It was spring 2016, when I woke up at four in the morning, with incredible pain in my abdomen. I tossed and turned a little bit, thinking it was just another crazy dream. About an hour later, as it was progressively getting worse, I slid out of my bunk bed and tried to stand up. Once my feet hit the ground, I doubled over: my upper right quadrant throbbing, as though it was being stabbed.
Hobbling over to my bathroom, I studied myself in the mirror for a moment and was horrified to see a pale complexion decorated with beads of sweat. Closing, then sitting on the toilet seat, I mentally reviewed all the possibilities that could have contributed to this searing pain.
What’s wrong with me?
Food poisoning? I didn’t have any dinner. PMS? I just had my cycle. Gas? From what? Pulled muscle? Maybe. I grabbed a foam roller and applied the area of pain to it, and nearly screamed at the contact. Nope, it definitely was not that.
Getting back in bed, I reasoned time would pass, and I would get up for class. Shortly after, I came to the conclusion that I would not make it in this condition. Doubled over, I once more got out of bed and crawled to my parents’ room. Panicking, my mother prescribed some ibuprofen and the pain soon subsided.
What I soon found out was that what I’d experienced was the first of many gallbladder attacks. So, in an attempt to ensure it would never happen again, I began to monitor my diet carefully. Fat? No, it makes me sick. Dairy? No, it makes me sick. Soy? Nope, it makes me sick. Wheat/Gluten? Nope, it makes me sick. Rice? Same as others. Corn? Not.
For a while, it worked. I dropped weight at a rapid pace, and I stopped feeling pain, both of which I didn’t mind. But I couldn’t live like that forever. So, a week after my birthday, my gallbladder was removed.
The doctor told my mother he’d never seen a gallbladder that inflamed. I felt better, but I was still afraid of food. I was terrified, actually. What scared me, even more, was that I was putting weight back on. So as soon as I got the okay from the doctor, I immediately resumed working out to try and combat it
I was eating properly by the end of the year, and incorporated many things back into my diet, except for dairy and gluten/wheat. I had more energy, my drive was coming back, but nobody in my family had severe food allergies like me.
Family Reunions were full of foods packed with gluten, dairy, an abundance of fat: everything I couldn’t have. Potlucks I began to realize, were chock full of the favorites I couldn’t consume, so I just avoided them. I would find an empty room and sit there and fast while my family would get food and socialize.
Traveling became a nightmare. Restaurants hardly have accommodations for vegans, let alone people with a gluten/wheat allergy. Professional dinners and banquets seldom have options for people with dietary restrictions; on top of that, I was rarely happy. Food is culture, in itself a love language. Food is friends, and it is socialization; activities are centered around food.
To reject the gesture is to deny the person. Individuals have picked on and mocked my lifestyle as though I choose this out of fun, or to lose weight when that could not be further from the truth. Every summer, life gets one thousand times more frustrating, and although it has only been twenty-two months since I have adopted this lifestyle, here are five tips/ways to survive this summer, not only gluten-free but also being vegan.
Meal prepping has been such a lifesaver. So what? Options may be low, but because it is mostly from scratch, taking twenty minutes to an hour to plan and prepare meals for the week saves so much extra time during the week. For example, Bob’s Red Mill has gluten-free instant oats that can be prepared in literally three minutes. Buying about five of them for the work week eliminates the worry of what to eat when rushing out the door.
Not interesting enough? Add dates, nuts, berries, and/or cinnamon to spice to up. Find Out What You Can Eat At an event? Don’t completely abandon the refreshments table, or dodge the dinner. Walk down the line, do they have any options for people with food allergies?
If not, is the salad, okay? What can be added to the salad that will be satiating? Ask the caterers or waiters questions about the food if need be. Never be embarrassed to inquire about the preparation of food, you might find out there is something that’s okay.
Don’t Be Afraid of Trying Alternatives
Love cake but haven’t had it in ages? Go to the store and find a box cake mix, or a prepared one. It just might suit your fancy (or it could be grotesque). Either way, you are one step closer to being reunited with a childhood favorite. These days, there are gluten-free versions of practically everything. Cookies, crackers, bread, cheesecake, French toast, waffles, pancakes, muffins, burritos, etc. Everything.
Discover and Enjoy Activities that aren’t centered around food
Everything does not have to be about food. My sister and I used to love cooking together, but after I stopped eating gluten, that quickly flew out the window. Instead, we started working out together. It is possible to spend quality time with family and friends without fast food being the center.
Shopping for clothes/shoes, or going to a concert, for example, are great ways of hanging out without awkward moments, or not being able to find “safe” foods. Educate Your Family and Friends Have an honest conversation with your loved ones.
Let them know about your allergies and the reactions you could get. Once they understand that you are not blatantly rejecting them, they will more than likely be supportive of you and the lifestyle. Give them recipes, or offer to bring side dishes to events. Just because you may be the only person with those problems, does not mean you will automatically be the outcast.
My Life Today
So I got my life back. I am now the healthiest I have ever been, the strongest, and have gained a new level of maturity. In no way have I learned everything there is to know and learn, but I have come a long way. I eat only when I am hungry and have prepared dishes for my family that was vegan and gluten-free.
Traveling has gotten better. I found a pizza place that has gluten-free options. My family knows what to look for when shopping and the dos and don’ts of food preparation. Yes, food is still a love language, culture, and how we socialize, but it is not emotional for me anymore. I eat to live, not live to eat.