12 May 2010

Footloose and Gluten-Free

I always wanted to start a food blog, but didn't feel that I had anything unique to add to the ever-expanding culinary blogosphere. Friends have recently been encouraging me to freelance write and a light went off - "here is my chance to start a blog!"

A lifelong foodie who also battled eating disorders for over ten years, my relationship with food and my body has always been far from perfect. But my love of all things food-related is well-known amongst friends and family – need the perfect restaurant for a first date or a new watering hole for after-work drinks? Ask Gina. Wondering why your cookies aren’t very chewy or a suggestion for a delicious weeknight dinner recipe? Ask Gina.

My life revolves around food. I was even accepted to culinary school to become a pastry chef, a lifelong dream delayed by "the real world", but put my dream on hold to accept a sales and marketing position at a baking and pastry supplier. I made dozens of industry connections and truly loved my demanding, fast-paced role for a few months, but could not figure out why I was always feeling so sick to my stomach and so run down. Even my “best friends” running and yoga no longer helped relieve my discomfort and stress. My employer eventually decided to let me go after eight months; I was devastated yet relieved.

Meanwhile I finally decided it was time to see a doctor regarding my unbearable stomach pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. I was immediately diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and told to maintain my current diet until I could consult a specialist. But days of waiting for an appointment with a gastroenterlogist turned into weeks. I spent hours scouring the internet, checked out library books and reached out to friends with similar issues.

Celiac disease was mentioned on virtually every Google search I performed, but at first I avoided further research. I want to be a pastry chef and I am obsessed with cakes, cookies and other glutenous confections - there was simply no way my illness was related to gluten! Plus my bloodwork came back negative for both celiac disease and lactose intolerance (two food sensitivities with similar symptoms). But eventually I decided to look further into the possibility of celiac disease and not surprisingly, it was like reading about myself. I discovered there is a whole other non-celiac world of gluten intolerance (more about this in future posts).

Still in pain and desperate for answers, I decided to attempt a restrictive diet without gluten – “the great experiment.” Within a few very up-and-down days, I felt like a new woman. Suddenly everything made sense. My once dream job had done far more harm than good to my abused body. 9am brownie tastings, 3pm snacks of financiers (French almond cakes) and bringing samples of my favorite lemon-raspberry cake home for dessert had actually wreaked havoc on my hurting immune system. Thank goodness I hadn’t already spent thousands of dollars on culinary school only to find I can never consume gluten again without physically suffering!

And so my recent layoff became a blessing. Now unemployed with lots of free time on my hands (although looking for a job is admittedly a full-time job), I am embracing my new diet wholeheartedly. Obviously I will still be seeing my primary care physician and a dietician to maintain my condition. And although it will not be easy, I am excited to once again be challenged in the kitchen. I want to share my new diet and lifestyle with friends, family, fellow Bostonians and anyone else who may benefit from my culinary adventures. Expect future posts to include recipes, product reviews, restaurant write-ups and more… Ciao!


  1. Wow, Gina! Great start on your blog. I have been Facebook stalking and found your page, and then of course, your blog.

    Celiac and gluten intolerance is certainly something that can be frustrating. Many patients I have counseled are so negative about their troubles with wheat, barley, and rye. It is wonderful that you have such a positive attitude about changing your eating habits! In a strange way, maybe the lay-off was a blessing?!

    I will definitely be coming back for more....

  2. Hey, Gina! I checked out your blog on fb (glad to see you're back!) and I'm sorry to hear about your gluten intolerance. If you follow Tartlette, she posts a lot of gluten-free adaptations to her recipes because she recently found herself in a similar situation. Also, I'm going to add your blog to my foodblog's blogroll!

  3. I know this is an old post but I could have written this, I didn't want to know I was gluten intolerant but suspected it for over a year. My tests came back mixed but removing gluten has made a huge difference. I didn't want to know because I love bread, baking, cupcakes, and pasta. However I feel much better without the gluten so it's my new normal.