In August it was our family holiday to Croatia and everyone was looking forward to it. I had been following the AIP diet for 11 months and feeling the best I’d ever felt. I’m not going to lie, it is hard to follow but it is worth it for how it makes me feel. There was just one thing which was troubling me, our holiday. A holiday for most people is the thing they look forward to, to relax and de-stress, but being a Coeliac and following the AIP diet is something else. It is a cause of stress. The thought of not being in control of my food is very frightening. Apart from the fear of becoming ill, i’st also the main time where I feel a complete freak and very lonely. At home not being able to eat out with family and friends is hard but I can usually deal with it, but weeks of it is a lot harder.
The first problem is accommodation. I can’t and won’t trust a hotel due to cross contamination and not being able to prepare a meal without all the things I can’t eat. This means we have to opt for self catering, which is annoying because all I ever do is cook, and part of being on holiday is having a rest and eating out, am I right? Anyway there is no choice, so self catering it is. Once we have decided on accommodation, location etc and booked, the real worry starts. I have to think about what I need to take with me. When I have been away previously I have called or emailed and asked if it is OK to send a package over, explaining I need to have certain foods for my diet. This has worked pretty well before, but this year we were staying in a little family owned villa in a small village and I didn’t receive a response. Deciding not to risk my valuable package not getting there or going missing, I decided to take my food with me.
We flew with Jet 2 and they had a hand luggage allowance of 10kg. I put together a list of things I felt were the most important and I couldn’t get over there. This included, vegetable crisps, chickpea flour, egg free mayo, AIP compliant coconut milk, pea pasta, pesto, salad dressing, mustard, herbs and chocolate. – please note a lot of these are not AIP but are my re-intos which are ok.
I put all the food in my main luggage and switched out some clothes and shoes and put them in my hand luggage to make sure I could take everything I would need. I had already discussed with my husband how I would be fine buying fresh fruit, meat and veg and cooking it in out apartment while him and the kids could eat out at local restaurant, and we would meet after for drinks. I planned on marinading and BBQ-ing delicious meats, making flatbreads and being able to make pack lunches to see me through days on the beach and sight seeing. I knew it would be hard but felt it would be OK.
Food aside the next thing is outfits. This too is hard because at home I have access to a massive wardrobe full of clothes in various sizes to suit ‘normal days’ and ‘contaminated days’. It’s hard enough to dress for a constantly different body shape while at home (more about this in my previous blog post here) let alone when on holiday and needing beach wear! I decided the best option was to go for one piece swimsuits to cover my stomach should it bloat up. I also packed lots of items that were stretchy and loose so could be worn comfortably if the bloat should strike.
Bags packed and feeling as prepared as I could be we were off!
We arrived and the location was stunning a beautiful little fishing village 15 mins outside of Dubrovnik. Quiet and unspoiled……I was feeling and looking great. Eating only fresh natural meals I had prepared myself.
Breakfast was usually fruit, or fish and salad…….
I wasn’t bloated and had so much energy and could really enjoy myself…..
For lunch I would head back to the apartment and fix up a salad or take a flatbread wrap out with me and some fruit.
In the evening my husband and the kids would get ready and head out to a restaurant and I would make some food in the apartment then join them later.
I wasn’t bloated and I felt really healthy…
All was good, but behind the photos of delicious looking food and non bloated body was a hard reality. I hadn’t checked the amenities properly. Our apartment was listed as self catering, but it was only very basic. It only had a very small kitchen area with microwave, 2 electric rings and a tiny fridge. There was no BBQ and no way we could have one on the small balcony and there were only two pans for boiling veg, no frying or grill pan. There was no local supermarket, it was a 10 minute drive away. When we did go there for supplies it was very small with only a few fruit and veg options, very little meat (which I couldn’t cook anyway) and no fresh fish and no pots or pans. The supermarket in Dubrovnik was not much better and I really struggled to buy a variety of AIP complaint food.
I survived for 8 days on the food I had brought with me and on tuna, salmon, lettuce, cucumber, gherkins and olives. I managed to make flatbread in the microwave as there was no pan, but was getting pretty fed up eating the same things.
As the days went on I became more frustrated with my limited diet. Watching my family tuck into the delicious looking local food was hard. One day I gave in and we decided to have a meal altogether in a local restaurant. It had a great reputation and they were so accommodating to my requirements. They understood they needed to wash everything and prepare it separately, they gave me a full list of ingredients of dishes and were willing to adapt them so they were suitable. I felt as secure as I could be not cooking it myself, and ordered the thing I thought would be the least problematic and had least possibility for contamination or hidden gluten, an octopus stew.
It felt good to be almost normal, sitting down and eating with my family, the way it should be. The dish isn’t something I would have chosen if I could have had anything I wanted, but it made a welcome change to cold fish and salad. Of course I couldn’t have dessert, but just having a main meal was treat enough……but within 20 minutes of finishing, I knew it had been a mistake. I felt my stomach becoming tight and swelling up. By the time we got back to the room for the evening I looked like this….
I was so mad with myself. Of course it wasn’t worth it. I felt weak and stupid. The bloating lasted for the rest of the holiday and I felt lethargic and pissed off. I was determined not to let it ruin the rest of the holiday and was glad of the clothing I had brought which meant I could cover the bloating and feel more comfortable.
I didn’t risk it again for the rest of the holiday. Luckily there was plenty of time to lay on the beach (feeling like a beached whale!) and reflect. I had brought some holiday reading with me and as I got stuck into these books, things made even more sense in my mind.
I didn’t really need anymore proof about what I need to do to keep healthy and not feel ill, but sometimes a bit of science to back it up helps. Both these books helped me realize that grains, gluten, sugar and processed foods are damaging our bodies and brains. I recommend that everyone reads these books whether you have an auto immune disease or not. Our diets have been changing and we are not consuming foods that are good for us in fact it’s the reverse.
I survived my holiday, but learnt some valuable lessons along the way and will be much more prepared next time. My advice to you would be to research, research, research.
- Check the facilities are adequate where you are staying for your cooking needs. As well as checking there is a large fridge to store plenty of food.
- Make sure there are local shops, markets and supermarkets and research the items they sell and what is available
- Call ahead and send a food parcel over to your accommodation, so it is there when you arrive
- Take as much with you as you can in your luggage, in particular complaint milk, condiments, herbs and spices – these basics will help you make tasty and varied meals from even the most basic ingredients
- Pack clothing that is comfortable and will stretch, so if you do get ill, you don’t want to feel even worse. Cut out shoulders and short hems can still make you feel good and reveal a little flesh without revealing bloated areas leaving you feeling self conscious.
- Above all…DONT BE TEMPTED! I know it’s hard but it isn’t worth breaking your diet and risking being ill. Stay strong to who you are and the life you have to live to be healthy. Your body will thank you for it!
- Buy these two books for your holiday reading to stay strong! The Auto Immune Fix and Grain Brain