I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease on March 27, 2008. I went 100% gluten free on March 30th, 2008. I would have done it immediately, but at the time, I only had Thursdays and Sundays off from work, and I didn't have time to go grocery shopping on Friday or Saturday, and NOTHING in my house was gluten-free. I went grocery shopping on the 30th before breakfast because I wanted my first day to be a full day of gluten-free food. I had a general idea of what I could and couldn't eat, and I had a general idea of what ingredients to look out for. My plan was to eliminate everything until I was 100% sure it was "safe."
I spent two hours at the grocery store, and at this point, I wish I had taken a picture of my shopping cart because I'd love to see exactly how far I've come so I can prove to others that it does get easier. I had hardly filled the bottom of the cart, but I was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. I knew I didn't have enough food to get me through the week, but I just couldn't be in the store any longer. It took all of my willpower to actually go to the checkout line rather just leaving the cart and going home with nothing.
As I made my way to the checkout line, my boyfriend called. He said he needed milk. I told him I was just about to get in the checkout line, and I really needed to leave. He insisted I go get milk anyway. He didn't understand. I didn't understand. The bottom line was I knew I would crumple into a ball crying my eyes out if I needed to spend one extra second in that grocery store. My eyes began to burn as I tried to explain why it was just too much for me to turn my cart around and go all the way to the back of the store to get him a gallon of milk. He insisted I would turn around if it was something for myself. I insisted I would explain when I got home.
I left the store without milk. I also fell apart once I was in the safety of my car. How in the world was I going to do this? I couldn't cry every time I went grocery shopping. I also couldn't leave the grocery store with such little food or I would starve.
I wish I could remember what I had bought that first shopping trip. I know I had chicken, eggs, and potatoes, but I'm not sure what else. Rice Chex came out with their gluten-free version soon after I was diagnosed, and you would have thought I won the lottery the first time I found a box. I originally ate eggs for breakfast each morning, but that was soon replaced by Rice Chex. I had met with a dietitian who said I needed to consume something like 3,000-3,500 calories each day in order to get myself to a decent weight. I don't remember much from my appointment, but I do remember wanting to cry when it seemed I would have to eat 24/7 in order to consume that many calories. I also remember it wouldn't be an option to simply eat dry Chex like I had been doing. I needed to eat two bowls of Chex with soy milk (I'm lactose intolerant) AND I needed to add at least three tablespoons of sugar to help out with calorie intake.
It wasn't long before I figured out the "perfect" plan. I ate my Rice Chex with soy milk and sugar for breakfast, potatoes and chicken for lunch, and potatoes and chicken for dinner. I had Enjoy Life soft cookies for snacks, and I was sure to consume at least 2-3 cans of Ensure for extra calories and nutrition. At one point I discovered Sweet Baby Ray's Bbq sauce was gluten-free, so I began adding that to my chicken. It wasn't the most flavorful diet, but I was eating, and I was feeling a million times better.
Occasionally, I would eat other things, but it was easy to bake a weeks worth of chicken and potatoes and portion it out for my meals for the week each Sunday. This lasted at least 3 months before I started rotating a few other things into my diet. It was also about that point that I discovered I was having some symptoms again. The symptoms seemed to coincide with me drinking Ensure or having my cereal with soy milk. I later found out that it is very common to become intolerant to a food if you consume it too often. I guess 5 or 6 servings of soy milk was too much ;)
So that was my start. I usually hear about how people take a good 6-12 months to really master the gluten-free diet. I knew one person who couldn't figure out why it seemed like she was getting glutened occasionally only to figure out that Rice Krispies and Hormel Chili w/o Beans were not gluten-free. I didn't like the idea of being unsure, and getting sick as a result, and I'm proud to say that there weren't any instances of me eating something, and later finding out that I should not have consumed it. Then again, I also dealt with an incredibly boring diet for a very long time.