A Year of Gluten-Free

30-Nov-2015 - By Emily Thompson

As of early November, my little family and I have been gluten-free for a year.

Well, maybe I should say gluten-almost-free, because I'd say we've been 95% gluten-free in the past year. I'll explain below. 

It's been a rewarding, albeit sometimes emotional ride, that has left me pleased and proud of our ability to make it a lifestyle for us.   

WHY WE WENT GLUTEN-FREE

None of us have candida or any other hard-core gluten allergy, thankfully. We can all eat it a couple of times safely, without anything terrible happening, which is why we can afford that 5% or so of "cheating."

David and I learned during the course of a couple of Whole30s that neither of our bodies liked gluten very much. When we're eating gluten-heavy diets, our joints are swolen and sore, and our digestive system becomes slow. When we're off "the glutes," we find that we have more energy, happier tummies, and more mobility and less pain in our joints. Before going legit gluten-free, we'd played around with the idea many times.

It wasn't until we got wind that going gluten-free might actually solve a problem for our kid that we made the jump. Since #cutekid was a baby (she's now 7), she has had patches of dry skin. When she was tiny, it was on her elbows and knees (the doctor told us it was psoriasis and told us to keep it moisturized). As she grew up, it moved to her chest and back, sometimes covering large areas of her skin. Sometimes it would almost go away, but never completely. As she got even older, these patches were replaced with larger bumps that she would get randomly on her body. Never very many, but always at least one somewhere.

A friend told us he'd heard that gluten could cause things like that, and since that was the only thing we hadn't tried (we'd tried a million things over the years) we though we'd give it a shot. 

After going gluten-free, #cutekid's skin problems have gone away. Her skin was completely clear for the first time in her life within 2 months of getting off the glutes. And, apart from the time or two we've had a serious gluten binge in the past year, she has remained clear. The bumps that pop up after a couple of days of pizza parties go away shortly. It has worked.  

Also, without monitoring your gluten, if you're eating an average American diet, you're having gluten in almost every meal you eat, even if you don't realize it. Even if you're not eating a fat piece of bread, flour is used as a thickener is most soups, meats, stuffings, etc. It's everywhere. And eating it so much can't be good for anyone, right? At least that was a motivator for me to be more conscious about what I was putting in my mouth, and the mouths of my family. 

SOME LESSONS WE'VE LEARNED

1 - Going gluten-free sucks, but it's not impossible, and it's worth it.

The way I feel on gluten makes me glad that I don't eat it on the regular. It makes it easy to say no to cookies. Also, occasional binges allow me to enjoy the soul foods that keep my happy (more on the binges below), while giving me the incentive to stay completely gluten-free at all other times. 

It's all about balance: balancing the way you and your body feels, balancing how often you have it, balancing an addiction we all have to it.

And I'm sure I'll eat a gluten-free diet for the rest of my life. I can't imagine going back. 

#1 Tip: Don't buy it. Don't even have it in your house.

When we eat gluten, it's not in our house, on most occasions. By not keeping it in our house, we've made it immensely easier to stay off the glutes. 

2 - Taking kids off gluten sucks, but it's not impossible, and it's good for them to exercise that level of self-control.

#cutekid had a hard time going gluten-free, as her favorite foods are those of any grade-schooler: pizza, mac-and-cheese, peanut butter crackers. The best thing we did to take her off of gluten, because it was her health that we were doing it for more so than our own, was that we did it with her. Being that support system for her made it easier for her to do it, too, and as a result she's grown more capable of making gluten-free choices for herself.

It has also helped to find gluten-free versions of her favorites, like mac-and-cheese, and pizza. Though, honestly - I'm not going to sugar-coat it, gluten-free pizza is always a let-down. 

We also know that it would have been 20 times harder to take #cutekid gluten-free if she weren't homeschooled. This was a pivotal fact that pushed us to give this a go.

Don't get me wrong, we've had melt-downs over biscuits. It has not been all sunshine and daisies, especially when hot, steamy soul food is staring you in the face, but it's been a practice in self-control that will make #cutekid a better and healthier person, and she absolutely knows that it's better for her. But it is hard.

Basically, she's a total rockstar.  

3 - Traveling gluten-free sucks, but it's not impossible.

When we went to Universal Studios, we ate gluten for a week, because gluten-free options were few and far between, and I'm not the kind of mom who pre-packages snacks for things like that. I could be, and that would make it easier, but that's not a priority.

However, when we went on our 40-day #indiegoeswest roadtrip adventure this summer, apart from the cake we had on my grandmother's birthday on day 2 (because you don't say no to Mamaw's birthday cake), we did the entire trip 100% gluten-free. If we can do that with no planning, anyone can do it.

#2 Tip: BBQ and Thai food are the gluten-free go-tos on the road. All hail Yelp.  

4 - Most gluten food can be made really great using gluten-free ingredients.

Gluten-free pasta, breadcrumbs, and baking mixes (including Bisquick) make it all possible. And, because I love to cook, I've had a really great time making old glutenous favorites into gluten-free versions. It always takes a couple of test-runs, but overall we've seen success in transferring even old family recipes (like cornbread and banana nut bread) into gluten-free versions where no one can tell the difference.

Basically, going gluten-free has hardly been the end of eating like an American. 

WHAT A GLUTEN-BINGE LOOKS LIKE

Because none of us are seriously allergic to gluten, and because we're modern humans living in a world of really great pizza, pita chips, and gluten being hidden in almost all food, we're not super strict about being gluten-free. If we end up at a restaurant without gluten-free options, we're not going to be assholes. We gladly eat the glutes. 

On a regular day/week, we are 100% gluten-free, but once every other month or so we allow ourselves a gluten-binge. We'll order pizza that we'll eat on for two days, raid the cabinets for that hidden box of crackers, or David may crack open a beer. Or biscuits

And apart from the fact that we totally enjoy getting back to some foods that suck in gluten-free versions, we always feel like crap for a few days after. That's the price you pay to enjoy a soft flour tortilla, and I'm quite happy to pay it.

We also save up gluten-free points for times in the future when we know we'll be indulging. For example, I knew I would eat All The Gumbo when I went to New Orleans, so I made sure I was good-on-the-glutes before and after the trip. Doing this keeps me on track, even when I consciously take a detour, and it also allows me to enjoy what I'm eating even more. 

These binges are what keep us on the otherwise straight-and-narrow, and we're grateful that we can do so.  

For me, food is a soulful experience.

I love food. I love to travel and eat. I love to cook. Going gluten-free for me was a hard-core lifestyle shift, and one that has been for the better all the way around, but absolutely one that's take some work. And I seriously don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. 

If you're considering going gluten-free, I hope this helps guide you a bit in making your decision. It's certainly hard to shift such a huge thing in your daily life, but one that's really easy to adjust for, made much easier if you have a good gluten-free section in your grocery and a partner to tackle it right along with you.

Interested in how we eat gluten-free? Check out my Instagram account, where I occasionally, proudly post about my food.  

NOLA: America's Basement

03-Nov-2015 - By Emily Thompson

I love New Orleans. The music, the architecture, and - sweet baby Jesus - the food.

I love the vibe of the city, the undeniable weirdness of it's inhabitants, and the two shits they couldn't give for unapologetically being who they are.

I've lived my entire life in the South. I know cornbread, and yonder, and the real meaning behind "bless yer heart." I know mossy trees, sweet tea, and the Mississippi River. And I know there's no place on Earth that is like New Orleans. 

I lived on the gulf coast for a while, and learned to understand the connection to the ocean, the heat and humidity, and just how slow life must go. And how crazy that heat can make you.

New Orleans is all of that stuff, swirled around into a hot, yummy mess of a culture shaped by the Civil War, voodoo, and the mayhem of being a large, old port city.

My love affair for New Orleans began when I lived in Mobile. We trekked over for Mardi Gras in '05, and we spent a couple of underage hours trying to buy booze around the French Quarter. It was one of my first adventures with David.

When we left, it kept a part of my soul there.

Less than a year later, Hurricane Katrina hit. David and I had decided to stay in Mobile to weather that epic hurricane. The entire gulf was devestated. The next few months were spent putting our lives back together. Our apartments were fine, but my business - that tanning salon - saw some damage. We lived without electricity for over a week in the summer. We picked nails out of our tires for months. 

But those things were scratches. The wounds became evident in the shifts of community. The exodus from New Orleans, Biloxi, and other areas around the gulf caused a rise to Mobile's population. Friends attending school in New Orleans were suddenly looking for universities to take them in. Associates and acquaintences were finding family to move in with.

New Orleans was under water. Biloxi and Gulf Port were devestated. Mobile, Corpus Christi, and the rest of the South took them all in.

It was a time in my life I feel I can only begin to appreciate now. It was the year that I was introduced to Friendsgiving, but also witnessed the greediness that makes FEMA's job so hard. 

We revisited New Orleans less than a year after Katrina hit, on the weekend that the aquarium reopened. David, myself, and a friend-couple went to New Orleans and were rocked by the devestation, even almost a year later.

The French Quarter was empty. The vibe was dead.

I have never again felt the hurt that I felt driving through New Orleans on that day. 

I don't remember much of the aquarium, but what I do remember was dinner that night. We stopped by Mulatte's, one of few restaurants we found open. I had a Crab au Gratin that I'll remember for the rest of my life, and it was the first time I tried pickled green beans.

But beyond the food, near the end of dinner, the empty restaurant started to fill with people. All kinds of people. And a band. Then band started playing, and the people started clearing the tables out of the way.

And the people started dancing.

These people started dancing and clapping, and having more fun than I know I was capable of on that day. 

I cried. I cried because the state of this city that I loved was breaking me apart. I cried because I had seen and heard and felt what had happened here. And I cried because these people would not let their magic stop flowing, even when everything around them had fallen apart.

I will absolutely never forget that day. 

Seven years later I revisited New Orleans. It was my 27th birthday, and the French Quarter was calling my name.

I was joined by three of my best friends for a weekend of being hoodlums. It's what started a tradition that none of us will ever let go of. And it was that trip that we dubbed New Orleans "America's Basement." 

New Orleans blew me away that summer. The French Quarter had not only rebuilt, it was thriving. Jumping. Vibing out of control.

From that point on I vowed that New Orleans would be a part of my life. I will live there someday. Not for long, but for a moment, and I will drink in it's magic for all it's worth.

And it's magic is what made it our first Boss Vacation. #BeingBossNOLA was destined to be a magical experience, and the city did not disappoint.

To me, America's Basement is dirty and grimy. It has hidden secrets, both good and bad. You'll find gems, and you'll find entertainment

And it's a place where no one will mind if you decide to explore the darker parts of yourself, too.

It's place of discovery: food, art, life, magic. You make it what you want, it just has a gloriously mixed culture to guide you in whatever direction you'd like to take. 

It's the place where the entirety of the country empties out. It's the delta of the Mississippi River, and the place to which all the oddballs filter. It's history is dark, and it's future honestly not-so-promising.

But for the moment, come hell or high water, New Orleans is rocking. It's owning it's weird, making the best of now, and being unapologetically itself.

And that's the message I feel my life spreading. Maybe New Orleans gave me that message, or maybe I recognize New Orleans because that message was already within me. Either way, we're connected.

Five of the most impactful weekends of my life have happened way down South in New Orleans, and I'm sure they won't be the last. I'll continue to descend those stairs into the basement until I can't anymore. The culture is intoxicating, the food is mind-blowing, and the magic is undeniable.

Cheers to you, New Orleans. Until we meet again.

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To hear our recap of our #BeingBossNOLA vacation, and a jam on the magic we felt during the trip, check out the Being Boss episode here

#BeingBossNOLA: Beads and Bosses on Bourbon St

27-Oct-2015 - By Emily Thompson

#BeingBossNOLA was a dream come true.

In case you missed our hashtag frenzy on Instagram, two weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to take 75 bosses to New Orleans for our first Being Boss vacation.

When Kathleen and I started Being Boss, retreats were always on our dream list. Turning "retreat" into "vacation" felt way more boss to us, combining life and work in a way that made us really feel the jazz of travel, and being able to buckle down for a moment for some boss chatter. And not feeling guilty when we stayed out a bit too late. Because, guys, it's New Orleans

I've made a point a couple of times to sit down and think back on that whirlwind week. As the girl officially in charge of making it do, it was a week that I worked hard on for months. And was hugely elated when it went off so swimmingly.

But now, a recap of some of my favorite moments on such a high vibe Boss Vacation:

Gnocci at Tujague's

When I travel, I experience places through food. And it's the food that always has me aching for New Orleans, because I swear that I have never had a bad meal there.

This trip was no disappointment either, as I had 3 of my top meals of all time. Two at Palace Cafe on Canal St (the Crab Cheesecake was impeccable, and I'll never be able to eat shrimp and grits anywhere else again), but the pinnacle of eating came during the #BeingBossNOLA Community Dinner of Friday night.

I was one of 20 bosses who met up for dinner at Tujague's, and though our room was loud, my wild mushroom gnocci was a silent siren that won me over for good. Dramatic, I know, but it really was that mind-blowing.

Combine that with a perfect cocktail and table chatter with creative entrepreneurs who totally get each other, and it may have been not only the best food, but the best meal ever. Cheers. 

Masterclass with Bosses

Our masterclass on Friday morning had me a hair stressed. Though I managed all the trip details, it was up to Kathleen to prep the content. And with all my trip details swimming in my brain, Friday morning hit like a ton of bricks when I realized I needed to make sure I was prepared to chat it up with all of our bosses.

But not only was the topics something that I live and breathe, which made the time in front of 75 bosses a total breeze, the masterclass quickly turned into a boss conversation of a multitude of lady brains and brawn that was a fueling experience and talk that rocked my world.

Hello, purpose. 

Boss Chat about Intuition

In an unplanned dinner with a couple of bosses one evening, I so enjoyed throwing down a chat about intuition. In life as a lady, and in life as an entrepreneur, and how - just maybe - that makes the lady entrepreneur into a unstoppable combo.

Who rules the world? Girls. 

Crystal Shopping + Tarot cards 

Hello, freak flag! I was so happy to see that I was far from alone in my quest for woo woo shit in NOLA. I picked up a new deck of tarot cards and some crystals, only to have half of our band looking for the same. If you want to get your woo on, get your ass down to New Orleans.

And then Velvet read my cards, and woo!, heart. 

Thanks, ladies, for wooing it up with me.  

Midnight Stroll in the French Quarter

Though this Boss Vacation was plenty of work, it was also some play. I insanely enjoyed a late night stroll with my techie besty through the streets of the French Quarter. No drinks in our hands, and no intentions of getting wild, just a late night round of the quarter before heading off to bed before an early morning.

Snapping photos, strolling, people watching. In the middle of the night in the French Quarter. That's where I belong.  

Buying Art in Jackson Square

I'm a creative who supports creatives, through and through. When I got a rare moment of being alone while in NOLA for a stroll around Jackson Square, I took the time to pick up a couple of pieces of art for our new home. I felt like it was a full-circle moment. And the pieces are now right at home.  

The Sunrise

Somehow I got the room with the most unbelievable view of the sunrise. I popped my head up every morning, just as it hit the horizon, and was blown away by how awesome the whole experience was, on so many levels.

Beads and Bosses on Bourbon St

To top off the week, I thoroughly enjoyed throwing down Bourbon-style with my partner-in-crime Kathleen, Tara, and some awesome bosses on Bourbon St. I've never felt energy like Bourbon anywhere else on the planet, so to spend some time there with people who are / are becoming my people was pretty fab to me.

And hearing Kathleen yell "hey ladies!" from a balcony with beads in her hand was simply something I could not be whole without seeing. Namaste.

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Be sure to check out this week's episode of Being Boss for our Q+A episode recorded LIVE in New Orleans in front of our vacation bosses.

And sign up for our newsletter to get in the know when we launch our next Boss Vacation. We're planning it right now. 

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