5 Lessons From Celiac Disease That Help During the Coronavirus Outbreak

I'm sure that most people can relate when I say that the last few weeks have felt as surreal as they have chaotic. The Coronavirus outbreak has meant I moved out of my apartment in Minnesota two months ahead of schedule, am now busy transitioning the college class I teach to be online and am receiving a very different ending to my grad school experience than I expected.

5 Lessons From Celiac Disease That Help During the Coronavirus Outbreak

As overwhelming as this whirlwind of events has been, though, I've been trying to focus on gratitude and staying as positive as possible...which is why I started thinking about how living with celiac disease has actually made adapting to the new precautions for the Coronavirus outbreak a little easier. (Especially since otherwise healthy individuals with celiac disease are not at a higher risk for the Coronavirus).

So in order to share a little light during this hectic time, I thought I would start my entry back into the blogging world (which I've definitely missed while my schedule was far too busy to write and post!) by sharing five ways living with celiac disease has helped me adapt a little easier to life during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus Outbreak, Celiac Hack #1: Already knowing how to work with what you have in the kitchen.

As most people probably know from experience or news stories, in many parts of the United States (and the rest of the world, I'm assuming), many grocery shelves are bare as people have been stocking up. Personally, I flew back to Minnesota from my Spring Break in California (check out my Insta posts here for more fun details into my adventure before this chaos all began!) and immediately hit my local Aldi hours after I landed, and I had never seen so many things out of stock.

As a result, a lot of people may not be able to find their usual groceries, which requires a lil' bit more creativity in the kitchen.

And that's where the benefits of living with celiac disease come in.

5 Lessons From Celiac Disease That Help During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Because when gluten, wheat and all of its cousins suddenly become off-limits, creativity in the kitchen is a must. So the idea of having to whip up a delicious dinner using only the foods still available at your local grocery store might not feel as intimidating for someone with celiac disease than it might for a creative-cooking newbie. ;)

Coronavirus Outbreak, Celiac Hack #2: Already knowing how to be innovative when connecting with others.

Besides empty grocery shelves, the biggest way the Coronavirus outbreak has affected my life (and many others) is by majorly limiting my face-to-face social activity. Even though I was never a huge extrovert, I still interacted with people daily at the gym or while attending and teaching college classes, so shifting to only interacting with family members living in the same house has been a major shift.

But as I've reflected over the past week, I've realized that I'm somewhat used to being creative in how I connect with others...and I believe many with celiac disease can relate. After all, one of the most common ways for people to spend time together is to "break bread"...and celiac disease doesn't make that easy.

5 Lessons From Celiac Disease That Help During the Coronavirus Outbreak

So we're often forced to get creative. We go to restaurants with loved ones for the company instead of the food. I invite friends for walks (or even rollerskating!) instead of coffee shop dates, and I consider many of the Instagram connections I've made in the gluten free community real friends, even though I've never met them in real life. And in the time of social distancing, I think that kind of adaptability can actually work to our advantage. I know I've found comfort checking in with friends on Instagram (my DMs are always open, even if I may be a bit slow to respond!) and look forward to getting creative with family baking adventures, FaceTime "parties" with friends and more fun Insta challenges (considering I've already been tagged to complete the push-up challenge, I'm sure more will come my way!).

Coronavirus Outbreak, Celiac Hack #3: Having experience making my OWN definition of a "healthy lifestyle."

Right now, at least in the health and wellness bubble I often occupy on social media, it seems like "healthy living" is a lot harder to achieve than normal. Gyms are closed, fresh produce may be limited and some people aren't even allowed to leave their house to get in some steps. As a result, I know I've been having a little anxiety about not being "active enough" or eating too much comfort foods (thank youuuu stress), and from just a quick glance on Instagram, I know I'm not alone.

However, I've already needed to re-define my definition of "healthy" in the past, like when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Suddenly, whole wheat and whole grain were the LEAST healthy items I could add to my shopping cart, and when I was dangerously malnourished initially after my celiac diagnosis, exercise was also not the "healthiest" activity I could have done.
So I'm trying to apply a similar mindset shift to the Coronavirus outbreak. Maybe we can't move our bodies as much as usual...but perhaps this can be a rejuvenating time for rest and different forms of exercise, if we feel like it. And maybe we can't eat the "healthiest" diet...but when there are countless lives at stake, should that really be a priority?

Obviously, I'm not a professional in nutrition, mental health, exercise or really anything regarding the Coronavirus outbreak and general health. But I have realized how empowering it is to define "healthy" in a way that actually lets you feel your best instead of constantly feeling "not enough"...and I believe many people living with celiac disease or other chronic illnesses can relate.

Coronavirus Outbreak, Celiac Hack #4: Already knowing how to openly discuss your needs with others...especially, housemates.

Another major way life has changed since the Coronavirus outbreak? Many people are now quarantined in their houses...often with other people. And at least in my experience of sharing a small apartment with 3+ other girls for almost a year, that level of constant cohabitation requires a LOT of open communication.

5 Lessons From Celiac Disease That Help During the Coronavirus Outbreak

And like you can probably guess...living with celiac disease can def help with that. ;) After all, when you have celiac disease, you don't just need to communicate your dietary needs to family. You need to talk to friends and significant others, waiters and chefs, food company owners and, of course, anyone who uses your kitchen.

So while I definitely wouldn't say I - or anyone else with celiac disease - automatically nail every communication opportunity, I do think having experience stating your needs can make spending a lot of quality time with people a lil' easier. So thank you celiac disease for that!

Coronavirus Outbreak, Celiac Hack #5: Regularly getting excited over little things in life.

If you've ever jumped up and down in a grocery store because you finally found that delicious food you've spent months looking for, you probably have celiac disease or other dietary restrictions. Personally, I've cried over not having any good tasting gluten free tortillas, and I've definitely done happy dances in public when I discovered a new gluten free restaurant or product in my local grocery store.

The benefit of these experiences? I've learned that little things in life - like finding some damn tasty GF tortillas - are worth celebrating and being grateful for. And at a time in the world when a lot of our usual daily activities are frustratingly off-limits, I think this mindset is more important than ever.

5 Lessons From Celiac Disease That Help During the Coronavirus Outbreak
From the delicious Gluten Free Gem in Portland

The Bottom Line of How Celiac Disease is Helping Me Cope with the Coronavirus Outbreak

I don't want to make it seem like I'm feeling super grateful and happy every hour of the day since the Coronavirus outbreaks started. I miss talking to grad school friends and my students, face-to-face. I miss being able to buy toilet paper without a second thought. And I definitely miss being able to go to the gym - my favorite mental escape.

But I'm trying to cultivate as positive a mindset as possible, and like I've shared in this post, I think living with celiac disease - or perhaps any chronic illness - definitely helps with that. Because of celiac disease, I've learned how to be adaptable. How to be transparent about my needs with others and find joy in little moments. (Not to mention that gluten free food doesn't seem to be flying off the shelves as quickly as their gluten-filled counterparts.)

5 Lessons From Celiac Disease That Help During the Coronavirus Outbreak

And if you have celiac disease, I hope this post reminds you of ALL the badass skills and swagger your chronic illness has given you - and that you can (and should!) take advantage of those skills during this trying time.

So stay safe and healthy, and know I'm sending lots of gluten free love your way!

And to help us all get some socialization during social distancing, tell me in the comments how you're doing with the Coronavirus outbreak or what skills celiac disease has taught you!


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