Today is a very special day for me. It marks the 1-year anniversary transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle. I didn’t have much faith in myself when I first got diagnosed. I constantly questioned how I was going to remain gluten-free for the rest of my life. But I'm happy to say that I made it. I’m looking forward to many more healthy, gluten-free years.
I've had to overcome many obstacles during this journey. I remember my first gluten-free grocery shopping experience. I was throwing anything labeled gluten-free in my cart because I was so excited. I quickly found out that gluten-free products aren't cheap and not everything gluten-free is necessarily good for you.
Patience is key, though, when beginning a gluten-free journey. You must be willing to experiment and try new things. Early on I spent a lot of time and money trying to find the best gluten-free brands. I got tired of trying products once and immediately throwing them away.
It's a relief being familiar with new & existing gluten-free brands and products. I research them whenever I have free time. I also try to attend every gluten-free festival I can. They've been a tremendous help and give me the opportunity to meet people who share the same issues. Festivals are also are a great way to try new products as well as see what's available in your area. Leaving with big bags of free samples is also a huge plus!
Dining out was also a big challenge this year. I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried new things at places I'd never been before. A year ago I couldn't have imagined eating at a vegan restaurant, trying a gluten-free pizza or giving up Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches. Get-togethers and holidays weren’t easy either. Whenever I attend something I would make sure to ask if there were any gluten-free options. There usually wasn't, so I ended up bringing my own dish to share with everyone.
Things weren't all positive, though. I was “glutened” a couple times this year. I wasn't paying close enough attention to the ingredients used in certain products. I mistakenly ate BBQ made with a wheat-based BBQ sauce. I ate at restaurants that didn't have a certified gluten-free kitchen. While in a rush I even grabbed a Hershey Gold Chocolate Bar (it contains pretzels).
Another incident happened during Thanksgiving. Someone brought a gluten-free dish so I decided to give it a try. Later that night I overheard her giving someone the recipe and the first ingredient she named was flour. I had to keep in mind that not everyone knows what gluten is and to start being more cautious in those situations. My body now tells me right away when I have ingested gluten. A headache starts immediately, I get very weak and start to sweat. It’s a gift and a curse.
This journey hasn’t always been easy, but I'm beyond proud of myself and what I've accomplished this year. I've worked extremely hard on sticking to my gluten-free lifestyle. Since the diagnosis, I've lost 15 pounds, decreased my BMI levels, and lowered the dosage of my blood pressure medication. The swelling and palpitations I used to get due to my heart condition are very rare now as well. It's also done wonders for my skin. My face is less oily and mostly stays blemish-free. I'm the healthiest I've been in years and I feel amazing.
I've set a couple of new goals for myself for this new year. I plan on cutting cheese completely out of my diet. It's the only dairy product that I haven’t been able to let go, but the side effects have started to become unbearable. I'd also like to reduce the amount of dairy-free substitutes I consume. A lot of vegan products are very high in sodium and other chemicals. I'll continue researching healthier options to try out.
I'm cutting out soy as well. This was a goal of mine last year, but I struggled with it a lot. If a restaurant offers french fries, it's almost a given that I'll order that as my side. Most of the oils used to cook french fries contain soy. Even though I'm aware of this before I order, I'll get them anyway and pay the price later. This year I want to make it a priority to double check with restaurants and see if they’re using a dedicated fryer for people with allergies, as well as what type of oil they’re using. It’s normally best to stay away from places that don’t offer gluten-free preparation stations and fryers so you can avoid being "glutened". I’m going to also keep in mind that ordering vegetables are also an option!
Thank you all so much for being supportive throughout this first year. I’m looking forward sharing my new experiences with you all for years to come.