Monday, May 18, 2015

Six Reasons to Befriend a Celiac

There are a lot of different friends in a person's life. The work friends, school friends, and friends with matching scars from shared tree-climbing adventures. This Celiac Disease Awareness Month, though, I'm shining light on another friend: the celiac. And just like my post on the benefits of dating a celiac, this post (seriously and comically) shows why a gluten free foodie should be the next contact added to your phone.

1. First off, the most obvious: we celiacs always have food. Always. And if we like you a lot, we may even share some of it. When I embarked on the adventure of packing up my dorm room and dragging it all back home, I filled at least half of my bags and boxes up with food. Baking supplies like cake mix and cacao powder. Prepacked snacks from chips to pretzels. And, of course, all the fresh and frozen contents from mini fridge and freezer.

A typical celiac storage bin...
The fact is, no matter where I am, I have snacks in my pocket and (if a long trip is planned), one or more meals in my purse. When most convenience store foods will lead to a painful (near) death experience, it makes sense that a celiac will never be far from edible supplies. And, as a friend of a bonafide celiac, that means you could be one happy celiac removed from a tasty (gluten free) snack. And if the zombie apocalypse hits? You would know exactly what friend's house to run to.

2. Though I don't have any studies to back my claim, I've recently discovered that the gluten free community is extraordinarily skilled at finding (or creating) the funniest Internet memes. When a piece of toast can chain you to the toilet for days, humor is a necessity in life - and, as a friend of a celiac, you could benefit from the same constant laughter.

Just a few funnies...
Shirtless celebrities you thing? A picture of Ryan Gosling defending my gluten free honor is saved on my phone. As for pop culture references, the Celtic Celiac has you covered with her "Groot-en free" Instagram post. By now, my friends are used to opening up their texts and seeing yet another meme sent by their celiac schoolmate. The only downside? You could end up interrupting class with spontaneous laughter - a true story that my friend, Brooke, can personally attest to.

From memes to embarrassing stories about getting glutened on your first date, a celiac is the ultimate comedic companion. And, studies do support that laughter can help a person live longer. So, in effect, being friends with a celiac could add a few more (humor-filled) years to your life.

Maybe my silly faces have a point after all!
3. Another benefit of a celiac pal? You'll never have to share your food. That leftover Chinese food in the fridge? We won't touch it. And your nightly treat of oreos? They're all yours. When I was first diagnosed, I remember struggling to keep myself from stealing fries from my dad's gluten-filled plate. Fact is, most people are raised with the "sharing is caring" attitude, even when it comes to food. But, when you befriend a celiac, you can have your (gluten) cake and eat it too.

And while the gluten free food we buy may not be, our companionship is cheap. My favorite place for a date night with the boy? Chipotle. And when my friends want to check out that new fancy (and not GF friendly) restaurant downtown? I pack and bring my own food - delicious, safe, and at no cost to my friends splitting the bill. Sometimes, I'll even accompany my friends to the donut store - offering advice and turning down any grateful "dough" in return.


The typical celiac eats...
4. Now, not to brag, but after two years of rockin' the gluten free life, I've learned pretty well to "read before raid," or to read the label on a food product before raiding the contents. Not only that, I've added a whole subsection of vocabulary to my mental dictionary. Talk about an increase in literacy skills - tools that I pass along to my friends whenever the chance rises.

After nine months of gluten free girlfriend boot camp, my boyfriend has learned how to read between all the lines...at least when it comes to food ingredients. And some of the celiac community's favorite lingo - like "glutened" and "glutard" - keep popping up in my friends' conversations. My boyfriend even invented "degluten," a fancy word to explain the need to brush his teeth before kissing me.

In my mental dictionary, this picture is next to "glutened"
Now, I can't promise that being aware of the ingredients in your favorite bag of chips will save a life or that "glutened" will join the vocabulary section of the SAT. But, you could shock that newly diagnosed celiac with your knowledge - maybe even enough to learn the benefits of dating one?

5. Besides celiac words, you'll also learn more food terminology, tastes and facts than ever before. Quinoa? Yeah, it actually isn't supposed to rhyme with the Hawaiian girl scout cookie, the Samoa. And buckwheat? Call it a poser, but this gluten free doesn't possess a grain of wheat.

Some better than others!
As for tastes...well, my family and friends have definitely fallen victim to a few forced taste-tests or two. Some successful (a gluten free copycat of the traditional chocolate chip cookie) and some not so much (my first attempt at homemade chicken tenders...no so hot). But, either way, as the friend of a celiac, your taste buds will hitch-hike into all kinds of new culinary worlds.

6. Finally, you should befriend a celiac because, honestly, we're a pretty awesome group. We are toddlers to grandparents; newbies to old hands at gluten free; we span across countries, languages and lifestyles. And, as warriors battling a lifelong autoimmune disease, we have experienced challenges and risen above them.

Check out Gluten Dude's graphic about the faces of celiac!
There are a lot of different types of friends available for the making, from co-workers to other students suffering through Calculus at 7:30 am. And, one of out of 133 of these possibilities will be a celiac

Befriending a celiac may come with its quirks, but peculiarities are, in my mind, what the best friendships are built on. So, if only for the new vocabulary, the food experimentation or the laughs, befriend a celiac this Celiac Awareness Month. Or any other month of the year for that matter.


Just a few possibilities...
'Cause you never know what can happen when a GF (gluten free-er) turns into your newest BFF (best friend forever). I'm guessing lots of memory making. 





What's one advantage you see from befriending a celiac? Can you relate to any of these listed "benefits?" Comment below! 

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