Hello! My name is Anna, and I have a celiac diagnosis.
I was diagnosed when I was two and a half. Because I was diagnosed so young, I didn’t have to struggle as much as others who were diagnosed when they were older; I never knew what I was missing. Now, I am 16 years old, but the temptations to eat non gluten-free food are still there! If you are newly diagnosed, and you are struggling, I promise it will get easier. When I was diagnosed, my mom – who went to culinary school – had to relearn a lot of her cooking methods to be gluten free. At first it was not easy, but with time it got better and better.
An important part of your journey is to have a support system to help you when you feel sick or frustrated.
It is a long journey with lots of struggles, you are going to need help! Trust me I know, it is embarrassing to ask for help and it makes you feel like a burden. But, most of the time, people are more than happy to help. You will never know unless you ask!
A way to ease the anxiety of asking for help is to have something planned out to say. For example, if you are in a restaurant, before the waiter asks what you are having, I say “Do you have any specialty gluten-free items, or a gluten-free menu?” I have been saying that exact same line ever since I could order on my own at a restaurant. It is second nature now.
The same goes for if you are going to a party-like function. I always text the host and say, “What food are you serving? I am gluten free, so I can bring myself something to eat if necessary!” Sometimes they respond that they could get something special for you, or simply suggest that you bring something for yourself. Either way works for me. Just do what is easier for you and makes you feel safe!
Also, ask professionals for help when you need it. When I was little, I saw a dietitian, and she was a lot of help. It’s especially important to get help from a professional when you are newly diagnosed.
The last tip I would share is: you have to learn to advocate for yourself! There are many apps, websites, and other resources that you can find that might be helpful. It may seem very difficult right now, but in the long run, your continued health will be worth it!
-Anna is a member of Food Equality Initiative’s Teen Advisory Board. If you or a teen you know is interested in joining, please email Erin Martinez: email@example.com.