Wellness Warriors

As I continue to maneuver this blog into a wellness/holistic direction, I’m so terribly excited to present the first in a series of interviews I’ve had with some spectacular people from all over the globe. Thanks to the fantastic Sarah Von Bargen at yesandyes.org  and her “Network of Nice”, I’ve had so many wonderful emails from people who would like to talk about their major health/lifestyle changes.

I first corresponded with the knowledgeable Sarah M. about her life with Celiac Disease. Sarah is in the process of creating a children’s book review blog, so I really appreciated her taking time away from that project, her own blog and her family to talk to me.

How difficult was it to make the change to accommodate your Celiac Disease?

Sarah:  Changing one’s diet after a lifetime of eating the S.A.D. (standard American diet—how ironic) was brutally hard and frustrating. I’m a tough person with a ‘just get it done’ attitude, but at first it seems like you can’t eat anything. Everyone says to focus on what you can eat, but when you just want some delicious bakery bread along with your meal, it feels like you have to do without–all the time. When I was diagnosed there were very few options. That was eight years ago. Gluten-free food is everywhere now, with quite a few restaurants even having gluten free menus. Going out to eat or going to any type of event or function was the most difficult because gluten is in everything. Except salad. I love salad and I get them often, but I really don’t want to be told I *have* to eat a salad any time I go out. It takes the fun out of it!

Is it easier to have a gluten-free lifestyle today, rather than when you were first diagnosed? How So?

Sarah: Nowadays it is so much easier to have a gluten-free lifestyle, mostly because of how much press it’s been getting over the last 1-2 years. So many companies are recognizing it and jumping on the GF bandwagon. That makes more competition in food, and prices can go down (gluten free food is very expensive!), and restaurants and bakeries that have GF options WILL get loyal customers from the gluten-free crowd! I think the main thing that has been easier for me now, is just that there are more options at grocery stores and the food is getting much better tasting. For example, I have had so many ‘bad’ experiments with homemade gluten free bread, that it’s just something I want to buy. I buy Rudi’s (not to be confused with other GF brand, Udi’s) and it tastes like normal bread to me. That wasn’t available in my area even 2 years ago! Other stuff tastes like cardboard, gets moldy extremely quickly (gluten is also in preservatives/stabilizers for shelf life), or just tastes like eggs. It was disheartening. Now there are brands and products worth my money.

How do you handle people who think being gluten-free is “just a fad”?

Sarah:  I actually have never met someone who thought my gluten-free diet was a fad. I suppose because I’ve had it so long and most people who know me know it’s because I can’t (not that I just don’t want to!) and I’ll get really sick if I do. I think that would probably be something that might come up now just because there are a lot of people who aren’t diagnosed celiac, but choose to eat gluten free because they want to try it or they see some health benefit. I have known many people who try it–even for 30 days– and say they feel better. I guess if I ever encountered someone who was potentially giving me a hard time, I’d just ignore it. I don’t have time for that!

What tips/hints/awesome recipes can you share?

Sarah: My best piece of gluten free advice is make everything (bake, cook, etc.) just like you would regularly, but substitute a MIX of gluten free flours for a 1:1 substitution. For example, I use a mix of Bob’s GF flours and have it in a big container. Whenever I am baking, I use that flour mixture  instead of any ‘wheat’ or ‘all purpose’ flour mentioned in a recipe. This has worked time and time again. I’ve tried specifically gluten free recipes, and you know…they just don’t taste like you expect them to. They’re worse. This way, you don’t have to get rid of your cookbooks, you can swap recipes with friends, and it’s easy as gathering everything (flour mixes) into a bag, and putting it in a canister ready for use. Restaurants can be tricky but don’t be afraid to ask about anything! Generally* speaking, Mexican, burgers + fry joints (get them lettuce wrapped), and Asian restaurants are easiest to eat at in my experience. Pizza places and Italian being the hardest. There are many pizza places that are now doing gluten free pizzas, but be prepared to pay much more. There is nothing more depressing than going out with friends and you get stuck with a lame salad (again) and they are all eating delicious pizza. Speak up and suggest [another equally good and gf sensitive] place that you can all be happy at. But no, don’t expect anyone to make you an individual gluten free cake at the wedding you’re attending, either. That would be unrealistic.

I hated the advice “think of what you can eat!” because it’s like a fake compliment– when you really do have to cut out an entire food group, including French pastries, homemade noodles, and birthday cake. It has really forced me to eat healthier and in that I have discovered such things as CSA membership (I’ve done that for years now) and the processes of cooking, baking, and making food for others. Also: if you get invited to an intimate dinner party (like, 8 people or less, not a crowd), TELL the hosts that you have a gluten sensitivity. I’ve learned that the hard way. I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and paid for it with a host who was upset (I could eat nothing…except a side salad..again!), and a very hungry stomach, not to mention the jealousy of watching my friends eat while I picked at my sparse plate. If you feel this might be stepping on someone’s toes, offer to bring your own dish (or dessert) for everyone that you make gluten free.

Sarah, it was an absolute pleasure to bring your insight to my readers and good luck on the new blog! You can check out Sarah’s “family blog” at http://ssmast.blogspot.com

credit: shorts and longs via Flickr Creative Commons

credit: shorts and longs via Flickr Creative Commons

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