In the next Celiac Series installment, I wanted to jumpstart my interviews with the Owner and Founder of Celiac Cutie, Meredith Miller. Meredith, like all celiacs, has a unique story, and sharing those stories is the goal of my series. I hope you enjoy her story and that we can all be as positive and inspiring as Meredith!
Meredith’s loved ones have been her rock throughout her entire CD experience. After visiting many doctors, Meredith still could not figure out what was wrong. It was her dad who said she should ask to be tested for Celiac Disease. She said, “Sure enough, after a blood test, my endocrinologist told me she was pretty sure I had Celiac based on the results, but she didn’t really know what to tell me next.”
We have all been there at some point with CD (and maybe still are!). Completely changing your diet and lifestyle is a monumental and intimidating task, and the reactions are all over the board. While some people may be focused on the crumbly taste of most gluten-free food (thank goodness that’s improving!), Meredith “struggled a lot with shame actually. [She] was embarrassed to tell servers when [she] went out, and [she] felt like [she] had to apologize to everyone for being high maintenance or an inconvenience.”
Once again, her family helped her out in several ways. “They would reiterate [the allergy] was serious and always [had] my back. Even something as simple as my boyfriend asking for the gluten-free menu so I didn’t have to.” Family support during these transitional times are a blessing. If your family is also overwhelmed with the diet change, you can always turn to your Celiac family. There are two main support groups can be found on Facebook, and they everything from post relatable questions to delicious gluten-free recipes.
To learn more about her new life, Meredith dove into research and found two books that really helped her understand Celiac Disease. The first, Celiac Disease, A Hidden Epidemic by Dr. Peter Glen, was Meredith’s “Celiac 101” as she likes to call it. She also read Jennifer’s Way by Jennifer Esposito because she felt like she really related to her story.
Making the switch to gluten-free is tough, but Meredith found the transition totally worth it. “After two years of eating gluten-free, I no longer needed iron infusions. Prior to that, I had had a constant battle with anemia.” Having those life-changing results is a relief and finding new favorite foods that help you feel better is exciting. Meredith loves “Udi’s because they are easy to find and have the best staples. [She is] very fortunate to live in Orlando (Disney being a huge player here) because many restaurants cater to tourists and have great gluten-free options. Outside of Orlando, some great chains that [she] can rely on are Outback, Season’s 52, and Maddio’s Pizza.”
Meredith took her previous shame of being celiac and turned it into pride. She began Celiac Cutie, a clothing business that raises both awareness for CD and money for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, where she learned about Celiac after being diagnosed.
“I really wanted to make people smile when they talk about Celiac Disease so that we could raise awareness. I felt so ashamed and isolated initially, and I kept thinking, why would anybody want to talk about this when every conversation has to start with something negative – the ‘Is this gluten-free?’, ‘Can I eat this?” questions. I started looking for shirts and kept finding ones I considered to be a little aggressive (‘I’m a b**ch because I can’t eat gluten’ was my least favorite!). So, I started coming up with little sayings here and there from my life that I thought anyone could relate to. My favorite thing to this day is wearing a Celiac Cutie shirt out and about and seeing people read it and laugh. Celiac Cutie was a way to raise awareness but also have a bigger impact financially with this community than I ever could alone.”
Meredith also shared with me some wisdom about the importance of staying optimistic when first diagnosed with CD and afterwards. “I really strive to focus on the positives because I know it helps me in my daily life - with my attitude, my interactions with others, and my health. There aren’t a lot of diseases where the known cure is a diet adjustment, and I feel very blessed in that way. It’s hard, it’s inconvenient – absolutely – but it’s much worse when you focus on the negatives rather than working to be thankful and appreciative. I also feel very strongly about being positive to help raise awareness. I know for a fact that when I’m smiling and when I’m talking passionately, people get so much more engaged than they do when I’m despondent or depressed. It doesn’t mean I don’t have down days – I DO! But overall, if I can be positive, focus on thankfulness, and help raise awareness, then I am a happy camper!”
Check out Meredith’s punny and inspiring t-shirts at www.celiaccutie.com or @celiaccutie on Instagram! I already own two and am on the hunt for more. Plus, you’re donating to the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and raising awareness in a fun way whenever you wear the shirt – that’s a win-win!