As I finished my last bite of grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers with balsamic dressing on a roll, my phone rang with news that was going to change my life forever. I have Celiac Disease. The last few words of the conversation with my doctor were what I can no longer eat and that I should start implementing this as soon as possible. My response, while smiling, “Well, I guess that’s the last roll I’m ever going to have.” I threw away the brown paper bag from the deli and haven’t looked back.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten damages the small intestine. We’ve got these little fingerlike projections that line the small intestine and promote nutrient absorption. So when someone with celiac eats gluten (a protein found in rye, wheat and barley) our immune system responds by attacking the small intestine and damaging the villi, making it really hard for our bodies to absorb nutrients properly. Thus leading to abdominal pain and bloating, vomiting, weight loss, fatigue, irritability, arthritis, osteoporosis, migraines, depression, infertility and so on.
So why was I smiling when told I should say goodbye to pizza, bread, stuffing, cookies, granola, pancakes, bagels, croutons, pies, sauces and everything else we’re supposed to eat on a Friday night, for our birthday or on Thanksgiving?
Because from that moment on, I knew I could start to feel better.
No more leaving a restaurant mid-meal because I was sick, waking up at 2am extremely bloated or canceling dinner plans with friends due to nausea. I’m still in the process of having tests done to see exactly how depleted my body is of certain nutrients (I’ve most likely had this for a minimum of 2 years which can lead to lots of vitamins and minerals not being absorbed). I know that soon I will start to have enough energy for a kick-ass workout, I can get rid of the anemia and not have these bruises on my legs and work for more than a few hours without that brain fog.
I am lucky. How I feel going forward is up to me, my health lies in my very own hands (or shall I say, fork).
Sure, going out to eat is a pain in the ass. I have to check menus when choosing a restaurant and know every ingredient a meal consists of. But that will get easier. I’ve been cooking more and made a dish that somewhat resembled chicken parmesan which I’m confident will be better than the real thing once I have more practice. I may or may not have tried a few products that proudly display “gluten free” on the box. (I haven’t had macaroni and cheese in years but you know when you’re told you can’t do or have something and you suddenly want it even more?) Well, that happened. Annie’s gluten-free mac and cheese isn’t so bad!
What I’m loving most is I get to totally geek out. “The Gluten-Free Bible” by Jax Peters Lowell, “Gluten is my Bitch” by April Peveteaux and “Simply Gluten-Free Magazine” just to name a few books scattered across my coffee table right now. Food shopping has become quite educational, reading every ingredient on labels and realizing how much crap we are all actually eating. As a fitness and nutrition coach I’ve always suggested clients purchase foods that are minimally processed. I now believe that more than ever.
I was diagnosed two weeks ago. I remember my symptoms becoming quite bad almost two years ago. Yep, you did the math right. It took me about two years to get my butt to the doctor. What the eff? Aren’t I a health and wellness advocate? “Listen to your body and give it the love and respect it deserves” are favorite words of mine. So why not follow my own advice?
I was busy, life got in the way, I’ll give myself another month and maybe it’ll go away, it’s probably nothing. Also known as, I’m an idiot. Not feeling well day after day and making up excuses. What example was I setting for my clients? And for those of you who aren’t taking care of yourselves as best you should, what example are you setting for your loved ones?
Celiac or not, we’ve all got goals. Whether you just want to feel better, have more energy, lose fat, get stronger, run a half marathon, you’ve got to show yourself some love. Be kind to your body. Exercise it, nourish it, love it. And if something doesn’t feel right or if you’re working your ass off in the gym and still not seeing results, get it checked out. Who knows, it could be something as small as a bread crumb keeping you from being and feeling your very best.