Over a month ago, I packed my belongings, said my goodbyes, and set out to begin a new chapter in my life: college. This, of course, wasn't without some hesitations and worries. Mainly, I was worried about what I would eat. I can deal with not knowing anyone and new things, but food is the one thing that I don't like to question.
Living in a dorm and being gluten free is obviously a challenge. It's not easy to only have access to a mini fridge and a microwave. Especially after cooking at least twice a day and being spoiled with fine ingredients. The dining hall staff is very helpful and willing to make things special for me, but it's always hard to track someone down and it takes a lot of extra time, which I usually don't have. Also, when asking about things I get a lot of "this should be fine" or "I don't think there's gluten in this," which makes me feel uncomfortable eating things. I don't like to question whether something is safe for me to eat. When I ask, I want the person to be 100% sure it's safe.
Because of this, I found myself eating plain hamburger patties for the first three weeks and, if I was lucky, there would be plain rice and steamed vegetables available. There were, of course, some days where I would get lucky and there would be a stir fry that I could have without the sauce, or baked potato that was safe. And if I was too desperate, I could ask the staff to make a gluten free pizza for me, but I try not to do that too often because my stomach can't handle a lot of starches and carbs. With all of this though, cross contamination is something that I always worry about. The staff do their best, but the lack of knowledge makes me question how safe my meals really are.
Last weekend I went home for the first time in three weeks and whats the first thing I did when I got home? Eat! I weighed myself when I got home and again before I left, and I gained five pounds in food alone. Quite an accomplishment if I do say so myself! The Sunday before I headed back to school, I cooked all day making things to put in my freezer. The menu consisted of white rice, grilled chicken, sautéed asparagus, black beans, sweet and sour sauce to put on the chicken, ravioli with sauce, a t-bone steak the size of my face, bacon wrapped filet mignons, and chocolate chip cookies. I also stocked up my fridge with corn tortillas for microwave quesadillas, shredded cheese (I put this on rice bowls, quesadillas, etc...), fruit cups, microwaveable sausages, and kefir. Along with my other snacks, all of this has kept me full and feeling good.
After contacting the dining manager several times, he asked me to be a part of the dining advisory committee that is new this year. It consists of students from all different perspectives such as athletes, vegetarians, and residence hall leaders, and also the dining manager and the chef. I am looking forward to this opportunity and hope to make some changes to make gluten free dining easier for myself and other students with similar dietary needs. College is stressful enough without having to constantly worry about your next meal making you sick. Especially because I'm an athlete. One meal with traces of gluten could leave me weak and cause my joints to swell for weeks. This could easily cause injuries or prevent progress and cause me to get behind in training, which is something I can't afford to do.
Until then, I will continue to keep my fridge and freezer well stocked (luckily my roommate is awesome and doesn't care that I hog the entire freezer), and make occasional runs into Chipotle for a burrito bowl. My next post will hopefully be about changes in the dining hall, but we'll see how that goes. That's all for now, check back often for updates!