Heck, I probably did more than most students, taking 17 units per semester, working part-time and stubbornly holding onto that 4.0. But I had control over my class schedule. I had homework assignments with a clear start and finish. I had a Disability Resource Center to look to for help when I needed it.

Now, I just have me

I'm so thankful to have understanding bosses, a flexible work schedule and the chance to do what I enjoy - write, raise awareness of important issues and empower women - for a job

But I still sometimes can't stop comparing myself to others. The ones who can work for 40+ hours a week with no problem. The ones who can go on a surprise business trip without having to think about what food they'd need to pack or how many days it would take to recover from the traveling. And I wonder, "Will I be enough?" Not just for this job, but for a career - for making a difference. 

casey the college celiac chronic illness

I know I'm smart. I like to think I'm funny, and I can write (at least somewhat if this blog is any indication). But I'm not normal. I'll never be able to fill the box of a "typical" employee - even if I have periods where I forget just how atypical my body is. 

This last week, accepting that realization has been scary. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I've been focusing on the wrong part. I shouldn't be focusing on how much it hurts to "remember" my limitations. 

I should be saying, "Thank you" for being able to forget them in the first place. 

Because, when I was diagnosed with celiac disease over three years ago, I couldn't have imagined ever feeling normal again. To be able to eat without asking myself, "Is this gluten free? Is it safe?" To be able to find replacements to my favorite bread products and homemade recipes. To be able to see the positives of celiac disease more often than the struggles. 

And, considering I once compared my average daily fibromyalgia pain to my fractured and dislocated wrist, having a painless day (at least by my standards) should be seen as nothing short of amazing. Sure, the future is uncertain. Sure, my life will definitely be full of (good and bad) surprises. But I know I'll keep making mistakes and learning from them, finding myself and discovering new strengths along the way. 

casey the college celiac chronic illness
From my latest hike...
As crazy as it sounds, you can forget that you have a chronic illness - if even just for a second. And then you discover a new or old restriction and you remember, and it may feel like you're receiving your diagnosis all over again. 

But, I'll tell you a secret. There can be joy in that remembering. You just need to remember how far you've come. 

No questions - just tell me your thoughts!