I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, but Feb. 14 is still a momentous anniversary for me. As of Feb. 14, 2016, I have been gluten-free for a full year!
When I first learned about celiac disease and eating gluten-free, I would not have believed you if you told me I would be 100% gluten-free someday. I never thought I could have gone without bread, pasta, and basic pizza for this long. But once I realized how much better it made me feel (after mere days), I knew there was no going back.
There have been trials, of course. There was a family event at which I could eat nothing but coleslaw and Hershey kisses. I had to get a salad when my dad invited me over for pizza because they weren’t going to buy me a whole GF pizza for myself. I put off telling a lot of people about being GF because I thought they would be skeptical, dismissing it as a fad diet or paranoia. I’ve had to give up Chinese food almost entirely–and I looooooove Chinese food. (Regular soy sauce has wheat in it, and of course many things are breaded.) I’ve had to give up a lot of comfort and convenience foods–fish and chips, Pringles, soft pretzels, fried chicken, my aunt’s Christmas cookies, chicken noodle soup, and Twix bars. I almost had a breakdown while on vacation in Colorado this summer because in a small town in the middle of nowhere, the only options were a Chinese restaurant or a Mexican restaurant (corn is also problematic for me). On this same vacation, I quickly got tired of my “fruit and yogurt” breakfast when I couldn’t consume the cereals, muffins, and toast available as part of the “continental” breakfast. I still have dreams about accidentally (and sometimes deliberately) eating gluten. I can’t partake in the bagels or doughnuts that people often bring to work.
There have also been triumphs and pleasant surprises. Many friends and family have been incredibly supportive and kind during this year of adjustment, willing to learn about gluten and to be flexible when hosting me. An excellent Thai restaurant near me will make many things GF, so I have not had to go without Pad Thai. Bethany sent me America’s Test Kitchen GF Baking cookbook. My aunt willingly switched from flour to corn starch for her gravy at Thanksgiving, and she and my uncle bought me The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen for Christmas. Visiting Kara in Seattle is heavenly, with numerous GF options (GF fish and chips!) and a more GF-friendly culture. Megan bent over backwards to get me GF options when I visited her in Las Vegas a year ago. Going without many fried foods and convenience foods has been better for my health. One of my new coworkers is GF, so I don’t have to explain anything in the office kitchen except to say, “Me, too!” I’ve been cooking even more at home, which is fine because I like to cook. I’ve learned so much about food. Thanks to resources such as Gluten-Free Girl, I have become a better cook by experimenting more in the kitchen and learning the science behind gluten and its substitutes. I bought a kitchen scale so I could precisely measure my millet, potato, teff, tapioca, buckwheat, rice, almond, and sorghum flours. I have been very, very grateful that dairy is not a problem.
Thank you to the people who have chimed in with support, and to those who have been patient with me as I have adjusted to and carried out this change in lifestyles! It’s gotten easier over the last 12 months, and I hope it keeps on that way.