Thursday, August 29, 2013

College: Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

It's not that I can't believe it's here. I've been thinking about it, planning it, dreaming of it since I submitted the digital application that earned me a spot in PLNU's 2013 freshman class. Yet, I still can't help but feel shocked that I won't be sleeping in my own bed tomorrow night. My own bed at home, that is. Instead, I'll be lying in an unfamiliar bed, listening to the pairs of feet clamoring down the hallway and smelling hints of midnight cooking experiments that will become staples of my new life. Tomorrow night, I'll be in college. And how crazy is that gonna be?

Sure, I've been going through the movements. I've researched, procrastinated, bought, and labeled down each item of my college's suggested list. Yet, I caught what I'll call the zombie complex. Body's there. Brain? A little questionable

Until, that is, I crammed my last box of Think Thin Bars into my plastic (gluten free) treasure trove, squished between a pile of Lara bars and a rice cake tower. Suddenly, my brain flipped a switch and life at Point Loma wasn't just an idea. As Paul Revere might have said if war hadn't paused schooling, "College is coming! College is coming!" And later: College is here! 

One of my food stashes...
Maybe it's because everything else I've bought - cleaning supplies, utensils, school gear - aren't too personalized a buy. I've hopped the country multiple times, so upgrading house goods isn't a new trend. Stocking up on gluten free munchies isn't unusual either, but even by our levels of preparedness this is excessive. The cashier probably thinks my mom and I are healthy hobos who live off of Lara bars by the way we cleaned out the snack aisle

More to point, though, this food is personal. More personal than any bottle of Detergent. Food was always part of my life, but after my celiacs diagnosis, eating gluten free is a distinct aspect of my identity. I spent all of last night worrying about how I'd stay healthy in an atmosphere immersed in gluten. Will my cafeteria arrangement work out? Will I survive being glutened? Will my roommate and I get along? 

As I looked at my food heaven in a crate this morning, though, my inner soapbox star started to quiet. I'm bringing food, I know of grocery stores that carry gluten free nearby, and I already know tons of tips to help me survive. 

I shall survive!

The underlying fact that's keeping my sane? Nothing can be as hard as going gluten free, not even starting college as a celiac. Eating a GF diet was a total transformation of my identity; at least in the beginning, college, like my box of goodies, is just an exciting, adventurous relocation.

Watch out - the next time you'll hear from me, I'll be an official college celiac.

Did you eat gluten free in college? We're you nervous before school? Comment below!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

From an IV to an Interview with GFree & Happy

I like to think of memories as marbles. Some grow foggy with age; some roll under the sofa, lost forever in the catacombs of the mind. The very best, though, we place on our bedroom shelf and admire during hard times. My interview last night with Kathy Nelson, who runs a GF blog series at, formed one of those prized marbles. 

Traditionally, Monday draws the short end of the stack. Few wake up cheerfully and nobody honors it by song - though "Friday" by Rebecca Black may have been more punishment than pleasure. For me, yesterday's Monday morning skipped unenthusiastic and sped straight towards hellish

It began at the ungodly hour of 5:30 am when, after riding comatose to the hospital, I trudged down the white halls dressed like a mini gangster in my huge sweat pants and t shirt. I ain't getting dressed up for stuff like this! Then came the doctors. The risks, the goals, and, of course, the medical students staring at me through the window. After I was doped up (thank goodness!) I don't remember much. As per my usual luck, though, my procedure took three times longer than normal. Apparently I kept waking up (even with anasthesia) during the middle it in true zombie-never-stay-down fashion

Rockin' my medical arm band

Eventually, though, I did wake up and remain up once the procedure was over. It wasn't a happy awakening - nobody's happy after a tube made acquaintance with their intestines for three hours straight - but I could leave! It was over! Finally! 

Except, it wasn't really over. Even as I type this, my throat is screaming bloody murder and my arm looks like a beaten eggplant from their attempts to take blood. Memories of last night, though, counteract the pain (at least for a couple moments) because last night I talked face to face with Kathy Nelson via Skype

I was lucky in that I had about five hours between getting home still high off anesthesia and talking to gluten free viewers live on Skype. Just 'cause I was lucid doesn't mean I wasn't nervous though! Some people worry about sounding too weird during interviews; I worried about sounding like the boring doped-up doll I was a few hours back. 

A picture of Kathy from her website
Immediately after the interview started, though, I relaxed. Kathy's amazing personality and charisma made me feel comfortable right away. We crammed a ton in those thirty minutes (my top ten GF products, my diagnosis, college tips, and more) and I enjoyed every second of it. We laughed, we connected with other gluten free viewers, and I basked in the welcoming glow of the celiac community after one miserable Monday morning

Because, really, the support from my family and the gluten free community is what has kept me afloat despite all the challenges. When I started this blog, I never imagined anyone would read it, not to mention tweet it, comment on it and want to interview me about it. When I was sick, strangers from the Internet wished me good health; after every achievement, those same strangers share my joy. The best gift a newly diagnosed celiac will receive is support from others and I want to say THANK YOU for that.

Of course, there is an extra big thank you for Kathy, whose interview entirely brightened up my Monday. Watch my interview here for more personal stories, jokes, and my list of the top ten gluten free products every college celiac should bring! She has a new interview lined up every Monday so check it out

What's the worse medical experience you've had because of celiacs? Has the celiac community helped you deal? Comment below! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Guest Appearance on GFandHappy Tonight!

I'm in for a real treat tonight as I get to be the guest in Kathy Nelson's wonderful video series all about living gluten free! I will be sharing my must-have gluten free items for all college kids out there - hint: Glutino products will be some of my top picks!

Check it out at tonight at 7pm PST. I look forward on seeing all of ya'll there!

UPDATE: In case you missed it, here's the link to watch it all for yourself via Youtube!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Top 10 Gluten Free College Tips

If you don't have the time to scan all the posts I've written so far about how to thrive gluten free in college, here's a summarized survival guide I wrote for's Gluten Free Buyer's Guide. It will be released in January (with this article inside) and can be ordered for free right here! Enjoy! 

In high school, I pictured college as a world full of midnight burrito runs, late night snacking and study sessions based on heaps of junk food. Classes and social activities also make up college, but teenage life revolves around food by nature. And then came my diagnosis: celiac disease with a side order of a gluten free diet. What's a girl to do? What, in fact, is any gluten-free college student to do to survive - and thrive - in a gluten-filled university? From what I've learned so far, plenty!

1. First, every gluten free college student should become a research expert. Just like you (hopefully) researched your college before applying, check out all the nearby eating options ahead of time. What grocery stores have GF snacks in stock? What student-favorite restaurants offer gluten free? Thanks to the Internet, I know that while my college’s beloved cafĂ© is gluten free heaven, the burrito joint should be avoided at all costs. And if, even after you research, your options are limited, order GF snacks and microwaveable dinners online and in bulk. Tons of online stores, including my personal fave,, offer GF products that won't break the bank or your stomach. For gluten free college kids, the Internet is priceless

2. Second, make friends with the gluten free food providers at your college: the chefs, cafeteria workers, and restaurant managers. The more these people like you, the less likely that gluten will tiptoe into your meal. When I first hit up the head chef of PLNU's main cafeteria, I was nervous, awkward, and worried. Would I sound too needy? What if he didn’t know anything about cooking for a celiac? Several calls (and one face-to-face handshake) later, he knows my name and my dietary needs while I know he is competent in GF cooking and cares about my health. Considering I still forget his name, we’re far from friends, but by graduation I'm determined to be - as every GF college kid should - one of his favorite eaters. 

3. With acrobatic class schedules, though, you won't always have time for cafeteria food. That's where gluten free snacks come in. I know my backpack will hold more snacks than books, but you can stick a protein bar in your favorite knee-high socks if that's what it takes. By always having a protein bar or rice cake on hand, you won't have to risk cross contamination by buying at a random store or go hungry while your friends munch down on packaged chips and popcorn. Don't forget to throw some naturally gluten free snacks, like fruits or vegetables, into your pack either. Healthy, cheap, and easy to find! The Boy and Girl Scout mottos revolve around always being prepared: eating gluten free in college requires the same dedication (and GF cookies).

4. Being prepared requires more than snacks, though. You need boxes with labels and air-tight storage containers to preserve your gluten free food. For containers, I suggest several different sized plastic boxes, your own washable dishes and utensils. I'm even dragging my small cooler to hold my GF munchies during off-campus trips. As for labeling, there’s nothing worse than trudging up to your dorm room to find your microwaveable dinner of gluten free enchiladas has already been devoured. A label won't necessarily prevent this, but hopefully it will help keep your stash untouched. Personally, I plan on covering all of my food containers with: Casey's food. Gluten free cardboard. Don't eat! The more explicitly you explain your food’s gluten free nature, hopefully the less temptation others will have to eat it.

5. The tip of being prepared also comes in handy with another aspect of college: partying! Since I'm not yet of drinking age, I'll focus on the piles of party food instead. The problem is, even if the snack itself is gluten free, cross contamination is rampant. And when the lights are dimmed, it's hard to tell if your hand is full of safe chocolate M&M's or its pretzel infused cousin. My tip? Eat before any social event where the gluten free eating options are questionable. By packing it in before (even with just a light snack), your appetite will be dimmed enough to cut down temptation. I did this before attending my first birthday party since my diagnosis, and the gluten free brownie in my belly yelled a big, "Forget you!" at the gluten-filled cake. No hunger, no problem

6. Whether it's by writing labels or gorging on snacks, always put your health first. It sounds simple, but between the college food temptations and awkward social situations, it can be a challenge. For me, the hardest part living with celiac disease in college so far is the dorm life, where splitting a fridge and a microwave is the norm. Being my typical self, first I agreed to share appliances. Gluten on one side, gluten free on the other right? Well, when I learned about this little thing called cross contamination, I had the humiliating duty of "outing" myself as a celiac and asking for separate fridges via text. I hated writing it, hated sending it, but the fact is my health comes first (even before roommate etiquette) and so should yours.

7. I mentioned the difficulty in "coming out" as a celiac above, but educating others - roomies, friends, even teachers - about your special diet is for the best. Of course, you don't need to walk around campus with a "Gluten = Satan" t-shirt, but if the topic comes up, be honest about your condition. In this way, you not only increase public awareness, but also make your life easier. When I told my friends about my celiac diagnosis, for a few months they still accidentally offered me gluten food, but now they are nearly as vigilant as I am. Also, your professors may be more inclined to extend deadlines and work with any gluten-caused absences if they know about your condition ahead of time. Despite the initial awkwardness, educating others about eating gluten free is a win-win situation. 

8. Beyond educating others, though, to get the most out of college, try to OWN your condition. Don't feel bad about needing extra attention or spending fifteen minutes ordering dinner because of your diet. For most of us, gluten free wasn't a choice, and just like I can't help needing a stepstool to reach items on the top shelf, most gluten free college students can't help needing a special diet. Also, I've found that the less attention I pay to the differences in food between my friends and I, the less attention others pay as well. After all, if you don't point out the elephant in the room, most others sure as heck won't either! 

9. Still, as hard as we try to maintain a gluten free diet in college, realize that slip-ups will happen. You will suffer medical setbacks, get glutened by a romantic, but contaminated, midnight kiss, and spend class clutching your stomach in bed. Don't let these bumps in the roads lower your determination to remain gluten free and don't view a glutening as a failure. So far, I've been glutened once ordering popcorn (with gluten filled toppings, I later learned) trying to have a normal date at the movies. In the painful hours afterwards, I blamed myself plenty. In the end, though, time cured my symptoms better than any amount of regret. In the words of the phenomenally wise Hannah Montana, "Everyone makes mistakes." So (when needed) cry it out, suck it up, and move along. 

10. My most important tip: don't let your gluten free diet limit your enjoyment of college. It is a part of your identity, but not all of it. So go to parties, make gluten-eating friends, and explore all of the other facets of your personality that form you. At the same time, though, instead of viewing your diet as a restriction, try to approach it as an opportunity. Meet kids munching on the same GF cardboard and form a club out of it (the Gut Busters, perhaps?). Take control of your diet and health. Recognize your limits and smash past them, transforming yourself from an unsure freshman to a strong, confident college graduate. 

Even while eating gluten free, you can still enjoy college without losing any of the nourishment or flavor - just order your gluten on the side.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel. Optimists say it's heaven; pessimists warn about the train storming ahead. For me, though, that light shines of flickering fluorescent lighting, moonlight walks on the beach, and late night cramming. That light shines of college: Point Loma Nazarene Unversity.

PLNU is my light at the end of the tunnel
I've already scattered my complaints all over the Internet. Why does this have to happen days before I start collegeWhy can't I be the celiac who heals with every bite of gluten free? Why this, why that.  why everything, really?

I've had a lot of time to think these last few days. After all, after being pumped up with laxatives and refused food, what else is there to do but stare at a wall and philosophize? So, I've finally figured out, yep the timing sucks. But, at the same time, these gluten-filled rainy days will only make my college experience even sunnier

What do I mean? Well, honestly, like any other incoming freshman, the idea of starting college makes me want to puke. I have to feed myself? Wash my own clothes? Choose calculus class over the beach? 

After living as a literal vegetable for two weekends in a row, though, all these worries about college pale into a hopeful light: a light in the gluten-wrapped tunnel of celiac disease. No matter how hard the adjustment to college will be, this whirlwind of suckish celiac symptoms make it look easy. I've walked through hospital hallways, shivering in a flimsy gown that refuses to stay closed. I've been knocked out by anesthesia, handing over my trust to a team of doctors. And I've had dozens of eyes analyzing my intestines too closely for my liking. With all of this surrounding my home life, college looks like heaven wrapped in a stack of books. 

Heaven under the cover
But as much as I've been suffering, my family has as well. They worry, they feel guilty, they would do anything to help me, but can't. One day, though, my dad came home from work and told me I should use my health problems as inspiration in my writing. At first I laughed, joking that I'd title my first book, "The Teenager and the  Pissed Off Stomach: A Love Story." But the more I thought about it, the more it called to me. 

Exploring the impact of celiac disease on my life is the reason I started this blog, the reason I dare to bare my soul to faceless strangers on the Internet. Writing is my form of therapy, but more than that, it is my core, my strength. The fact is, I've been through more than the average college freshman. Instead of exploring Europe or building an orphanage in Haiti, I've spent my summer adventuring with bottles of Miralax and rebuilding my intestinal track. And my progress will only continue in college. 

If I am weak now, by college I will be stronger. If I am sickly, frustrated and hurting, by college no aches and pains will ever squash my goals. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and I am it's epitome. 

How can I not see the light with family by my side?
After weeks of questions, answers have finally surfaced. Why now? Because tomorrow will be even better. Why me? Because this will strengthen my writing and my soul beyond compare. "Why" has no power anymore. Now, all the power belongs to me.

Did you ask yourself "why" after your diagnosis? Do you think celiac makes you stronger? Comment below! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Schar's GF Crust: A Slice of Heaven

Pizza and teenagers are like Siamese twins: inseparable without some major surgery. Teenagers (and people of any age) with celiac disease are no exception. Course, finding a great gluten free pizza can be a challenge, but when I chowed down on my mom's homemade pepperoni pie after 36 hours of medical fasting, I knew I found my slice from heaven.

My Mom and I have explored multiple pizza crust options, including packets freshly made in my local farmer's market. All of them, besides my new favorite brand, Schar, suffered the same problems. Flat, cardboard-like texture. About as much taste as plain toothpaste. And, while edible, nothing I would dream of and wake up drooling. 

My pizza heaven

Schar's product is different. Coming in packages of two, the pizzas themselves are pretty small but filling. I usually eat half a pizza per serving, and it definitely squashes my cravings. Personally, I like to top mine with gluten free pre-made sauce, turkey pepperoni, and Mozzarella cheese and it tastes just as good as Pizza Hut

The crust is the key. Compared to the competition, Schar's is relatively tall and surprisingly fluffy. Even better, the outside edges give a satisfying crunch with every bite. I forgot about this winning combo of light and flaky when our store ran dry of Schar products for a few weeks, but tonight's feast left a permanent "scar" on my taste buds

One for Mom, one for me!

Because of my stomach's magically slow healing powers, recently the road's been a little rocky (and not the ice cream type). Days of liquid diets or fasting, awful medications, and more intestinal testing isn't my ideal end of a summer vacation. So eating out (some) of my feelings with Schar's finger-lickin' pizza crust? Pretty freaking sweet

What is your favorite gluten free pizza crust? Which toppings do you pile on? Comment below!  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Celebrating Cheap Gluten Free

I still remember the shock of my first gluten free shopping trip. I've helped my parents build up our kitchen from scratch after moving to a new state. I've filled three carts with food up to the ceiling. I've held a reciept that matches - or beats - my height. And yet, my first celiac shopping experience dropped my jaw lower than any of our re-stocking trips.

Fact is, eating gluten free is freaking expensive. Like, I need to live in a cave in order to afford my gluten free snacks and ingredients. Not to mention life after college - maybe I'll switch the order and survive off of gluten free ramen after being a student, rather than during.

You can imagine the excitement that hit my mom and I when we spotted packages of my favorite snacks - Think Thin Protein Bars - at our local Walmart.

My favorite Walmart Surprise!

I've already ranted about the heaven found beneath these thin, tan wrappers and Walmart even offered my three favorite flavors: Brownie Crunch (to die for - and my pocketbook has done so many times), Creamy Peanut Butter and Crunchy Peanut Butter. The price of my treats at my health store caused less angelic singing and more monetary screaming - 3 bucks a bar? Into the lips and the budgest slips!

And then we went to Walmart and these packs jumped out at us, hidden in the protein aisle. Seven dollars for a package of five. Can you say, "Score?"

As most celiacs know, living gluten free is definitely not easy in terms of money. It's not fair that we should pay triple the price as the regular public for foods that won't turn into the Hulk inside our intestines. But, life isn't fair and any time fate throws broke celiacs a bone, we better take it between both teeth.

My motto to literally not eat up all my money? Focus on naturally gluten free food (fruits, vegetables, rice, etc.) that have a naturally lower price tag. Always keep an eye out for which store has which food at the cheapest price.

Save the pig!

And when you find a steal? Jump up in down, do a cartwheel (without hitting any pedestrians) and chow down on that baby while feeling a full wallet weigh down your hip.

What is your favorite steal? What do you think about the high prices of gluten free? Comment below!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Body and Mind

When describing what I should expect, my doctor named three months as the magic number for healing celiacs. By that time, I would have a normal life. Or, according to my imaginative self, somersault out of bed with a racehorse's energy and tackle world hunger. Well, the three month mark has come and gone, marked red on my mental calendar. My symptoms are another story. I've always been special. Of course. 

Throughout my gluten free adventure, I've tried to stay positive. I shoved worries about my upset stomach and Sleeping-Beauty-complex into the corner and focused on being grateful. At least it's not fatal. At least my little sister doesn't carry the gene. At least I have a support system that kicks gluten's bread-filled butt.  

I try to see the positive side of things

Yesterday, though. Yesterday sucked because it blew all my "at leasts" and optimism out of the water. I walked into the hospital tired but relaxed: another check up, more questions and advice, and hopefully I'd be back home watching Top Chef reruns within an hour.  Three hours later and three medical procedures scheduled within my last 16 days before college? Not so happy. More like pissed off. Crumbling. Resigned. As paperwork describing each ordeal piled up, I nearly laughed out of disbelief, thinking, "Nothing like a visual dissection of the intestines to gear yourself up for freshman year!"

The fact is, I'm sick of being sick. I'm sick of doctors and horse pills and having to worry about my stomach's reaction to everything I put in my body. 

After hours of inner searching, though, I've discovered what I'm even more sick of: My waterworks and philosophical blubbering sessions; the sharp knives of envy that hit me when I read how others feel amazing days after going gluten free; basically, feeling bad because I'm feeling bad

Now, I realize that these reactions are natural and acceptable. Sometimes, a girl's just gotta have a good cry with a tub of gluten free ice cream, as I've talked about before. Today, though, after weeks on this emotional roller coaster ride, I've decided that even if I can't control the condition of my body, my mind's fair game.

Victory shall be mine!

In my fury and frustration over my medical setbacks, this morning I scrubbed my bathroom and shower clean. If porcelain and tile could bleed, be assured I'd be bathed in red for the strength I put behind each swipe. When I stepped away, my room sparkled. I want to do the same power-washing in my mind

Wipe away the scum disfiguring my average college worries to celiac-focused anxieties. I have soared past academic challenges before - new schools, bullying, military deployments - and college will be no different. 

Rearrange my view of food from an intestinal terrorist to a fuel worthy of enjoyment. I am still the foodie I was - just a gluten free cousin. 

Bleach out the negativity, fears, and frustration towards these new health issues and medical procedures. Yes, the timing is about as wonderful as a restaurant appetizer of gluten-filled bread. Yes, they may be uncomfortable and invasive. And yet, I will survive. I've already experienced the intestinal version of Where's-Waldo; three more times won't hurt. 

Any setback - physical or mental - because of celiac disease isn't easy to deal with (as shown by my full serving of teenage angst) but I am determined to make it over the hump. My kick-butt doctor and these extra tests will hopefully aid my physical recovery, but I am in control of my own mental rewiring.

Right now, I'm sitting - relaxing - in my backyard, near the pool. I just meditated with yoga and reflected on my day thus far. I forced down the biggest lunch in weeks and enjoyed most of it. And you know what? It feels pretty great

I'm on the road to peace

Did you get better right after going gluten free? Did you deal with any mental frustrations? Comment below! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Disease of Chance

Celiacs is a gambler's disease. Not to mean that all those inhaling the smoke of Las Vegas casinos will suddenly be struck down by gluten. If only avoiding it was that easy. No, I mean that celiac disease thrives - survives, really - off of chance. The chance that the stomach of this girl will attack gluten while 133 others are spared. The chance that one random restaurant will have a gluten free menu comapred to the other. The chance, even, that a celiac could eat the same gluten free pizza twice, and be glutened only the second time.

I've always been a cautious personality. No risks, no rewards? Fine with me. Since celiac disease, though, I've learned that my life is a number's game and that I might as well embrace it. Like I did yesterday. 

I mentioned in a recent post about my childhood memories of riding a bike years ago. What I didn't say is how long my butt's been separate from the seat. Give or take  a year or two? So, when I joined my dad for a bike ride, I wasn't quite sure how many times I'd (probably) crash. Especially since my leg muscles are still twigs. Nice twigs, but still twigs.

Despite my fears, though, it was an awesome ride. Of course, I probably spent 20% of it walking next to my bike. Hopping curbs? Flying up 70 degree hills? Um, I think I'll pass. But, by the end of the ride, I managed to avoid: getting steamrolled onto the pavement by a car, falling off the side of the mountain, or running over some unsuspecting pedestrian. Score one for Casey! 

Smiling after surviving The Mountain 
Just when I thought I'd taken all the risks I could in one day, my Dad mentioned that we were passing In the Mix. AKA, home of delicious (and gluten free) frozen yogurt

Now, I don't want to call myself a stalker, but I basically stalk nearby gluten free eateries online. Not all of the places I find meet my standards - Buffets? Talk about cross contamination? Salads only? What am I, a cow living off grass? - but In The Mix is an exception. When I learned about their ten gluten free flavors this month a few weeks ago (thanks Internet), I basically wanted to lick my computer screen. So, without even thinking about it, I automatically reverted back to my pre-diagnosis self. Dessert? Heck yes! 

By the time my brain mentioned that frozen yogurt contains dairy (hopefully my thinking will quicken once college starts, or else I'm in real trouble!), I was already drooling over the GF options with a cardboard cup in hand. I've been avoiding dairy since diagnosis, like many new celiacs. I haven't had traditional ice cream or frozen yogurt in months. And you know what I thought? The heck with it. I'm going for it! 

I'm not suicidal. I didn't load up on gluten or risk contamination by sprinkling on toppings. Instead, I filled my cup with three gluten free flavors - peanut butter, strawberry banana, and chocolate/vanilla swirl - and shared it with my Dad. My taste buds partied hard with every spoonful! And when we finished and biked home, no regrets weighed me down. 

My delicious $3 concoction 

The fact is, I took a risk. I broke my dairy fast and it scared me a bit. No person wakes up in the morning wanting to spend the day running from the bed to the toilet. In the end, though, I only suffered a slightly upset stomach that the thrill of enjoying a "normal" dessert easily overshadowed

I don't know whether guts or stupidity drove me to test my stomach's limits, but I'm grateful for either. Now I know that in small, rare portions, dairy products are tolerable. My college, Point Loma, boasts a small yogurt store close to campus, and I'm so excited that when my friends ask if I want anything from the midnight yogurt run, I can say, "Heck yeah!" 

The bottom line? Don't let your diagnosis of celiac disease be the only chance in your life. Challenge your stomach's boundaries; perhaps your dairy intolerance disappeared ages ago. Test your limits; they may be weaker than you believe.

Sometimes, improving one's life is as easy as a deep breath, a savory mouthful, and a (safe but) risky swallow. 

How do you experiment with gluten free? What's your most rewarding chance taken? Comment below! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Gluten Free Soup: Comfort in a Bowl

I mentioned in my last post that soup is my ultimate comfort food. Sure, I love a great gluten free brownie and ice cream sundae every once in a while, but nothing screams "warm," "cozy," and "comfortable" louder than good old chicken noodle.

Only a few weeks after my diagnosis, a huge craving for soup hit me out of nowhere. When I scoured all the shelves, my Mom and I first discovered Wolfgang Puck's brand of Organic soups. Veering on the safe side of culinary goodness, I chose Chicken with White and Wild Rice. For those who want to experiment, though, Wolfgang offers seventeen different flavors.

A word of warning: not all of his soups are gluten free, so be sure to check the label before buying!

My first soup attempt
I love that his soups don't contain MSG, and the helpings are pretty generous for being low-calorie meals. For my particular taste, I enjoyed the hearty combination of rice and chicken. The flavor of the soup's liquid base, though, killed my taste buds. In my particular soup, the base tasted almost sour, with a rather strange aftertaste that I didn't take to. If you have a more exotic pallet than I do, Wolfgang Puck's line of gluten free soups is definitely a place to start.

My personal favorite soup, though, is Chicken Noodle from the Gluten Free Cafe. Compared to Wolfgang Puck,  Gluten Free Cafe only offers four types of GF soups, but the existing flavors cover all the bases (chicken noodle, vegetable, black bean, and cream of mushroom). My sister (love ya' sis!) actually found this while scouring Sprouts for gluten free options, and I tried it a few days later after soccer practice.

As soon as I opened the lid, I started drooling. The scent matches "normal" chicken noodle soup perfectly and immediately caused me to remember the yummy soups of my childhood. And the taste? Delicious! The celery, carrots, chicken, and noodles are perfectly balanced and the soup tastes eerily similar to its gluten-including counterpart.

All four of Gluten Free Cafe's Flavors

The only negative aspect of this soup is its lightness. For people watching their weight, this 100 calorie soup is a filling yet light dinner. Since I am trying to gain/maintain my weight, I fix this by adding my own ingredients, like extra grilled chicken and cooked brown rice. It enhances the flavors already there and ensures that my stomach remains quiet for the rest of the night.

My fave soup, plus rice and more chicken

Tackling the dietary element of celiac disease is a long and complicated process, and every time I find another delicious GF alternative to my favorite foods, I party hard. Mentally, at least. Overall, I give Wolfgang a 6.5/10 and Gluten Free Cafe a perfect score. I've had my chicken noodle soup twice this week, and I have no regrets. With my new soup, another box in my diet has been checked, and I can't wait to see what tasty gluten free product I'll discover next!

What's your GF comfort food? Do you have a favorite GF soup? Comment below!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect?

Right now I'm feeling a bit like creeper. It's an Edward Cullen moment, if you will. Right now, I'm sitting in the bedroom armchair as my friend sleeps after our hardcore movie marathon. This is my second sleepover of the summer, and my third time dragging along my beloved cooler to hang out with the gang. And you know what? It was insanely, awesomely easier. Perfectly imperfect.

In my mind, my first sleepover almost a week ago was like my first time riding a bike. With the help of my parents, I managed to swing my leg over the metal contraption, pick up some speed and even steer partially straight. But, when I needed to stop and get off, I squeezed the breaks too hard and promptly body-slammed into the asphalt. Last week, I over analyzed my eating after the party and - boom! A ten out of ten professional crash

Tearin' up asphalt on my Barbie bike

As the majority of you have probably heard, though, practice makes perfect. Or, at least, practice makes it less of a mental train wreck. This time around, I knew how to text my friend to not worry about providing special food for me. I knew exactly how many snacks to shove inside the cooler and I knew how to ninja-swallow all of my celiac vitamin pills without looking like a drug addict. Compared to entering the party blind, I visualized every possible awkward conversation, food dilemma, and gluten-free interview ahead of time. As a result, I looked like a doofus with my 3D glasses while re-watching the Avengers without a celiac care in the world.

Sure, the food temptations remained. How can they not? All humans have to eat, and when they eat, they want it to be good!

In this case, the scent of fresh gluten-filled chocolate chip cookies floated through the air even as we watched Captain America kick some Nazi butt on TV. A little funny during the battle scenes, but if I can't eat it, at least I can smell it! And then came the chicken noodle soup, cooked old style on the stove top. You know, I never was a soup person before my diagnosis. Now? The ultimate comfort food. If our cupboards are stocked with noodles that won't rampage the inside of my intestines once swallowed.

But, munching on my leftover homemade pizza with fruit and a cookie of my own, I found I didn't even mind. It helped that neither my friend nor her mom commented on the difference in food. In some ways, it felt like the discrepancy was invisible as long as I believed it so. I was in control. Finally! And that was pretty freaking awesome.

Two thumbs up!

The bottom line is, despite all the lessons, tips, and experiences I've gained, grabbing hold of perfection isn't my main goal. Dude, if you just take a look at the picture of my digestive track, you know I'm a natural at being a little messed up. What I do want is to be the imperfect but fantastic friend. I want to walk into a room, cooler by my side, and light it up. I want to chow down on my gluten free goodies while everyone else devours an extra-large Domino pizza and, while being envious, still have a rockin' fun time. I want to be a confident social celiac, and this second sleepover has shown me that it is totally possible.

Watch out Point Loma. This bike-riding, cooler-carrying imperfect celiac is almost there. And she's determined to enjoy every minute of it!

Do you think practice makes perfect? What have you learned since going gluten-free? Comment below!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Living With(out) Limits from Celiac Disease

Since childhood, we are raised to believe that the world is limitless. Dreams can come true, impossibilities may become possible, and hard work can pay off. Cue the horror music as celiac disease stomps into the picture, kicking all of these beliefs to the curb.

Celiac disease, by its very nature, involves limits. Limits on what foods put into our bodies, limits on the social activities to attend, limits on what products are slathered on our skin. Sometimes, though, a so-called limit needs to be blown to pieces. For the common good, of course.

In this case, a bomb is okay.

I dropped my first bomb on Tuesday when I laced up my black soccer cleats for the first time since my diagnosis. Soccer practice. The only better two words are "Soccer game." Except, when I stepped onto that grass field, my eyes on Coach Jack a few paces ahead, I'm the one who felt the shock waves. 

Excitement. I scored on this field on our last soccer game. 

Fear. I haven't ran in months! Or even touched a soccer ball! 

Determination. Yes. I'm finally here. 

I already texted my coach and told him the deal. I hated every word while writing it and every minute waiting for the reply. I've always had a problem admitting weakness and I'm competitive with myself to a fault. If I played awesome soccer last year, this year I want to be even better.

My coach told me to step out of line and rest if needed. Thing is, celiac disease may have messed with my body, but my competitive drive hasn't budged. 

I appreciate his concern, just as I appreciate my parents' urges to start easy and work my way up. And when we jogged through our first round of exercises, my inner couch potato whispered that excuse in my mind while my body screamed in protest. "Running?" It said. "Really you're running now? What happened to horizontal jogging on the couch?" 

Nobody would blame me if I stepped out of line, I knew. I had the Golden Ticket - without the chocolate, unfortunately. But what would the fun in that be? And, despite the pain, that's exactly what it was.

No pain, no gain

I juggled the ball, zigzagged around other players, laughed with my friends over bad passes. I ran and sweat and kicked and pivoted for an hour and a half, never more than a step behind. 

And, really, for me, there is no better high than hearing the thud of cleats against rubber, feeling the caress of a slight breeze on slippery skin. For the first time in a while, I was dying a perfect death as I pushed my body past any of celiac disease's physical limits.

I wasn't the recovering celiac; I was one girl in a throng of soccer players, each dirty and exhausted but too happy to mind. 

Of course, the aches and pains crept in on me later. A blister on my foot. An ache in my ribs from breathing so hard. The discreet shriek of my muscles, unfamiliar with such demanding physical activity. But I'm going to practice again tonight and I don't care at all

The truth is, some of the limits set by celiac disease shouldn't be crossed. Don't eat gluten. Don't pick the strawberry scented shampoo over the bland, gluten free version. But, at the same time, don't live in a world whose borders are decided by celiacs.

Dont' be trapped inside the box!

When I was younger, I dreamed of being an astronaut. Floating around in a pool of black, leaving the boundaries of reality behind to enjoy a universe of fantastical porportions. I may not go into space, but, three months since my diagnosis, I'm examining the "limits" celiac disease has placed on my life and crossing all the lines I can.

After all, you never know what you can and can't do until you try. As I'm running around the grass field tonight, sweaty shirt glued to my back and ball near my toe, I'll be glad I did.

Do you view celiac disease as limiting? What limits have you challenged? Comment below!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

College Celiac Fears

I am starting college in less than a month and I don't know how I feel. Wait a about:

Too excited to sleep at night
Freaked the heck out
Pumped up for a movie perfect year
Petrified at being a grown up 

Add in a bit of teen angst, celiac disease worries, and obsessive curiosity and a mad scientist could potentially create my emotional clone

I know most of these feelings are entirely normal. All teens feel apprehensive about starting life over in a new four-year home. Yet, when I'm already freaking out about the items on my shopping list - fridge, microwave, extension plug, ATM card, bed riser, school supplies, etc - and the things I still have to do - pick my part time job, choose clothes, initiate conversation with my roommate without scaring her - I can't help but hate celiac disease for adding to my stress

Other kids can share fridges and microwaves without a thought. I have to buy my own and figure out how to configure double the usual appliances in an identically small dorm room. 

Other kids can take up Point Loma's offer of a care package with deliciously gluten-filled rice crispy treats, chocolate chip cookies, and cakes. My parents and I have to figure out where I will get gluten free snacks. Will the cafeteria provide some? Will PLNU cover the costs if my parents must ship GF snacks to me instead?

Other kids can sigh in relief after signing themselves and their parents up for New Student Orientation. Yesterday, I emailed about gluten free options during the food events for my mother and I. Today I phoned the head chef. When I told him that I was both excited and petrified for school to start, he laughed and said, "No reason to be scared. That's what I'm here for." 

I wish it was finding tasty gluten-free foods in the cafeteria that scares me. Instead, I think the most frightening aspect - besides leaving home and making new friends - of starting college is thriving while being different than the "other kids."

There will be parties with pizza and treats, midnight burrito runs and baking contests, and tons of lunches and dinners with the guys and gals. And the struggle - the temptation to forget about gluten and live as a typical college student - will be real. I am strong enough to not give in. I've never really understood those who eat gluten despite an intolerance or negative reaction and I will never become one of them. Not brave (or stupid) enough for the glutened symptoms. Instead, I will fight against letting my dietary needs bother me or lessen my enjoyment of college. 

Fact is, I will never be like the "other kids." That's a scary concept, but I know it will work out just fine. Because of celiac disease, I have a stronger sense of self than some and a stronger discipline than most. Sometimes celiac is the feather that breaks the camel's back, but this camel will always get back up again. 

One month past this post, I will be two days into my first week of school. I will have eaten roughly four gluten free meals at the cafeteria (hopefully without any negative side effects), stunned six classes with my sheer brilliance twice, incited laughter purposely or by accident a dozen or more times, and gotten lost in my tiny campus too many instances to count. I will be scared, stressed, but entirely ecstatic. And all of the anxious thoughts, shopping sessions, annoying phone calls, and celiac related research I am now suffering from will create a well-prepared version of my present self

I can't wait

Are any of you celiacs or gluten free in college? How did you feel? Any tips for incoming freshmen? Comment below! 

A Gluten Free Birthday

A birthday is supposed to be the one day when diets don't matter. The food diary is tucked under the bed, low carb and high fruit plans are tossed out the window, and everyone devours huge scoops of cake and ice cream.

Celiac disease isn't like any other diet plan, though. Sure, people could push their gluten free diet aside, but more than just their waistline will suffer. And no one wants to writhe around, glutened, during a birthday party.

That's where Pamela's Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix comes into play. Although I haven't turned eighteen yet, my parents' birthdays hit only a few months after my diagnosis. Being cheap as we are, we decided to bake our own gluten free cake. Challenge made and accepted.

One word: YUM

We picked out Pamela's Chocolate Cake Mix at random and followed the directions to the T. By the time we put our 8 by 8 pan into the oven, though, we were already crossing our fingers. Especially when it wasn't cooked all the way through by the estimated box time. Now I know that gluten free baked goods have a tendency to do that. When baking, just check the goodie every five minutes until the finish.

Then came the icing. We looked online for gluten free recipes; scoured the Internet for the best GF brands. In the end, though, I spotted Duncan Hines Home-Style Icing at my local grocery section. It didn't scream "Gluten Free" on the front cover, but when I analyzed the ingredients, what a wonderful phrase I discovered hidden on the back!

Gluten Free in disguise

No matter how nice it looked, though, the first tasting would be the true test. We lit the candles, sang Happy Birthday, got out some GF Vanilla Ice Cream, and cut out the first piece.

And it was...


During the baking, the cake rose to a few inches in height, creating a fluffy texture that avoided the graininess commonly found in gluten free desserts. Combined with the Dark Chocolate Fudge flavor of the icing, eaters literally drown in non-artificial chocolaty goodness. The best part, though, was the  moistness. It seriously melted in our mouths (and only got better as the days passed) both times we made it. My gluten-loving Dad and sister dubbed this cake the king of all birthday desserts, pre or post diagnosis.

One of the finished products

Birthdays can be difficult as a newly diagnosed celiac. Sometimes, though, with the right products celiac disease can be a blessing in disguise when it comes to tasty birthday treats. In my mind, Pamela's GF Chocolate Cake Mix and Duncan Hines Home-Style Chocolate Icing made a cake I'd happily down on my deathbed.

Death by GF chocolate? Bring it on!

What did you do for your first GF birthday? What's your favorite GF cake? Comment below!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Celiac and the Slumberparty

Everyone has baggage. A kid from a previous marriage. A phobia. That one annoying ex-boyfriend who calls you every hour of the night to say, "Hi." 

For me, though, that baggage is literal. It's my small, foot by foot blue cooler that follows me like a lost puppy with a hero-worship disorder. And, when I went to a sleepover one night ago, guess who sat buckled into the passenger's seat of my car? 

My new best friend

Since my diagnosis, my desire to be prepared has become militant. And why wouldn't it be? I've been glutened before and heck no is that happening again. That doesn't mean I enjoy doing it, though. 

For my two day adventure, I pulled out all the trimmings: bags of grapes, strawberries, one banana, two muffins (one Chocolate and Blueberry) and a trip to my favorite Japanese hole-in-the-wall for a gluten free Salmon Bowl. Chopsticks included. If my memories of glutened writhing couldn't squash any gluten cravings, my tank of a cooler (complete with gluten free sugar and flavor bombs) should do the trick. 

And, all during the party, my preparation seemed to work. While my friends dug into homemade pasta, toasted rolls complete with Parmesan and grapes, I showed off my (awful) chopstick skills and filled up on Japanese.

Later that night, the cooler saved me again. One movie finished and another on the way, we paused for a food party. They poured potato chips and popcorn (that were gluten free but too prone for cross contamination for me to crave) and concocted tall glasses of Root beer floats. My (awesome) friends apologized the whole time and I consoled myself with the fact that I hated Root beer anyway (even though that ice cream looked pretty dang yummy) and downed a chocolate chip muffin

My friends' gluten-filled feast.

I didn't even mind breakfast the next day, as I ran to the cooler for my morning muffin and banana while my friends devoured a box of Corn Pops. When I finally said goodbye a few hours later, all I felt was elation at the great time I spent with friends and the exhaustion that commonly accompanies sleepovers with teenage girls. 

I was flummoxed when I arrived home and promptly suffered a mini melt down.

Suddenly, the embarrassment of towing my blue ice bus, the feeling of alienation at being unable to share in the sleepover treats, the anxiety at answering all of my friends' polite and well-meaning questions about my diet (You can eat fruit, right? What about soda? But not bread and cereal?) flooded my brain. "I should be able to hang with friends without dealing with all this!" I thought. "I'm a teenager! I'm about to go college! This is supposed to be the best time of my life!"

But the fact is, celiac disease is blind to age, to sex, to morality, to any of the characteristics we think warrants a "pass" from health issues. Hoarding good karma by giving money to the poor or solving world peace can't fix celiac disease; only a gluten free diet, no matter how difficult it may be, can

Celiac Disease affects people of all shapes and sizes

Despite my tears, I consider my sleepover a success. All during the night and morning, I had a great time. I focused on my friends, college, movies, Doctor Who and all the other facets that form my life besides my disease. When I dug in my cooler for a snack instead of her fridge, I didn't waver. I assured my friends that my diet wasn't a big deal instead of the other way around and I believed it. 

I only had a problem when, while exhausted, I arrived home and analyzed the details. To me, that is a baby step in the right direction. I've progressed from worrying about my eating habits during to afterwards, and it will only get better. With more experience, I won't feel embarrassed, alienated or worried about sounding "too weird" when explaining my dietary needs. 

The bottom line is, my cooler of gluten free snacks isn't baggage. It's a fashion accessory. And I know that one day soon I will be able to rock this belief 105%

How do you store snacks for social events? When did you become confident with your disease or are you still waiting? Comment below!