Tips & Tricks

Eating Out When You Aren’t Actually Eating

Being home for winter break has given me ample opportunity to discover how to eat both at home with a fully equipped kitchen along with how to eat/deal with social eating situations. To put things in a straight forward fashion- you can tell if a person is a good friend to you or not, all depending on their cooperation and eagerness to help when it comes to your g-free diet. For example… a bad friend would be someone who wants to go to McDonalds for dinner not caring one bit about the fact that you can hardly even be safe ordering the french fries there, simply because they are craving McDonalds. An example of a good friend would be someone who is willing and adventurous when it comes to trying gluten free restaurants and encourages you to choose the destination for a girl’s night out. Luckily, I have only experienced the latter of these two examples which makes me thankful for having such great friends.

Lately, in getting together with my Seattle friends, I have run into occasions where I have to consider that while my diet is much more restrictive than my friends’ and I have to be understanding about their cravings. If they want cheesecake at the Cheesecake factory, I’m not about to call them bad friends because I can’t have any cheesecake myself. Times like these are moments where we have to tell ourselves that they are not getting cheesecake because they are being mean and trying to wave it in my face. They are simply human, craving some cheesecake. If you can’t tell, this is an experience I had recently. The fact that they both asked me if I was comfortable with them stopping by to get some cheesecake before they did helped my no-cheesecake-for-Julie sadness go away. I’m not saying it was easy to stand in front of that case of tempting cheesecakes including my past personal favorite Red Velvet Cheesecake. I’m just saying it makes things better when you look at it in a positive way. Think: 1. I’m being more healthy. 2. It’s totally not worth the pain that will come later. 3. Who am I to deprive my friends of cheesecake?
Prior to the Cheesecake Factory, we had gone to Red Robin since my friends hadn’t eaten dinner yet while I, being a good celiac, had eaten at home before. A lot of restaurants really don’t appreciate it when people sit with a group and don’t order anything. In fact, I’ve heard that some places don’t even let you stay in their restaurant with friends unless you order. What do you do in these situations when you are either a) not hungry from eating ahead or b)seeing no gluten free options on the menu? Well, in the case of Red Robin, I ordered a Dr. Pepper and a basket of unseasoned steak fries. I was eating gluten free while having a great time with friends and most importantly, not getting kicked out of the restaurant for not ordering anything. TIP: Eat before or bring a snack with you when going out for the night with non celiac friends seeing as spontaneous outings like this could very likely happen.
Tonight, I will be going to a thai restaurant with a couple of friends. While you can be safe with many Thai places, I have recently been “glutenized” and I don’t want to take any chances. I’m planning on just ordering some tea or a drink of some sort. It may not be my first choice, but the bottom line is this: we are social eaters. Eating and being with friends and family goes hand in hand. For celiacs, this may be a little skewed as we will all most likely have those times where we go to a restaurant and end up nursing a glass of soda all night. (All Coca Cola brands are gluten free!) While we may not be eating the same things that our friends are eating, the important thing is that you are with them, having great conversation, and putting the food issue behind you. It’s only food anyways.
Daily Life

Lesson One: Introductions.

Hello, world! My name is Julie Bourne, and I am currently a freshman in college in the (luckily) relatively gluten-free friendly city of Denver, Colorado. I grew up in Seattle, Washington, living a relatively happy childhood. But there was always some wrong with me. I never thought much of it; I always just thought I was unique in that I had a really poor immune system, and there was not much I could do about it. Whether it was stomach ache, a cold, or pink eye, there was literally constantly something the matter with me (ask any of my childhood friends, and they will agree.) Most birthday parties, school lunches, and family dinner ended with me having to lie down with awful stomach pains. This is how I lived for about 14 years of my life.

In the last couple weeks of my senior year in high school, I developed a small lump underneath my armpit (the doctors referred to it very technically as a “swollen left axilla”). Little did I know, this was the beginning of a summer full of intense emotional and physical trials for both myself and my family. As the lump got bigger and bigger and the testing done by doctors got more and more uncertain, I feared the worst: Lymphoma (cancer of the immune system). After more tests and being poked with more needles than I could count with my fingers, the doctors finally discovered that the lump was benign (thank God!!), but they still wanted to remove it surgically to test the inflamed lymph nodes more thoroughly. By June, I was lying in my hospital gown being tranquilized and put to sleep for my surgery. All went well with the surgery, but the reason for the inflammation of the node was still a confusion to the doctors.
Days after my surgery, I had plans to road trip down to San Francisco for a senior trip with some friends. I flew down on an airplane, having just finished surgery, while my friends drove down. About the second day into the trip, my stitches in my armpit fell apart, and I had to hold everything together with some medical tape and gauze (not very easy considering this part of your body is moving constantly, with constant friction.) In the end, I made it through San Francisco; a little worn for wear, but I made it and had had a really good time.
Next up on the travel itinerary was a huge family trip to Europe. We would be going to Ireland, England, France, and Spain in three weeks. I figured that I was not as healthy as I would like, but I was going to have to suck it up: it’s Europe for Pete’s sake! Ireland and England went fairly well (minus a quick trip to the hospital in London because of my armpit growing an infection). Paris is when things really went downhill. It was just me and my sister staying there in a hostel, while my parents went on to Madrid. I was starting to feel extremely run down, I was having some issues with my stomach, and I just felt like such an awful travel mate for my sister. I had absolutely no interest in doing all the touristy things that we were there for, and I felt like I was wasting the trip. But I just couldn’t make myself do it, for reasons unknown to me (little did I know all those delicious French baguettes and pastries were killing me slowly). For the most part, I enjoyed Paris, but my memories are clouded with me feeling absolutely dreadful. I was relieved to go to Spain, where we would be reunited with our parents, and we had rented an apartment complete with a washer, and stove, and my own room. Granada, Spain was my favorite location on our entire trip, but it was when my body had just about hit its’ limit. (My doctor said it is a miracle I was even able to stand, let alone climb those Granada hills that rival those in San Francisco). About the third day in Granada, I was brought some tomato gazpacho at a restaurant. After one spoonful, the beautiful garden scenery around us started to spin as a gypsy woman and an obnoxious guitar player were trying to persuade us for money. I just wanted to scream at them to go away, but seeing as that was not about to happen, I decided I had to go back to the room or I was going to faint and all these obnoxious people around us were not going to make that situation any better. My mom decided to escort me back to the room which was a treacherous path of extremely narrow and downhill roads (one wrong step and you are likely to get hit by a car coming down the road). I had walked about 20 steps when I collapsed on a bench where I started shaking like a leaf and nearly hyperventilating. I pulled myself together, and told myself I had to make it to the room. If I was going to collapse, it was not going to be in public. My mom helped me walk very slowly, being sure that I wasn’t going to fall into the path of a car or motorcycle. All I remember is that I kept asking “are we even going the right way?” and “will we be there soon?” because frankly, I was minutes away from passing out or throwing up. There was one moment when we were walking down the road and I actually started gagging- the Spaniards walking by must have been thinking that I was some silly American girl who had had a little too much to drink. We made it back to the room after what felt like 2 hours (it was only about 15 minutes). I’ll spare you too many details, but after throwing up, I felt quite a bit better, but still weak.The woman who was renting out out apartment came to my room (bless her heart!) and gave me some wheat crackers to ease my stomach.In the words of Homer Simpson, D’oh! I spent the next couple of days in bed resting, just waiting for the 12 hour or so leg back home
. Right when we got home from Europe, we scheduled a doctors appointment. Turns out I had lost a dangerous amount of weight, going from about 125 to about 110 lbs in three weeks (5 lbs a week– this is a diet I DO NOT recommend…). On top of that, I was extremely dehydrated so I had to be given liquid through an IV (they had to stab me with a needle about four different times to even get in the IV because my veins were so thin). I literally thought I was dying, and I could see the fear in my parents’ faces. It was about a week before I was going to leave for college when my mom told me that if I didn’t improve soon, I wasn’t going to be leaving for college any time soon. This crushed me, but also motivated me to do nothing but work on my health. I was on a diet of bananas, toast, and rice for several days, until we got the call from my doctor. He had tested my blood for several diseases, and on a whim he had tested me for Celiacs disease. As it turns out, I tested positive, meaning I would have to swear off anything gluten for the rest of my life (if I wanted to live).
Gluten is what makes baked goods light and fluffy, it holds and thickens sauce, and it lurks in everything from soy sauce to root beer to candy. I was upset for approximately 2 minutes but as I started to research it more, I got excited. I could eat again! I would be healthy! No more constant coughing and colds! No more stomach aches after every single meal! I wouldn’t have to fake being healthy anymore: I would be healthy for real (something I had never truly experienced). That night, we ordered an extra large gluten free pizza with all my favorite toppings from Garlic Jims (shout out to my favorite pizza place for having gf crust!), and that was the happiest I had felt the whole summer. I knew I was eating something delicious that wasn’t hurting my body. When people ask me today if I miss donuts and cupcakes and pizza, I tell them two things: 1. There are replacements for nearly everything. Kinninkinnick glazed donuts taste like the real deal, Udi’s bread is amazing with pb&j , and there are so many good gluten free cake and brownie mixes out there. Bob’s Red Mill, anyone? 2. Nothing could ever taste good enough to be worth days of pain. I don’t get tempted to eat foods with gluten because I just lost all interest in them. Seeing what it did to my body makes me cringe at it: it’s like eating poison. Anyways, now that you have read my life story (it feels good to get that all out), I made this blog because I felt like there isn’t nearly enough information online about eating gluten free when you are in college, in a new place, with a dining hall full of glutenous foods, and only access to a small microwave and mini fridge. Basically, if I can be gluten free here, I can be gluten free anywhere. I have completed one quarter of school already, and I am currently on winter break, so I will begin documenting what I eat including reviews and tips along the way. Let’s do this thing.