A Celiac's Food Journey

Food has many definitions. For some, it is a fuel whose only purpose is to power an athlete through their next workout. For others, it's a luxury, the creamy taste of ice cream melting on the tongue. Pre-diagnosis, food was just part of life. I devoured pizza during sleepovers, baked on the weekend and never turned down a trip to In-N-Out.

And then, during months of extreme nausea, acid reflux, and weight loss, food changed. Suddenly, it transformed into a weapon, the cause of all my pain. And even after I became Casey the College Celiac and dove into eating gluten free, food kept torturing my belly. I didn't heal like the doctor promised. The weight I had lost didn't magically reappear. Food as medicine didn't work.

Food wasn't very friendly...
I didn't mean to stop eating. I didn't mean to live off of a rice cake with a swipe of peanut butter for breakfast, an omelet for lunch and a salad for dinner. But, suddenly, that's what happened. The food lover - the girl who ate everyone else under the table and left waitresses flabbergasted at her empty plate - broke up with her appetite because it just. Hurt. Too. Much.

I staggered around my college campus like a zombie. My stomach gurgled with liquid fire. Eventually, I ended up in the hospital hooked up to an NG tube feeding me liquid cheeseburgers. And when I returned to school a week and a half later, for the first time in ages, I felt normal. Almost. 

My new facial accessory at the time...
Food no longer tied up my stomach in fear, but the idea of being "healthy" dominated my mind. To gain weight, my doctors prescribed a diet of brownies, ice cream - anything dripping in calories. But I couldn't do it. My mind rebelled. It just seemed illogical to me that, in order to be healthy, I had to gorge on unhealthy treats.

That's not to say that I turned down every sweet (almond butter and I are joined at the lips), but sweets suddenly became less important. I loaded my plate with a rainbow of veggies and proteins and cringed at the idea of past greasy favorites like Pizza Hut. I became so obsessed with "being healthy" that I forgot that what society deems as healthy isn't for everyone. And, as I've finally realized, it isn't healthy for me

This is my healthy: overnight cinnamon apple oats
in a near-empty almond butter jar!
Food has worn many masks in my life: the criminal, thief of dietary enjoyment; the judge able to unlock health if regulations are met. Now, food and I have a different relationship: food - every type of it - is my friend. And I can't thank celiac enough for teaching me that. 

I still eat healthy. I still love salads, avocados, sweet potato rounds and broccoli (even though my dad gags every time he sees my plate). I still try out new health trends like acai powder in my smoothies or 72% dark chocolate. But I also love Chick Fil A's gluten free fries and ketchup. I love watching a triple chocolate mug cake (recipe coming soon!) inflate in the microwave. And my afternoons are packed full of recipe experimentation, from pizza dough to brownies. 

My latest pizza masterpiece! Thanks Pamela's!
And, sure, that half a tub of sunflower butter in my quinoa flakes may not part of average Annie's "healthy" diet, but it fits in mine. And while some might think I eat "too healthy," I know that I'm giving my tummy and taste buds everything they crave. The fact is, I'm weird. I'm the 1 in 133 people with celiac disease in the US. My eating style doesn't match the national average - and I'm finally okay with that. 

It's been a long, hard journey to find my personal definition of food and heath. First, my body extinguished my appetite; then society and my quest for the holy grail of health limited my diet. Now, a year after celiac triggered this cycle, I am finally free.

I'm on top…or getting there!

Food has never tasted so sweet


*Also found at Peas and Crayon's link party and Runningwithspoon's link party!*


How did celiac change your relationship with food? How is food and you now? Comment below! 

Comments

  1. This is really inspiring. food used to be my enemy as well but thankfully I got diagnosed with celiac disease before I lost too much weight. Isn't it great to eat a meal and not have to worry about it rejecting you later?!

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    1. I'm glad you got help soon and yep, eating something without it causing pain is definitely the best feeling ever! :)

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  2. My biggest motto is, food is fuel! No matter how I feel, I remind myself, I NEED to eat, and that the food (as long as it's within my parameters, is not the culprit of my intestinal irritability, but my IBS itself)

    I too, with my IBS, prior to my Celiac Diagnosis was afraid to eat, not sure what would/wouldn't send my stomach into intestinal distress. Even after Celiac, my IBS still wages war on my intestines, it is a game of wait and see when I test out eating something new for the first time, even if it IS GF/DF, my IBS may become irate and backlash against my newest venture, so I understand where you are coming from, and am happy you've found a better place for yourself <3 Stay strong fellow fighters <3

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    1. That's a great motto - yep, nowadays, I tell myself that everything I eat is fuel to get me back outside running again! Thanks for sharing your story and for the inspiration and motivation, like usual! :D

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  3. I totally have gone through the same struggles, Casey. I went through a phase where I ate super healthy and now I eat what my body wants, healthy or not. That includes lots of peanut butter. I totally get what you've been through. Sometimes when I feel blah I just get scared to eat. And honestly because of my ibs, I've had to cut certain veggies out f my diet so I find that a lot of the most simple foods and carbs make my tummy happy. It's all about finding the balance that works for you. Hang in there chica! We are all warriors!!����

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    1. Isn't it funny how all of us with shared food allergies/celiac have shared relationships with food as well? Thanks for sharing what works for you (and we are totally on the same page with nut butter - give me all the nut butters!) and I'm glad you've found your balance! Warriors unite! :)

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  4. I am downright disgusted that doctor's prescribed you gluttonous unhealthy foods to make you gain weight. How repulsive!!

    And girl, I know how you feel. My stomach problems are horrific. I have no large intestine because of my issues... It's just not that fun of a time, but I try my best to make the best of it!

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    1. Yep, some people would love the chance to eat junkfood all day, but that's just not how this girl rolls! Thanks for the comment and I'm sorry to hear about your struggles. Stay strong, stay positive and I'll try to do the same. :D

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  5. Hi Casey! I just nominated your blog for a Liebster Award! Check out today’s post for details! Happy Thursday! http://welaughanyway.blogspot.com/2014/06/laugh-anyway-gets-liebster-award.html

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    1. Thanks so much for the nomination and I will definitely check it out! It is indeed a happy Thursday! :)

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  6. I sometimes catch myself complaining about my peanut allergies, but the truth is that having to deal with something like celiac's would be so much worse. I'm glad you're starting to feel better and figuring out what works for you, though. Food can be horrible when it makes you sick, but it can also bring so much enjoyment and happiness. The tricky thing is figuring out which is which!

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    1. Any food allergy is definitely a challenge, no matter how big or small! Thanks for the comment and I LOVE your view on food. There is definitely a lot of joy that can be found in a good bowl of goodies! :)

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  7. I have had a very similar experience figuring out the foods that nourish my body and make me feel my best. I have a very sensitive stomach and even though I eat 100% gluten free, "safe" foods don't always make me feel great. Right after my celiac diagnosis it was such a trial and error process but now I pretty much know what works (only took me 6 years haha). Thanks for sharing your experience :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story as well! It's always awesome to hear that others have experienced similar challenges and won! ;) Good point on the "safe" foods - it's so funny how some foods without gluten mess with your tummy as much as the gluten filled ones! The stomach definitely has a mind of its own! ;)

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