I cannot believe that it has been eight years since I assumed my gluten-free alter ego Gluten Free Mike starting with a very basic site that eventually evolved into what you see today. I started GFM because when I was diagnosed with celiac disease more than twenty years ago the resources available today simply did not exist. It was more of a case of you have celiac disease, avoid gluten and good luck. Okay, maybe that’s just a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. I was diagnosed on a fluke while having a procedure for something else that allowed for a biopsy to be taken. Thankfully my doctor at the time had a feeling, so seized the opportunity to conduct the test.
So, I was handed my diagnosis and really had no idea what I was actually dealing with. I had not even heard of celiac disease prior to my diagnosis so there was most definitely a tremendous learning curve on my part. I felt alone and confused as my life took a complete 180 degree turn. I love food — always have and always will — so suddenly having to cut-out pretty much all of my favorite items was definitely a shock to the system.
Remember, my diagnosis came at a time when there were not a lot of gluten-free options and restaurant visits were relegated to simple, naturally safe options whether I felt like eating them or not. My passion for travel also suddenly became more of a challenge as I tried to navigate both my disease and the world simultaneously. Did I have some hiccups along the way — absolutely. Like the time I seriously thought that a corn muffin was an acceptable gluten-free option to not comprehending what ingredients contained gluten to not even considering cross-contamination and its effects — again, things like this were not completely explained at the time of my diagnosis. I had to research and chart my own path to recovery and decided to do it my way — not letting celiac have a significant impact on they way I lived my life other than removing gluten from it.
Of course as luck would have it, a couple of years after my celiac diagnosis I suddenly became hyper-allergic to all shellfish — my allergist, when reviewing my test results said he had never seen someone as off the charts as I was. Well-done me I suppose. I was now not only celiac but food allergic to something that I had eaten and truly loved my entire life up until that point and a misstep could potentially kill me. So, I became an Epi-Pen carrying shellfish-allergic celiac and you know what — I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I know it might sound strange but in the broad scheme of life celiac disease was a small price to pay to take back my health. It was the most empowering point in my life because I now had an answer as to why I was always getting sick after eating or drinking certain things and why I was severely underweight and not absorbing nutrients correctly. It became my personal badge of honor. I finally knew what I needed to do to avoid those awkward (and often painful) moments, like the time I was sitting center orchestra at a Broadway musical (having consumed a micro-brew before the performance) and just before intermission breaking into cold sweats trying to wait for it to finish but had to jump-up and literally crawl across half of the row to run to the bathroom so as not to sh*t myself. Hey, we’ve all been there (#celiacproblems) and there would be similar situations as I found my way. I am, however, living proof that you do eventually figure it out and life does in fact go on.
When I started my site, I wanted to keep it true to how I live my life. So many people view celiac disease as having to live without and that just was not something I was going to remotely consider. I also was not a pillar of healthy eating prior to my diagnosis and that too would remain the same and I make no apologies for it. I love excess, enjoy a cocktail and always eat dessert — so my take on gluten-free living was to fill a void I saw on living a luxurious gluten-free lifestyle. Fine dining, global travel, premium cabins, five-star hotels and everyday luxuries — I work very hard and when I can get away or have down time, I live to enjoy every single moment. Celiac is a very personal disease and we are most definitely a diverse group living with it on our own terms and that is what makes us unique. We share the common thread of celiac disease but we each choose our own gluten-free path for how we live with it that fits us best.
A truly heartfelt thank you to my one-in-a-million husband who knew me in both my pre- and post-diagnostic days — for his support, understanding and always looking out for my gluten-free well-being. For keeping to your two-sides of the toaster, using separate utensils for shared items and always picking-up gluten-free surprises — I remain the luckiest gluten-free guy in a gluten-filled world. Not to mention putting up with my photographing pretty much everything I eat whether on the ground or in the air (including his non-gluten-free meals).
Thank you all for coming along for the ride for eight fabulous years. It has be a pleasure and an honor to share my gluten-free experiences with all of you and I look forward to many, many more years ahead.