"Oh my gosh, you're one of those people?"
It's the question I get asked what seems like a thousand times a day. I can't eat the free cookies my teacher passes around in class. I can't drink beer at the free kegger on New Years. I can't buy my favorite white bread for a dollar. I can't order a Hot 'n Ready when I'm starving and it's 2 a.m. And every time I can't do these things, I grow more upset, because this wasn't my choice.
A gluten-free diet sucks. But what sucks even more is the side effects I feel when I eat gluten. My stomach hurts, my brain feels like it's in a fog, and my immune system shuts down. I lose my appetite and just want to curl up in a ball and sleep for days. I'm so used to feeling this way that many people don't realize how horrible I feel all the time, unless I strictly stick to eating gluten-free.
In addition to the miserable side effects, the cost of being gluten-free is ridiculously high. Unless, something is specifically labeled as gluten-free, there's a good chance it has wheat in it and I won't be able to eat it. And it's funny, because if something is labeled as gluten-free, the prices instantly goes up by at least 500%. BOGO bagels at the local grocery store?
Nah, I pay six bucks for a pack of four gluten-free bagels that don't even taste like bread. Twenty-five cent ramen noodles? I'll be paying three dollars at least for mine. Unless I want to live on eggs and potatoes (and some weeks, I really do), my grocery bill is high enough to feed a small army each week.
Everything from restaurants to special events to road trips is made more difficult by being gluten-free. I hate that I'm the one who has to ask the waiter if there is different bread for my sandwich or burger. I wish I could order a McDouble with extra pickles, but instead I ask for a McDouble with no bun, and that is NOT good. I am constantly reading labels, asking about what's in my food, and politely declining desserts because I just can't eat them.
Sometimes I cave. Sometimes the brownie or piece of pizza is just too good to resist, so I take just one bite. That bite usually turns into a whole meal, and there has not been one time where I haven't regretted it. I know what the gluten does to me, but I hate this diet so much that I'm willing to feel miserable for a few days if it means I can be normal for just a few minutes. If I could have it be any different, I totally would, but I'd rather be a healthy person with food restrictions than a constantly sick one. The only people who understand are the ones who have the same problems.
I can't control the fact that I'm gluten-free. Up until four years ago, food was my life. I ate anything put in front of me, and my main food group was carbs. Bread, cookies, pasta - I loved it all. Food is still my heart and soul, but I can't enjoy it like I used to. It sucks, but it's my life, so I'm gonna live it as best as I can and enjoy the heck out of the foods that I can eat.