Since I was a freshman I’ve been noticing changes in my body—the “Freshman-15”, which I was convinced was a myth, turned out to be somewhat true. Looking back on it what did I think was going to happen when I started drinking soda every day and began to consider French fries my main source of vegetables? Luckily sophomore year rolled around and I figured out that just because I have the free-will to eat whatever I want, it doesn’t mean I should. The weight I gained from freshman year came off in no time but for some reason the cafeteria food always upset my stomach. My smart decisions like yogurt with granola for breakfast, turkey and cheese on a whole wheat wrap for lunch, and a plate of pasta with a salad for dinner always left me with stomach aches I thought everyone else must also be experiencing from cafeteria food.
Leaving the dreaded cafeteria food behind, I began my junior year and I was happy to have my own kitchen so I could prepare each and every one of my meals. I tried as best as I could to eat healthy and take my time preparing meals but inevitably I would be sick and then go on to drink beer on an already upset stomach. I’d fall asleep with stomach pains and start my day by waking up with them too. I entered into this vicious cycle that began to feel “normal” to me so I convinced myself that everyone else must have the same problems.
In January 2010, as I started the new year, I told myself I would try a gluten-free diet like my Mom and sister (who’d been diagnosed with celiac disease 3 years earlier) but I had almost no willpower, so the concept of a “diet” seemed unrealistic. I thought to myself, “I can live with feeling like this every day, right?”. But I knew the answer deep inside was “WRONG!”. My symptoms progressed over the next several months and it wasn’t until I broke down crying to my Mom that I decided I needed to be tested for celiac to know for sure if gluten was the contributing factor to my pain.
I was officially diagnosed with celiac disease in October of 2010 and from that day on I’ve been a student navigating my way through college on a gluten-free diet. My willpower was no longer an issue when I knew gluten-free was my only option to lead a healthy life, but that still didn’t make it easy in the beginning.
There are times when I’m hanging out with friends and they’re sharing a large pizza from Upper Crust and I feel left out. It’s selfish, I know, but I am jealous that they don’t have to contemplate food in the same way that I do. At first when I started the diet I was obsessive about what I ate and I read every last ingredient listed on everything in the grocery store. Going out to eat became a stressful experience instead of something I enjoyed with friends. I became too focused on the food and less focused on the experience and moments with friends that surrounded the food.
I realized I was going about this all wrong—gluten-free shouldn’t be stressful, it should be a happy experience for me and something new to learn from. Over the past few months I’ve relaxed and my body has started to feel healthy again for the first time in a long time. Having celiac disease and being on a gluten-free diet in college has been a challenge, but knowing that my body is getting better has made me enjoy my final year as an undergrad.
I am looking forward to being a guest-blogger on BeFreeForMe’s “Free Thinking” series. I plan on sharing with you in my future posts how to tackle being a college student while living with celiac disease. Please post a comment on this blog post and let me know if you have any questions, ideas or even just want to introduce yourselves!
I’m looking forward to “meeting” you all!
Note: Free Thinking is a category on the BeFreeForMe blog that serves as a venue for members to share their experiences, knowledge, thoughts, views and feelings, all the while supporting this wonderful online community. This posting is by Molly Delaney, a 20-something-year-old college student who will be contributing sassy ways and sensible ideas on navigating the celiac lifestyle while on campus… even on a college-centric budget. Welcome Molly!