Getting Glutened

Lots of jellybeans from Celiac Disease Foundation | Practicing Persistence

I spend so much time warning gluten-sensitive and allergic people about all of the secret places that gluten can hide, and I know I’m not super-sensitive to it myself; but nothing protected me from gluten-ing myself last night. Yes, I got gluten-ed, and I’ve got tons of pain to show for it.

How, you might ask, did this happen?

As I’ve mentioned, I’m most assuredly gluten-free nowadays, but I do indulge in gluten-free treats on occasion. Some of these have been candy. Once in a blue moon, I’ll enjoy a snack size Three Musketeers bar or a Snickers. Delicious. And in my experience, I’ve found that most sugar-heavy candies (the ones without dairy/nuts/extras) are also gluten-free.

So I must have assumed that this particular treat was gluten-free when I bought it. It’s full of rainbow colored sugar and was fun to eat. I won’t mention it here, because the moral of the story is important: always read the packaging.

I actually ate it because I had a cough and I’ve been banned from cough drops by my dentist, so I thought eating a sour candy might help me produce more saliva and make my throat hurt less.

Of course the irony was that an hour later, I glanced at the packaging and started cursing myself. Within about three hours, I was in pain. So much pain. Waves of it, off and on, for hours.

Today, the pain has lessened a lot, so I’m hoping the worst has past. In the past, my gluten meter went off clearly within 25-30 minutes, so maybe this was less gluten than last time? And perhaps that means the effects won’t last a full week like last time?

I’m sharing this to show that we all make mistakes. We can never, ever assume, even if we’ve eaten a food before. Recipes change, people make mistakes. Always, always, always read the package.

Here’s hoping you have a pain-free week!

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Slow and Steady

They say that slow and steady wins the race, right? Well my slow and steady race to health has been paved by some frustrations and some mental fatigue, but I’m still in it to win it!

This past summer, I worked on the Outer Banks, living on the beach with my husband as recreation directors of a campground. It was a fantastic job and the community of people we worked with and lived beside couldn’t be beat. We were also privy to some delicious potlucks and amazing seafood, as well as a weekly hot dog lunch and ice cream. After successfully introducing almonds and all spices, I wanted to be able to eat socially again. So I decided as long as I kept it gluten-free, I could try to be flexible once or twice a week. At first I didn’t stop re-introductions; I just kept a great journal and knew to be mindful. The reality is that if I eat something once in a week, I rarely react to it, as long as there’s no gluten involved.

But by the end of the summer, I had an incident that has frustrated me in my food adventures, and I still haven’t quite recovered. At the end of a week of potato reintroductions (which I thought were going well), I walked on the beach, barefoot, for the first time in a long time. I pulled a muscle in my feet in a way that made any walking painful. And instead of taking a few days to get over like it usually would, it took weeks. My daily beach walks (in sneakers) were replaced by slow strolls on the pavement, if that. And while my first realization was that I must be sensitive to potato, when it took many months and my muscles STILL hadn’t fully recovered (my feet did, but I’ve still got unexplained tension in my shoulders and such that I’d previously lost with my diet changes), I started wondering if it was the cheating or if it was something else.

So I stopped worrying about it for a while. I’m eating gluten-free, and I’m limiting potatoes and corn and anything else I haven’t re-introduced formally yet. And I’m trying to work up the mental and physical energy for more reintroductions.

When we hit the road again, leaving Florida, I may decide to try another reintroduction. I know I need to do more. I’d like to limit my cheats more this year. But food freedom is tough to navigate, especially when I still feel pretty great overall. I’ve gotten new meds for suspected Sjogren’s from my rheumatologist, but I haven’t started them yet. I’m told they’ll make me sweat. We shall see.

In better news, I’ve been doing well with maintaining my cardio and my weights haven’t been to shabby. I’ve also been doing an excellent job of eating organ meat at least a few times a week. (Publix is a wonderful source, and organ meat is so cheap!) So I have lots to be proud of. I’m hoping to integrate more meditation this year as well, and I’ve set some ambitious work goals I hope to achieve.

Did you set any resolutions this year? It isn’t too late! I’d love to hear what you’re doing to improve your health.

Cheating and Erin McKenna’s Bakery 

One of the things I continue to struggle with in my journey to health is the feeling of being torn between strictly following the AIP (auto-immune protocol), which overall has me feeling MUCH healthier than I used to, and the desire to be “normal” and indulge in a treat or a meal out. When you have food allergies and restrictions, any time you don’t prepare the meal yourself there is a risk of cross-contamination or mistakes…and if you add in ingredients that aren’t on your diet technically – AKA a “cheat” in my world – the risk to your health continues to increase further. Of course the flip side of the coin is that every time you stress out about having to obsessively plan and pack your meals, or have to turn down a tasty homemade treat or meal, your stress level, at least if you’re me, goes up. That affects your health negatively. It’s hard to feel satisfied with eating at home 100% of the time, especially when food is such a social thing in our culture. 

So I’ve been navigating this a lot lately. And my response varies day to day, frankly. Although I was initially 100% strictly following my diet, I enjoy allowing myself a little leniency now and then. I can afford to do this in a smart way, and your mileage will vary. The key is to keep a food journal, limit cheats so that you can track exactly what effect they have on your body, and exhibit self-control. I also recommend you try to keep cheats out of the house whenever possible. I have yet to purchase gluten-free bread for the house, for example, but I’ve had a cookie or pancake outside the house with no reaction. That way I’m not cheating daily and can keep there overall integrity of my diet. 

My husband and I are extremely lucky to be new Florida residents (and full-time travelers) which allows us to have inexpensive Disney World passes. These passes do have blackout dates, so occasionally we get our Disney fix at Disney Springs, a shopping and recreation center with free parking near the parks. 

Yesterday we stumbled on a bakery that opened recently, and I seriously thought I must be dreaming. Erin McKenna’s Bakery is from NYC but now had a beautiful, small Orlando location. The sign outside said their food is dairy free, egg free, soy free, gluten free and certified kosher! It’s vegan too. Plus, the only “nut” they use is coconut!!! For me, that means this is the most “on plan” bakery I can imagine. 

Although some of these treats probably have seeds (a low level reintro for me that I haven’t completed yet), and they have more sugar than I need of course, otherwise I’m unlikely to be cheating at all. So of course I had to stop in with my husband. 

Their menu is almost entirely sweet treats. They do carry soft serve ice cream (I didn’t ask what it’s made of) and they have a few flavors of bagels. But the reason to go here is for the goodies, as far as I can tell. Their offerings included tea cakes, cupcakes, cupcake tops, frosting shots, at least six kinds of donuts, cookie cake, brownie treats and bites, and much more. 

I limited myself (and my husband, who agreed to help) to three treats. Amazingly they accepted our annual pass for a discount, so I paid less than $9 with tax. I went with a cookies and cream donut, a vanilla sprinkles donut (can you tell I’ve been obsessively craving donuts?) and a blondie cupcake with raspberry icing and jam and cookie crumbles. Everything was seriously amazing. The donuts are cakey but very moist throughout, and the frosting on the cupcake top was almost fudge-like. The donuts also weren’t super-sweet which I really appreciated. Also, Mark Bittman at the New York Times has declared these the best donuts anywhere!

My husband, who basically eats anything, agreed he’d happily go back here for a treat, especially a cupcake or cupcake top. This is my new favorite donut place and I can’t wait to try their other flavors!

I can’t recommend them more highly. Find them in NYC, Los Angeles or the next time you’re in Orlando. Or if you’re in the U.S., order a treat online! 

How do you navigate cheats in your meal plans? I’ll be exploring this more in upcoming posts. For me, gluten is a never again, but everything is a conversation right now. 

Thanks for reading!