Finding Opportunities in Moments of Crisis – Niki Holzapfel

Finding Opportunities in Moments of Crisis

Niki Holzapfel

                The gluten battles my intestines. It punches and kicks, rattles and stabs. It infuriates my insides, which know that this protein does not belong here. I live with a gluten allergy.

A pesky protein (to me, at least), gluten pervades wheat, barley, and rye. While most consume it thoughtlessly, I interrogate the ingredients in my food, knowing the suffering gluten inflicts: a bloated stomach, swollen fingers, achy bones, and intense grumpiness. It leaves me in dizzy spells. It exhausts me. My throat does not close up as in a severe peanut-allergy sufferer, but instead, the suspect particle devastates in a few hours, as it rages against the walls of my stomach.

I learned of my allergy the summer after I graduated from high school. It explained the two seizures I experienced, the dizziness, the constant hunger and fatigue, but eliminating all the wheat from my diet left me salivating during commercials for flaky, buttery Pillsbury crescent rolls and hovering over the bagged loaves of bread at Wal-Mart just for the smell. No longer able to eat at restaurants because of the possible contamination, I dreaded social events billed as “meeting for dinner.” Restricted to food labeled on the box, jar, or bag as gluten-free, I could only brood over what I did not have.

Then five pounds of flab disappeared after omitting drive-thru windows, and my body felt fitter. A set of culinary skills developed, beyond just assembling a bowl of cereal. Using rice, potato, and almond flour, I baked graham crackers and a vanilla cake with a lemon-orange filling. I became the fruit smoothie queen in my house, blending yogurt, frozen fruit, and milk for a sweet and healthy treat. I opted for fresh instead of processed, an orange over a Pop-Tart, eggs over Krispy Kreme. I began drinking more water; it’s one thing that pacifies the stabbing pains in my stomach when I’ve been glutened.

Forced to scour a snack’s ingredient list every time I eat, I realized how many chemicals and preservatives I blindly consumed in my former life. Though they had long, science-y names, I still sent the additives clunking through my digestive system. Now, I must care more about my food, and thus, my body.

I believe in finding opportunities in moments of crisis. I believe that bits of positivity hide in negative situations, waiting for unearthing, no matter how abysmal things may seem. It might require ingenuity, but that is a part of the upside; crises extract creativity.

I do not believe my gluten allergy has ended my life. I believe it has spawned a new one.

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