Thursday, June 18, 2009

One Year Anniversary - Celiac Disease Diagnosis

The last 365+ days have been extremely interesting for me as I'm sure it is for any newly diagnosed person with Celiac Disease. The shock of diagnosis and life altering Gluten Free diet have sort of faded into the past believe it or not. At first you wonder why something like this would happen to you, especially something so rarely heard of. But as time passes, you realize that eating healthily and paying attention to what you feed your body is all that is needed to feel good. After learning to eat again and developing all new brand loyalties, the GF Diet becomes more second nature. Don't get me wrong, there are ups and downs and very taxing moments still, but for the most part, I don't spend every waking moment thinking about Gluten Free like I used to.

I created Gluten Free Raleigh and posted my first ever blog post on August 22, 2008. I figured that if I was living this life and discovering how to do it successfully, I might as well share with others in the hopes that it could help someone. That first post said a few things that I still try to bide by at this point... Things like "I would like to use this blog to highlight people and businesses who cater to Gluten Free consumers, to drum up exposure for them and hopefully draw others into the game." I also wrote "This blog will focus on letting the Celiacs of Raleigh know where they can find GF products and my personal experiences with restaurants around town. My goal is to provide a service of sorts so that other GF folks can have a little easier life." I hope that I have accomplished this for the readers of this blog. I certainly intend on continuing in this quest. Life for the Gluten Free person can and will get better in this city and throughout North Carolina.

Since August 22, 2008, I have posted 380 blog entries on Gluten Free Raleigh. I always intended to do at least one per day on weekdays but that actually averages out to 1.27 posts per day including weekends. I might be addicted actually - haha. Also during the past year, I have worked to expand the Gluten Free Raleigh concept to the surrounding cities of Raleigh including Cary, Durham and Chapel Hill. These 3 additional blogs, with the wonderful help of guest bloggers Sarah, Debbie and Lauren have added another 81 posts since they were created on Jan 1, 2008.

In addition to the Triangle, I have created 9 more blogs centered around all the other major cities in North Carolina - Winston-Salem, Asheville, Charlotte, Wilmington, Greensboro, Greenville, Fayetteville, High Point & Rocky Mount. Some of these are more recent and are just getting started but I have high hopes for their future. The goal is obviously to create a Gluten Free North Carolina so that citizens of NC can easily travel anywhere in the state without worries. Why not?

Some other accomplishments include the following...
1 - Creation of the Gluten Free Raleigh Health Network which includes GI Doctors, Dietitians and Dermatologists familiar with Celiac Disease in the Raleigh area. There are professionals that are ready and willing to help us.

2 - 25 Restaurant Reviews

3 - 11 Grocery Store Reviews

4 - Creation of an online petition which will eventually be presented to the City Council of Raleigh asking them to create a Food Allergy Education Poster which will be required to be posted in all city restaurants. The petition has been signed by nearly 230 people so far.

5 - I have become a certified GREAT Guide by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. I am officially trained to show restaurants how to safely prepare GF meals for patrons. I anticipate getting my first Raleigh restaurant through GREAT very soon - with many more to follow.

6 - 65 Useful Resource posts about successfully living with Celiac Disease or being Gluten Free.

7 - Holding 2 special events and fundraisers. The first involved hosting famous Celiac Author/Speaker and creator of Jules Gluten Free, Jules Shepard in a GF cooking demo held at Earth Fare for 40 attendees. The event raised $500 which was donated to the NFCA and University of Maryland Celiac Research Center. The second event (held this past weekend) was a run/walk fundraiser which raised $915 donated yesterday to the Gluten Intolerance Group to help fund Gluten Free week at Camp Kanata (kids camp located in Wake Forest, NC).

8 - Worked with the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team to get Gluten Free beer and foods available at the RBC Center for games during this past season. More than 100 Redbridge were sold during the season.

All of the above has been great for me and personally rewarding but honestly the best part has been the numerous people who I have meet or spoken with during the past year. People like Trevor Chambers and Corbett Monica from Bella Monica, Rose Waring from Rosie's Plate, Lori & Michelle Corso from Twin Cakes Bakery, Lee Tobin from the Whole Foods Gluten Free Bakehouse, Jules Shepard from Jules Gluten Free & Nearly Normal Cooking, Steve Drotts - ZPizza Cary & Raleigh franchise owner, Scott Mandell - CEO of Enjoy Life Foods, Dr. Colm O'Loughlin from Digestive Healthcare, Alice Bast - founder of the NFCA, the great folks behind Bard's Beer like Tasha Kardaris, Pat Berger - Raleigh Celiac Support Group founder, the great folks behind Gluten Free Week at Camp Kanata (Debbie and Alanna), Cynthia Kupper - director of GIG, the marketing folks at Earth Fare and Whole Foods, the owners and operators of Harmony Farms, Susanna Wilde from Gourmet Frais and all the local Raleigh area Gluten Free bloggers. I know there is more but I wanted to at least list some of the great people I have meet so far. These are dedicated people who care about you and want to serve you.

Lastly, I'd like to thank all of the readers (there's now about 6,000 of you every month) out there who email me with ideas and thanks. Keep the ideas coming in, I do read every email I receive. A huge thank you to my family, especially my wife, for being so supportive of me, for eating tons of crappy tasting food during the last year while we figured out the Gluten Free diet, and for listening to the noise of my keyboard late at night.

Stay tuned!


glutonicwoman said...

Congratulations! Really great work.

Denise said...

You ROCK! Thanks for all of your hard work!

Lauren said...

Thank you for all that you do. :)

John said...

Thank you Zach for your hard work on the blog and in the community.

This post is your ticket for a free Red Bridge sometime!

Turtle said...

U are amazing!! Thank you soo much!

anna said...

Thanks so much for your dedication. All of your efforts have improved the quality of life for those of us celiacs in the triangle. I am certain that I speak for all of us that we are most appreciative and grateful.

Anonymous said...

I also want to thank you for your dedication and devotion to this common, but still so underdiagnosed and/or misdiagnosed condition. My father almost died from Celiacs in his 40's as he was said to have Pancreatic Cancer. Thankfully, by the time he weighed 140lbs. my mother finally took him to a new young doc, and he was properly diagnosed. Two of my sisters have Celiacs, and I have IBS (very closely realated) What I am currently researching and learning to heal are the ongoing and/or long term Neurological disorders and effects directly associated with these Digestive Tract Disorders. Ataxia, PN, Gate problems etc. So often overlooked, misunderstood, or misdiagnosed, I was one who was thouroghly tested for MS, Brain Tumor, and several other Neurological problems. After months of reasearch and really good Doc's, I no longer have to wonder about these strange symptoms. My father suffers from severe Ataxia, and never has one of his specialists mentioned the ongoing research confirming the secondary Neurological problems linked to Celiacs. Sorry so long, Just want to thank you for support and bringing awareness to this disease. So many lives can and will continue to improve. Thank You, Patricia

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