When Navigating a Buffet

This is my latest favorite from the always hilarious When I Went Gluten Free.

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The letter every celiac wants to write

Read more of this hilarious resignation letter at Glam Without Gluten.

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Still having symptoms after going Gluten Free?

It was hard to give up gluten containing food, but I knew it would be better for my body and stop a lot of pretty nasty symptoms. But I was still getting “glutened”, even when I thought I was careful. I have since found that my GI issues involve more than just gluten intolerance, but I was able to reduce further flare ups by following some of the same changes that Laura from Gluten Free Traveller describes in her latest post about how she is now “More Gluten Free Than Ever Before.” Her list of steps she took for further eliminate possibilities of cross contamination is worth checking against your own habits.

When a tiny amount of gluten can ruin your whole week, making these additional changes could make the difference.

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What if the celiac blood test was negative?

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Ken goes to SeaWorld (and lives!)

Eating out with any kind of food issue is always a bit stressful. Most times, you pack some emergency provisions and hope for the best. Over at Rock A Healthy Lifestyle, Ken Scheer recounts his day at SeaWorld where he did just that. But he also got some pleasant surprises.

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“Experimenting” with Gluten Free? Good for you!

According to the 20/20 program from ABC News, over 100 million people a year are on a diet. $20 billion is spent on programs, books, and drugs. The cost of Bariatric surgeries, all 220,000 of them, are also included in that number. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention report that in 2007-2008, over 34% of adults age 20 years or older were overweight and an additional 33% were obese. The numbers for children ages 6-19 show an obesity rate of over 18%.

These stats show that the problem of weight control is a serious and important one. I am one of those numbers above. Over the years, I had floated at various points on the “obese” scale. I have tried all sorts of diets; Atkins, South Beach, Protein Power, to name a few. I would get some results, and then, like clockwork, lose my motivation and go right back to 245 pounds. I am now just over 200, which puts me right in the middle of the overweight category. 40 down, 25 to go and I will actually be at a healthy weight (for the first time in over 25 years.)

Making the decision to eat gluten free was what started me on this weight loss journey. The 15 months I have been without gluten has certainly helped me lose the weight and keep it off. But it is not the sole reason for it. Eliminating gluten is not a magic bullet. The key has been something much more and it is something that anyone can use, regardless of whether they are forced to remove gluten from their diet for medical reasons. I just started eating “real food“.

Another thing I should point out is that I actually gained weight when I “transitioned” over to GF packaged foods. While premade gluten free foods are light years ahead of their cardboard tasting predecessors, they are still full of unhealthy fats and loads of sugar. Many also lack needed vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you can’t eat gluten and there isn’t fresh food available, or you are still making the transition, by all means eat the GF packaged foods. But keep working towards eating real food. Once I switched off of packaged food and sugar, the weight came off.

There is a lot of consternation in the “gluten free community” about people, especially celebrities, that declare they are eating gluten free to lose weight. “Oh, no,” we groan, “not another one.” Our quite serious medical conditions, like celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, are reduced to the equivalent of whatever wacky cookie/juice/”17 small meals a day” diets are the latest fad. I have been one of those criticising these bandwagonesque “Miley come latelys” along with the others online.

But when I think about all that I have learned in the last year or so; about how the body works, the intricate chemical reactions that occur when we eat and the ubiquity of processed foods (even among gluten free people); I can’t help but have a change of heart. Someone, famous or not, does some reading and decides that gluten might not be good for them. Does it matter if they are just trying to lose weight? Losing weight means getting to healthy. What if your weight is fine, but you think gluten is not good for you? Then don’t eat it. These kind of decisions are made all the time by people who eat meat, are vegans or only eat raw food.

There is some thinking that regardless of whether you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance/sensitivity, the quantity of gluten we eat isn’t healthy. Others dispute this. Kim and I have made a choice not to eat gluten. And, you know, if I found out tomorrow that my sensitivity was caused by something reversible and I could eat gluten again, I wouldn’t do it. As much as I dream about a “real pizza”, I simply feel better now. Why would I want to screw that up?

If you are new to gluten free, please check out our post with great resources for gluten free newcomers.

Note: I really wanted to call this entry “Leave Miley Alone!” but (wisely) decided not to.

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Gluten Free Infographics

Pure Bar made this simple and educational graphic.

Browse more infographics.

NutsOnline’s guide to gluten free flour blends.

Browse more Food infographics.

Life In Pictures

We want to thank J from iamjtheblog for including our entry in her fantastic series “Life in Pictures“. As relative newcomers to the online Gluten Free community, it is a great thing to be able to participate in an event for Celiac Awareness Month.

If you have been reading this site for a while, you already know how much I like pizza. I mean, really like pizza. Pizza.

There are a lot of things about living gluten free that make you aware of the changes that you have made in your life. You become much more aware of what you eat. Once you realize that something as necessary as food can hurt you, it’s a whole new ballgame. You pay an incredible amount of attention to it. This doesn’t make the lifestyle change any easier. There is a “mourning period” that you go through for your old life. There are so many things you need to relearn how to do when you stop eating gluten.

Personally, for the first seven months, I lived on as many “gluten free analogues” as possible. Those are the donuts and cakes and bread and cereal that has all the same bad sugar and chemicals as “normal” food, but without gluten. I didn’t lose weight, but my pain and neuro symptoms went away. Kim finally convinced me to eat healthier and now my intake of any processed food is extremely low. I have also lost weight and feel even better.

The one thing that was always my food weakness is pizza. And it still is. I will go to great lengths to find and consume GF Pizza. I have risked certain cross-contamination and the crappiest rice cracker crusts just to fulfill the desire to eat pizza. Looking back on this past year, I am somewhat taken aback by some of the places I have eaten at, just to get my pizza fix. There were some great pies, too. Made in separate kitchens with nary a hint of wheat flour. Golden, bubbly cheese atop a symptom free crust. It wasn’t a “Mamma Mia Pizzeria” special from when I was 15 or a greasy, wonderful slice from Rocco’s in Manhattan, but it did the job. Got me through another gluten free day.

Now, I like to think I am a smart guy, but I recognize that I have a weakness. I won’t eat gluten on purpose, but the previous paragraph highlights why I got so bent out of shape about the Domino’s Gluten Free (BUT NOT FOR CELIACS OR THE GLUTEN SENSITIVE) Pizza. I know the temptation. I know how to squint so hard that the dislaimer says “EAT THIS RIGHT NOW!” I won’t be trying the Domino’s pizza and, if you have any gluten issues, you should avoid it as well. The one other thing that we learn along with “food can hurt” is that “food can heal”. There is no universe where Domino’s Pizza is a healthy food.

But I understand if you are tempted.

Here is the picture that was submitted for “Life in Pictures” at iamjtheblog. Below, I have listed the sources.

From left to right, from the top:
Row 1: Chebe Pizza Mix (Homemade), Gentile’s Pasta & Pizza Cafe (Syracuse, NY), Against the Grain (Frozen)
Row 2: Keste (New York City), 575 Pizzeria (Amarillo, TX), Chebe Pizza Mix (Homemade-I have made a lot of these!)
Row 3: Mellow Mushroom (Tampa, FL), Conte’s Mushroom Florentine (Frozen), Pala (New York City)
Row 4: Against the Grain (Frozen)
Row 5: Chebe Pizza Mix (Homemade) with New Planet Gluten Free Beer, Chebe, Chebe, Great Northern Pizza (Syracuse, NY)

This is about half of the pizzas I consumed last year. A third thing you learn when you can’t eat gluten is that “one must take pictures of food for the blog.”

I’d love to hear what you think about this and if you are willing to share your “crutch food” that got you through transitioning to a gluten free diet.

Thanks for reading!

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A Tale of Two Pizzas

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Okay, maybe things aren’t quite as dramatic as that, but the dual announcements of Gluten Free Pizza over the weekend by Domino’s Pizza and Chuck E. Cheese could not have been more different. One heralded inclusion and safety while the other caution and dashed hopes. Surprisingly, to me at least, the restaurant chain that made the right move was Chuck E. Cheese. Take a look at the videos from each restaurant and see the direction they are heading.

Chuck E. Cheese addresses two very important issues for it’s customers right away, those of food safety and inclusion. Being a diet-restricted kid, especially due to Celiac Disease, is not always easy. Adding the stress of bringing your own food or forgoing the meal altogether is an extra burden for the kid and their parents. By stating that they can offer a gluten free pizza and dessert, they allow the child to stop worrying about food and enjoy a party with their friends. The parents can be assured that the food is prepared safely and free of cross-contamination. They give the parent a wrapped disposable cutter and let them open the bag with the pizza. That is a lot of piece of mind.

The other thing that they are doing is rolling out the program slowly. This is something that they obviously don’t want to screw up. The memory of the attempt that California Pizza Kitchen made into the GF Pizza market was likely on their minds. They also partnered with well known gluten free food companies to produce the pizza (Conte’s Pasta) and dessert (Fabe’s All-Natural Bakery). These are made in gluten free facilities and show the depth of Chuck E. Cheese’s committment to their customers. If you are interested in learning more about what goes into a GF Certified facility, check out this article from Kinnikinnick Foods.

Will their GF pizza taste as good as their normal pizza? Like Domino’s, they rolled out a new recipe recently. Chuck E. Cheese’s motto is “Where a kid can be a kid” and simply needs a passable pizza for the parties.

There’s only four things we (Americans) do better than anyone else:

  • music
  • movies
  • microcode (software)
  • high-speed pizza delivery

– Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

Domino’s, on the other hand, is “The World Leader in Pizza Delivery“. They have a different market than Chuck E. Cheese. You can tell from the tone of their pitch for their gluten free pizza. It is hip, edgy and, most importantly, makes fun of the fact that they need a disclaimer about who should eat this product. It is treated as a buzzkill that they even have to bring us all down with a mention of some icky disease. If you didn’t catch that, please go back and watch it again. Like the other video, Domino’s shows their pizza being prepared. Unlike the other video, they seem to brag about their lack of cross contamination prevention procedures. They can’t change gloves or buy another pizza cutter?

One thing Domino’s did do was hire the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness to approve this product. The NFCA gave them an entire set of pages on their site devoted to explaining why a “Gluten Free” product was not okay for Celiacs. They also used the term “cross-contact” instead of “cross contamination”. They have also spent a lot of time and effort reaching out to gluten free and celiac bloggers to get the word out. They even engaged in some interesting backpedaling when someone said that the NFCA “certified” Dominos. The response from NFCA was that they “consulted”. They also awarded them a GREAT Kitchen designation, but that isn’t a certification…

Exchanges like the one below happened at several different times over the past day and I really don’t understand the NFCA response.

If it wasn’t feasible, why did they go along with it? Despite the disclaimers, celiacs and gluten sensitive people will eat this pizza and, given that they aren’t even using ANY separate equipment/utensils, some people will get hurt by this. Their own website says that 95% of celiacs are undiagnosed and that a 100% gluten-free diet is the only existing treatment for celiac today.

Why did they go along with this? I don’t know. I haven’t researched the funding behind this transaction or the organization as a whole. I don’t know if there was any dissenting voices among the NFCA. I am hoping to read more about this in the coming weeks. This post by Amy Leger at Savvy Celiac documents her discussion with the founder of the NFCA and sheds some light on things, but I think there is more to be learned.

Domino’s has used twitter to reach out to many of the well-known gluten free celebrities. Since there is much consternation in the GF/Celiac community about the dedication of these folks to a gluten free diet that is, well, gluten free, this also hit a lot of people the wrong way. Here are some of the tweets issued by @dominos yesterday to tennis players Murray and Djokovic, Miley Cyrus, Juliette Lewis and Gwynyth Paltrow:

But today, they returned to their usual job. Saying “Sorry” for messed up orders.

Oh yeah, Gluten Sensitive folks, you will be just fine. Domino’s cares.

One more quote:

Remember the basic rules #glutenfree folks. Glutenfree pizza crust+shared lines+shared utensils/sauce/toppings+shared oven. Safe for #gf? NO — Shirley Braden, @shirleygfe (Gluten Free Easily)

There have been several very well written blogs about this topic already and not all of them have the same view that I do. In case you want to read more, I would recommend the following posts:

SpinningSpoons – Why Gluten Free Pizza and Dominos Does Nothing For Me
Savvy Celiac – Domino’s Gluten Free Pizza, Who is it for?
GlutenDude – Domino’s Goes Gluten Free. Or Do They?
Breaking Up With Captain Crunch – Domino’s Is Trying to Kill Me (Again)*
East Bay Celiac – A Day In The Life of a Celiac Day 7
Food Allergy and Intolerance Ink – Sort of gluten free pizza (Thanks for the tip, GlutenFreeMrsD!

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Origin Stories

In comic book terminology, an origin story is an account or back-story revealing how a character or team gained their superpowers and/or the circumstances under which they became superheroes or supervillains.*

In the comic books, these moments of transformation are always very pronounced; weakling to Spiderman, scientist to Hulk, etc. In all of these stories, the moments shortly before and after these changes are incredibly interesting. The own reaction to their situation, along with those of friends and family, plays out page by page. Their old life is gone. They will never go back to being ordinary. Eventually, the hero gets themselves together and makes the most of it.

Okay, it isn’t always that clean and clear, and, frankly, the best stories are the ones with massive conflict, life and death decisions and some pain. Somehow, though, our caped crusader makes it to the end of the book or movie. Maybe a little worse for wear, maybe with more questions than answers, but ready to start fighting again tomorrow.

Those people who have celiac disease might not wear capes and tights (or they might, I won’t judge) and the only superpower they may have is detecting the most minute amount of gluten. But they have experienced that same moment of realizing their “old life” is gone. Whether it was a specific diagnosis of celiac disease or the realization that they were gluten intolerant/sensitive, their lives changed. Their movie trailer voiceover would begin “IN A WORLD WITHOUT GLUTEN…”

As part of Celiac Awareness Month, we want to link to several celiac/gluten sensitive “origin stories”. Just like the superheroes in the comics, the stories aren’t perfect and tied up in a bow at the end. Until there is a cure, they can’t go back. There are complications, lessons learned and drama. These are some of the online heroes and heroines that helped me deal with my own transition to being gluten free and we hope that their stories will ultimately educate and inspire you.

There are so many of these out there. I know more will be posted specifically for Celiac Awareness Month. I will add more as I find them or you let me know about them. Please post a comment below, send an email to gfc_steve@glutenfreecity.com or let me know on twitter.

*Quote from wikipedia