Hi, my name is Maddie, and I’m gluten intolerant.
I’ll allow you one moment to roll your judgmental eyes, and then you have to put on your sympathy face. I’ll even admit—I used to be the girl that you could roll your eyes at when she refused beer to avoid gluten. I hopped on the Paleo bandwagon for a few months and felt so hip with my almond flour and vegan cheeses, living the “grain free or die” fast and hard lifestyle. That was interrupted due to an esophageal ulcer, where after 3 days of only drinking 3 Boost shakes and a few sips of water (this was literally the total amount of everything I consumed over the course of those 3 days), I threw my Paleo principles to the wind and consumed whatever my body would allow.
Fast forward two weeks later to being fully recovered (being able to eat solid food), and I decided that I would adopt my former method of dieting: eat really healthy during the week, and then go balls out on the weekend and eat everything in site. This meant I would be proudly pandering with Paleo (sorry—couldn’t resist the alliteration) 4 days of the week, and then eating every cheesy pastry in sight over the weekend. Through this fail-proof method of dieting, I noticed my skin would get a really bad rash Monday-Wednesday, always in the same spots. It was then that I had to face the hard truth: I could no longer enjoy spending time with my lifelong friend, gluten.
They say grief has five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
I refused to accept that gluten would no longer be a big part of my life. I continued to indulge in muffins, in cupcakes, pancakes—wheat flour is in everything, for crying out loud. And then, one night, I was suddenly awoken by what felt like a wild fire on my face. It burned and itched intensely, and when I looked in the mirror, I was horrified at the giant red splotches underneath my eyes and on my jaw. Naturally, I reached for some lotion to soothe the beast, only to find that that made the problem worse and my face then had 10 wildfires scorching across the plain.
I was livid, and the hate burrowed itself into the depths of my soul. I’d been a gluten advocate for years, baking up a frenzy on the weekends, stuffing my face with the free bread baskets at Italian restaurants, and now it was going to turn on me?
I had many sleepless nights wondering, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” I vowed that I would never succumb to a low-carb diet again, and Paleo was all behind me—anything for just one more piece of cake.
But, alas, I knew that I would never be able to enjoy onion rings again. Bakeries, my former happy place, were now bitter teases and a lair for poison. How is a girl supposed to eat her feelings when baked goods are no longer an option?
One day, after doing many hours of research on celiac disease, and learning that the only treatment is to avoid gluten, I had to accept my new disability. But by no means am I happy with it. Sure, there are many gluten free items readily available to consumers nowadays, but they taste like cardboard and despair.
There is no cure for celiac disease. Maybe I’ll be able to use this loss as motivation to campaign for celiac awareness–organize 5Ks, conduct gluten-free bake sales, charity concerts, etc. Hopefully one day we’ll find a cure to this terrible disease.
So, remember this blog the next time someone refuses a beer at a party because they can’t have gluten, apologize for their loss, and direct them to the tortilla chips.