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I live that shock. The tears. The existential crisis. I would never eat cake again!!! When I got my diagnostic in 2009, a part of me changed and shut down. Some might think I am exaggerating, but I am not. Two weeks in and I had put on 15 pounds. Sounds superficial? Maybe so, but when you’re in your early twenties, with your whole life in front of you and you have to get used to such an intense diagnostic, those few pounds are the straw that breaks the camel’s back! Especially when you talk to people, and they automatically say “well at least you’ll be losing weight” when you've actually been gaining (a lot more than you'd want to) weight. There isn’t much room for joy and hope then. But the truth is, what I didn’t then, was that my life would change so much… and for the better.
After the shock, came the love fest. My daddy, with whom I lived at the time, told me something that touched my heart deeply “Let’s renovate the kitchen!” So it might sound a bit random to you, but the thing is that we lived in a 4 ½ bedroom apartment with the smallest and busiest kitchen there was. I was never inspired by this kitchen at all, not when I had all these opportunities to go eat out at my fingertips! While this particular project never actually came to completion, it honestly never mattered, it was the hope-filled message that I hung on to. The unwavering support a father wants for his daughter, in a situation nobody could control.
I remember back then, regular grocery stores did not offer any gluten-free options. Each week, we would drive off to specialty stores, which were so far from the house. After seeing me eat rice crackers for breakfast, he wanted me to get back to a normal life: eating toast for breakfast! The best thing he ever did was to change all of my favourite recipes into their very own gluten-free versions. Of course, we bought all kinds of gluten-free recipe books, but what I was craving the most were HIS recipes. So he adapted them, all. I never tasted the difference, and it’s most likely because they were all made with so much love.
My father passed away last year. He had the time to teach me basic cooking skills, but his recipes went with him. But I still find him our kitchen, in my boyfriend’s recipes, in his reflexes. He gets all excited when he sees a new gluten-free option at the store. He makes me eat all the same things as anybody else: pasta, bread, cake (all GF of course!) I don’t want to be defined by my illness. I don’t want it to rule my life; I want it to guide me towards expanding my horizons instead. And this is what I wish for you all. You don’t have to feel different because there’s a specific protein in certain foods that make you ill. If you feel special, and you like it that what, that’s also fine! But if ever you feel out of place in our society, our world, trust that you do not have to be. First of all, set your limits. If eating out stresses you out too much, have your people over and share a meal at home, or talk about it with your loved ones and feel safe when you eat at their houses. Everybody likes good food and good friends or family. You are no different. And the making of the food shouldn’t solely rest upon your shoulders either. The more time goes by, the more people will be aware of our illness and will then know the basics. If you like to go out, there are so many places you can eat now. There are many articles on our blog about this. Simply pick a spot to try out and have fun with it.
I’ve personally established my limits to be able to live with my illness peacefully.
The planning of our meals at home isn’t a chore for me, everything is done together and shared. It helps me feel like I am not alone: IT’S ME AGAINST GLUTEN & THE OTHERS (NOT!) Also, my amazingly loyal friends all know where I feel comfortable going out, and never say a thing about going. So I guess your entourage has a lot to do with how you feel and live with this. I realized that the more I talk to people, the more I educated them on this topic, I feel better. I feel like I am less alone. I might have this illness, but it’s thank to it that I can cook today. It’s also such a lovely consideration when a loved one or our better-half goes above and beyond to take good care of us. We appreciate them even more!
My biggest tip/secret is to use the diagnostic to flip it into positive action. Select the lifestyle that fits you. I chose to wallow for a few months, and come back stronger. I am a thousand times more organized than I ever was, and it helps me in many aspects of my life. I also started adding some physical activities to my routine a few years after my diagnostic. I cannot begin to describe how this was life-saving for me. My illness is an inflammatory one, therefore I still often get that bloated feeling no matter how closely I keep to the gluten-free diet. The variety of activities I do genuinely help with all these symptoms.
As a member of this great community, I’m merely sharing my tips & tricks, and whatever works for me. Surround yourself with people who don’t see your illness as a burden. It doesn’t have to be. There are so many resources out there today to live life to the fullest.