Maybe it takes something big. Maybe it takes something so big and life altering to make you open your eyes to what the word “health” really means. For me, I think that is exactly what it took. Part of having a disease like Celiac Disease is having to be on a constant look out and to become a constant nag about what you consume and how it is prepared. I never really thought much about what I ate, nor did I really care, prior to being diagnosed of course. I mean, who else LOVES checking each label thoroughly in the grocery store, taking twice as long to go though the isles, pissing off just about everyone else trying to pick up their items in the same section? ME! Not to mention getting to the checkout and feeling nauseated at the sight of the receipt and swearing “I really want a coffee but I need to cut back. I WILL cut back on my Tim Hortons, starting today” to only find yourself in the drive thru a mere 45 minutes later (once the shock has worn off of course). I mean, forgetting the cost for a while (or at least try really hard, like me after a trip to the grocery store), it really does make you think. I stand in the isle reading through each ingredient carefully, thrown off every once in a while by a suspicious ingredient or two (What the hell is “caramel colour” anyways and why is it in literally everything?!) and then the last line…. “May Contain: peanuts, tree nuts, mustard, Wheat”…. WHAT? Did I seriously read through all the ingredients and start to get excited for the last line to say WHEAT? Really? Disappointment? sure it’s disappointing but then once, this guy behind me said “Miss, a half cup has 150 calories in it, isn’t that all you really need to know?”. Need I say more? So now the dilemma begins; do I correct him and start to lecture about my disease and why it is so important to read the label? Or, do I get offended by the fact that he assumes I count/have to count my calories? There’s also the slightly more cinematic option of slapping him in the face (obviously like a strong and independent woman would do….I mean duh) but I mean, I attempt to be slightly more classy than that as I flash a sarcastic smile and pass him the box of gluten-packed Granola Bars he’s reaching for.
Any seasoned Celiac will tell you, eventually you get a hang of the grocery shopping and you learn what to buy, what not to buy, and I’ve been learning this, but it seems as though every time I grocery shop, it’s some kind of adventure. I don’t mean the kind of adventure where while strolling through the Gluten-free isle, I bump into a stranger only to look up and realize it’s a handsome (do people even use that word anymore?) man who chuckles and says “have you tried these organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, lactose-free cookies? They’re to die for” and then whisks me away to his condo where he cooks delicious gluten-free pasta and we kiss without worrying and fall madly in gluten-free love (I have clearly put too much thought into that one). But no, not that kind of adventure, I’m talking about the sweatpants, 2 days unwashed hair trip to the store where you go in for a few gluten free items, run into that girl you never really liked and end up in a conversation about what celiac disease is and if you think that’s why you “gained all that weight last year”. Yes. Not as much thought went into that adventure as unfortunately, it was not only a figment of my imagination, I don’t happen to be that lucky.
I have to admit, the gluten-free food isn’t nearly as bad as it was in the beginning. I’ve adapted pretty well to the point that believe it or not, I actually like the taste of GF bread more than I liked the taste of the regular stuff. Shocking, I know. I just find the ignorance of some people to be too much to take some days. It could be because I typically grocery shop on an empty stomach (bad idea, I know) so I’m just a hungry, oily haired, sweat pant wearing mess with no money in the bank when I finally get the chance to pick up groceries. Hey, at least I no longer pick up a lot of the junk food I use to eat, but that doesn’t mean I miss it from time to time.
I guess the moral of my rant is that putting this much thought into what you are going to be eating really changes the way you think about food over time. I started to think of food as actual fuel for my body rather than blindly picking up a bunch of junk off the shelves because it looked like it might taste good. Sure, I still do that sometimes while in the GF dedicated isle, but it’s almost as if it doesn’t have the same effect on me anymore. When you realize that Celiac Disease is actually keeping your body from absorbing a lot of the nutrients that you need, it’s kind of like “OH YEAH, my body actually needs those things called vitamins and minerals, who knew?!”. So, now I spend even more time reading labels because I also want to check all this mystery stuff like protein and fiber… I DON’T EVEN RECOGNIZE MYSELF ANYMORE! But I guess that’s a good thing, actually caring about what you eat and what it does to your body; it can only mean good things, right? Maybe for you, but for others, not so much. The struggle is real when all your friends want to go out to McDonalds and all you can think about is the 500 calorie fries (containing hardly any protein or fiber by the way) and the fact that that’s pretty much all you can eat there (unless you have a sudden hankering for relish, that’s A-Okay gluten-wise). Maybe even though celiac disease is just as it sounds (a disease) it will actually lead me to a healthier life. I have already lost about 45lbs (much of this I gained in the last couple months before my diagnosis due to debilitating pain and hardly leaving my bed for weeks) but it’s definitely a start. You can’t stay I don’t try to look at the bright side now can you? I’ve always been more of a glass-half-irrelevant kind of girl, but I guess it’s never too late to start…. or maybe it is, who knows, I’m not saying I’m an expert or anything. Funny how weirdly optimistic I sound right now, as I prepare to leave for my grocery shopping for the week. See? I knew something was up, I will soon be back to my normal self when I unwind with a glass of wine after my voyage to the gluten-free isle.