Oh boy, where to start? Let's take it back to 2004, way back to when I started the Baking and Pastry Arts Bachelor Degree Program at the Culinary Institute of America. I spent some of the best years of my life learning and training under the worlds most accomplished Chefs and Bakers. Cakes, pastries, breads, plated desserts, so on and so forth, I soaked it all in. I even had the opportunity to take an advanced baking principles class where we concentrated on baking techniques for different dietary restrictions. The big up-and-coming topic of the class turned out to be gluten-free baking. The instructor even taught a gluten-free continuing education class on the weekends, open to the public, and I just so happened to be the teaching assistant of said class. Funny how things work out. I would come to find out years later how indispensable that knowledge and experience would be.
Fast forward, 14 years later. I am married, have a young son, own a small business and life is moving right along, but I never feel quite right. After the birth of my son, I slowly started to develop stomach pains, intense cramping, brain fog, forgetfulness and a whole host of other, seemingly miss matched, aliments. I go off dairy for awhile thinking that will help, which it does at first but then the symptoms return. I try getting back into martial arts because, hey maybe I am just unhealthy and out of shape. I find I am unable to keep up with the other students in the class and am physically and mentally exhausted easily. I join the gym and get a trainer, a few pounds come off but I am still weak and feel sick all the time. Something has to give.
I see doctor after doctor, who then run test after test and 6 months later, I finally get the answer I was looking for, I have Celiacs Disease. What? Your joking right? I am a legit pastry chef, a baker of bread, and your telling me that the one thing I have a degree in is destroying me from the inside out? Yes, that is exactly what that means. I quickly ran through the stages of grief. Denial, because I have eaten bread my entire life, the doctor has no idea what she is talking about. Anger that I already have a fruit allergy let's just add to the list of things I can't eat, why don't we. Bargaining with myself because maybe I can just not eat gluten on odd number days and save the croissants for even numbered days. Depression and sadness, feeling bad for myself and complaining to anyone that would listen. Then, I finally came around to acceptance and four trash bags later, my kitchen, my life, was free of all things gluten and in just DAYS my health changed dramatically.
I had more energy than I have had in years, my fitness and strength training reached a whole new level and was able to lose weight and get STRONG. A few months into this new gluten-free diet, I start to develop sharp stomach pains after eating. After a period of elimination diets, I find the culprit, eggs. I had been eating 4-6 eggs a day on my self made "meal plan" and my digestive tract had had enough. So now I cannot eat apples, gluten or eggs. How am I supposed to eat a nutrition diet, stay healthy and hit my fitness goals with so many restrictions? I needed a professional, no, I needed to become the professional. Enter the ISSA Nutrition Coach Certification Course. Six long, hard months (30-something brains were not designed to go back to school, just my opinion) and I passed my exam and now possess the knowledge to help myself heal and stay healthy through nutrition.
Armed with my Culinary Arts Degree and my Nutrition Coach Certification I set off on my own personal journey of healing. I made myself a dietary plan that included smart food choices to maximize micro and macro nutrients and still taste great, a set of food guidelines to help tailor my meals around, a daily supplement routine to enhance my diet and a fitness schedule to keep me on track. It is this combination of tools that helped me reach my goals and is continuing to help me day after day. My road to health has been long, taken so much time and so much effort. It shouldn't be this hard just to feel normal. That's why I am here, I want to help others who are ready to take charge of their health, build back their immune system, get leaner and stronger and do it all with food that actually tastes good and not just "good for gluten-free", real deliciously nourishing food.
I know how much it really sucks to go out to eat with friends, or family, and have to be "that person" and ask a million questions, make special requests and still feel nervous that you are going to get sick after eating. I know how hard it is to explain that, yes one crumb really does make a difference. I know how much it hurts and how debilitating it is when you get glutened and how much of a set back that can be for your health. I know what you're going through as a Cealiac, gluten intolerant or gluten allergic person. That is why I want to help, because I know, I see you and I get you. Let me be your Celiac side-kick on this gluten-free road trip that is our lives now.
Colleen is an ISSA Certified Nutrition Coach, Culinary Institute of America Graduate and Your Gluten-Free Celiac Sidekick.
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