As I've shared with you all in my blog post, my celiac experience hasn't exactly followed the rules. Instead of transforming into Superwoman days after quitting gluten, I canoodled with a liquid diet, nose tube and hospital bed at my lowest point.
A few weeks back into college, life is definitely looking up. I can eat (how simple and amazing is that!). I'm above the 90 lb mark. I'm even starting to run again. And yet, as wonderful as it is to finally be a healthy, fully-functioning celiac, I'm still a celiac. And that fact keeps slapping me in the face.
I never understood "cheating" in terms of celiac disease. What slice of pizza is worth the insomnia, exhaustion, lack of appetite and general stomach combustion that turns a hard work week into a week from hell? Yet, when I walked through my cafeteria this week, I wanted that slice of pizza. And that chocolate chip muffin and a regular taco and a bowl of the pasta everyone said tasted like plastic. I could picture myself grabbing that last slice of pepperoni pie, fingers burning on melted cheese, and sinking my teeth into crust that has the fluffy, crunchy texture no gluten free option can beat.
I've had cravings before, but purposely ingesting gluten had never looked, smelled, and sounded like so delicious! When I called my mom, close to tears about it later, she asked what I wanted, what she could make a gluten free version of, but I couldn't answer. Because I didn't want those foods, per se. I wanted the options, the convenience, the oblivious ease of going to dinner without worrying about a breadcrumb ghosting over my plate.
Most celiacs goes through the grieving process, progressing from sadness to denial to anger to acceptance. Mine just went in a different order, scrambled by health problems. I realized I would never eat gluten-filled foods again, that I'd always need to pack my pockets with snacks, and that social eating involves more talking than food. Yet, I had this dream in my head that after I became a healthy celiac, living gluten free would be easier. It isn't.
That isn't always a bad thing, though. Because of my limited diet, I take more risks with my palate than ever before. I've learned salads aren't complete without avocado, sunflower seeds and cauliflower; I love all kinds of fish now that I avoid red meat; and olives and crunchy lettuce compliment gluten free pizza perfectly.
Because of my health issues, I am dedicated to watching what I eat and my activity level, skills I will use the rest of my life. And because of my struggles, I've shown my teachers, my dorm mates, and myself that I am much stronger than I appear.
Even in perfect health, living with celiac disease in college is about as easy as acing a 6 credit course with a grade based on two exams. Every time a friend offers food without thinking, a club boasts about its "free treats" or the caf whips up a delicious smelling stir fry, I wince inside. Yet, I know I'll win in the end. If I survived being a college celiac as an 88 lb malnourished anemic plagued with constant stomach pain, I can thrive during it as a healthy teen gorging on GF goodies.
How do you deal with gluten cravings? What was your journey to celiac acceptance like? Comment below!