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Celiac Disease: A Teenager's Perspective
My name is Alexandra and I am from New Jersey. I was diagnosed with celiac disease on December 29, 2006.View all articles by Alexandra Rosenberg
Celiac.com 06/03/2008 - I know—you are a teenager, you go out with your friends, see movies, have fun and unfortunately—have to eat with them sometimes too. I know because I’m also a teenager who is living with celiac disease, so I know what it feels like to have to say “I have an allergy, what can I eat, please try to avoid cross-contamination,” in front of all your friends. It is embarrassing and annoying—at least for me it is, and I am willing to bet that it is to some of you other teens out there too.
Miraculously I found a way to cope, and if you are just starting to get the hang of dealing with celiac disease I can tell you that it is not as bad as you think. I remember the first gluten-free pasta I tried. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever tasted. I still can picture my mom saying to me, “Oh, don’t worry I guess you will get used to it.” I thought that the satisfaction of eating a delicious meal would be gone forever. Luckily, I experimented with different products, joined the celiac boards, and learned which mainstream and gluten-free products were best. To my amazement, I actually found foods that I liked—and dare I say maybe some that I even enjoyed more than the “regular” gluten versions.
The next step was eating out at restaurants. I still get scared when eating out because you really don’t know what they do behind those kitchen doors. Are they touching gluten and then touching your food? Perhaps they are accidentally even putting gluten in your food. The first time I ate out my heart was racing and my head was spinning—I was so nervous that I almost walked out of the restaurant. Fortunately, I spoke with the chef who knew all about the allergy and issues of cross-contamination. I felt confident in the chef. After a nerve wracking but delicious meal I realized that I had not eaten gluten. I also realized that I could eat out, at least once in a while!
Now, the hardest part, for me anyway, is ordering a gluten free meal when I am with my friends. I usually try to joke around and make light of the situation, while still making sure the waiter knows that I have a serious allergy and the chef needs to be attentive. Usually my friends and everyone else just say that they could never live without pasta and pizza and they don’t mind my long orders. Another tip for ordering out is to simply do like you would do any other time. Tell the waiter your problems, ask to speak to the chef, and pretend like this is any other gluten-free meal. There is no reason to be embarrassed about having to spend a little extra time on your order to make sure that you don’t get sick.
Yes, the disease is hard to deal with sometimes, but, for the most part it is easy to resist those gluten temptations by remembering what happened the last time you ate those items, and how you will get afterwards. If you are just starting out on a gluten-free diet, be patient and remember that you are not alone. Also, realize that you are special and that celiac disease is just a part of you that you will learn to love and have fun with. Soon, you will realize that it is not so bad after all. I honestly would not give up having this allergy because it is something I have grown to love—I am a proud to be gluten-free!
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