Giving Thanks for My Gluten-Free Weekend…

gluten free orlando

You know when you’re looking forward to a new trip but you just don’t know how it’s going to go? There’s a lot of excitement and a bit of trepidation? You’re meeting some people you’ve looked up to for some time and you just don’t know what they’re going to be like? And if they’ll like you? You get yourself pretty worked up and then when you get there…it’s a total letdown? The trip becomes a disaster?


I just spent three days in Orlando at the Gluten Free Living Conference and it was awesome. And it was so much more than a room full of gluten-free vendors. Actually, I spent maybe a grand total of 60 minutes inside the exhibition room where the vendors were.

The rest of the time was spent relaxing, learning, socializing, exercising and overall just having a grand old time.

I cannot say enough about the job the good folks at Gluten Free Living did putting this together…especially in such short notice.

Let’s take a walk through the weekend, highlighting the things and the people I am quite grateful for (in no specific order).

I’m grateful there was a pool.


I’m grateful there was a poolside bar.

gluten free bar

I’m grateful there was a Starbucks in the hotel.


I’m grateful there was a gym in the hotel.


I’m grateful there was a sushi restaurant right next to the hotel…

gluten free sushi

…that also served Scorpion Bowls.

scorpion bowl

I’m grateful that Tito’s was one of the weekend’s sponsors. And yes…that included a couple of complimentary beverages.

titos vodka

But the weekend was really about the people. That’s what made this event so special as compared to others I have attended. It was not simply about gluten-free food but it was about the celiac community.

Who am I grateful for meeting? Funny you should ask.

I’m grateful for Jules Shephard (aka Jules Gluten Free…kind of…long story…to be heard soon). Jules is a pretty big name in the celiac community and, for lack of a better term, she took me under her wing this weekend. She’s fun, she’s driven and she’s a cool person to hang out with. I feel like I have made a friend for life. Thanks Jules.

I’m grateful for Dr. Alessio Fasano (aka the Godfather of celiac disease…my pet name…not his.) He was giving a speech on Saturday morning and as I’m trying to find the venue, I see a gentleman with long hair in front of me wearing a suit also somewhat lost. It turns out it was the man himself. I caught up to him, told him who I was, shamelessly dropped in the names Jules Shepard and Jennifer Esposito as people I know and basically gave him my 30-second “there’s no need to be afraid of me” elevator pitch.

I’m assuming he quickened his pace because he was running late 😉

Anyway, I was able to grab a seat in the second row and his speech was just wonderful. Take away the medical terms that I can’t pronounce and we speak much of the same language about the need for awareness, the ridiculousness of the fad and the seriousness of the disease.

And I am more than grateful that I was able to hang with him and his peeps during the night hours at a nice private table by the pool.

More to come on this blog about Dr. Fasano, his speech and his upcoming book.

I’m grateful for Irish Heart! Yes…we were finally able to meet and it was like we’ve been BFF’s forever. We had wonderful conversations, great laughs and a few Tito’s. Love ya Irish.

I’m grateful I was able to get a picture of all four of us together. It was quite a spontaneous moment but here we are in all of our glory.

celiac rock stars

And lastly, I’m grateful for everyone else I met, from the awesome Gluten Free Living team, to Dr. Fasano’s team and especially to some of my fellow bloggers such as Chrissy (Glam Without Gluten), Amie Valpone (Healthy Apple), Taylor (Gluten Away), Michael (Gluten Free Philly), Amy Leger (Savvy Celiac…and who knew you don’t pronounce the R in her last name), the cool guys from Taste Guru, Kathleen (Celiac Baby), Sarah (Celiac in the City) and tons more.

I feel like a came home a stronger advocate and a better person.

Seriously…I need to get away more.

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52 thoughts on “Giving Thanks for My Gluten-Free Weekend…”

  1. Thankful for Whole Foods

    Hooray! I’m so glad it was a great trip. Now who exactly are the 4 in that photo? You, ?, ? and Irish Heart?

  2. That’s me in the bikini!! (no, I am just kidding)
    for pete’s sake….you might have photo-shopped the pic a bit so I looked as good as Jules in a bikini. Some BFF you are. 🙂
    And you were able to grab a seat in the 2nd row because I pushed a lady onto the floor so you could sit beside me. I gave up my front row seat for you. Geesh, tell them the whole story!! lmao

    I am living proof of the latest study from the UK that Anne Lee, RD related to us–“the average weight gain of a celiac post diagnosis the first few years is 22+ lbs.’…. (apparently I am “above average” at the moment. lmao (Ah well,sure beats the scrawny- looking walking dead thingy I was when I was sick.)

    And I would like to clarify: those giant Tito’s bottles were empty–long before we got there. That’s the truth! (I will admit to helping empty one later in the evening.–but it was much smaller ) lol

    I have so much to say about finally meeting my celiac hero, Dr. Fasano–and I will write it all up for later–but it was kind of weird to have him half -naked at the time. I was also alone with him in the elevator later in the day…..

    I will say this: he is intelligent, funny, extremely dedicated to helping the celiac community and just a really nice guy. No air of importance at all. (I mean, he allowed people to take his pic in a bathing suit. That’s just plain cool.) Jules is a lovely, energetic person and it was a real pleasure to meet so many people in the GF community. I had a wonderful conversation with Anne Lee and I was delighted to meet Shirley of Gluten Free Easily and few of the creative and talented bloggers out there. You guys are all fantastic!

    When I walked around by myself, I was anonymous, but for some reason, when I was with GD, they all said “Hey, aren’t you IrishHeart?”.
    I said “maybe…um, do you like her?” lol hmm…Wonder how they knew it was me?

    And I love you too, my brutha.

    1. Irish…you are a survivor which is B-E-A-utiful! That said…I say we race to bikini form…my bet is on you…but this old tortoise is game to try!

      Dude…thanks for sharing your gratitude along with the fun photos…made my weekend to see you and Irish kickin’ up your heals!

    2. Thankful for Whole Foods

      Irish Heart, Where can I find your stuff on I was just nosing around there and couldn’t find it.

      1. Which part of my “stuff” are you looking for, hon? 😉
        The Newbie 101 thread? Just click on my name right here. I think it should go right to it. (unless I managed to mess that up. I am no techie)

        I have not summarized my notes about the conference yet.
        I am being lazy and waiting for the Dude to write a draft. He recorded it; I did it “old school” with pen and paper.
        (dinosaur that I am…) 🙂

          1. way cool 🙂

            man, I would hate typing all that out again and again and again LOL

            and fortunately, GD allows me to link to it. Because he’s my buddy..

            1. Too cool!!!!

              Dude, Thanks for making Irish’s “Newbie” thread just one click away!

              : )

          2. It is cool right? Not a newbie but lots of good info! Thanks Irish and Dude for making it a click away 😉

  3. LOL am so jealous. would love to have been there with all of you, looks like you all had a great time. It would have been wonderful if i could have met Dr. Fasano in person, I was so impressed with him from the gluten summit I watched on computer. If you could GD get his ear about making that GF summit available to watch over again. would like to hear all of them speak about celiac again was so imformative. I am happy you had such a good time GD even if i am green with envy. LOL

  4. Short notice? That says a lot. It’s hard to do anything gf on short notice.
    Thanks for biting the bullet and trudging through the weekend for us, GD. I know it was a rough one. You too Irish!

    1. You know me–anything for the cause. lol

      Seriously, Ken–as I said to my friends via email & texts…I wish ALL of you could have been there. It would have been so much fun.

      I was lucky I could go to this one because I live only 2 hours away. It’s not easy for everyone to spend the $$, take time away from work and families and just fly somewhere.

      I just know we will all meet someday and have a rousing good time.

  5. It looks like a great time!

    As far as the weight loss or gain issue goes, I have a little story about that. I have had celiac symptoms since my 21st birthday in Austin, Texas. (Shiner Bock doesn’t do that to everyone; I should have known. =0))

    In the year or two before I got my diagnosis, I lost sixty pounds without trying, between the ages of 27 and 29. I was also going through Pilates teacher training: I’d go back to my teaching studio in Dallas, and they’d say, “Wow, you look great!” At the time I remember thinking, “I can’t eat anything, but, ‘o.k.’.” At the time, that would have made me 5’4, and about 105 pounds.

    I had a seven-year career as a Pilates teacher based on my initial severe celiac weight loss.

    (Halfway through I took, and passed the Texas Bar, and just taught on weekends while practicing law.) I now weigh 90 pounds more than I did when I got my, “I can’t eat anything; I haven’t slept this decade; and why am I grey?” diagnosis.

    I’ll take the weight gain.

    1. I hear ya, Lisa. I dumped 90 lbs and couldn’t eat or hold a thing in.
      3 years of that–and you betcha our bodies were starving.
      So, now, it’s holding on to anything it gets! 🙂

      Funny story–the dietician who told me that fun fact said she gained 22 lbs. exactly….. then, 2 more people told me the same thing via email. 22 lbs.

      As Dr. Fasano said to the group “despite what the TV and internet so-called “experts” claim, going GF is not a weight loss diet”
      and an entire room filled with a good number of ….shall we say ? “healthy looking and robust” people— cracked up.

    2. Strangely enough, I’ve lost almost 30 lbs in the year and change since I was diagnosed. And when I think the symptoms kicked in in my late 20’s, I gained about 40.

      1. me too! I’ve shrunk since diagnosis and going gf – not so much weight loss as finally not being an utterly inflammed walking crisis of an immune system in an extended balloon suit. Who knew it was possible to have ankles where the bone sticks out (don’t worry, only a little bit, and my other bones are still plenty covered)???

        but wow, the convention sounds fabulous!

      2. Me three! I was the unexplained weight gain celiac for over 40 years. Removed gluten and lost 30-40 my first year…it’s the darn toning the things that gravity brings down that has me fighting!!! Well that and my old pal inflammation that still loves to chase me.

      3. For me to dump 90 lbs. and still be alive, you can well imagine how overweight I was before the disease really kicked in. I wasn’t always overweight, it packed on quickly right after a series of surgeries, miscarriages and viral pneumonia. Then a few rounds of antibiotics for possible giardia and my body was a giant mess. I did not change my eating habits, so it really made no sense…all of these injuries to my body are triggers for celiac. That makes sense NOW.

        I think that was bloating from major inflammation and thyroid insufficiency as well –and no matter how hard I tried, I could never lose it. I was always feeling lousy and had all kinds of glaring celiac symptoms, but it was always negated as a possibility…so much for the “you can’t have celiac, you’re fat ” logic. When I was very thin and weak, they said “anorexia”…me? wth?

        These doctors need to get their collective heads out of the sand.

    3. I hear you all- I was 120lbs pre diagnosis in 2006 and didn’t look particularly malnourished- small in stature yes- 5′ 1″ but once diagnosed (finally, after about 11 years) a strict GF diet took me up to 145 ibs and nowI hover around 135-140lbs with a healthy dose of weekly exercise. Never felt so good…and those who go GF by choice, I shake my head.

  6. So glad y’all all got to meet!

    I was happy, happy to have an Irish Heart photo texted to me on Saturday. Made my weekend. Next time they have one in Orlando I am there. Just couldn’t swing this one.

    Glad it was a fantastic weekend for everyone.

    1. Oh Wendy, how I wish we could have met, too. but, imagine my delight when Chrissy mentioned her girl pal Wendy and I said you mean Wendy Gf and palm trees Wendy? oh, she’s a sweetie! LOL

      I love how those serendipitous moments occur in life and I have come to the conclusion that maybe we are all just “six degrees of gluten intolerance” connected in some way 🙂

  7. How cool that you all got to do face-time! Good on you for making that happen. It would be surreal though, having people “know” you.
    Glad it all came off without a hitch.

    1. Sue, I did worry about those who are not all that crazy about me possibly pelting me with NoGi bars or something. lol
      I like my anonymity but when you are with a high profile character,
      such as the Dude, well, you get sucked into things like photo ops.

      I asked to take a pic of him, Jules and Dr. F—but the next thing I know, another blogger offered to take the pic and Dr. F’s arm was around my shoulder and well, how could I resist?? (yes, he is very good looking in person….) There, I said it. 😉

      1. Sue in Alberta

        No doubt – but it’s kinda funny ‘cos I picture people saying, “oh yeah, that’s Dude and Irish.” Kinda like trekkies or something, we have our own “handles”. Now we need a secret handshake…
        Just sayin’ but another missed opportunity on the t-shirt front 🙂

  8. So much to be grateful for! Thanks for sharing all this and the pics. Good to ‘see’ you Irish! Happy you all had a great time 🙂

    1. When I wasn’t tripping over my own words, I introduced myself with my real name (Johnny Bravo) and then told him my blog name. I could not tell by his reaction if he had heard of me or not.

  9. Could have written almost the same blog post myself about the weekend. (minus the gym part — too bad I ran into you post-workout, you could have motivated me, but alas the running shoes stayed in the suitcase!)

    It was such a pleasure to meet everyone (how did I miss meeting IrishHeart?) and getting time to just chill and talk poolside with THE Dr. 😉

    Wanted to chat Omission beer with you — I know, hot topic. Going to shoot you an email here through the site.


        1. So funny, I just bookmarked your recipe for coffee cake muffins last week (my Mom who is also GF) is coming next week to visit and she LOVES coffee cake. I thought maybe I might whip her up a batch…so THANK you for sharing with all of us! 😉 hugs, IH

  10. Community really does it, doesn’t it? I love your final sentence: feeling a stronger advocate. Participation is key to growing stronger — I got heaps out of simply following via twitter and blogs, since i couldn’t get the airfare to FL.

  11. Miss Dee Meanor

    I am so envious I am positively green. If I lived closer to Dr. Fasano, I would be a bona fide stalker. If I had seen him half nekkid, I probably would have swooned and fell out by the pool. The spousal unit refers to him as my boyfriend because I always look online to see what he says before taking any info as the gospel. 😉

  12. Seeing the photo of the 4 of you over the weekend brought a smile to my face. I am so happy that so many were able to go to the GFL conference, meet each other in person, learn new info about celiac disease, and meet/see my hero, Dr. Fasano, but I am sad I was unable to go. I am not sure I could wear a bikini, but I’d love to hang out at the pool with all of you! Hopefully next time!

  13. GD/Irish-

    Great post, awesome pics and whoyah for the Tito’s. Y’all totally deserve a great mini vacay, we need you rested for all the great posts and advice that you have given us all here.

    you guys bleeping rock.
    Jersey Girl
    “Oh, my, my. Oh, hell, yes.
    Honey, put on that party dress.
    Buy me a drink, sing me a song.
    Take me as I come ’cause I can’t stay long.”
    Tom Petty

    1. I heart you, JG. You’re just freakin adorable.

      I promise to keep telling the truth about celiac.
      If I learn it, you know I’m sharing it with my peeps.

      “Well she was an American girl
      Raised on promises
      She couldn’t help thinkin’
      That there was a little more to life somewhere else
      After all it was a great big world
      With lots of places to run to
      And if she had to die tryin’
      She had one little promise she was gonna keep”
      –Tom Petty

  14. It really was a great weekend. Somehow I missed formally meeting Irish. (Hi Irish! Maybe next time.) I love your nickname for Dr. Fasano! Hanging with him and others around the pool was definitely a highlight. I enjoyed meeting you and all the others.

  15. Loved reading your update! Sounds like you had a blast! Unfortunately, I had some family engagements and could only stay for the first seminar on Saturday morning. Amy from gluten free living gave an excellent talk on Dispelling GF myths & I soaked in some great info! I’m going to have to look into to see if they do this conference anywhere else throughout the year because I may have to make it a vacay like you did! It would be well worth the time & investment!

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

Who I am. And who I'm not.

I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

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