I'm Backkkkk!

Last year this blog focused on going through the initial diagnosis (and subsequent painful withdrawals of gluten) and this year I've been mostly quiet. My friends and family may tell you to count your blessings for that but without further ado - I'm back!!! And it's time to switch gears - just a little.

I'm officially past - although some days it doesn't feel it - the initial diagnosis and trying to find out how to live with Celiac. Even still, after adding numerous concoctions and potions to ease the pains, I keep learning. More and more and more. For example, did you know that if you're adding tumeric to your smoothie in hopes of some anti-inflammatory assistance, you've got to add black pepper? I literally found that one out today!! You can bet it will be an addition in tomorrow morning's smoothie.

But there's another aspect to living with Celiac. And for me, it's how to remain positive. Going through year one was so intense, there wasn't much thought given to what happens next. Next being for example, the rest of my life! But here I am and I'm trying to figure it all out. I started searching for some happy Celiac swag and instead came across a few shirts. Some so plain that this wannabe fashionista shed a tear and some so negative (perhaps you've seen this one - "I can't eat gluten - that's why I'm a b*itch") that I completely gave up. Until I realized, perhaps there were more Celiac and gluten free peeps that wanted what I wanted. And now that I wasn't spending ALLLLL my energy on being sick, maybe I could do something about it.

So yeah. I did. Celiac Cutie was born and I am suddenly a business owner. Wait - what?! This blog is officially and unapologetically about my life and whether I like it or not - my life = Celiac. But now, shifting gears means you're gonna take a ride into the world of being a Celiac who's also trying to start a business and travel the country selling soft funny tees and gluten free "swag". I'm hoping it will be fun and more importantly, that through this process a community will be born. One that's less "F Gluten" and more - "let's just have a little fun". I hope you're in - cause I'm not really sure how you unsubscribe anyways...

A year ago today...

It was one year ago today that I attempted my first gluten free day. I didn’t know for sure that I had Celiac but with an impending biopsy, the certainty of my doctors and my intense desire to feel better I abstained from my sister’s birthday cake exactly one year ago for the first time. I remember the feeling of uncertainty and the hope that perhaps I didn’t have to do this for the rest of my life. My family had run out to purchase a cacophony of gluten free products in preparation for the birthday meal. We tried many together, some not so bad, some unbelievably terrible.

So as I reflect on one year it’s hard to believe how difficult it truly was to get to this point. The things they didn’t tell you to expect, like a gluten withdraw of insane proportions that leaves you feeling ten times worse then you ever did before. Or the countless conversations with waitstaff trying to explain what you need and that you’re not trying to be a pain on purpose. The skin problems and the joint problems and the anemia. The countless doctor visits that leave you feeling alone and uncertain of anyone’s understanding of this disease.

But those aren’t the things that stand out to me as much as I would think. What stands out is the number of people I’m come across that have gone out of their way to support and help me during this transition. The fact that my mom went gluten free with me every time we went out, during the first few (and most difficult) months. My family in general who scour grocery stores like I do and note any new products that look promising and who show up to walk my dog when I can’t get out of bed.  My sister and law who is normally mild mannered and soft-spoken but goes into mama bear mode when a restaurant has put my health at risk with poor gluten handling measures. My boyfriend who looked at me when my skin crusted over and I couldn’t eat or drink without pain but still told me I was beautiful. And the doctors and team of consummate professionals at the Celiac Center in New York who made me feel like I was understood and able to be helped.

This year has been the hardest I’ve ever had health wise and at times I wasn’t sure how I could keep moving forward. But here I am at the start of a new one and I know so many more people now that are pushing every day to live through this, and countless people that are working in their own way to make it easier for each of us. So no matter where you are in your journey, from exactly 12 months in, I encourage you with this, you are stronger than you ever thought possible and there are legions of us fighting with you and for you. May this year be your best.

Life, New Years and Such

Have you ever stopped to reflect on what your ten year old self would think of you today? This year of 2016 and all it's challenges (I hate you Celiac) has finally come to an end. I had a lot of time over the holidays to stop and breathe. To refocus and to rest. I began to realize that life gets in the way of a lot of important things. It's not so much to say that life stops being good, it's just that the good sometimes becomes overwhelming and becomes bad. A job is important, relationships are important, heck - bills are important! But when they become EVERYTHING, it is easy to lose yourself in the mix, especially when everyone around you is focused on real life problems too. 

I am not who I thought I would be when I was ten. Inside, I'm still there, I can feel it. But along the way I make compromises. Tiny little changes, nothing significant. I stay later at work to ensure I keep my job. I make concessions in relationships to keep the peace. I live places convenient to responsibilities rather than where I really want to. I lose sleep to keep up with life's demands even when my body is desperate to rest. It's like turning the steering wheel a tiny fraction. As you're driving it doesn't matter, you're still going in the general direction. Until, it starts to add up like a heavy snow fall that happened one tiny snowflake at a time and suddenly you are off the road and headed for a ditch (I'm in a very dramatic mood today, can you tell!?).  

So this week, month or year, whenever you can squeeze yourself out a break from real "life", I encourage you to stop and resurrect your ten your old (they're happy to come back, really). How do you do this? As such...  

1. Take some time for you - just you. Visit a coffee shop, take a walk, kick everyone out of the house and secure the doors with something heavy! 

2. Reflect on what is most important to you. And take inventory on how much time those priorities are getting. Do you sacrifice your health for the sake of others? Do you spend as much time as you want with your loved ones? Are you enjoying any good ole plain fun? 

3. Think like a kid. What would you do if you could (screw time, money and judgment)? What would you say to the people in your life if you knew they'd take it exceedingly well (are you holding back what you feel to "keep the peace" cause that sh*t will eat you alive)! 

4. Add one hour to your week to do what YOU want to do. It may be sleeping, it may be visiting a loved one, it may be going to a playground and running around like an idiot. Don't stop and apologize for what you want to do - don't come up with reasons it won't work - don't ask permission, just go! 

5. Repeat often. This isn't about being selfish, it's about being you! The best you possible! When you connect with yourself again, it radiates out from you and better supports all the other responsibilities of real life! Encourage others to do the same.... We could all use a little more childlike fun so make your ten your old self proud. And Happy New Year. 

Juice'd ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

After seeing so many posts, pictures and blogs about a new place in Orlando called Juice’d, I finally had the opportunity to visit this Sunday. The founders stress their desire on the website to offer healthy food and beverage alternatives to what exists elsewhere. You can find cold pressed juices, smoothies, salads and my preferred choice, smoothie bowls.

Walking in you see a clean and modern environment, complete with a green lush back wall, like nature itself can’t stay away! Although they advertise gluten free, along with “100% organic, GMO free and locally sourced”, I wasn’t exactly sure what my options might be. I started asking about the PB Acai bowl and found they were happy to omit the granola and substitute almond butter for peanut butter (since I was still avoiding peanuts in my auto-immune diet).

I took a seat in the corner, sunlight shining through the large window, and waited for the most beautiful acai bowl I’ve ever seen.

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Anytime I'm out and have to make substitutions to a dish, I know the flavor may be off a bit, but to my surprise, it was amazing! Not too sweet, and the consistency of frozen yogurt, my only disappointment was that I live twenty minutes away and can't visit every day!

I would like to say I’ll try the salads and the smoothies one day, but I’m not sure. I will say, five stars for the smoothie bowl. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it!

Whole Food Challenges

The cool thing about going on a whole foods diet is the realization that even what I considered to be a "healthy" diet before had room for improvement. And when I say improvement, I mean like trash to treasure level!  

My weekly shopping trips now had me focused on 1/16th of the store at best! As you walk through aisle after aisle, it's eye opening to realize how much of our food comes in a box! And worse still, how many of those boxes have ingredients that are unidentifiable.

It's hard to believe that eating only real food would present a challenge but it's true. That fact alone helped motivate me to keep going! Aren't we supposed to be eating real food??? So just in case, you're thinking of joining the few, the proud, the hangry... here are my tips for starting (and finishing) a whole food challenge. 

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1. Meal prep. No joke, decide what you're going to eat in advance and don't depend on any fast restaurant options to save you in your time of need.  

2. Try not to cry. Believe me, you will want to cry but no one ever died trying to eat healthy. Well, they may have but chances are the healthy part was unrelated. 

3. Respect the process. You may face withdrawals, headaches, tummy aches, etc. (in this case, refer to step two) but that is actually good! You're giving your body a chance to heal and healing can be painful! 

4. Be gentle with yourself and find other ways to celebrate or relax. Our culture and habits center a lot around food but a night out or glass of wine isn't what matters, it's being with friends and family to begin with! You can do that with water as easily as wine. Or, better still, try a new class or activity together instead of the same old place. Yoga anyone?

5. Enlist friends! Misery loves company! I mean... the more the merrier! And if your friends don't want to suffer along, find a local group or Facebook page. Not only are there nice people out there but hearing others experiences, ideas, recipes, etc. can go a long way when you're thinking about giving up!

Happy eating friends! 

Firebirds ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It didn’t take long to fall in love with a new restaurant in the Mills area of Orlando. Firebirds stands out as you drive past it, boasting a modern brick design and large outdoor patio. With my good friend in town from San Diego, I decided to give it a try, hoping it would be up to the “foodie” standards of California.

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When you walk in, the high ceilings, impressive bar (with items organized by color along the back wall) and bright pops of orange throughout make you feel like you’ve stepped into a place designed with every detail in mind. My friend and I chose a high top table with bright pillows and a nearby built in fireplace. From start to finish, we were catered to by a friendly and knowledgeable staff (one of whom shared tips from his training), “Never say no to a customer”.

The separate menu full of gluten free options was amazing. I decided to start with a fruity mojito (it was happy hour after all), which definitely made it to the top ten list of best drinks I’ve ever had. And for dinner, I chose a strawberry shrimp salad and side of mashed potatoes. This would be a great time to share a picture with you, but it looked so fantastic I dove right in and was NOT disappointed. If I had to find any negative, I’d say the salad was a little heavy on the dressing, but the taste was so delicious it would be hard to fault having a little extra.

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So, if you like good food, a friendly staff, amazing drinks or just sitting down in a relaxing and beautiful atmosphere, Firebirds is the place to be. You’ll probably see me there, right next to the fireplace. If not, that’s ok… more for me!

I Work Out

Working out used to be a pretty big thing. I enjoyed it and like 100% of the human race, I needed it. I had a regular exercise routine I followed called the Bikini Body Guide, I'd run for fun and I'd hit the weights with my boyfriend. Then Celiac came into my life, like the four horses of the apocalypse.

Gluten free currently means two thing to me specifically. 1. Finding something to eat out may be so stressful you will choose to just skip a meal altogether. 2. When you do find a meal, your stomach is now so sensitive, you should probably just eat a few bites if you don't want to feel worse. So now, I'm averaging about 800 calories a day and working out equals passing out and occasionally throwing up. It, like eating out, has become infinitely less fun.

But, it is February 20th and this amazing group of women I connected with last summer are having their monthly meet up and I'm determined to go. I intelligently deduce I will need to eat before this workout and select a gluten free bar I've tried before. Should be safe!

It's about 8:30am when it kicks off and I start the first circuit determined to make it through. Burpees to start? I am already questioning this decision. It's not until the second 6 minute circuit that my body has run out of fuel. My muscles feel good but my head is getting light. I try to move slowly, cautiously. I'd prefer not to be on the Instagram wrap up video laying on my mat like a dead opossum. We move to round three. I make a jump and there it is. I've just thrown up - but no one knows. I'm gonna need a sip of water to swallow. Ugh. I am officially the classiest lady here.

We wrap up and miraculously I'm still standing. And even more miraculous, our sponsor for this meetup is Ellie Quark, an amazing GLUTEN FREE yogurt. I may have cried a little as I scarf one down.

The point of my story is this, don't fight your body. If you have just been diagnosed or are for some other reason trying to eat gluten free (to which I would say, are you insane?), things are changing. You won't be able to fight it and from what I hear, it WILL eventually get better. So when you need to take it easy, take it easy. This too shall pass. Now excuse me while I go eat a gf snack bar.

 

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