Rachel is a Nima community member living in Maple Grove, Minnesota. She is a celiac warrior who has a passion for gluten-free baking! You can follow her gluten-free adventures on her instagram @celiacsweetie, or check out her blog here.
What’s your food identity, and how do you maintain it?
I was diagnosed with Celiac disease the summer preceding my senior year of college, in August of 2017. Celiac disease is a lifelong autoimmune condition in which my immune system attacks my small intestine when gluten is ingested. The only treatment/management is to adhere to a 100% gluten-free diet. For somebody with Celiac disease, even a crumb or cross-contaminated food can trigger an autoimmune response, which makes eating gluten-free much more complex than simply choosing items that are “gluten free.” I make most of my own meals at home to maintain my strict gluten-free diet; I have my own dishes, toaster, etc. Whenever I do go out, I cannot control what goes on behind the kitchen doors. I always research the restaurant before going, speak with my server about the severity/sensitivity of this diet, and ensure that my food will be cooked using separate utensils and in a separate clean area. And I then test it with Nima, of course!
Tell us a little about your gluten-free journey. What was it like when you started eating gluten-free? What challenges did you face?
It was hard for me at first in many ways! I was not adventurous with my food choices initially, as the adjustment felt extremely overwhelming… plus, I felt very sick in general at this time. Reading the labels and ingredient list for everything that I put into my body took some getting used to. Grocery shopping definitely became more time consuming! Mistakes were had in my first months and I learned a lot– thankfully my friends and family have been hugely supportive. Additionally, I have always had a passion for baking and creating in the kitchen, so my diagnosis felt like a discouragement/setback. But, I quickly taught myself how to use the diversity of GF flours – some of my favorites are almond, coconut, and arrowroot (I have many GF recipes on my instagram and blog)! Lastly, social gatherings took effort for me to learn how to navigate, and not feel like a pain to everyone at the table while giving my “spiel” to restaurant staff. While I have faced these challenges, I am thankful to know the cause of my health problems and to have learned how to manage the disease.
What was your food life like before you had your Nima?
Before having my Nima, I rarely ate out or tried things that I hadn’t prepared myself. It’s hard to trust restaurants/bakeries/etc to keep me safe; I have gotten sick after being well assured that my food would be safe. I also was hesitant to eat GF items baked for me, out of love, because I would worry that the pan used had gluten in it from previous use (gluten can get stuck in scratches on dishes), or the chocolate chips weren’t certified gluten-free, etc. Traveling was also a big stressor. Which restaurants are actually safe for me in this new place? Life before having my Nima was a lot more stressful for me!
What’s your food life like now that you have Nima?
Having the Nima has made my food life much less of a hassle! Putting my health and well-being into the hands of a chef is quite frightening, and sometimes it can be obvious that the staff does not understand the severity of the disease. I’ve learned that many restaurants/companies do not prepare their food responsibly; it’s been frustrating to have to justify why I must eat this way and over explain that this is my way to survive/thrive and not a fad diet or mild sensitivity. With Nima, I can instead be open to trying out a new place and let Nima tell me if it’s safe or not. It’s also a game-changing device for traveling!
What do you test with Nima? Has there been anything that surprised you wasn’t safe (according to Nima)?
With Nima, I typically test restaurant dishes and gluten-free baked items that I didn’t bake myself. Though, I do test some of my own baked goods at random just to double check my own technique and ensure that my ingredients aren’t falsely labeled. 🙂 I don’t test items that are certified gluten-free, I choose to save my capsules for other items that I am more unsure of, or items that are at higher risk for cross-contamination. I was recently surprised when I ordered a gluten-free salad from a reputable restaurant, one I had been to before, and Nima found gluten.
What do your friends, family, and/or doctors think about Nima?
My friends and family think that Nima is so cool! I have not talked about it with my doctor yet, but, I am a registered nurse and have showed some of my co-workers at the hospital who also think it’s an impressive and helpful device. I have also had a lot of instagram followers message me expressing interest in the device/asking questions too.
When using Nima at restaurants, what has been your experience? Do you have a favorite Nima related story?
My favorite Nima stories are pretty much any time that I have gotten the smiley face and get to eat my meal with everyone else.. 🙂 Haha. It’s always a bummer to see “gluten found” on Nima, but always a bigger sigh of relief that I didn’t take a bite! When gluten is found, it presents the opportunity to educate the staff on Celiac disease and what this really means; I like to hope that the restaurants that test positive for gluten look further into their technique to improve it for the future. I always get a smiley face from Nima at Chipotle!
Bonus fun questions:
If you can only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Anything sweet! I love baking desserts so I always have leftover treats around.
If you can only use one spice or condiment what would it be?
Mustard! I eat mustard on pretty much any/every meal. I love black pepper too!
If you can only choose one restaurant for the rest of your life where would it be?
Crave was my favorite restaurant before I was diagnosed with Celiac disease so I would probably choose that! I have not yet found a gluten-free “favorite” restaurant but I will be trying a couple new places soon that hopefully will be contenders!
– – –Thank you for sharing your story Rachel!