2 Broke Girls Slam the need to be Gluten-Free

The week that I found out that I should be following a gluten-free diet, my grandma sent me a care package.  I opened it up and inside I found a beautiful, hand crocheted Christmas tree skirt & a container of mouthwatering, sugar cookies with pecans that taste oh so amazing.  My heart sank.  Knowing that these cookies couldn’t stay in my sight, I left some for my husband to snack on and then I took the rest to the girls at work.

When I brought them to work I just told the girls ‘hey my grandma made cookies & I brought them to share! Eat up!”  I didn’t say anything about my gluten sensitivity.  Towards the end of the day, I noticed that there were still quite a few cookies left and I told them they could take more and that I wanted them to be gone at the end of the day.  One of my co-workers asked why I wasn’t eating them (an unusual ocurrance for me, as I am a cookie monster).  I told her that I found out recently that I should be following a gluten-free diet because of some health issues.  Her response, “Ugh, I think I need to start following that diet.”  To which I just turned around and said nothing. 

The weekend before I left, hubs took me to one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, Carnivale.  I absolutely love this place.  They have amazing food, an upbeat atmosphere and the best sangria I’ve ever had.  I was nervous to go here because they don’t have a gluten-free menu but since it is Latin based, I was sure that I’d be able to find something to eat.  Our server came to the table and I said politely to her, “I have to be gluten-free, what on the menu do you recommend?” She had just started working there so she asked me what entrees I had in mind and she would go back and check with the kitchen.  Fair enough.  So she comes back and asks  me, “Well how sensitive to gluten are you?” I gave her a blank stare. What kind of question is that?  My husband could see the look on my face so he stepped in and said nicely, “She can’t have it at all so if you can find out what she can have we would greatly appreciate it.”  Note to self: I really need to get better at this because when things like that happen, I feel like I’m being a troublesome customer.   

In the three weeks I’ve been deployed, I’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight.  This is not a result of having to live a gluten-free lifestyle, this is the result of having limited options in the dining hall & an increase in my workouts because there’s nothing else to do and it helps pass time.  Yes, my goal was to come here and shed some el b’s, but definitely not like this because how I’m eating now isn’t maintainable.  So the fact that this episode of 2 Broke Girls just play off a patron’s need to be gluten free as masking an eating disorder really struck a nerve with me. 

The same co-worker who made the comment about the GF diet e-mailed me and asked how things were going.  So I was just explaining to her how it was here & how the food situation was.  (I just want to note, she’s not a random co-worker her and I are pretty close so I felt comfortable in telling her this)  To which she once again responded, “Ohh I forgot that you can’t have gluten, that must be so hard.  Maybe I need to start following that ‘diet’.”  To which I then explained to her this isn’t something I chose.  People with food allergies don’t choose to have food allergies.  And there’s still plenty of “junk” food that’s gluten free: cupcakes, cookies, pasta, etc.  I also explained that gluten is in a lot more stuff than what people realize and not just the obvious (breads, carbs, etc).  I think she finally understood after I explained it a little more in depth.

I think it’s hard for people to understand those who have to follow certain diets for “health reasons.” I get asked, “What will happen if you have it?” I simply reply with, “I will get sick”. There’s a lot more to it and there’s still a lot that I’m learning myself.

But I’m curious, for anyone else that has to follow a gluten-free diet, have you ever had this type of encounter where people just think you’re doing it to lose weight?  If so, how do you deal?

GF Dining in the Middle East

Doesn’t exist.  (From what I experienced anyway)  Earlier this week, I heard that a woman who works in the office across the street from me is a driver and that she goes off base nearly every week.  I went over to her office and asked when she would be going off base sometime soon because I really wanted to go with her.  What an experience and culture shock. 

I’ve had the privilege to travel to many interesting places in my 26ish (almost 27) years.  I enjoy it because it gives me the opportunity to see how other cultures live and always makes me appreciate what we have in America a little bit more.  My first out of country experience was Mexico when I was around 4 or 5 years old and I can still remember the sight of wild pigs and dogs running wild in the streets.  We were taken to the “Old County,” not to Cancun to stay at a luxury resort.  Since that first eye opening trip to Mexico, I’ve traveled to the Caribbean, Honduras, England, France and Turkey.

None of these travels even come close to what I experienced tonight.  First off, we drove past an actual castle.  It has a princess and everything!  On our way off base, about a mile away, we drove past what looked like a gated compound.  It had tall brick walls and a huge gated entrance.  I asked the woman who was driving what it was and she replied back with, “That’s the princesses castle/summer home.  She lives there regularly and she’s 16″.  Wow!

Second thing I learned on our trip downtown: there are no 4 way intersections, only those crazy “roundabouts”.  I could never drive in this country.  I sat in the back and tried not to look at what was going on in front of me.  The driving here was worse than driving with my husband in Chicago.

Third thing: They have camels in the parking lot.  This is what we saw when we pulled into the parking lot of where we were trying to go.  We started to take pictures from outside the gated area, and then the handler of the camels told us we could come inside the gate and get pictures.

He then charged us $5 dollars for the pictures that we had taken. Definitely saw that one coming.
Another thing I learned in this country: The men to women ratio is about 100 to 1.  A group of American girls definitely stuck out like a sore thumb.  I’ve never been stared at so hard in my entire life.  This part made me very uncomfortable.  There was one point while we were driving and there were literally hundreds upon hundreds of men just walking down the street hanging out.  I said that Justin Beiber must be having a concert :-)
We finally got to the market area where we dined on some local cuisine.  I didn’t even bother to ask about gluten because our server barely spoke English.  We basically just pointed to the menu and he wrote down what we ordered.  One of the girls ordered hummus for an appetizer.  I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to come out with carrots or cucumbers and I was right.  Along with this heavenly looking hummus came this even more heavenly looking pita bread.  Major Fail.  I figure I’m only in this country once (fingers crossed) I might as well immerse myself in the culture.  One pita topped with the hummus later came my symptoms: stomachache, headache, and the lightheaded feeling.  It just amazes me how my body seems to have become more sensitive to gluten now that I’ve stopped eating it.  I get those symptoms every single time and always in that exact order whenever I ingest gluten.  It might not seem like a big deal to those who have never experienced it, but the dizziness is very unnerving.  After the hummus & pita came our meals.  I ended up with something that ended up looking like a stew but with lamb meat, lots of veggies and some sort of pastry crust that definitely was not described on the menu.  It was good.  Very flavorful, as they cook with lots of spices here.  I did my best just to eat the stew portion.  Tonight, the gluten won and it was 1/2 my own fault. 
After our dinner, we walked around the market for a bit (I, sleepily) and checked out all the goods that the locals had to offer.  Next on our list of things to do: Hookah!  Because you can’t travel here without doing it at least once!  They were in every single outdoor cafe/restaurant we passed.
I’ll be back in Chicago in just a few weeks! Unless something awesomely amazing happens to me while I’m here (like the dining facility offering special GF items) , my posts will be very scarce!

Eating Gluten Free While Deployed

Well, we made it safely to our final destination here overseas.  It’s extremely hot & windy.  There’s nothing like taking a shower & going outside only to get blown by dirt and dust.

Ugh! Cannot wait to get home…the things we take for granted!  I lucked out though by not having a roommate.  Although my room is extremely small, it’s nice to have the space to myself and not have to worry about someone else’s schedule.
 I tried to make the space as much of my own as possible.  I bought hot pink bed sheets & my fleece blanket from home.  Now that I’m married, I figured this was the perfect time to purchase hot pink bed sheets because that would never fly with my husband.

One of my biggest concerns about getting deployed right now was my diet.  Because I recently eliminated gluten from my diet completely, I was worried about what I was going to be able to eat here.  We’re in a country where the people serving our food don’t speak much English and there is no way I’m going to hold up the food line by asking how the food was prepared.  I’d have a lot of angry soldiers to deal with.  So I’ve been doing as best as I possibly can.  I have to admit that it’s very hard and I know there have been a few times already where I have made some wrong choices.  I can definitely see why someone who is diagnosed with Celiac disease would be disqualified from the military.

I’ve mainly been sticking with eggs and fruit for breakfast and chicken, rice, potatoes, and veggies for lunch and dinner.  Yesterday, I splurged and had a steak.  It actually was not bad.  My meals for the most part have been very bland but full of protein.  I miss my kitchen :-/  And my bed. And these guys…

I’ve been trying to remain in good spirits & keep positive.  I have a lot of time to workout, read, sleep & do some online research for some exciting things to come for when I get home.  Basically a ton of “me” time. 
P.S.- If anyone has any ideas of choosing better options for food while I’m here, I’m definitely open to suggestions!