Tag Archives: awareness

Test your gluten-free knowledge! (A National Foundation for Celiac Awareness campaign)

As I’ve said before, despite or because of being an SAT tutor, I’m not really into standardized tests. Still, some (like the Patient Autonomy Test!) are genuinely useful assessments.

In 2012, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) tested the gluten-free knowledge of foodservice professionals attending a National Restaurant Association Show. According to this report, the results were abysmal. Under 50 percent of the restaurant pros could name a single gluten-containing grain other than wheat. That’s one test I wish chefs (and waiters, too) would invest a little time and energy prepping for.

Since you’re reading this blog, I’m willing to bet you can name more than one gluten-containing grain. But how much do you really know about gluten and its related disorders? If you’re brave enough, you can find out! The NFCA has come through with another quiz, this time with a different audience in mind: us, and our family and friends.

Rudi’s, everyone’s favorite grilled cheese maker (don’t tell Udi’s) is sponsoring the 10-question quiz and providing 10 gluten-free prize packs to quiz-takers. You get an entry even if you get a couple questions wrong—and you’re sure to learn a thing or two.

Take the quiz here, then challenge a friend to take it, too!

Why take the quiz (besides the prize packs)? To answer that, I look to another campaign by the NFCA, which urges us to “Restore your health. Reclaim your life. Take the pledge.” You can commit to take the pledge here, and it’s really simple: educate, empower, advocate.

At its most basic level, the pledge is about self-preservation. When you get diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder, you have to educate yourself in a whole new way of life, feel empowered to make the right choices for your health, and be willing to advocate for your needs in situations that demand it. (I wrote this as part of a testimonial I provided to the NFCA earlier this year. Read more testimonials here.)

I truly believe that the very most important thing we can do for our health is to learn about it, and after that, to educate others. If we don’t learn all we can about celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and gluten, how can we expect people like chefs—or even doctors—to bother with it? Cheesy as it is, in the case of GRDs, health does start from within.

So what are you waiting for? Take the quiz, then come back and tell me how you did! I’ve modestly held out until now to say this, by the way, but—woohoo!—I got ’em all right.

As for the prize pack, I wish you some belated St. Patrick’s Day good luck. If you, like me, managed to get celiac disease despite having a 132 out of 133 (or about 99.25%) chance of not getting it, then you probably need some.

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) Test Your Gluten-Free Knowledge campaign logo

Have you taken the pledge? Does it resonate with you? Do you feel educated and equipped to educate others about the gluten-free diet?

[Disclosure notice: I was offered two free Rudi’s product coupons valued at $10 in return for posting about the campaign. Although I’m looking forward to the grilled cheeses—or maybe giving the coupons away to one of you—I’d have posted about this anyway in accordance with my strict post-about-stuff-that-is-interesting-to-me-at-the-moment-when-I’m-writing-it policy. I was not otherwise compensated.]

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Let’s move! toward awareness of food, fitness, food allergies, and the gluten-free diet (plus a contest for precocious sous-chefs)

I have a big celebrity crush on Michelle Obama. It’s not just her arms (though of course that’s part of it). I also admire the work she’s done to promote childhood healthy eating and exercise habits with Let’s Move! In a (relatively) noncondescending, nonextreme way, the organization has been pushing back against childhood obesity—arguably one of the biggest health issues the United States, among other countries, faces today.

Some don’t believe politicians should get involved with food. But like it or not, by way of crop subsidies, government oversight organizations, and more, they’re involved already. Plus, say what you will about MyPlate (and, as a vegetarian with vegan leanings, I’ve said plenty about that cup of dairy), when it comes to the “food” kids are served and the health education they receive at public schools, we could use a little help.

In a conversation about the initiative, my sister commented that it was annoying how issues of “home and hearth” still seem to fall to the First Lady, in a time when such issues should be equally relevant to men and women. Maybe that’s true. But gendered undertones aside, what Let’s Move! is attempting is important. A campaign to change the food and fitness culture of an entire generation calls for a prominent champion, and Michelle is using her pull to spread awareness about the issue in a way that most people can’t.

Whether or not it’s working is hard to say. I get their newsletter, which means I’m in the bubble, but skimming the initiative’s anniversary highlights is encouraging. In part, I think, due to Obama’s work, policy changes are being made, and large audiences reached. Even the nutrition facts label might get a makeover, and according to the CDC, childhood obesity fell by 43% over the last decade—though tough to tell how much of that can be credited to Obama’s efforts, given that Let’s Move! was only founded in 2010.

Lest you scold me for babbling about my socially liberal heroine on a blog focused on gluten, not politics, I’d argue that a generation of kids learning that what they put in their mouths has a direct impact on their health can only be good for the gluten-free. Children educated about nutrition will be better prepared to care for themselves if food allergies or a gluten-related disorder come their way. Moreover, they just might grow up into a nation of adults who know how to cook, care about food, and value wellness. Again, all good things for them and us.

The reason I’m writing about this now is that (as I mentioned) I receive the Let’s Move! newsletter, and the latest issue put out a call for “all young chefs” to enter the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

It’s a pretty cool contest. Kids ages 8 to 12 work with their parents to create and submit a delicious, healthy, original, affordable, and meaningful recipe. A winning child/parent team from each US state will get to head to DC for lunch with the First Lady.

MyPlateThe recipe does have to be inspired by MyPlate (but the protein and dairy can be vegetarian or vegan, if that’s your thing), but it also has to have a unique story—that’s where “meaningful” comes in. When I read that, I immediately thought, wouldn’t it be cool if one of the winning stories was about learning to cook with a gluten-related disorder or food allergies—facing these obstacles together, as a family, and coming through it stronger? 

Right now, the closest I come to parenting is cooing at babies at the farmers’ market and nagging teenagers to study SAT vocab (which, by the way, is due for a change in 2016). So I thought I’d throw out the challenge to those of you who do have a budding foodie in the family.

If you and your child want to enter, you have until April 5th, and I’ll be rooting for you all the way. A healthy diet is good for us all—and a matter of life and death for some. The food allergic and gluten-free community knows that better than anyone, and our food is darn good, too.

What do you think of the Let’s Move! campaign, MyPlate, the government’s focus on obesity, and the possibly changing nutrition facts label? Will your family be entering the contest?

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Don’t know much about chemical sensitivity?

Have you seen the movie Safe?

It’s about a woman (Carol, played by Julianne Moore) who develops a mysterious and steadily worsening illness—most likely multiple chemical sensitivity.

I watched it in college. Though it was a great film, it encouraged me to dwell on my own mysterious illness, which had begun earlier that year. The film set up questions like, “Is her illness even real? Will she ever get better?” Watching it, I couldn’t help but wonder the same things about me.

Later, of course, I found out I have celiac disease, and that it could get better. I just have to not eat some things (okay, a lot of things). Except for avoiding crumbs, I don’t have to worry too much about my environment. I won’t find gluten in the air anywhere besides a bakery, and the worst chemical I contend with is natural flavorings.

cover of Allergic to Life by Kathryn Treat

But I remained curious about chemical sensitivity, which I didn’t know much about beyond its portrayal in the film.

Now, I’ve learned about it from Kathryn Chastain Treat, one of my earliest readers and strongest supporters. She blogs about her extreme chemical sensitivity, and she’s just finished a book: Allergic to Life.

To celebrate her book’s release, I asked her a few questions about what is still a misunderstood and mysterious disease.

Readers, we’d love to hear your answers to these questions, too!

What do you feel your experience has in common with the experience of people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or food allergies? What’s most different?

Kathryn: I feel that in some ways we are very similar. We can’t just go and eat anywhere or anything. I have food allergies, which causes issues similar to those that someone with celiac disease encounters when dining out or with family and friends.

What makes me different is that I have not only food allergies, but also sensitivities to chemicals (perfumes, colognes, fabric softeners) and mold. I do a lot of dining at outdoor cafes if they can tolerate my food allergies (which include foods that may contain mold, like vinegar and soy sauce) and if I can manage to find seating far enough away from someone who is very scented.

What misconceptions do people have about your illness? Which get you mad? Which do you think are just funny? How do you respond?

Kathryn: I believe people, including many in the medical profession, feel that my sensitivities to chemicals and mold are not that serious. They believe that if I can manage a short time in a store (with my mask) that I should be able to go anywhere anytime I want. I also feel that people believe because I do not work and stay at home that I just sit and watch television and eat bon bons in my fluffy slippers.

What makes me the maddest is not taking my symptoms seriously. I think the perception that I have all the time in the world because I don’t work is probably the funniest. They have no idea how much work it takes to stay as well as I have managed to get and how long it takes to clean my house.

I have responded that my total load of what my body tolerates varies from day to day. If I am having a good day, then I can make a trip to the store. I can’t do this every day or spend all day doing this because despite my mask, my body gets too overloaded with chemicals and I end up sick. Sometimes I just ignore it all together because it is hard to convince someone once they have their own preconceived ideas.

What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you as a result of being ill?

Kathryn: My younger daughter was here for a visit and we were scheduled to visit my older daughter. My younger daughter had her hair done earlier in the day. Not thinking (I blame my off and on again companion—brainfog), we just jumped in my car. Of course she put on one of my required tyvek suits to avoid bringing any fragrances or chemicals into my car. We started down the road, and about ten miles into our trip I was having difficulty. I was getting a headache, congested, and my voice was slowly getting more of a crackle in it. Suddenly it dawned on both of us that her hair was making me ill.

As soon as possible I pulled to the side of the road and we both jumped out. How were we going to make it safe for us to continue on our journey? We couldn’t go on the way things were and I couldn’t call anyone to come help us. We searched the back seat and then the trunk to find something we could put over her hair.

Aha! There it was, a white plastic garbage bag in my trunk. I always keep some in the car for emergencies or having to put someone’s belongings in it before they can ride with me.

We got the bag out of the trunk and tried to put it over her hair. The wind was blowing and gusts of air would get under the bag and fill it like a balloon. We fought and fought the wind and the air in the bag. Here we are on the side of the road, she is already wearing the white tyvek suit, and we are now trying to put a bag over her head.

Enter the highway patrol cruiser. Just as I thought things couldn’t be worse or crazier than they were, the officer gets out to see if we need assistance. I have to explain as simply as I can without appearing to be a lunatic that I have sensitivities to chemicals and my daughter has just gotten her hair done, making me ill. I also explained that we were trying to cover her hair up with the bag but the air kept getting inside the bag. I purposely tried to ignore the fact that she was dressed in this white suit. The officer, however, noticed and made some funny comment about her tyvek suit and Ghostbusters and then calmly walked over and helped us get the bag on her hair. I was then asked to move aside so that he could write down my license plate number, which was required because he had stopped to check our status. As he walked away, he said it bothered him too when his wife got her hair done.

The story doesn’t end there. A few weeks later our tenant came to pay rent. He was talking about having coffee with his highway patrol officer friends. One had commented about these two women on the side of the road and how he had to help one put a bag over the other one’s head. I immediately started laughing and told him that I was one of the women he rescued that day. Our tenant knows all about my sensitivities and about my story. He started laughing and said he couldn’t wait to tell this particular officer that he knows the women.

I knew the officer would most likely go back and tell the story to all his buddies. I mean, how often does this kind of thing happen?

Okay, now what’s the least funny?

Kathryn: The least funny thing was when I made a quick trip with my daughter into Target. We were getting what she and I needed when we ran into a woman pushing her shopping cart with a little girl trailing alongside her. She saw me with my mask and made the fastest turnaround I had ever seen someone make with a shopping cart. I am sure she thought that I was contagious, and what she never knew was that I was more likely to get sick being around her than her from being around me.

What book or movie character would you nominate as the mascot for chemical sensitivity?

Molly: This was my final question, but we’ve both been wracking our brains and haven’t come up with anyone yet (there’s gotta be a Harry Potter reference in here somewhere). I don’t want to nominate Carol, because Kathryn and Carol don’t seem too similar (watch the film and you’ll agree).

Can you think of one? Let us know if so! Also, be sure to share your own funny and unfunny health stories. And, of course, check out Kathryn’s book.

She is offering a giveaway of three autographed copies through Rafflecopter, and her book is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon (prices vary). Autographed copies (US Only) will be available on her website.

This is stop #7 on her book blog tour, and you can find the rest on her blog.

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Gluten-Free Astrology: Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Well, hello there, Gluten-Free Libras. So glad you could make it. No, but really. GF Libras are such easygoing, sociable people—an asset to every gathering. When you join the conversation, everyone (even sullen GF Cancers and hyperactive GF Geminis like me) feels a bit more at ease.

The GF Libra is decidedly not a loner; you seek out and thrive on companionship. For you, a solitary safe dinner at home is terribly depressing; you prefer to seek out new experiences, preferably with a partner or BFF as well as some new friends-to-be. A humble GF Gemini like myself might feel awkward about whipping out my mason jar of rice and black-bean salad and gluten-free roll at a restaurant (as I wound up doing last week), but you never would. And, given your level-headedness and communication skills, you’re almost always able to successfully convey your needs to the waiter and chef and manage to wrangle a safe meal for yourself anyway.

scales (symbol of Libra)

Though the gluten-free diet, despite popular misconception, doesn’t have much at all to do with weight, the GF Libra is all about the scales.
Photo © Joie De Cleve | Flickr

In fact, I would love to carry one of you around in my back pocket to pull out whenever I need to calmly explain something about celiac disease or gluten-free living to someone who’s just not getting it. You’d acknowledge both sides of the discussion, calmly bring us to an understanding, and smooth out any tensions or hurt feelings as you went. In short, you’d do a much better job than I ever do.

If spokespeople were selected by community vote, GF Libras—the ultimate people people—would be nominated, seconded, and appointed without a word of dissent from anyone. (Well, except for the Leos, who would feel the crown really belonged to them.) And, indeed, GF Libras are excellent advocates: they care intensely about fairness and are able to raise awareness for their community without forgetting the priorities of others. Put your advocacy skills to the test this month. Though National Celiac Awareness Day is behind us and our month is a ways away, there’s plenty of work for you to do in the meantime.

The GF Libra is ruled by Venus, and therefore loves loveliness. No misshapen gluten-free cookies make their way onto your buffet table—everything must be perfect. Oh, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you make them yourself; many Libras are so laid-back as to be underachievers. If your baking skills don’t hold up, rather than try, try again, you’d probably walk, walk to the door of that local GF bakery that makes the most beautiful cupcakes, with piped-on frosting blossoms. So they cost $6 each? Ah, well, what’s a little extravagance in the pursuit of happiness?

According to my astrology bible, Libras love to spruce up their homes with tasteful luxury. Now, I happen live with a GF Libra, and while she doesn’t precisely display this characteristic, she was the one who had the idea to buy glass canisters and fill them with certified gluten-free grains and beans as a display piece.

shelf with canisters of gluten-free grains and cookbooks displayed

Totally the work of a GF Libra.

And, although we’ve lived in our apartment for nearly three months now without putting up our art, she is rather more bothered than I am by it. For the slight discrepancy, we might blame her lazy Libran nature, or perhaps her nurture: our Taurean father’s practical housekeeping and Scorpio mother’s conservative fiscal habits probably tamped down her inherent frivolousness.

Perhaps, internally, she does waffle between frivolity and sensibility. If so, she wouldn’t be alone, for many GF Libras struggle with trying to be all things to all people and therefore feel as though they’re never quite themselves, never wholly real. Often, they sense that something vitally important is missing from their lives. It’s probably gluten.

The GF Libra is associated with the kidneys, and several studies have indicated a connection between celiac and renal disease. Although these studies have failed to disclose the astrological signs of the surveyed subjects, I think we can safely surmise that many of them were born between September 23rd and October 22nd.

You know who was definitely born in that range? These GF Libra celebrities. Oh, and there are plenty. Check them out:

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow, born September 27th, 1972, typifies her sign’s natural loveliness: she was named People‘s “Most Beautiful Woman” in April, and she’s in the public eye for several different philanthropic and awareness-raising campaigns. However, she’s unnaturally polarizing to the GF community. Though she’s certainly out there talking about her gluten-free diet, nobody’s sure she’s talking about it quite right. But her nonchalant book title, personal motto, and retort to our accusations that she distorts the diet’s purpose couldn’t be much more Libran: “It’s all good.” Sure, Gwyneth. Sure it is.
Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian, born October 21, 1980, is another GF Libra who goes 100 percent against my earlier statement about Libras being the most welcome gluten-free advocates (but don’t worry, everything else I said is true). As of this tweet in 2012, she was all about the gluten-free diet, and went on record about the great weight loss she achieved from it. The community, judging from such comments as those at Gluten Dude’s site, was not thrilled. Our wonderful journalists over at the Examiner later kept us up to date when she cheated with some ramen. Goodness. It really is tough to keep up with her.

Are you a GF Libra who really does present gluten-free life in a balanced, truthful way, or do you know of another one? Let me know in the comments if so!

As always, the “information,” such as it is, in this post has been largely ripped off from The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, which is in fact the only astrology book you’ll ever need (need here being a relative term).

See also: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo

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