Gluten-Free…Healthfully and Happily

My entire professional career has revolved around food and nutrition…writing about it, educating about it, promoting it and, most of all, enjoying it.  That’s why I became a registered dietitian.  Not so I can tell people what they can’t eat in order to look and feel good, but rather just the opposite.  To give them the skills and knowledge they need to enjoy food, healthfully and happily. 

Photo Courtesy of Laurie Klein Photography

So, needless to say, I was devastated when diagnosed with a severe sensitivity to gluten (gluten sensitivity) about a year ago.  I was going through what all other newly-diagnosed celiacs/gluten intolerants go through–denial and depression–but in addition to that I  had to question my livelihood.  How was I going to write, promote and educate about food that I couldn’t taste?

With a lifetime of nutrition science behind me, I was better-prepared than most to eat gluten free, and do it healthfully.  I knew what foods had to come out of my diet, which nutrients I had to keep a watchful eye on and what questions to ask when eating out to prevent cross-contamination (or at least reduce its likelikhood).  This part of the gluten-free journey was a lot less scary for me than most and to this day I do not take it for granted. 

Eating gluten-free happily was a different story, however.  And I went through the myriad of emotions and challenges that I’m sure many of you can relate to.

I found myself more often resenting dining experiences than enjoying them.  I could rarely order the items on the menu that I truly wanted to have and time and time again the servers just didn’t get it.  One server told me she was absolutely sure that the dressing was gluten-free, because she knew there was no dairy in it 🙂  Another server, at a very upscale restaurant I might add, offered complimentary cookies and petit-fours to my boyfriend and then turned to me and said, “I’m sorry madam but you can’t have any of these.”  Yes, that is a true story.

But the real emotional setbacks were two-fold.  One thing about me, I’m a freak about not eating processed foods.  So, after avoiding all processed gluten-free foods and missing out on “fun” carbs in my diet, my body rebelled.  The next thing I knew I had a voracious appetite for anything carb.  I mean voracious.  I don’t know if it was an emotional response or physical (there are accounts of people going through gluten withdrawl and extreme hunger is one of them, but more on that in a future post), but whatever it was it was powerful.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, though, was when I was diagnosed with B-12 deficiency and anemia (most likely B12 deficiency anemia) after having been “gluten free” for six months, two tell tale signs that I, the well-informed dietitian, was in fact ingesting gluten unknowingly (I figured out it was the gin in my so-very-much-loved martinis; and later realized those weren’t hangovers I was experiencing).    

That’s when I knew I wasn’t living gluten-free, healthfully OR happily.  And if I wasn’t, then so many others weren’t either.

Through this blog I intend to share my knowledge, thoughts, musings and experiences about living gluten free healthfully and happily. I’d love to create a dialogue and hear about your experiences as well.

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