I am so excited to announce that my Spotlight of the Month for October is Phil, also known as @philhatesgluten. Phil continues to show how you can have a normal life with food restrictions on his Instagram and TikTok.
What are you allergic/intolerant to?
I have eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE) and after doing a food elimination of gluten and dairy we found that they were my triggers. Since removing them from my diet, my symptoms have thankfully improved so much. So, for the last three or so years I’ve eaten completely gluten and dairy free.
Why did you set up your Instagram and TikTok page?
I set up a instagram page for a couple reasons:
Reason number 1 was that almost everything I read/watched about EOE was super depressing. There was no hope. I try to be a perennial optimist and always look on the bright side, but it was incredibly hard to do that with what I saw on YouTube and articles. I also didn’t know a soul who ate gluten or dairy free. So, I felt like documenting my journey in a way and making this Instagram (and TikTok) page allowed me to show people you can still have a normal life with EOE and eating with food restrictions. Four years ago, I didn’t know anyone who ate gluten free, or dairy free, and because of this account I know thousands of people I can relate to and share stories with. So that’s been the best thing that’s happened from it.
Reason number 2 was I loved beer before going gluten free. So, all my content initially was like 5-minute gluten free beer reviews that I don’t think anyone watched but my friends and family haha. But it was fun and made me more knowledgeable about all the GF beers, seltzers, ciders, and other bevvies out there.
Do you think there is a lack of gluten and dairy free foods?
Yes and no. Like, I’m sure someone who’s been gluten free for 10+ years is super pumped about all the options we have nowadays compared to back then. And even though I’ve only been GF for 3 years, I keep discovering new brands and products. I live in Boston and a lot of restaurants and grocery stores are accommodating to allergies. So, there’s a lot of progress. But there is still a lot of progress to be made. For instance, most GF bread we eat is miniscule and falls apart on the first bite. And there’s no such thing as a gluten free Cheez-it or even a donut option from Dunkin. There are a ton of limitations and the only way around it is to know where to find the gluten free versions or to make it yourself. All in all though, I’m hopeful in the coming years that we will get more and more safe options. And that they will be less expensive…
Do you find it challenging to eat out with a gluten and dairy allergy?
I do, yes. I’ve always been a big eater and always love to share food. Being gluten free and dairy free has certainly affected (effected?) that. And there are other things like learning the questions to ask a waiter to make sure your food is safe. But I always make it work. Most places around where I live have at least one option, and if they don’t, I’ll order a plain salad with chicken or something along those lines. I try my best to not let my allergies get in the way of socializing and having fun with my friends and family, and if eating a sad little salad with chicken is the price to pay then so be it haha.
What is your main goal with your social media accounts?
My goal this year it’s just to grow awareness of gluten free living and eosinophilic esophagitis in general, and so I’m churning out as much content as possible. Get ready for this humble brag… almost every day I get a message saying something like “I’m so glad I found your account” and that makes me feel like what I’m doing is resonating with people on some level. So I’m trying to reach as many people as possible because 4 years ago I desperately needed someone to show me my life wasn’t gonna suck. Next year, though, I think my goal is to become the gluten free Guy Fieri (same hair, too) and travel around documenting all the delicious gluten free restaurants in the world.
But longer term, I have a few goals: I’d love to open up a restaurant, help create a widely available gluten free bread that is BIG and open a market that is accommodating to all food allergies. Oh, and I’d love to concoct a gluten free light beer because they are extremely rare, and I can’t just keep chugging down these IPAs.
What do you find most challenging in day-to-day life with allergies?
The most challenging thing is planning ahead. I’m not a planner, but I’ve had to become one. If you ask 10 gluten free people what they miss the most, they probably won’t say a specific food, but say “the convenience of being able to eat whatever, wherever.” We can’t just grab a slice of pizza or pull off the highway to McDonalds or eat the homemade cookies a co-worker brought into the office. Saying “no” to these situations has been a big adjustment to me, because I was the guy who would try anything. So now I need to always be prepared with a protein bar or snack in my pocket, I need to search through ‘findmeglutenfree’ for a restaurant with gluten free options, and I need to bring my own buns and pasta salad to cookouts. I’m used to it now and don’t even think twice about all that stuff, but that can be the most challenging part sometimes.