Resolutions

It’s been an entire year since my last post…yikes! For the past year, I’ve been letting life get in the way, and haven’t focused on what’s the most important to me. This year, my only resolution was to put myself first. No specific parameters, just making a conscious decision to prioritize my own goals.

Like last year, my husband and I are doing another Whole 30 Challenge. Last year’s went so well, that we continued eating Whole 30 a few days a week, and did a mid-year challenge last year as well (without cutting out alcohol :)). With so many events planned for January, we decided to do this year’s challenge in February.

So here we are at Day 1! I would’ve prepped some yesterday, but I was glutened by an unknown source. Frustrating as it was, all I could do all day was sleep. This morning, I was determined not to miss our first day. I pan fried a mix of yukon gold and sweet potatoes, fried brown eggs, and had my first cup of coffee. I’ve actually been drinking it black since our first Whole 30 Challenge, so I’m already ahead of the game!

After finishing breakfast, I started chopping veggies to make a quick salad lunch, complete with applesauce and fruit sides.

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Salad: Tuna, romaine lettuce, spinach, chopped carrots, celery, cucumber, olive oil, vinegar, and spices (salt, pepper, cumin) Sides: Applesauce with blueberries, blackberries, almonds, and cinnamon; Clementine

Mid-morning, I reached out to my Whole 30 group for dinner ideas. Hubby and I had picked up okra over the weekend, and I had no idea what to do with it. Thank god for southern friends! One of my best running buddies suggested Jambalaya, and it was exactly what we needed on a rainy day. After picking up the final ingredients on my way home, I gave my first batch a shot. No rice? No problem! We riced a head of cauliflower with Cajun spices to go with the Jambalaya. Trust me on this one…this recipe is super easy, and truly can’t be screwed up! Even if you aren’t a seasoned chef, give it a go 🙂

Whole 30 Jambalaya

1 lb Cajun Andouille Sausage, sliced
1 lb frozen uncooked shrimp (buy the peeled and deveined to save some time)
20 fresh whole okra, sliced
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cans of diced tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small can of green chiles
1 carton of chicken broth (make sure it’s compliant!)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder

  1. Add the sausage, okra, peppers, and onion to a large pot.
  2. Add the cans of diced tomatoes and green chiles, do not drain anything! Make sure everything from the can gets into the pot.
  3. Stir in the carton of chicken broth, adding in the minced garlic, and all seasonings as you stir.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the temperature to simmer for at least one hour.
  5. 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve, add in the frozen shrimp. Jambalaya will be ready when the shrimp are pink!
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Whole 30 Jambalaya and Riced Cauliflower (seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, and chipotle pepper)

Here’s to a successful start to our 2016 Whole 30 Challenge!! Bon Appetite 🙂

My Celiac Running Crew

Learning to live with celiac disease can be both challenging and frustrating, especially if you don’t have a great support group.  I totally lucked out, and hit the support group jackpot!  My sister introduced me to two of her friends that both have celiac disease, Liz and Amanda.  Though I had only met them a few times, I reconnected with Liz (her blog here) at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk.  I hadn’t been running seriously in years, but really wanted to get back into now that I felt my celiac disease was under control.  To refocus my running, Liz talked me into training with Team in Training (TNT), which supports the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Although we didn’t always make it to the team runs, we put together a great group of girls that get together on the weekends for training and fun runs!  The best part is, four of us are living with celiac disease!  These runs have become something I truly look forward to on a weekly basis.  We gripe about the latest frustration or glutening (glutening explained here), talk about local restaurants that can safely prepare gluten free foods, and gush about new recipes we’ve found.  There is nothing better than a fifteen mile training run spent catching up with other celiacs that “get it,” and yes, I said fifteen miles (Liz’s blog about our run)!!

Thanks to the support of these girls, I am happy to say I finished my fourth half marathon last weekend.  I ran the Nike Women’s Half in DC with my TNT team, Out for Blood (check out my race recap here).  This was the first race I’d run in over two years, and truly shows how far I’ve come since my diagnosis.  I had such a blast that I’m joining TNT again for the Marine Corps Marathon this coming fall, which will be my first ever full marathon, and has been a goal of mine for a long time now!

So what’s the tie to celiac disease with this post? I’m glad you asked… celiac disease patients with ongoing intestinal damage have a higher risk for lymphoma than those with healed intestines.  Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that begins in the lymph system, and can eventually spread to other parts of the body.  The following is an excerpt from a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“This study included more than 7,600 people with celiac disease who had follow-up intestinal biopsies six months to five years after their diagnosis, and were then followed for roughly nine years.

At the time of their follow-up biopsy, 57 percent of the patients had healed intestines while 43 percent had ongoing intestinal damage, according to the study, which was published in the Aug. 6 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Overall, the patients with celiac disease had an annual lymphoma risk of about 68 of 100,000 people, which is nearly three times higher than the general population’s risk rate of about 24 of 100,000.

Meanwhile, the annual risk for patients with ongoing intestinal damage was about 102 of 100,000 people, compared with 31.5 of 100,000 for those with healed intestines.”

That’s definitely a startling piece of information, and just one of the many risks that come along with having celiac disease.  In its 25 years, TNT has trained more than 570,000 participants for endurance sports, and investing more than $875 million in blood cancer research.  Help me declare that cancer ends with me!  Support my next run with TNT for the Marine Corps Marathon by donating to my fundraising page, linked in the TNT graphic below.

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What Not To Say

We’ve all heard them before, to continue my Celiac Awareness Month fun I decided to compile a list of what not to say to a celiac.  Feel free to add your own gripes in the comments section 🙂  Here goes!

5.  It must be so easy to eat gluten free with all the products they have out now.

– No, actually it’s not that simple.  Thanks to so much misinformation out there, it’s not a simple as it seems.  Trips to the grocery store take extra long as I continue to read all the labels before things go into my cart.  Companies don’t always stick to the same recipe, and I’ve actually caught products that are no longer safe, even though they previously had been.  Just because an item does not have gluten in its ingredients does not mean something wasn’t processed in the same facility or even on the same equipment as gluten.  To someone with celiac, those little details matter…it’s the difference between a normal day and spending the night on the bathroom floor!

4.  I could not survive without bread, that must be so hard.

– Is it hard for you to buckle your seat belt?  What about crossing a busy street without looking?  Would you drink twice your weight in alcohol?  NO! Of course not!  These things are seriously unsafe, unhealthy, and could possibly KILL you!  Gluten has a very serious affect on my personal well being, and if that means I can’t eat certain things then so be it.  I’d much rather be healthy and adapt to the restrictions.  If I want bread, pasta, or beer I have options.  There are plenty of products out there that allow me to enjoy the typical gluten filled food that I miss, and ways of making things like bread or pizza dough on my own.  Do I still have days that I miss being able to eat without thinking, I’d be lying if I said I don’t.  But that does not mean I feel my life is hard, or that I can’t handle it.

3. Oh you’re gluten free, I tried that diet once.

– How many times do we have to explain that this is not a diet?  A dietary restriction due to an actual medical condition, yes.  This is not some Hollywood fad diet like the Master Cleanse, South Beach, Atkins, Cabbage Soup, or so many other ridiculous trends that come and go.  Please stop referring to gluten free as a diet, for celiacs gluten free is far from a conscious choice!

2. Well it’s not that bad is it?  Just a little gluten is ok, right?

– No, a little gluten is not ok.  In fact, the risk of cross contamination stresses me out more than the risk of actually gluten.  It hides everywhere, and a shared kitchen can be a nightmare for me.  Think of gluten as arsenic.  If just a little smidge got into your dinner, would you eat it?  Before you go off about bacteria and whatnot in food, please let me stop you and refer you to my page What is Celiac?  pay close attention to the long term health effects, and what undiagnosed or untreated celiac can lead to.  Even the smallest amounts can trigger reactions both visible, and not.  Personally, I don’t want anything listed on that page…so even the littlest bit of gluten is not welcome on my plate!

Drum-roll please…the number 1 worst thing to say to a celiac is….

1. So what can you eat?

– For the love of god please stop saying this to us! I can eat just about anything if it came from an animal, is a fruit or vegetable.  What do I eat? Steak dinners, with mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli.  I have bagels in the morning (thank you Udi’s!), make pizza on a semi regular occasion, and thanks to my bread machine, I can have sandwiches whenever I want.  I enjoy grilling out in the warm weather…chicken, kabobs, hot dogs, burgers.  My favorite sides are anything from roasted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli to my summertime favorite of corn on the cob.  Don’t pity me, I eat very well thank you very much!

Last nights dinner: Brown rice pasta, ground turkey, tomato sauce, veggies, and Udi’s french baguette.

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Dropping the Allergy

I’ve had celiac disease for nearly three years now.  It’s been a long and sometimes very challenging road, but I am healthy and feeling great!  Over the years, I’ve gone through my fair share of hiccups…some making me swear off half the restaurants and fast food joints I know.  But I’m learning to live with the disease, and learning to live my life despite the restrictions it places in my path.  Recently I was out to dinner with a group and the most liberating words came out of my mouth…”I have celiac disease.”  I went on to explain the full story, I can’t eat gluten, I’m very sensitive to cross-contamination, please be sure to check with the chef.  For the past three years, I’ve had a habit of telling restaurants that I have a gluten allergy.  You and I both know that’s not the case, but allergies are taken seriously, and my health is not something worth risking.

Telling places and people that I have an allergy has started to bother me though, I’m doing myself and everyone a disservice by not telling them the truth.  My friends and family may know that I have celiac disease, but there are so many people that still don’t know what that is.  The month of May is celiac disease awareness month, so I’m making it my mission to never again tell that little white lie about my condition.  I have celiac disease.  I’ve been living with it for three years.  Ask me about it and I’d be happy to share my story with you!  If we can’t talk about it honestly ourselves, how can we expect others to understand?  Join me in promising to tell restaurants, servers and chefs from this point forward, “I have celiac disease!”

Simple Pleasures?…Maybe Not!

The 12 year old version of me cried last night.  What used to be such a simple pleasure, has unfortunately become another victim of celiac disease.  After dinner, my husband and I had an unshakeable craving for ice cream.  You know, the delicious kind that comes with a few different flavors and toppings, and is served to you without any of your own hard work.  Let’s be honest, there really isn’t any other kind!

So why is this such a big deal as a celiac you ask?  Because that meant we had to start googling.  First we searched for our options in the area.  Unfortunately we didn’t have too many local choices, but Baskin Robbins nearby looked promising.  Then began the search for whether or not I could eat some of their flavors…and that’s where my 12 year old self got incredibly disappointed.

Think back to the last time you had ice cream from a specialty shop…you request a couple flavors, so does the person in front of you.  The workers grab a scoop from a bowl of water and start to pack it all in.  Did the person in front of you get a cone?  Did they order chocolate chip cookie dough?  Was the same scoop used after they touched the cookie dough, and presumably bumped the cone as well?  Let’s not forget the toppings, all crowded close together in small bins on a buffet…where do they keep the cookie crumbs? Or the candy bars? Are they close to the chocolate fudge or fresh fruit you were planning to add to your ice cream cup?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All of it, that’s right, every last flavor and topping is at HIGH risk for cross contamination.  And in my world, any risk is too high to chance 😦

There was a bit of a silver lining, we were able to scan a couple different flavors of Edy’s ice cream that were safe for me at the grocery store.  In the comfort of my own home, I knew the ice cream scoop was safe to use, and nothing had been crossed in the fresh tubs of ice cream.  These are the things each of us battle every day as we deal with celiac disease.  It’s so much more than no beer, pasta, or bread.  It affects even the smallest decisions and the simplest pleasures of our lives.

Open Letter to Resaurants

Majority of the time, I try to bring a lunch to work so I don’t have to deal with the hassle of eating out.  Life happens though, and sometimes I have no other option than running out in search of food near my office.  I have a hard time finding places I trust, instantly cringing anytime I see a restaurant that has bins of ingredients lined up, an instant concern for cross contamination.  But seeing a place that has so many signs about requesting gluten-free gives me hope that I can give somewhere a shot.  I always begin my order by courteously requesting that my server change their gloves, explaining that I am “severely allergic” to gluten.  So why then today, after watching the server carefully take off his gloves, wash his hands and arms, and putting on new gloves would the server then hand my food off to the next person in the chain?  Before I had caught up with my food it had already been contaminated!  Seething as I watched my gluten-free salad poured onto another workers stale gloves to be chopped, I explained the situation and they tossed out my first round of food.  As that server then began to clean his hands, another server attempted to make salad round two for me.  Now explain to me why on earth, after two servers have washed their hands and changed their gloves for me, would a THIRD begin making my salad with OLD GLOVES?!

After throwing out two salads that had been contaminated, I finally had one made by a single person with fresh gloves, but it made me think about the situation as I watched this all unfold.  Under no circumstances would it be acceptable for a server to sneeze on food and serve it to a customer.  So why then, after I’ve carefully explained my situation, do they continue to be so hasty with my food?  I am not on a fad diet, I do not eat gluten-free because it’s trendy.  I eat gluten-free because it’s the only solution to celiac disease!  And when restaurants are careless with my food the following almost always occurs within 30 minutes:

1. I am forced to leave work for the day, feeling too ill to continue.
2. I spend the next few hours curled in the fetal position on my bathroom floor, intermittently vomiting and dealing with diarrhea.
3. I lose all energy, and sleep for hours.
4. I deal with lingering symptoms for the next few days.

It’s not acceptable for me to walk over and casually spray your meal with bacteria; don’t do the same to me by hastily handling my food.  When I tell you I have a severe allergy please take me seriously and know that your actions have very serious consequences to my health!