“Oh you poor girl… that must be so inconvenient.”

Convenience is something that we often shape our lives around. We take on so many things, we fill our days so much that we give ourselves a free pass when it comes to “the little conveniences” of life. It’s so easy to give in and just grab a quick dinner at the fast food joint, to pop something in the microwave, to order in for a sizzling hot cheesy pizza.

Five years ago, when I got my lab results back, I finally had to stop giving myself the free pass to all these “little conveniences”. Celiac (an immune reaction to a protein in wheat), in all of it’s inconveniences, has made me really think about my food, and my life, in a new way. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the quality of my food, where it comes from and how my body will use or be abused by it. Believe me, when an unknown food may make you sick for hours, days, or even weeks you learn to examine every bite with the care of a monk painting a holy script on a grain of rice.

Celiac is a unique gift. It has made me conscious of the many ways we view food- as pure fuel, as sumptuous pleasure and, in extreme cases, as a matter of life and death. I’ve learned to see food that is safe to eat not as a simple convenience, but as a goal to be striven for and invested in daily. Good tasting food that will nourish and not poison is not necessarily a given (for anyone).

Learning the rules for a celiac to healthy (not just safe) eating is a spotty process full of mistakes, setbacks and not a little bit of pain along the way. Trusting food made by others, with multiple ingredients is sketchy at best (beware potlucks!). “If it has a label it stays off my table” has been a good rule of thumb for me, a rule that has taken me solidly out of the realm of processed “convenience” foods. Yes, there are boxed gluten-free foods- but after examining the labels I can firmly say that gluten-free does not necessarily mean healthy!

I cook mostly at home, or eat at a few trusted local restaurants where they know my needs. I almost always use whole food ingredients: tomatoes, peppers, greens, local pastured meats and eggs. I’ve even branched out and experimented with new foods I would have never considered before; tacos de lengua (tongue), liver, sweetbreads, herring, kombucha, new vegetables and greens… The list goes on.

Meals take longer to prepare now, are more “inconvenient”, but something interesting has been happening over the past two years. With less exercise and eating as much as I want I’ve lost over 25 lbs and increased my muscle mass dramatically. I’m never sick, rarely tired and my moods have evened out. My friends have all commented on the changes. I have a lot more mental and emotional clarity about what I want and the determination and patience to do what it takes to get there. I get more done in much less time.

Looking back to 2 decades ago I’m astonished. I’m far stronger, healthier, happier, and hopefully (I think) wiser than my twenty year old self. Yes, if you want to know, I think I could kick my twenty year old self’s butt in a race, hands down.

So is my lifestyle inconvenient? You be the judge.


  • Deborah
    June 21, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Great article, Helene! I’m discovering this too. At first, I was so dismayed at the foods I had to cut out of my diet but it’s amazing how inconvenience forces you down a path you never cared to take but are so much the happier for. Love your blog!

  • Chris
    June 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I think many many people could use the type of thought and logic in your feeding article, with much further reaching applications. A logical extension might be for folks to also consider if the things they spend their time doing and identify themselves with are soul food or ego fuel. I’d imagine that your outdoor adventures may be similar to mine in that it takes a humble, well-balanced processing to make sure that the power of adventure feeds the soul and not the ego. Perhaps that humble, well-balanced process is the same between real food and soul food from adventure?

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