Celiac disease has changed me in more ways than one. Sure, physically I'm different. I'm still a 90 lb rail (body-building, here I come!), my hair is thinner and my bones get a little more sun than I'm used to. Mentally, though, I've also changed. People rarely mention the psychological effects of celiac disease. The fear of food because of the pain it causes. The grief, denial, hatred, and gradual acceptance that wheat-filled pizzas, pasta, and soy sauces have disappeared from the menu. The envy that boils up in your stomach at the sight of a friend inhaling your old favorite food after tasting a "gluten free" alternative and spitting it out.
|Sometimes gluten free tastes like this...|
As crazy as it sounds, I even think my taste buds have even jumped on a different train. I used to be a self-proclaimed chocoholic. After soccer practice, I'd savor every bite of my favorite treat: ice cream with a brownie or chocolate sauce, piled high enough to mimic the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A mouthful of heaven without expensive airfare. Win win for me!
That's no longer the case. Even now that my stomach has calmed down and my doctor is nearly prescribing chocolate to bulk me up, though, I take a bite of the M&M's Santa tucked under the Christmas tree and I can't finish my handful. My taste buds tingle at first, but soon it becomes too much - too sweet, too strong, too…chocolately. If it could, my old self would slap some sense into me. Other past favorites now transferred to the naughty list?
Beef. I had my first hamburger in six months at Legoland earlier this week, and while I liked the first bite, an aftertaste I never used to catch coated my tongue. Not exactly appetizing.
|The fries though…to die for! Thanks Burger Stop!|
Bread. Unlike the rest of my family, bread was never an oral obsession. Sure, I wouldn't turn down a croissant or a freshly baked French loaf, but I didn't live off of carbs. Now, though, I can't remember the last time I nibbled on a loaf. With the gluten free limits on good tasting bread (my friend tried a corner of my sandwich bread and promptly gagged), I guess this isn't too surprising.
Even crazier, vegetables have transformed from a necessity to a treat. For the first time in my life, I had to go on a separate grocery run for my own food - asparagus, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, spaghetti squash, fish. For the first time, my taste buds had veered off the genetic path and established their own likes and dislikes. Rather than cookies, I salivate at the idea of a really good chicken salad.
I'm not going to lie. As you all have seen and supported me through, adjusting to my new life as a celiac hasn't been easy. For me, 2013 was peppered with unexplained stomach pains, continual weight loss, hospital stays, and a feeding tube. Change is painful. And when change involves the face lift of an entire identity - physical, mental, emotional, and even physiological - there are bound to be bumps in the road.
|Not my favorite part of 2013|
I know because of these struggles, though, that 2014 is going to be amazing. I am stronger now, perhaps not physically (maybe after a few more dairy free milk shakes and weight lifting?), but definitely mentally. I have accepted that I have changed, and changed for the better. So what does starting 2014 mean for me?
It means continuing to focus on gaining weight and energy.
It means embracing my new palate and learning even more new recipes (spaghetti squash and tomato sauce; shrimp stir fry; salmon in 101 ways, here I come!).
It means acknowledging my limits, pushing my boundaries, and spreading knowledge and awareness of celiac disease in my college and online.
Most importantly, it means enjoying every moment of 2014 (which will start with a trip to the happiest gluten-free filled place on Earth - Disney World!) as a happy, healthy celiac. I'm well on my way.
|I see these guys in my future!|
How was 2013 for you? Do you have any gluten-free goals for 2014? Comment below!