Confessions of a Wannabe Celiac.

Via Jenna Penielle Lyons
on Jan 14, 2014
get elephant's newsletter



These are the waffles I made my boyfriend for breakfast this morning.

Just a wee bit embarrassing—I will venture to call it a #WAFFAIL.

The batter was overflowing from the waffle maker my mom got me for Christmas. Smoke floated out from the sides of the waffle maker. Brandon, always smiling and happy, looked at the waffle maker (which I was standing in front of…trying to hide my mess) and laughed. I peeled the sad, burnt waffle out of the maker and put it on the plate next to his [also kind of messed up] eggs. You can bet your sweet hiney that I plopped a couple dabs of butter and drizzled maple syrup over the top too. Women have been disguising cooking mistakes with fat and sugar for decades, right?

The truth is, I wish I was allergic to gluten. I wish it made my throat swell and I wish it made me gain weight like mad and I wish it made me feel too lethargic to leave my bed.

Because then, life would be easier. It would be so easy to just give up on baking and cooking waffles. Muffins. Brownies. Cookies. Everything that I have made and burned and fed people in hopes that they wouldn’t hate me after the dinner party was over.

The most severe of gluten allergies would be less severe than the problems I currently experience:

Ginger snaps make me horny.

Biscotti makes me foam at the mouth.

Waffles (not my own, obviously) make me walk like a zombie toward the breakfast table.

Funfetti cake makes my skip and sing like a child on a pony at her eighth birthday party.

Brownies make my gyrate with glee.

I would run at the speed of light to receive a warm, drizzling cinnamon roll from a nice grandma in an apron.

The last chocolate dipped peanut butter cookie in the bin at the store makes me ravenous and willing to plow down anyone who is in my way.

Now, I know I could make gluten free versions of all these desserts.

And I have before. The only good thing I’ve ever been able to make a gluten free version of is brownies. They were alright, but not as good as the Betty Crocker Double Fudge brownie mix. I feel that gluten free baking is like only owning a vibrator and ignoring the real…ahem…thing.

Someday, I might venture into gluten free baking and commit myself to becoming good at it. I consider it a challenge. Almond flour, spelt flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, etc…bring it on!

But right now, I am going to continue to eat gluten in moderation. I will continue to sneak cookies into the bed and eat them under the covers.



Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!


Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: courtesy of the author






About Jenna Penielle Lyons

Jenna Penielle Lyons was born in Portales, New Mexico among sage and sand. Raised in Pocatello, Idaho among the black rock and juniper, she grew up wandering in cowboy boots, running, riding bikes, skiing, climbing, painting, and studying classical ballet. She is a scholar of English Literature, a poet, painter, photographer, musician, and outdoorswoman. She winters in Missoula and spends the summer working for Snake River Hotshots. She is a lover of mountain bluebirds & elephants, tea & good coffee, Carl Jung, Salvador Dali, skiing, climbing in the desert, yoga, harp music, and sagebrush. Her favorite foods are borscht and any combination of chocolate and cayenne pepper. Check out her work and follow her adventures at her website.


23 Responses to “Confessions of a Wannabe Celiac.”

  1. Christie says:

    As a Celiac, I kind of find this article (and title) offensive. Celiac Disease is NOT a gluten allergy; it is an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten. People can have a wheat allergy–completely unrelated. All of this gluten-free hype is actually making it harder for Celiacs to be taken seriously. It’s not a trend for us. We aren’t gluten-free one day and not the next, like many others who are voluntarily jumping on (and off) the gfree wagon. Boo, Elephant Journal, for sharing this.

  2. David says:

    You need your from my wife! She is celiac and some of her gluten free baking (e.g. flapjacks, brownies and muffins) are better than the gluten versions. And I'm not just saying that, plenty of other people have too. But it is a tricky thing to master and you need to experiment and learn from the failures.

  3. The lyoness says:


    Nowhere in this piece do I slander celiac’s or say that it is not a serious disease. Please keep negativity to yourself or write an article about your celiac’s so you can contribute to the conversation rather than polluting this space.



  4. The lyoness says:

    I totally agree, David! I just enjoy baked goods, and maybe if I had celiac’s disease I would be more motivated to try recipes and master them! Thanks for contributing to the conversation!


  5. Jen says:

    No, sweetie, you don't. I'm currently dealing with a celiac flare-up from cross-contamination at a bar (made the mistake of ordering a draft cider at a busy bar instead of the cidery). You really want the migraines, followed by days of painful bloating, GI pain and upset, and insatiable hunger because the autoimmune response damaged your gut lining to the point that you have trouble absorbing nutrients? Plus the damaged teeth and ruined fertility from more than a decade of undiagnosed disease? The worry that anytime you eat food prepared by someone else out of your sight, you might end up regretting it for a week? It's not a joke.

    Perhaps you should learn to cook rather than belittling those of us who have to live with this and, thanks to articles like this, struggle to be taken seriously.

  6. The Lyoness says:

    In no way does this article slander celiac's victims. It is written in jest…I obviously don't want to suffer from those issues. I know how to cook…this was meant to be a funny story about someone who loves baked goods.
    Stop playing the victim and lighten up, please. No one is out to ruin your reputation or make celiac's seem like a joke.


  7. David says:

    Oops that should have said "tips from my wife". I must remember to read things carefully before posting and correct the autocorrect!

  8. David says:

    I can understand why people get frustrated with this "trend" for gluten free as if it is a health choice or fad diet. My wife is celiac and also has a wheat allergy. Jen described it perfectly above and its not something I'd wish on anybody. It makes eating out difficult and limits your food choices. It also makes it much harder to get all the nutrients you need as with the gut being damaged (and the longer it took to diagnose and therefore cut out the gluten the worse it will be) it is less able to extract nutrients from anything you eat. And there is no cure, just a lifetime of having to avoid certain foods and be careful where you eat.

    My wife loved bread and still really misses being able to eat it as the gf alternatives are no substitute. Luckily she's a really good cook and baker and many of the things she makes are as good as or better than the versions with gluten. I eat mostly gluten free too in order to make it easier at meal times but do still eat some wheat products (being very careful about cross contamination of course).

    Saying all of that I didn't find this article offensive. It's kind of a double edged sword in my view, more people following gluten free raises awareness and means more products are available but it also does mean it becomes a fad and not always taken as seriously as it should be. Just like mental health issues (I suffer from anxiety and depression) are now more recognised but also it seems every 5 minutes some celebrity is reported to be suffering and therefore people get fed up of hearing about it. I think overall more awareness is a good thing regardless of how it happens as it enables debate and education.

  9. Courtney says:

    Christie and Jen, I could not agree more with you. This slights a very misunderstood disease. It epitomizes the victim stance that the writer has taken. I have had a stroke due to my long term food sensitivities (including and most noted gluten). I do not think the writer meant harm, but she is using her lack of will power as an excuse that "if only" she was allergic to something eg; gluten she would not eat it. She might as well have said sugar instead of gluten, but she didn't. What I also find so misinformed about this article is that I hardly EVER eat gluten free "versions". Because I cannot eat gluten I must find other sources of good nutrition, not just potato starch, sugar and white rice (many ingredients of "gluten free" PROCESSED foods that I avoid and everyone should avoid). With all my respect, Jenna you need to take the lashes with a wet gluten free noodle :-). And realize there are proven ways to keep your blood sugar level so that sugar, gluten and food in general doesn't put you on the roller coaster you're describing.

  10. Mike says:

    I understand you were just trying to put a funny twist to your passion for baked goods, so don't come back saying you were just poking fun at your own issues. But choosing to do so at the expense of any group of people in today's society is plain wrong. Would you wish to be a person with autism? A person with HIV? A person with cerebral palsy? Would you poke fun of Jewish, Islamic, Mormon, etc. religions? Would you wish you were black, asian, mexican, arabic, african, etc to be funnny? No. Just as people from these groups would be upset, so are people who actually have Celiac Disease. My wife almost died 4 months ago because she had gone undiagnosed for over 15 years and nearly bled to death because of a perferated colon and stomach where the autoimmune disorder attacked her own body because of the gluten and cause large ulcerations. We had 2 miscarriages because of the Celiac Disease. There is absolutely nothing funny about wishing you had CD. In the future, try to think of those who are afflicted witha certain issue before you actually publish something. I can tell you, thishas notbeena fun journey!

  11. @GlutenDude says:

    I wish I had cancer. Not funny. I wish I had diabetes. Not funny. I wish I had MS. Not funny. I wish I had celiac. Why is that funny again?

    I know you meant no malice toward our community Jenna. Lord knows we could all use laughter in our lives. But the reason we are so defensive is that it seems like there is an article just like this one almost every day now. And whether it's said in jest or not, it's a subtle dig at our disease and what we go through on a daily basis. Celiac is not simply "giving up gluten and feeling great." It's an awful autoimmune disease to live with for most of us and we're just sick of having to defend ourselves.

    Thanks for listening.

  12. christine jones says:

    crap I would give anything to not have to spent 3 times the time and twice the money buying groceries, taking 5 hours or days to get any new Rx because you have to find out if its gluten free, and some of my meds are not made gluten free. you forgot to mention the 500 trips a day to the toilet if you eat out and some waiter picked your croutons off the plate instead of getting a new one….yup just go puck about twenty times in the next hour ….and then when you have to puke and vomit for hours days or weeks. you forgot how attractive it is to be on the way home from visiting a friend…and you accedentlially got gluten on your hands touching her doorknob and furniture, and had to leave suddenly cause you were feeling too sick, and had to pull over on the side of the road to vomit. and you forgot to mention all the activities you turned down cause you were still running to the bathroom two weeks after getting cross contamination. oh and how you have to call the manufacture of everything that comes in your house from soap shampoo tampons lotion…to see if it has hidden gluten….oh and the wrong web pages that say things are gluten free….when they are really not because it has CC or the web page is out of date. wow totally forgot about holidays…..where you smell all the great food you cant eat. people still give you gifts with gluten in them. (cant tell you all the food I had to turn away at funerals) and you don't eat before leaving for the holiday afraid you might make a mistake and …have issues on the drive…but you get there…and their gluten free turkey has bread stuffing in it….and actually there is only carrots you can eat….and they still make you sick from CC….frankly I cant think of a single positive thing about having celiacs except that fact that this autoimmune disease doesn't requite meds or surgery. my life is immeasurably more complicated …..and let me tell you………you think you crave that stuff now…..try not eating it for years… really gonna crave it then' the desire for it doesn't go away…. it makes you sad.

  13. Kim says:

    I have celiac, and have had Celiac from a very young age. Besides the fact that due to this disease I have experienced the feeling of isolation and loneliness, at a birthday party where I was the only child that could not partake in the cake. Explaining on a first date, that you aren't just a "picky" eater, but you can't eat where they want to take you, and never hearing back from them. Having to plan ahead for any major event, often months at a time to see if they will be able to safely accommodate your medical need, and still getting so sick that it will take a month or more until you feel right again. Or being told you "can't eat anything" at a wedding, or a family event, and having to bring your own food, and not have people eyeball you or make rude remarks. I would not wish for this, I would not wish this for anyone else. A true disease, that people don't understand and make light of, because there is no medication for it, and you can't see the illness, it must be a joke right. Tears over food you spent tons of money and work on, only to find that continued practice is the only way you will be able to make something similar to what "normal" people eat. Tears over feeling isolated, and missing out on events when people decide inviting you can be too difficult. I'm sorry that you weren't able to make waffles, but on the bright side.. you don't have to have 2 of everything you cook with, because your roommate, spouse, sibling, etc can eat "normal" food, and used yours, causing you to need a new one that hasn't been glutened. I mean, yeah, I guess I would rather have celiac than burn waffles every once in a while… Seems like a fair trade to me.

  14. Christy says:


  15. Leigh says:

    In response to the author's response, here, I just want to say that this article is in poor taste, and I hope she has realized that now. It was clearly meant to be funny and not to hurt anyone, but pointing out that it is somewhat offensive should not be labeled "negativity" that is "polluting" this space. It does take courage to put yourself out there as a writer, and there will be missteps writers mature and learn to gauge audiences. This article was not funny and people with this serious condition (like my own daughter) have legitimate reasons for taking issue with it.

  16. Beth says:

    I completely agree with you. It was in poor taste and not funny at all. Obviously the author doesn't have someone who suffers withe Celiac and doesn't understand the seriousness of the disease.

  17. ashley says:

    You are not harming anyone, but you are crazy for saying this! You want celiac disease because you can not resist baked goods. Well, I have celiac and you can gladly have my intestines! Take my whole body for that matter! At least you can go to a restaurant and not go into panic mode. Do you have to explain your disease to everyone? No! You obviously have a misconception on what celiac (not celiacs as you refer to it as) is and what is does to your body, social life, relationships, business meetings, traveling, etc. And your “eating gluten in moderation” and “sneaking” cookies…your kidding right. Why would you give up gluten. It is not bad for you. Like someone else said, maybe its a sugar problem. I have that….i can relate! But celiac, you do not want that. You should really rethink this post. Read what you wrote and replace every “celiac” with “autoimmune disease” because that is what it is. A disease. That effects your entire body. It is more that cookies and breads and cakes. Its soy sauce and cereal and chips and crackers and dips and soups and reading every label to check and double check for things like modified food starch. It is cooking every meal at home. It is packing snacks or skipping dinner parties. It is fear of being glutened when eating away from home. You do not want that. I promise. It is forever. When I am 90 years old in a nursing home my chart will say gluten free. I will make decades more to explain to every new person what gluten is and what celiac is just to get weird looks. It is forever not a fad. Think about that! Keep your cookies and bagels. Buy them don’t bake them. I have celiac and can’t bake a thing. I hope you never really develop gluten allergies or get diagnosed with CD or any other health problems for that matter. Just love your life and your messy waffles

  18. Lisa says:

    Jenna, I know that you were just trying to be funny, but please use this as a learning experience. There is absolutely nothing funny about having your throat swell (or watching your kids’ throat swell) from food allergies. My kids have life-threatening allergies and I have nonceliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), which has had a HUGE impact on my life and it interferes/affects life in ways you can’t possibly imagine! Nothing about celiac or NCGS would make your life easier!!! Not in any way, shape or form. Good life lesson for you…it’s NEVER funny to make fun of someone else’s life-threatening or life-altering illness. It’s pretty insensitive and if we seem defensive, it’s just because we are so tired…so very tired…of dealing with crap like this on top of all of the other gluten-related challenges that we must overcome every day. I hope that if your piece does one thing, it makes you and your readers think with TRUE compassion about what we in the gluten-free community go through every single day in every time you hear the word “gluten” or “celiac”. We’re people who do experience those symptoms that you describe and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, no more than I would other serious or life-threatening illnesses.

  19. @HollynMarie says:

    Perfectly said! Whether or not malice is intended, it does not matter, it was insensitive. It would never be considered socially acceptable to poke fun at cancer, HIV, or almost any other disease. People kidding about another's disease is insensitive and in poor taste regardless of how it is done (same with Race Jokes ect), will the author now kid about wanting Anorexia Nervosa? Or Cancer?
    I think the author has the ability to be funny, but I hope SHE finally understands why we're all "defensive" (she should talk as she has been nothing but defensive and snarking in responding) and takes better care in writing.

    And I almost wish EJ has a negative one dollar for this and other articles like it, because it makes me regret my donations to EJ.

  20. Caitlin Weaver says:

    I don’t know about any other celiac’s on here but I have to take a multi vitamin every day because of what I am not eating. A normal functioning human body takes what it needs from everything you eat.. So if you are someone with a norm functioning digestive system you may not want to be eating gluten free on a whim. But yes I agree with the fact that it is more serious than people realize but also I am a little heavy set and it keeps me from eating carbs but it doesn’t make dieting any easier because that’s just even less you can eat.. If you do not have a gluten intolerance or celiac I suggest you be one of the people proud to be able to eat the things you can eat instead of wishing for a life of pain and agony each time you may accidentally take a crumb of gluten because it isn’t fun.

  21. Stephanie says:

    I want to second Christine. Trivializing a "real" disorder that has exploded into a fad is not responsible publishing. Having celiac disease is arduous..and expensive. I can't buy a decent sandwich on the run like the rest of society..its a Whole Foods trip or, etc..
    I cant for the world understand why someone would want to join this club. I personally think that a lot of people blame gluten for their weight problems, for example. Instead of those midnight Oreos.
    Horrible article.

  22. Stephanie says:

    Yes, fellow celiacs, yes!!! Now, on to making GF scones.

  23. Celiac Gal says: