Coping With Big Changes

Posted by Obake on Jul 9, 2011 in Advice/Tips, Naturally Gluten Free, Ranting

I would not have taken this on if my hand hadn’t been forced. Though its more resistance to change than anything. I don’t deny that I eat better and healthier as a result of the change, and it has very noticeable health benefits for me. But it is hard. I want to say here that it will be easy for you, but it won’t be. I hoped that too. Unless you like things being overly complicated, it’s not going to be easy.

But, at the same time, the things I thought were going to be hard weren’t. I thought of it like a pathogen, or a poison, which helped get me into a mindset to avoid it, though getting sick from it later really was the thing that hammered it home. It forced me to really look hard into alternatives. And not just things that mimicked what I was used to, but new, exciting things I’d never tried to make before! It should be said that I do not have a job, and have a fair amount of time to dedicate to cooking, so my experience likely will not mirror many people’s experience. Though having time to cook, and having the ambition to are two different things. It’s further complicated by the fact that I tolerate heat poorly, and it is high summer without AC, making it unlikely that I will be doing much standing at a stove.

I have a slight advantage in that I was already familiar with checking labels and reading ingredients, because my father had wheat (celiac maybe, I am not sure and can’t ask), corn, and soy allergies. I had thought naively that I would dodge that genetic timebomb. Nope. I was taught to cook though, so I also had an edge there, I would not be starting from zero here. But the scale is really huge. Like corn, wheat is pervasive as an additive, and those first few days I had to adjust to the reality that I’d be checking ingredients again for myself.

Those first days were hard though. Because the scale is huge. There is suddenly this whole world of things that you can’t eat. And if you live in a culture that likes things like bread and noodles and the like, it’s very difficult to avoid. Comfort foods were suddenly not allowed. Whole aisles of food at stores were full of items I could not eat. Some of the enjoyment I got out of trying new things was now complicated by the question of whether or not it would sicken me to consume it. There is still a lot of frustration to pick up something and see its on the forbidden list. My quest for soy sauce or tamari that is gluten free has been a measure of hell. Its a horrible feeling to crave something and know it will make you sick to consume it and you want it anyway. It’s not about willpower for me though, its about not getting sick. I had a taste of what it felt like to be well, and it hardened my resolve. I still want a cookie dammit!

I find that I don’t miss bread that much, and that I treated it as a vehicle for carrying food, rather than ever enjoying it for what it was.

I am still working through it, and I didn’t tackle everything at once. A few days were dedicated to trying to figure out how to feed myself without noodles, which I’d been leaning on heavily as a source of cheap, quick food. The next day I cleaned out the wheat containing food in the upper cupboards, then the lower ones, and put them all in a box. I am still unsure what to do with the box, and though the husband has been given the go-ahead to eat some of it, he can’t cook, so some of it will have to be inevitably given away. I had to replace many things, and it cost a lot of money to restock everything that I’d had to eliminate. I am still not comfortable with that fact. Yesterday, I de-glutened everything in the kitchen, and with a heavy heart, put my beloved bread machine in storage. Not easy. Especially for someone that loved baking. There are still things I need to replace in my kitchen that are irrevocably contaminated that I don’t have the money or time to replace right now. I am now reasonably safe from contamination in my own home.

I didn’t expect eating out to be so difficult, frustrating, and infuriating. I burst into tears at a Thai restaurant yesterday because I ordered something that had wheat in the sauce, knowing that just the few bites I’d taken would have dire consequences later (and I unfortunately wasn’t disappointed). It’s hard because it’s hot, and I am disinclined to cook for myself in the heat, and eating while we do our other errands is convenient. Since getting sick from contaminated diner food, I am intimately aware that a misstep that I take or the ignorance of a chef or a server could put me in serious pain. But I’m also finding support in unlikely places too! I am becoming more aware of which places may have gluten free options, and which places have entire gluten free menus. Its a lot of information to absorb. It also excludes a lot of small eateries that are my personal preference to chains, so even though there is a lot of info, it’s incomplete. I feel like someone turned the lights out on me and my eyes are adjusting to the light, and it’s taking a long time for my surroundings to be clear.

I am intimately aware that I have 5 months in which to prepare for what I call the “eating” holidays. You know the ones, the major ones that you gather with family and friends and eat until you are so full you feel like you’ll burst. An added complication is that these are my in-laws, and none of them are intimately aware of allergies in the way my family was. It makes me want to cry thinking about it. Because most of the advice I have gotten is along the lines of eating before I go–which defeats the point of going, bringing your own food (rude), or trying to impress the seriousness of the situation to people that will likely not “get” it and risk being ill for a good meal, or worse–not going at all.  None of these options are great ones. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I have time to figure it out.

One step at a time, like everything else so far.



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Trendiness and Diets

Posted by Obake on Jul 8, 2011 in Ranting

In my previous post I covered how I felt about being a fat celiac, and now its time to cover more ground on the topic of celiac as a trendy “diet”. It has been the trend for people without sensitivities/allergies to wheat to go on a gluten free diet for the purpose of losing weight. Besides the fact that diets don’t work long term, and all that jazz, I kind of resent these people.

Sure, it means that gluten free options are more widely available, and more people are aware that it exists at all, and for that I am thankful. However, because it’s trendy, it means that even though we have increased visibility, it also means that we are taken less seriously. Because those people for whom it isn’t a dietary restriction, they can stop at any time, and a minute amount of gluten, say, from a contaminated grill, is unlikely to hurt them. It’s easy for the public to take this into stride that it is just another diet, and act accordingly, not knowing perhaps that it could hurt someone. And it WILL hurt someone. It is hard enough to navigate eating out without this added complication. It’s hard to explain to friends and family how important it is if they think of it as a “diet”. Diets can be dropped. This cannot be stopped, ever.

Eating gluten for me personally means a resurgence of symptoms and physical damage to my intestines. I will pay for it if someone makes the assumption that this is a diet, and not a very real dietary restriction. To me, this is serious. To all of us this is serious. It would be like saying to a diabetic that they should just have a piece of cherry pie, despite the fact that it could seriously hurt them in the form of increased blood sugar. It’s that kind of restriction. But its not treated like it.

Then there is the whole other matter of companies jumping on the gluten free bandwagon because….its trendy and will make them money. I feel like they take advantage of people by doing this. Especially since pretty much any gluten free processed food is already very expensive. But really where it hits home is Gluten Free Bisquick. I’ll be making a post about flour later, but what I want to point out here, and what Glügle pointed out is that it’s expensive compared to the alternative mixes per ounce.

Ever seen gluten free bread? Bagels? Any bakery item? Note how expensive these things are, and how little you get. And no, it isn’t because the flours are more expensive. It has everything to do with profit. Those things don’t taste as good as what they’re trying to mimic either, to add insult to injury. I am encountering a lot of this deliberate price gouging because a lot of these companies realize that we don’t have many choices to begin with, which means its more likely we’d be willing to pay their price for it. Especially because some of these foods are the only gluten free processed food available to some people and they have no choices. We are creatures of habit, and not all of us have the time to dedicate to cooking for ourselves, and like vultures they sink their claws into us for it.

So we are at an awkward crossroads between having more options than ever before, yet being taken less seriously as a result.

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The Tale of the Fat Celiac

Posted by Obake on Jul 7, 2011 in Advice/Tips, Fat Acceptance, Ranting

The first thing that some people think of when they think of someone who has Celiac Disease is that of a thin, malnourished waif. The very thing I am not, and likely will never be. I am not afraid to say that I am 5′ 4″ tall, and I weigh about 230 lbs. To everyone ever, that is considered obese. You want to know something? I don’t care. And you shouldn’t either. About my weight, or yours.

“Oh!” You think, “Don’t you care about your health?”. And yes, of course I do. Go on, click that link and be prepared to challenge all you think you know about being fat. Knowledge is power  here, and the truth is that you’ve been lied to about fat and dieting. For money of course. And I need to talk about that briefly before I move on. You see, I bought into it too, and it’s really hard not to buy into the line that if you aren’t model-thin, you are fat. And the diet industry takes advantage of that vulnerability.

The human relationship with food and the way the American food system works in particular interest me. I suppose it all started with the book Fast Food Nation  by Eric Schlosser, and what I read in that book made me question the way that we eat, and what we might be doing to ourselves. It was enough to put me off fast food for a long time, and even now its something that was only occasionally indulged in, though now I can’t do it at all. I don’t miss it that much, beyond the convenience. My interests led me to watch Supersize Me by Morgan Spurlock, and Food Inc, and many other documentaries that examine our relationship with food and how we obtain/manufacture it.

It followed that someday I would have come across this particular book on my own, but a friend beat me to the punch. She recommended Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon. And what I read changed my world. A study of weight that involved actual science? And came up with a conclusion that jibed with many other studies as well. I had no idea. Of course I didn’t. It is the dirty little secret of the diet industry: diets don’t work. You know that, back in the corner of your mind probably, or at least suspected it. I did too. But we want to hope that we can somehow be someone else, instead of learning to love ourselves. That is the human condition really, we all want to be someone else. It just happens that the societal expectation is thin, so we think “boy, I’d love to be thin!”. But you can’t if you weren’t thin to begin with.

The whole concept of fat acceptance, that it was ok to be fat, was alien to me. It went against everything I thought I knew. But I like science. Real science, not the kind of corporate shill that cheats to get a result. And the proof was right there in front of me. I am a big one for experiments, though its sometimes to my own detriment. But this opened a world of possibility. I could be healthy and fat? Such a concept was an awesome one.

Back to fat celiac. You know why a bunch of people don’t get diagnosed? Because they’re fat. Even though if you damage your intestines, you are essentially damaging your ability to digest food, which leads to your body thinking its starving (because it IS)….which leads to you gaining weight. So, I for a long time put off going to the doctor or even bringing up the possibility, because I thought incorrectly that because I was fat, I could not be celiac. Then I was amazed when going off gluten resulted in feeling better. Which results in me being healthier. But I’m still fat. I have lost some weight, though who knows how much, because I don’t own a scale and don’t have a desire to own one (I only get weighed when I go to the doctor). I have lost weight because my body is no longer scrabbling for nutrients. But that’s not why I did it, my goal was not to lose weight. If it happened, fine, if not, fine. But I AM healthier, and that’s what matters to me.

Healthy and fat.

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Coming off of Hiatus and Celiac

Posted by Obake on Jul 6, 2011 in Ranting

Image by: Kimchaney

I am very sorry for the hiatus. I didn’t have a computer to myself for nearly a year. Then I lost interest in blogging for a while, and was a bit shy to continue this after such a long hiatus. Then something changed everything.

I got very sick with what I thought was food poisoning. And didn’t recover. For two months I suffered through constant gastrointestinal upset, gas, brain fog, and pelvic cramps. No matter what I ate it was the same thing, over and over with no relief. That may not seem like much, but I’d suspected Celiac or a wheat allergy for a long time, because I have a genetic predisposition for both. When I went to the doctor, she confirmed that my suspicion had weight to it. But, after tests, nothing came out abnormal enough to cause concern. Around that time, I developed extremely itchy hives and was miserable along with everything that had happened, with no answers to why. The next step was a gastroenterologist, and I couldn’t afford the expense of a biopsy on top of all the tests that were taken to come up with “normal” when I was very clearly sick. The itching was the last straw. I had intended to wait till I had reviewed the blood results, but I was driven beyond the edge of my tolerance.

So I went gluten free immediately. And within a week, everything that had plagued me for months (or years in the example of some symptoms) cleared. I was amazed by this. Then I was accidentally “glutened” and suffered for about a day straight, with guts that felt like I’d ingested acid. That was proof enough for me. Celiac or Wheat Allergy, the improvement was undeniable. If I didn’t have that proof, I would not at all have stuck with it. But it was very clear to me that wheat was making me sick, and I’ve never felt so good. Good in ways that are awkward and hard to describe, because I have no reference, good in ways I’ve never felt before.

I am not doing it because its trendy, or to lose weight, or because I want the holy grail of health, or the hundreds of things that we are pressured into wanting. This is not a diet. I am not doing this to be special, and honestly the whole thing is rather triggery for me for reasons I don’t really want to go into for this post. I am happy with the fact that it was this simple. I don’t need the doctor’s official diagnosis, and its not anyone’s business. I have read that over 90% of Celiac patients never get diagnosed. That’s huge. And it really said to me: Either you take the plunge and see if it helps you feel better, or you’ll continue to suffer while doctors fumble for an “official” diagnosis you may never get. I chose not to suffer. I figured, if it didn’t help me, then I would go back and let them poke me and prod me some more, but if it did, I had my answer. I was right. I trusted my body to give me the answer and got it.

Yes, I know that Celiac and Wheat Allergy are functionally different, but the end treatment is the the same: Stay off wheat. Ultimately, for me personally, its irrelevant. I will refer to myself using either term, because they’re interchangeable to me. The only people the difference really means something is a doctor. And even then, only in diagnosis. I don’t know that knowing for sure which it is would really change anything for me honestly.

I deleted all but my curry post, which is gluten free and I am starting over. I am keeping the name, because honestly making baked goods that are gluten free is a little bit like magic to me right now. Its baking alchemy. This will become my blog for talking out my journey, sharing my experiences, recipes, that sort of thing, where I rant about what annoys me about it. It will be everything I was afraid to do before, because I didn’t want to face it. So welcome back to Creating Magic Muffins!


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