passionI learned a big important lesson the hard way last weekend. A word of caution: I will be a little graphic so if you are eating, it may be wise to move on.

Living a Gluten-Free lifestyle is surprisingly easy… if you never eat out, travel or cook all of your meals from scratch.

And I found myself in a good rhythm these past few months between work, home, and even those rare occasions when I was able to eat out at a restaurant. Cue traveling…

I had a good experience with my last trip to Philly and Boston. I was with a fellow Gluten-Freer, who I learned a lot from, and my sister, always the gracious host, made sure that I everything I needed. So I never had to worry.

But this past trip, I messed up big time and I have no one to blame but myself.

I went to the beautiful island of Hawaii for a quick weekend trip. I arrived around lunchtime and before my friend took me to her place, we stopped off to get some lunch at a sushi restaurant. Back home, I found these really cute individual gluten-free soy packet sat Safeway that I usually keep in my purse, but I realized that in my last minute packing frenzy, I left them at home. Mistake number one.

Now that my soy sauce packets were not available, I panicked. When I panic, I don’t think very clearly and I decided to order a chicken teriyaki bowl. I thought to myself, Okay, we can handle a small amount of soy sauce. We do it all the time at home. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll get a little gassy and bloated. You’re a big girl and you can handle that.

To my dismay, the chicken came out of the kitchen breaded. I stared at it, not sure of what I should do. I panicked again and instead of sending it back, I decided to eat it. I knew I was doing something wrong so to make myself feel better, I started to justify my decision. It’s only 3 ounces of breaded chicken. How bad could it be? Come on, get a grip. I hate my brain sometimes… In just a few short minutes, not only did I get gassy and bloated, I got really bad stomach cramps that lasted for about an hour. I haven’t had cramping since I had a bagel for breakfast earlier this year. This was before I learned how to plan out my weekly meals and before I learned to stock my kitchen with options. So the breaded chicken was mistake number two.

The next day, we went to a beautiful secluded beach for some snorkeling and on the way, I grabbed a spam musubi for lunch because you know, when in Rome… The roll was relatively harmless, except for the splash of soy sauce in the center of the roll. Though it was mistake number three, I felt surprisingly good. Little did I know, that my body had something big planned for me later that night.

Mistake number four came in the form of a very simple yet delicious Thai meal of beef, veggies, and rice. I had alerted the waiter of my Gluten allergy before ordering and he was very accommodating. He explained the entire menu to me and even told me that he can make anything that I wanted Gluten-Free. He even rushed over to the table to warn me of a soy sauce topping on an appetizer, as I was about to take a bite. “It’s okay,” I told him. “Thank you so much, but I can handle a little bit.” Mistake number four.

The final straw… the nail on the coffin… the coup de grace was that I had convinced myself that I could handle lactose-free milk. Oh, have I mentioned that I also can no longer eat dairy (or almonds)? I spend so much time talking about Gluten that my dairy intolerance has taken a back seat. For breakfast on Friday and Saturday morning, I had a bowl of cereal with lactose-free milk and my body decided to say, “Nuh-uh…. Forget it, Tracy.” Mistake…. number… five…

That night, around two o’clock in the morning, I woke up with the worst stomach cramps known to man. It felt like my insides were being torn apart with a red-hot iron hook. I had numerous bouts of explosive diarrhea that lasted for hours. I also suspect that I was bleeding. Either from diarrhea or from the red-hot hook. Either way, it was awful. I had hit rock bottom and it took me days to recover.

I returned to the mainland and sheepishly emailed my doctor. Not for any advice because I know why it happened, I just felt like I should alert her because of the bleeding. That part scared me. She emailed me back and didn’t admonish me, as I was a bit afraid that she would. She gave me lots of great advice, told me to be careful and informed me that sometimes after you eat “clean” for a period of time, your bodily reactions to consuming the foods that you are allergic to can become intensified. Good God… Intensified? More like horrifying.

I learned a big lesson that weekend, the hard way. And sadly, it seems like that is the only way that I learn. I push boundaries, trick myself into thinking that I can handle things the way they used to be. That none of this is really that big of a deal until that deal blows up in my face.

So more cheating for me. No more small amounts of soy sauce, which means that I will have to revamp my “go to” restaurant dishes. Speak up when the dish that is put in front of me is not what I thought I ordered. Not be ashamed to tell my friends when I cannot eat a particular cuisine. Nor care if I make them mad or embarrass myself. My intolerance is real and it’s scary and I have to put myself first.