Not All Celiacs Are Skinny

When the doctor confirmed I had celiac disease AND allergies to dairy, corn, eggs, soy, and a bunch of other foods, the first thing I thought was What would I eat?  The second thing that popped into my mind was At least I’ll lose weight! Trying to shed pounds for decades, I figured all those food restrictions would surely make that horrid digital scale go down.

That was eight years ago and I’m still overweight. This embarrasses me. I’m the person who orders grilled salmon or chicken and a salad with olive oil and lemon, yet I’m the fattest one at the table.

IMG_4321My weight also makes me angry and a little depressed. I mean if I can’t eat cheesecake and lasagna for the rest of my life, let me at least look good in a pair of skinny jeans.

Before diagnosis and for a long time afterwards–while I was learning how to eat sans gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and corn–food didn’t last long in my body, if you know what I mean. So one would naturally assume, I’d lose weight. Nope. Didn’t happen.

So I went to see a nutritionist. After much testing, she said I was malnourished. This seemed funny considering my pant size was creeping up. She put me on a nutrient-rich diet with much more protein than I’d been consuming and I felt great for the first time in years.

But I didn’t lose weight.

Okay, time to come clean. During these early years of food-restricted eating, I did test the gluten-free products. I mean I was feeling pretty sorry for myself that I’d never eat pizza or a croissant or an omelet ever again. So when I came across a processed gluten-free product that was also dairy-free and soy-free, I had to give it a try. Prime example: Amy’s Rice Macaroni with Non-Dairy Cheeze  Plus companies kept sending me free food in hopes of a blog review. I had to eat them–it was part of my job.

IMG_3129 2Turns out a lot of those allergy-friendly treats are high in calories, fat, carbs, and sugar. That Amy’s Mac & Cheeze? 400 calories, 16 grams fat, 10 grams saturated fat, 47 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar. Sure my metabolism was out of whack,  but those gluten-free/soy-free/diary-free chocolate chips I popped into my mouth weren’t helping either.

Also turns out I’m not the only fat celiac. A 2008 study from Northern Ireland found weight gain is common in patients following a strict gluten-free diet. The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center summarized three possible explanations for weight gain based on this study as well as some other European studies (Impact, Spring 2008, Vol. 8, Issue 2).

First, when the small intestine heals after eliminating gluten, nutrients are absorbed more normally. Dietary  carbohydrates, proteins and fats then contribute calories to the body. For many celiacs who lose too much weight, this is a desirable outcome. For those of us struggling with too many pounds, not so much.

Another possibility for packing on the pounds is gluten-free substitutes often contain higher amounts of fats and sugars than the wheat/gluten versions. So many of us food-restricted folks are so busy reading the labels for gluten and allergens that we forget to check for calories, fat, carbohydrates, and sugar. I have also noticed potion sizes for gluten-free foods are often smaller than foods with gluten, and I eat two servings instead of one. Oops.

Finally, adults with malabsorption from undiagnosed and active celiac disease may consume more food and not gain weight. Once on the gluten-free diet, they may find they must eat less to maintain a healthy diet. Before I knew what was wrong with me, I was often hungry–food never stayed in me long–and I even craved the very foods that I later learned were making me ill. After diagnosis of celiac and food allergies, I felt so restricted I didn’t really look at how much I was eating. Sometimes, especially when I travelled, I overate because I never knew when my next meal might come. Sure, I often ordered the salad or the plain burger without a bun, but I also grabbed that bag of gluten-free potato chips in case I got hungry later.

IMG_4307I’ve come to realize I can’t keep blaming my tight pants on a broken metabolism. Starting WeightWatchers last summer–Is this my third time?–was a game changer. I began to start paying attention to the portions of the allergy-free food I put on my plate. Rather than just examining labels for caramel coloring and maltodextrin, I paid attention to the nutritional labels as well. With WeightWatchers allotting me 30 points to eat each day, whole foods are much better choices than processed foods such as Amy’s Rice Mac and Non-Dairy Cheeze (16 points!). I now know the dairy-free yogurt, the agave nectar I added to my morning coffee, even the Ruby Red Grapefruit in juice I ate as a “healthy snack” are all loaded with sugar.

I’m losing around two pounds a week and feeling better than I have in years. The WeightWatchers program encourages me to track everything I put in my mouth and it’s been easier pinpointing what foods contain an ingredient I react to. For example, I thought I could eat a little corn but every time I eat citric acid derived from corn I feel sick. No more citric acid for me.

I’m not endorsing WeightWatchers here, but I am suggesting if you’re food-restricted yet struggling with unwanted pounds, you may want to take a closer look at those allergy-friendly food labels and the amount of food you’re consuming.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Not All Celiacs Are Skinny” first appeared in Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know

Near our home in Colorado Springs is a Mexican restaurant called Carlos Miguel’s that people rave about. So last Friday evening, when the streets were icy and my husband and I didn’t want to venture too far from home, I called the restaurant to discuss my food restrictions.

“What type of vegetable oil do you cook with?” I asked the man who answered the phone.

“Vegetable.”

“What type?  Soy? Corn? Canola?” I asked.

“Just vegetable.” He seemed a little perturbed.

I told the man I couldn’t eat at his restaurant without knowing exactly what was in the vegetable oil because I was allergic to soy and corn. He didn’t offer to check the ingredients label so I said goodbye.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a restaurant couldn’t tell me what was in their cooking oil. And I’m sure it won’t be the last.  How absurd it is for restaurants not to know what they are serving their guests!

 

 

I also have a hard time with processed foods containing soy and corn. In the United States, corn isn’t one of the top eight allergens required by law to be identified on labeling.  While soy is one of the top eight, the FDA exempts soybean oil and soy lecithin from being labeled.  The FDA and medical experts, such as Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, MD, author of Food Allergies: A Complete Guide for Eating When Your Life Depends On It ( Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), say most soy oil is highly refined so there is little proteins left to trigger an allergic reaction. Cold pressed and expeller pressed soybean oil are not highly refined and may contain soy proteins. The experts also say soy lecithin, a derivative of soy used as a nonstick agent in baking, has minimal proteins and those with a soy allergy need not worry.

My body does not agree with these experts. I’ve learned the hard way that soy oil, soy lecithin and corn oil  will all cause a severe reaction, including eosinophilic esophagitis. Blend them together–use soy/corn oil in my salad dressing and spray the grill with cooking spray containing soy lecithin–and I’ll be in really bad shape.  Talking with the other soy-allergic folks at food allergy conferences and through social media, I know I am not alone. Of course,  if you react to soy (so far 15 allergenic proteins have been found in soy) but can tolerate soy oil and/or soy lecithin, I’m happy for you! And a bit jealous! But do watch and discuss any changes in your health with your doctor.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil

Soy oil, or a blend of oils including soy oil, is used in restaurants because it’s inexpensive. Soybean meal and vegetable oil consume around 85% of the world’s soybean crop. By the way, the soybean is not a vegetable–soybean is a legume–but soy oil is still  referred to as vegetable oil.  Other plant-based oils include:

  • Canola (rapeseed)
  • Coconut
  • Corn
  • Cottonseed
  • Flaxseed
  • Olive
  • Palm
  • Peanut (a legume, not a nut)
  • Safflower
  • Sunflower

Unless the label says the oil is 100 percent, it may a blend of other oils. Read my post The Olive Oil Controversy. People can be allergic to any of these plant-based oils.

So here’s what I do to avoid an allergic reaction because of a vegetable oil mishap:

  • I read the ingredients labels of all oils before I buy them, and I stick to companies I trust. For a cooking spray, I use Winona Pure which does not contain soy lecithin.
  • I avoid all restaurants that cook only with soy oil and offer no other options (even if I’m ordering a food that doesn’t require oil–it’s just too risky). If they cannot identify what is in their  “vegetable oil,” I leave. In my experience, most Mexican restaurants and many Asian restaurants use soybean oil.
  • If it’s a questionable restaurant, I ask if the olive oil or other oil is 100 percent. This doesn’t usually go over well, but it’s been a lifesaver on several occasions.
  • I read allergen menus with a magnifying glass. Because of the FDA exemption for soybean oil and soy  lecithin, restaurants do not have to list them under “soy allergy.” Some allergen menus note this exemption with an asterisk, but not all do.
  • I ask a lot of questions before I order. What oil do you use to cook with? Does your vegetable oil contain soy? Do any other foods contain soy lecithin? Do you use cooking spray?
  • If possible, I call the chef in advance and discuss my dietary needs. I have celiac disease and allergies to dairy, eggs and corn, but I always stress the soy allergy because it’s the one that gets missed by waitstaff the most. Untrained waitstaff think tofu and soy sauce.
  • When I make reservations on OpenTable, which I do a lot, I note I have a soy allergy including soy oil and soy lecithin. I also check out what people say on Urban Spoon and Food Allergy/Celiac Disease apps.
  • When I travel, I try to stick to chain restaurants that never use soy oil (these are usually higher-end chains).
  • When eating out in my hometown, I’m a regular at restaurants that don’t use any soy at all. I let them know how grateful I am to have a safe place to eat.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Eat, Drink and Be Weary

So I think I ate too much turkey and gluten-free pie over Thanksgiving because I can’t seem to snap out of this funk I’m in. Or maybe it’s because the season of holiday parties is upon us and I hate, hate, hate having to do the food two-step every time a well-meaning host offers me a plate of cheese . . . and then a plate of  sliders  . . . and then a plate of desserts.

IMG_3210

I usually love the holidays, but this year I want to hibernate in my Snuggly with my Netflix subscription until New Year’s Day.

I think I know why I’m feeling so blue. And it’s not just that I can’t bake cookies without buying a college education’s worth of allergy-friendly ingredients, or that Breakfast with Santa means no breakfast at all.

It’s because I’m tired of the people I love STILL NOT GETTING IT.

There. I said it. On the Internet. For everyone to read.

It’s been almost six years since I first learned the food I was eating was making me sick. Six years! I’ve had time to adjust. My loved ones have had time to adjust. Yet Dear Old Mom still reminds me how I ate everything and anything as a kid (yes, I was on the plump side). Is this her way of saying the numerous doctors I’ve consulted are all wrong about my dozen plus food allergies? Does she think my celiac disease–which was passed on by my parents’ genes!–is a figment of my imagination?

Then there’s Darling Husband, the Eater of Everything. Unlike Mom, he doesn’t dispute that my allergies and celiac are real and he supports my need for a special diet.

He just doesn’t want my restrictions to restrict him.

He still insists on eating at his favorite restaurants–including the ones that gluten or soy or dairy me every time I eat there. He loves Italian food, and he doesn’t understand–or want to try to understand–why I’m fearful of restaurants that can’t help having wheat flour floating in the air. Nor does he get how monotonous the plain salmon and spinach gets after eating it every Friday night year after year.

Recently, during a rather heated discussion about where to go for dinner, Darling Husband, Eater of Everything, said, “Can I  pick the restaurant this time?”  As if I’d been choosing the places to eat these last years for fun–not out of the need to stay healthy and keep breathing.

And then there are those “friends,” the ones who think it’s funny to mock my special food requests after I place an order.  It is not funny. It is annoying. It is hurtful.

A fellow allergic foodie recently expressed in an online support forum how upset she was when her family didn’t want to come for Thanksgiving because they didn’t like her allergy-free food. I’m pretty sure people have passed on dinner at my house for the same reason. But this was THANKSGIVING. A time for loved ones to come together and be thankful.  My heart broke for her.

The one present I would like this Christmas is for my family and friends to accept and respect my food restrictions.

Otherwise, just wrap up another Snugly.

Eat, Drink and Be Weary first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared

The smiling white-coated waiter glided up to our rooftop table and introduced himself as Paul.

“I understand there are some food allergies at this table,” Paul said,  handing  us leather-bound menus.

When I’d made the reservation for Watermark Restaurant in Nashville on Urban Spoon, I listed my son’s and my celiac disease as well as my allergies to soy and dairy. We were driving through Nashville on our way home to Colorado and wanted to have a special family dinner with our college boy. Watermark was on our bucket list of restaurants to try.

“I’ve gone over your food restrictions with the chef and I’ve marked what dishes have your allergens.” I looked down at the extensive menu where Paul had placed an X for not gluten-friendly and crossed out the items containing dairy. “Of course, we can also make accommodations, such as leaving off butter. And you don’t have to worry about soy here.”

The chef marked what I could and couldn't eat before I arrived

His words were music to An Allergic Foodie’s ears. I told him how much I appreciated his efforts. Little did he know I had recently had a terrible experience when a chef didn’t want to communicate with the waitstaff and didn’t take my food restrictions seriously. I actually think this demon chef, as I’ve come to call him, intentionally “poisoned” me by including allergens in my food.

After taking our drink orders, Paul then told me because we had decided to eat outside, he didn’t have our table. I panicked. I wanted Paul! The waiter who had done his homework to provide a complete stranger with a safe meal. We considered changing to an inside table, but after a day in the car driving for eight hours, we were enjoying the pleasant evening air.

Watermark Restaurant in Nashville

Paul returned with our drinks. “Well, looks like I’ll be your waiter after all.  The other waiter is uncomfortable with your food allergies.”

This was a first.  A waiter who fully admitted food allergies alarmed him. I appreciated the other waiter’s honesty, especially since it meant I got Paul back. I’ve often witnessed  a waiter’s anxiety over serving me, but I’ve never had someone pass the reigns to a waiter who was more experienced and comfortable with special dietary needs. Kudos to the waiter who didn’t want to serve me for the right reason–not because I was a pain in the neck, but because he wanted to keep my son and me safe.

Executive Chef Joe Shaw’s  food was heavenly. Each of our appetizers and main meals were a work of art and just as delicious as they looked.  For appetizers, Steve had pan-seared scallops with duck confit over a sweet potato puree and poultry demi glace. I had New Orleans style barbecue shrimp, and George had corn and duck egg custard with pan-seared foie gras.

Watermark Restaurant

Watermark uses a wood grill–absolutely no gas–that lended my main dish,  a Niman Ranch pork chop a mouth-watering hickory flavor. Even the rapini melted in my mouth. Steve had lamb on ratatouille and George had his usual ribeye though he said there was nothing usual about it.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared

Since developing food allergies and celiac disease I’ve had more terrible experiences than good ones. But Paul gave me hope that there are those in the restaurant industry who do take my son’s and my health seriously–and who take pleasure in serving us.

Thank you, Paul, for renewing my faith.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

What a week! I spoke during the online Food Allergy Wellness Summit on a topic close to my heart: Living with food restrictions in college. As a nonfiction writer, I love to research and I read everything available to prepare for this interview. I have enough material to write a book! Well, at least a few blog posts.

I’d like to thank the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Food Allergy Research and Education for providing PDFs of their college-related handouts. Also, my appreciation to Well Amy, Surf Sweets, and Carrie S. Forbes, author of The Everything Gluten Free College Cookbook, for generously donating giveaways for those who signed up to follow this blog. (A little bribery never hurts. Wink, wink.)  Lastly, kudos to Crystal Sabalaske of Cluttershrink for organizing this valuable summit to help families with food allergies and for including me with such an impressive list of speakers.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Last night I grabbed a glass of wine and a Daiya pizza–by the way, the crust has been greatly improved!–and listened to NFCA’s webinar on Gluten-Free Labeling with Tricia Thompson, RD. She’s the dietitian behind Gluten Free Watchdog, which if you aren’t following you should be! I learned so much about the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rules and I’m going back today to re-listen. It’s a lot to digest (pun intended)!

Good News: NFCA will be providing the webinar on their website. so you can listen, too. Check here later today.

On a sad note, this week I also learned a nonprofit task force I’ve co-chaired with a good friend would be ending. For 12 years my friend and I provided support to high-risk pregnant mothers on bed rest in local hospitals. We’d both been on bed rest during our pregnancies, and I delivered a baby 12 weeks early. We were the substitute families for these women whose families weren’t always available (we live in a military community). It’s hard to have the door close on something we believed in so much.

But as the saying goes–when one door closes, another opens. I truly believe helping others with celiac disease, food allergies and EoE is my new calling. This blog is just the start. If you have ideas for how I can do more to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Okay, enough musings–on to a few morsels!

As I’ve mentioned more than a few times here, I react to soy worse than any of my other allergens. So when I saw Soy Allergy Survivor’s helpful one-page soy list I immediately printed it. Because I have so many allergies including corn and dairy which can hide in many, many foods, I always appreciate guides like this one.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Speaking of hidden allergens and labeling, which seems to be a theme this week, a new FDA consumer report, Finding Food Allergens Where They Shouldn’t Be, says the FDA is working to reduce undeclared allergens on labels by:  researching the causes of these errors; working with industry on best practices; and developing new ways to test for the presence of allergens. From September 2009 to September 2012, about one-third of foods reported to FDA as serious health risks involved undisclosed allergens. This is frightening, to say the least. You can help the FDA by reporting  food-allergic reactions to the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your district. 

I’ll end with a little gossip. Who doesn’t like gossip? A little bird told me that the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference would be held in a different state than Nevada next year. Turns out it’s true! Pop on over to their Facebook page to learn more. If you aren’t familiar with FABlogCon, it’s a wonderful conference and opportunity to connect with the food allergy community and learn from experts. It’s for everyone–not just bloggers.  I, for one, am pretty excited about a new venue in a new state.  Come to think of it Colorado would be an excellent choice . . . hint, hint.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14 first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Food of My Dreams

I stuff fistfuls  of potato chips into my mouth.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

“It’s four in the morning,” my husband says. “Are you eating chips?”

I swallow and look  down at the half-empty bag of Cape Cod Waffle Chips sitting between us in bed. Baffled, I set them on my nightstand, pull up the blanket, and go back to sleep.

When I enter the kitchen in the morning, my husband’s head is inside the refrigerator.

“I think you ate last night’s sausages,” he says.

My husband tends to be a bit OCD. He freaks out when a sock goes missing and the drink glasses aren’t ordered by size. I ignore him and make coffee.

“My sausages are gone,” he announces again.

Now I’m peeved that he’s making such a big deal about leftovers which are most likely behind the carton of eggs. I am not a morning  person.

I march over to the fridge and  pull out the drawer where I stored the baggy of sausages from last night’s meal. But only half  a sausage, the half that was somewhat burnt, remains. I’d put two and half links in there last night. I am sure of it.

“That’s weird . . . ”

Then I remember the predawn chip episode.

“Oh my God, I think I was sleep-walking and sleep-eating! Have I ever done that before?”

“Not that I know of.”  Content that he’s made his point, my  husband picks up the morning paper.

The sausages in question were grilled last evening for my husband. While they are gluten-free, the corn ingredients tend to make me ill.  I prefer Boulder brand sausages or chicken sausages from Al Fresco.

Evidently, I’m not that discriminating about brands or ingredients when I’m asleep, nor do I care whether the sausages are warm or cold.

Dream Food

At first, I’m embarrassed by my late-night munchies. Then it hits me.

I’ve deprived myself so much these last six or so years — passing on slices of birthday cake and Christmas cookies, avoiding crackers and cheese plates during cocktail parties, skipping on the movie popcorn but smelling it throughout the entire movie, sipping my water while the rest of the table chews on warm bread lathered in butter — why wouldn’t I raid the refrigerator or the pantry in a unconscious state?

In fact, why has it taken me so long?

I’ve woken in a sweat from dreams where I’ve eaten an entire chocolate cake with vanilla whipped cream frosting — I’m not only allergic to dairy and eggs and gluten but also vanilla. Still, I’ve never eaten in my sleep. Or even walked in my sleep.

I saw a TV show once about overweight people who have to lock up their food to keep them from eating in the middle of the night. Has my celiac disease and multiple food allergies created some sort of sleep-related eating disorder? Will my husband have to start padlocking his full-of-gluten-and-allergens food before heading off to bed?

After a quick Internet search, I discover that some people who are on diets may unconsciously eat at night. Eliminating gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn and so many other foods could certainly be called an extreme diet. That particular night I went to bed hungry because there’d been little for me to eat at a social event and once home I didn’t want to consume the extra calories before bed. With that in mind, it doesn’t seem all that odd that I  raided the kitchen at 4 a.m.

The funny thing is I could have grabbed some peanut M&Ms or some leftover pizza or even a brownie that was sitting on the kitchen counter. But I didn’t. I chose gluten-free sausages and gluten-free chips. I’m so accustomed to avoiding foods that will make me sick, I’ll even avoid them in my sleep.

The chocolate cake with vanilla whipped cream will remain in my dreams.

Food of My Dreams” first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

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Don’t forget to sign up for the Food Allergy Wellness Summit! Read all about this free online event here.

Live Courageously with Food Allergies: Online Summit Nov. 3-6

Avoid eating those foods.

That’s the only direction the doctor gave me when I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies and celiac disease as an adult. Little did I know then that eliminating dairy, gluten, soy, corn, and many more foods from my diet would be as challenging as climbing Pikes Peak with a backpack full of rocks.

The first thing I did after leaving the doctor’s office was go grocery shopping. Big mistake. Reading the back of packages, looking for processed foods that didn’t contain dairy, soy, or gluten, tears streaked my face. Even the organic health foods in the special freezer section contained soy! What was I going to eat? How would I feed my family?

Then came my first meal out. By the time I eliminated all my allergens, I was left with steamed broccoli and applesauce.  I’ll never forget my first plane trip after diagnosis when I didn’t pack any safe food.  All I could find to eat in the airport was a bag of potato chips.

Food Allergy Wellness Summit

I was alone with my food restrictions and stressed and maybe even a bit depressed. In my circle of family and friends, I was the only one with “food issues.” I felt like an outsider at social events and family gatherings and became somewhat reclusive. These weren’t my best years.

That’s why I’m so excited about the Food Allergy Wellness Summit, Nov. 3-6, that Crystal Sabalaske of Cluttershrink started. A busy mom with a house full of food allergies, Crystal dreamed up this Summit as a way to help families like hers. The Summit is online and free, so you can listen to the topics that interest you at your convenience.

You’ll learn how to:

  • travel and navigate social situations while staying healthy
  •  save money while buying gluten-free and allergen-friendly foods
  • send your kids to school and college with the know-how to keep them safe
  • apply updated medical expertise to help you manage your food allergies
  • reduce food allergy-related stress in family, friendship, and romantic relationships
  • enhance your well-being through nutrition
  • cook and bake sans allergens
  • organize your kitchen into a giant “safe zone”

An Allergic Foodie will share tips for the college celiac on Nov. 6, 2014 during Food Allergy Wellness Summit

I’m humbled to be speaking about college life with food restrictions with such a prestigious group of food-allergy experts, including:

This Summit is the guidance I wish I’d have after hearing the doctor say, “Avoid eating those foods.”

Sign up TODAY.