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Guest Post: Alissa Carberry, Gluten-Free Style.

A gluten-free life doesn't mean you eat rabbit food all day long.  And thankfully, today's guest post is out to prove just that.  Alissa Carberry is a Clara Barton Camp alum, fellow person with type 1 diabetes, and rockin' a gluten-free lifestyle, thanks to celiac disease.  Today, she's offered to guest post about life with diabetes, celiac, and the power of a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich.  Take it away, Alissa!

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Alissa is awesome.  See post for details.  :)It’s a double whammy:  I’m standing at a birthday party for a friend, and there’s a large birthday cake, waiting to be cut up and devoured.  It’s like that scene in Office Space, where everyone’s passing slices around and there’s that one kid waiting and waiting for his slice.  When a piece gets to me, I politely refuse it, putting a hand out and saying “Oh, no thanks!”

“Ohhhhh, because of your diabetes, right? No sugar?”

And thus begins the difficulty of having two autoimmune disease- type 1 diabetes and Celiac Disease.

It’s one thing to explain why I only drink diet soda and have sugar free maple syrup. I pinky promise strangers that eating a candy bar won’t kill me.  But a slice of chocolate cake?  An entirely different story.

In the middle of my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance- no more wheat, barley, rye or oats, cutting out the staples of a lazy teenager’s life: no pizza, cookies, rice krispies, or sandwiches.  You name it and it’s sold in a box, it probably has gluten in it.  I had to re-learn food labels, hunting for the ingredients that are waaay down at the bottom of the list- who knew that lindt truffles needed barley to taste so good?

Suddenly, I had to make all the decisions on where we eat, and my friends were thrown into temporary insanities on remembering not to offer me most of the foods they ate-diabetes was tricky enough, but now they were worried they’d “poison” me too.  We joked I was part bunny-rabbit, eating carrots and lettuce, laughing that my parents wouldn’t need a lawn mower anymore because I could just eat the grass.

And then this little bunny rabbit had to go to college.  A school filled with tons of students and many a place to eat.  Within the first week of going to UVM (University of Vermont), a girl on my floor had found me a poster, advertising for the first ever meeting of ... A GLUTEN FREE CLUB?! It couldn’t be! I felt the cilia dancing in my stomach as I went to the first meeting a week later.

Entering the room, I found a group of people that were just like me- tired of eating lettuce and salad.  “No more!” we cried, holding our carrots in the air, waving them around. (Alright, so not quite, but you get the picture)  We used our hunger as a tool and began having bi-weekly meetings, cooking gluten free dinners together and trading tips on living the life on a campus where the dining halls made an almost half-hearted effort.

Within the year we became a student government recognized club, receiving a club budget and our own sga website. The dining halls have slowly but surely become more accommodating, although quite a few of the workers still haven’t a clue what the word ‘gluten’ even means.  We’ve used our voices (and our intestinal tract!) to make an impact, and are spreading knowledge all across campus.  Recently, we’ve teamed up with a non-profit, Feel Good, to sell gluten-free grilled cheese.  And let me tell you, there’s nothing better than the taste of grilled, savory inclusion.

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Alissa Carberry is a junior at UVM, majoring in Early Childhood Special  Education, with a minor in sassiness and autoimmune education.  A very recent alum of Clara Barton Camp, Alissa loves talking about her diabetes, answering questions about her "pager," and drinking all the iced coffee she can get her hands on.  (Editor's note:  I'm drinking all the iced coffee Alissa doesn't have her hands on.)  Alissa loves all things poetry related, dress-related, and gluten-free related.  


I know a good few people with celiac disease. It's hard when people don't understand that there are some things that you just can't "cheat" on. But you sound like you're doing so well! Keep up the good work!

Alissa, I live in Essex Junction, VT. A small world indeed...first Abby...now you! WoHOOO.

OK...to the gluten. I cannot even imagine. I have heard that it is more difficult to work around than "D". Great post.

Woohoo! You're such a champ. Much love to ya, beautiful girl. SO PROUD.

College dining halls are so tricky! I think the one at my school would try, but sometimes I would look at the carb counts on the foods and just know they were wrong.

I remember the moment when it dawned on me just how hard having Celiac Disease was for Alissa. We had tickets to a Green Day concert and had decided to get dinner before the show. The problem was, most of the inexpensive places to eat were sub shops, delis and pizza places. Not many options there. It drove home the point that society wasn't making her already challenging life any easier. I admit to being biased, but she's done a tremendous job in advocating for people who are forced to live a gluten-free lifestyle.

Thanks for featuring a post by someone with Celiac Disease and Type I. I have both too. I know there are others of us out there, but have yet to actually meet someone with both.

'a minor in sassiness..' Ha! That was such a nice post. She has a great writing style.

I have quite a few friends with either celiac disease or wheat allergies, and I can see how frustrating it must be for them to not enjoy the same foods as their friends. Luckily there's a gluten-free specialty store in my area for them to go to! A "special dietary needs" club is a wonderful idea.

Alissa is actually the first person that ever made the 'gluten free' life understandable for me @ DTreat in Philadelphia two years ago. Thanks for sharing your story!

:) erin.

I really enjoyed this post, does she ahve a blog too???

Great post, thanks for sharing your insights and trials! It really is a challenge when everyday food makes you feel terrible. I have even switched to a gluten-free Himalayan pink salt (I get mine from Sustainable Sourcing https://secure.sustainablesourcing.com) and my life is so much better for it.

Thanks for the inspiring post! I was diagnosed with both T1 diabetes and Celiac Disease in 2010. It's sometimes difficult to figure out which "club" I belong to more, diabetes or celiac. Both affect my life equally. I found myself nodding my head "yep" when reading the blog! Thanks again.

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