Gluten Free Follow Me

Jackie McEwan Interview

1. Why did you start suspecting you had a gluten allergy? What was the process of finding out you were allergic to gluten?

Six years ago, my sports doctor had all of his patients take a food intolerance test, and gluten came up in my test results. I was like, what’s gluten?! Looking back, my diagnosis made a lot of sense because I would get sick at least once a week in college.In college, I would eat stir fry on Sundays (using gluten-filled soy sauce) and always felt nauseous. I would get sick after eating my favorite sandwich at Cosi and thought it was food poisoning. I went to the Emergency Room at a nearby hospital a few times because I couldn’t keep any food or water down. 
I had these reactions throughout college but no one ever brought up gluten as a reason for my sickness. I normalized these reactions because they had unfortunately become normal to me.Gluten sensitivity/intolerance and celiac disease were not as wide-spread as they are now. Looking back, it seems silly that I never pressed doctors on what was making me sick but gluten wasn’t in the forefront of my mind or their minds. 

2. What was your emotional reaction to the results and finding out you had to go gluten free? 

I was incredibly overwhelmed when I finally found out that gluten was making me sick. I didn’t even realize I was sick!I went to a few gastroenterologists and found out I didn’t just have a gluten intolerance – I also had celiac disease. My diagnosis forced me to rethink what I was eating because I had to immediately cut gluten out of my diet. 

3. What was the learning curve like and self-education process of what you could and could not eat? What resources did you use?

I did a ton of research on what foods had gluten in it, what foods were gluten-free, and all the grey areas in between.The gluten-free diet has become much more popular in the past couple of years, but it wasn’t as prevalent six years ago so it was challenging. I Googled a lot and read food labels at the supermarket. I wanted there to be ONE guide that had everything I needed to know about following a gluten-free diet.That’s how Gluten Free Follow Me was born JI wish I had something like Gluten Free Follow Me to guide me through my new gluten-free diet six years ago, but I’m glad I can be a guide for others now! 

4. Did you struggle with the transition, what were the surprises along the way (i.e. things you couldn’t eat, difficult from family/friends/waiters etc)?

I learned the hard way as most people do. My reaction is gluten is that I throw up a few hours later so it’s pretty obvious if I’ve ingested gluten. I quickly learned that being gluten-free wasn’t just about avoiding bread. Gluten can hide in sauces, and you need to be aware of cross contamination. I learned that I could only eat food in a dedicated gluten-free fryer. At first, my family and friends didn’t really understand what it meant to be gluten-free. They would say, can’t you just try a bite of this?! It takes time, and now they fully understand.

5. What was the biggest overall impact/learning to your life? What about your family and friends?

My celiac diagnosis seemed like the worst thing at the time. However, I’m grateful for it now. Knowledge is power, and I’m healthier because of it. Going gluten-free lead me to starting Gluten Free Follow Me. If I hadn’t become gluten-free, I would probably still be working in finance in New York City. My quest to find gluten-free foods developed into a full-time passion, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out!
At first, my family and friends didn’t really understand what it meant to be gluten-free. People would say, can’t you just try a bite of this?!It takes time, and now they fully understand. They went out of their way to make sure I had enough options to eat during holidays and gatherings which I so appreciate.

6. What was it like when you first went out to eat?

I love good food and trying new restaurants. When I first moved to New York, I was so excited to eat out all the time. After discovering that I couldn’t eat gluten, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to go out to eat with friends and indulge in delicious food. The first few times I went out to eat, I was a bit nervous. I would eat something small before going out and bring snacks just in case if I couldn’t eat too much of the restaurant food.  

7. At what point did you feel confident about your handle on this diet?

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact time but I would say when I started posting on Instagram in March 2014.I had been gluten-free for a couple years at that point. I was ready to start sharing what I found in my gluten-free discoveries, and I wanted to learn what other people were doing.I knew the nuances and truly felt comfortable eating out and grocery-shopping. It was no longer a chore – eating food became fun again!

8. How has the gluten free world changed since your transition and how do you see it continuing to change in the next 5-10 years?

Every year, it becomes easier to follow a gluten-free diet. It’s more straightforward to find gluten-free foods. Supermarkets and stores now have gluten-free sections, and food labeling has gotten better. Products market themselves to the gluten-free consumer. Some brands have even modified their ingredients in order to make their products gluten-free.
The restaurant scene has become more sensitive to people who follow a gluten-free diet. Some restaurants have menus that indicate which items are gluten-free, and this definitely wasn’t the case six years ago. Waiters are usually well-versed in how to accommodate dietary needs, unlike a few years ago when the majority of waiters didn’t even know what gluten was. 
I see the gluten-free world continuing down the path of increased awareness. I’ve ate at over fifty completely gluten-free eateries (link to list here), and I expect to see even more 100% gluten-free eateries in the future. I predict that the number of people who go gluten-free will keep on multiplying. After all, gluten-free food truly tastes good now, and it’s a healthier way to live.

9. What’s one thing you would go back and tell yourself looking back now?

It’s not as hard as you think! When you first find out that you can’t have gluten, it’s incredibly overwhelming. But when you realize how many amazing options there are (especially nowadays), you really don’t have to worry. You WILL be able to eat delicious AND safe food.

10. What’s your favorite gluten free recipe?

My favorite recipe right now is avocado chocolate cookies. They’re gluten-free and paleo, and you only need six ingredients – avocado, egg, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, paleo chocolate chips, and baking soda. I’ve made these cookies for gluten-eaters, and they’re shocked at how good they taste! You can’t taste the avocado, and they’re so gooey & good. I have 200+ gluten-free recipes on including these delicious cookies

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