"Be Prepared" ... that has been the motto of Girl Guides and Boy Scouts since it all began. I have often referenced it (having been in guiding as a youth and as a leader) when I have been in situations where people are in awww of the fact that I have done something that required foresite. Sometimes it is as simple as being the person who lugged firewood down a 3km trail because she knew that the beach had little wood to scavanage. It came in handy for those people who had only brought hot dogs for dinner and there was no wood to be had to make a fire ... good thing I packed that really annoyingly heavy load in even though I had brought a camp stove to cook my food on. The funny thing is, I actually passed by a troop of Scouts who said, "now that's being prepared!"
Okay, so that is on the more extreme end of things and I am often caught unprepared, usually for rain which is a very frequent occurrence around here, so you think I would have learned by now. One of those things that I should have learned by now and for the most part I have, is being prepared with food. My former supervisor at work used to harass me all the time (in a joking manner of course) about how I was always eating or always carry a bag full of food. Part of the problem that helped him think that I was always eating is that I'm not a breakfast person and cannot eat first thing in the morning. So I wait a few hours and have breakfast at the office or on the road. Then I would eat my lunch at my desk while working as I had used my lunch break for a walk instead ... so my eating times were off the norm. The other reason is that, as a Celiac, I have to carry back up food with me all the time.
If you are newly diagnosed, this trick will save your butt in endless situations and it all ties back to being prepared. I have endless stories and scenarios of being hungry and grumpy from when I first was diagnosed when I didn't know any better and until now when I just didn't have the energy to think ahead. But being lazy was/is never worth it. What am I getting at? Well, if you travel a lot or are going somewhere new where they (friends, restaurants, events) claim they can accommodate you safely, bring back up food! It is as simple as that and here's why. If you are anything like me (super sensitive) and not willing to take risks, you will find yourself in situations quite often where you might not get as much food as you were hoping or any at all.
I'm on the road a lot for work and have to travel all over Vancouver Island. I stay in a lot of places for short stints and long stints and sometimes have to take ferries to the smaller islands at weird ungodly hours. As a result I have found myself discovering that the place I'm working at today doesn't have a working microwave and all I brought was microwaveable gluten free Thai noodles. I have discovered that the ferry I'm in line for is delayed and I ate my lunch earlier and am still hungry ... oh and I'm on a little island that doesn't know what the word gluten free is. I've had to work through lunch and rush back to work to avoid overtime and can't eat my warmed up soup while driving and so on ... and that's just work.
On the road I've discovered that airports are utterly useless for feeding Celiacs. Sure you can order special food on a plane, but what about the hours between flights you spend in airports while your friends mow down on burgers or doughnuts and you can't even have the salad because it has unknown deli meat on it? How about trying to find a restaurant to eat at while on the road in small towns? How about forgetting your snacks in your backpack that got stowed in the hull of a ship and watching your friends fill their boots with burgers and chips while you try to make that half eaten gluten free cookie last another 5 hours. Or going to restaurants where they say they can accommodate you and what they meant was, you can have a house salad with no dressing.Or like when I was first diagnosed, assuming that just because most of things in your house are now safe to eat, going over to a friends for the weekend, that you will be able to eat just fine there too? That is a big mistake .... you can't have any of their condiments and they won't have half the stuff you are used to eating. Just remember the first day you found out you had Celiac and filled up boxes of food that you had to give away because it wasn't safe anymore? That is what everybodyelse's kitchens are filled with.
Okay, enough with my ranting ... obviously I've had my fare share of stuck without food scenario's and when I am without food I get frustrated and grumpy, sometimes a little bit weak in the knees and sometimes a little teary eyed. It's the grumpy teary eyed bit I'd like to avoid the most and the bit that being prepared gets rid off. Basically bring food with you everywhere. Leave a few gluten free bars in you car's glove box or trunk for emergencies, leave one in your purse and leave one at work because your works emergency earthquake rations are 90% Wheat. If you don't know what the conditions are like where you are going, pack a lunch that doesn't require heating or utensils (that you didn't bring with you) and pack some basics ex: rice crackers, peanut butter, apple, cheese and gf pepperoni? whatever works best for you! If you are traveling for several days bring a cooler and fill it with things that you might not find as easily in a regular grocery store and if at all possible request a hotel room with a kitchenette. If you are traveling internationally, well you might want to give me a few tips because I haven't worked out all the quirks yet, but snacks galore seems to help and whatever you do, don't rely on the complimentary breakfasts (they are almost always muffins, danishes, toast and unsafe sausage).
I was reminded of this being prepared motto recently at a Girl Guide event. It is the 100 year of Girl Guiding in Canada this year and in order to mark it's anniversary British Columbia Girl Guides decided to celebrate it by having one giant sleep over with 7, 800 girls at the Pacific Colosseum. As a leader there, the event was a bit chaotic to say the least, but it is run entirely by volunteers, so what can you expect. At least the girls had fun! The only thing that worried me is that dinner was non-existent. The people in charge didn't understand what it is to be Celiac, mostly because we don't have the immediate reactions and threat as someone with anaphylactic allergies, so they try their best, but just do not understand. So I was given a bag with gluten free burger buns and told to stand in line for dinner with everyone else. Once I got there, there was burgers with bread crumbs in them and chicken with seasoning and all grilled together. The could not guarantee anything. Good thing I saw this coming and brought some snacks (beef jerky and a Kind bar), so that's what I had for dinner. I was too busy making sure our pack of girls were doing okay to worry about food and the snack and breakfast that was provided for me worked out fine. But that scenario worried me for the young girls who were told they would be okay. I hope that they and there caretakers were as prepared as I was and it is this scenario that reminded me of the Girl Guides motto 'to be prepared.' This motto should really be adopted as the Celiac motto, because we really do have to spend a lot of time thinking about food and where our next meal is coming from in order to remain happy healthy people.
Knowing what works best for you will come by trail and error, but always carry something with you, even if it's just an apple because you never know what the day will bring you!