Three years ago, the worst thing ever happened to me: I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.
After a year of skipping gluten during the week and then bingeing on pasta, bagels and beer on the weekends, I realized my lifestyle wasn't working.
I moved to NYC in 2012 and decided it was time to get my health in order. I went to one of the top celiac doctors in the city and got diagnosed with the disease.
Do you know what that means?
No gluten. Ever. No cheating, no bingeing and most importantly, none of my mom's delicious Italian cooking ever again. I was seriously pissed, and aside from being pissed, I was worried.
Do you know the worst thing about not being able to eat gluten? How absolutely moronic people are who don't have celiac disease.
I constantly hear these questions from educated people and sometimes, even people who work for Fortune 500 companies:
1. Are you getting, like, so skinny?
2. Should I go gluten-free, too?
3. So, wait, you can't have bagels, pasta and... OMG, what about your wedding cake?
4. But, you're just on a diet, right?
5. Do you wanna share dumplings?
6. Why don't you go on that dating website, Gluten-Free Singles?
Let me answer all these questions quickly: No, it doesn't make you skinny. In fact, most gluten-free friendly substitutions are fattening. No, you shouldn't go gluten-free if you don't have to -- just go on a diet, fatty.
Unlike you, I'm not thinking about Carmine's salty food or a wedding cake for a marriage I'm not close to having.
No, I'm not just saying this so when we go out to dinner, I have an excuse to order a salad. I can't eat dumplings, you moron. And, I won't go on some website that supports people's diagnoses consuming their lives.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can be seriously dangerous, and unfortunately, because of the gluten-free fad diet, people do not understand what it is. People think it's a choice you make, not a serious disease with which you are diagnosed.
If you have celiac disease and do not maintain a completely gluten-free diet, it can lead to very serious illnesses, like other autoimmune disorders, and even cancer.
The first thing I did after my diagnosis was accept it. I decided not to lay in my bed and cry about the years of processed carbs and Blue Moons I won't have.
The next thing I did was buy every book I could to educate myself -- that part was key. If you walk around this world believing everything everyone tells you and don't educate yourself, you will die a complete fool.
Some of the books I read were so boring, it took me two weeks to get through them.
I won't ruin the books because they are both truly amazing, but what I will tell you is "Jennifer's Way" will make you go, "Oh, sh*t — me too," and shed a few tears. "Gluten is my Bitch" will have you peeing your pants and saying, "F*ck gluten, I'm so above you."
The third thing I did was learn how to cook. Knowing how to cook when you have celiac is extremely important, so you aren't eating processed, boxed, sugary, fattening foods.
I cook every single day and not only do I love it, but my meals also taste f*cking awesome. I make my own breads, muffins, pancakes and pastas, which even my gluten-loving friends say are delicious.
The worst thing about having celiac disease is having to explain it or talk about it all the time. Anyone who has celiac disease can attest to the fact that it comes up in conversation way more often then we would like.
I hate having to explain what it is, when I was diagnosed, how it makes me feel, etc. — especially on dates.
On the first date, I always think to myself, "Will he judge me for ordering tequila?" and then, "God, I hope he doesn't ask me to share food (especially dumplings again)."
Luckily, some guys are cool about it and just let me take charge when ordering, which I love doing, anyway (this guy gets a second date).
Then, there are the few guys I've met who look at you like you are speaking a different language and then ask if you want to share fried calamari.
Now that I have explained what celiac disease is, talked about how dense people can be and shared my wisdom, I want to stress that I couldn't care less about having celiac disease.
It has made me smarter, stronger, funnier, more self-reflective and has changed me in the best ways possible over the past few years.
I've learned so much about health and wellness, become a phenomenal chef and baker, eaten at of some of the best restaurants in NYC and met some really cool and intelligent people.
My best advice for people who get diagnosed with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease is to embrace it. It won't kill you (if you are smart), and if people judge you or don't listen to your stories, they aren't worth it.