UPDATED 1/22/18: GlutenAway is now known as The HaleLife.
Earlier this year I began featuring a variety of gluten-free bloggers who I thought were pretty darn cool. We met Erica Dermer of Celiac and the Beast, Chandice Probst of This Vivacious Life (formerly known as Gluten-Free Frenzy) and Kristina Karalexis of Ms. Modify.
Because so many of these “gluten-free bloggers” are more than just bloggers, they are also industry influencers, I decided to rename this feature. I had been calling the feature, “Featured Gluten-Free Blogger.”
Lame, I know.
So I’ve renamed the series to The Gluten-Free Influencer Meet-and-Greet. This allows me to interview bloggers and other professionals in the industry doing great things to promote awareness for celiac disease and understanding and compassion for those following a gluten-free diet.
If you know of another awesome gluten-free blogger or someone making waves in the gluten-free industry, please leave a comment below to let me know I should feature them!
Today’s Gluten-Free Influencer Meet-and-Greet is with Taylor Miller, the influencer behind The GlutenAway Blog. Taylor was diagnosed with celiac disease as a teenager (he’s now a young adult). I know how difficult celiac disease is to navigate as an adult, but to be diagnosed as a child, I can’t even imagine the difficulties he faced!
Taylor writes prolifically about his incredible journey to understand what was making him so sick, and he now helps others on their journey toward healing too.
I’ve been watching Taylor for a while now – he’s quite the busy bee in the gluten-free community because not only does he blog, but he runs a marketing company, GlutenAway, that exclusively represents gluten-free brands. (And any brands reading this, he does a great job because he has my full attention when he talks about a cool GF find!)
I approached Taylor and asked him if I could feature him on my blog. What a nice guy – he replied right away and agreed. I knew I liked the guy already, but wait until you read what he has to say. His story blows me away and this kid (yes, he’s a kid to me) is doing so much to help our community. I can only imagine what the future holds for him…
Q: You were diagnosed with celiac disease as a teenager after many misdiagnoses. How did you (and your doctors) finally realize it was celiac disease?
A: Getting diagnosed with celiac disease was a huge struggle. I lost 25 pounds of weight in 6 months, got extremely fatigued, headaches, and many more symptoms. I was thought to have IBS, ADHD, depression, and many other disorders.
In my case, I just knew these disorders were only symptoms of something bigger that was going on. It took myself and my mom doing some research to learn that my mom had celiac disease herself. Shortly after she got diagnosed, we looked at our symptoms and realized that many of them were the same. My mom was very ill for many years, just like me. Once we presented celiac to the doctor, I was tested and medically diagnosed with celiac disease.
Q: You have made your “mess” your “mission” – and I love that because I do it too :-). How has blogging about celiac disease and gluten-free living helped you deal with the disease emotionally and physically?
A: When my gluten-free journey began, I was only 13 years old. You can probably imagine that time of your life and how hard it is to be a teenager. Really, starting my blog at an early age allowed myself to cope with celiac disease in a whole new way. I was able to meet a whole new world of people who were gluten-free just like myself. Since then, they have become a part of my family.
Blogging has been an amazing outlet to allow myself to express my gluten-free struggles all while helping others who are gluten-free too. Whenever I’m able to share a personal experience and hear that others can relate, it makes living with celiac disease a whole lot easier.
Q: You were so young when you started your blog. What was your first blog post about and what do you think about the post now?
Surprisingly enough, my first ever blog post was about my celiac disease diagnosis story. Looking back, I really am proud I put my story out there at such a young age, even if it did have a few typos. 😉
My voice has changed very much over the years since I have grown up and experienced so many new things in life. Overall, I’m very proud of my first post because I think it’s authentic to what a 15-year-old would have written at the age too.
Q: How do you feel these days now that you’ve eliminated gluten? What do you do (and eat) to stay healthy?
A: Going gluten-free really has changed my life and how I feel. At first, I just eliminated gluten and replaced the foods I loved as a kid with gluten-free substitutes. Sandwiches, macaroni, pizza, were all gluten-free foods that I ate. It made me feel better at first but overtime I learned that these processed foods still make me feel bad too!
As a 20-year-old now, I mainly stick to the outer aisles of the grocery store and eat all natural when I can. Sure, there are some days where I enjoy a gluten-free cookie or sandwich. But eating natural with the combination of yoga and an active lifestyle is what makes me feel best.
Q: It looks like your business is co-owned and operated by your mom. What role does she play in the business vs. you? What’s it like working with your mom
A: Many people are surprised when they see or hear that my mom and I work together so well. Many of the things I’ve learned, I’ve really learned from her! A few years ago, she decided to join my efforts with GlutenAway and put her event management/marketing skills to use. I still handle all the blogging, social media, cooking demonstrations, and public speaking tasks. My mom handles all of the hirings, emails, analytics, business development, and many more things on the back end. We are a great team and everything that she has added to GlutenAway has only allowed us to help the gluten-free community more.
Q: This leads me to my next question. You started as a gluten-free blogger, but expanded into a gluten-free product marketing company. Tell me more about how the marketing arm of GlutenAway got started?
A: Originally, my passions started with blogging. GlutenAway was a hobby of mine used to help others. Once I graduated high school, I found myself having a very important decision to make. Do I go to college or try to make a career out of something that I love? Over the years, I worked hard and got many opportunities with many great companies who believed in me. Three years ago, the GlutenAway Online Expo began and it launched everything else to where it is today. I enjoy helping people discover gluten-free versions of foods that they used to love. With more and more gluten-free products coming out every month, I knew I could use GlutenAway to introduce many great products to people too.
Q: What is your most popular blog post and why do you think it’s so popular?
A: My most popular blog post has been on the topic of Gluten-Free Dating Advice From a Male’s Perspective. If you look around, most bloggers only post about recipes, food, or other gluten-free product related topics. As a young adult with celiac at an age where dating is just starting to become regular for us, we feel very disconnected from the world. I’ve found that many young adults with a chronic illness feel very alone and abnormal when it comes to dating with celiac disease or another illness. I think this topic is very needed which is why I believe it’s done so well from the viewpoint of myself as a male with celiac disease.
Q: What’s it like dating as someone who is gluten-free? Do you find dates supportive? When do you bring up your diet?
A: Now that I’m 20 years old, I actually get dating questions a lot! One thing I’ve learned in my short years of experience is that you need to be comfortable with being gluten-free before you start any relationship. I say that because as long as you feel confident and comfortable with your lifestyle then the rest is up to how your date responds.
In terms of when to bring up that you’re gluten-free, try making your first date an activity that doesn’t involve food. This will allow you to really get to know one another in a way where food isn’t the center topic. Any date after that is a good time to casually bring it up and not make a big deal of it. To you, it’s just something that you live with every day. If your potential partner is worth pursuing then he or she will take interest in you being gluten-free and want to learn more about you as a whole.
Overall, I’ve found that being gluten-free often means very little to the other person. If anything, I find them wanting to learn what they can do to help make it easier in the relationship down the road. Again, it all depends on the person you’re with. If eating gluten-free is a problem to them, then they may not be worth your time anyway.
Q: What do you think has been the secret to your success?
A: The secret to my success so far has been many things. If I could narrow it down to three things, then I would say that believing in myself, remaining optimistic in times of conflict, and surrounding myself with those who challenge me.
Sometimes life will feel great, other times it will not. I’ve always been optimistic in life and made the most of every situation because I believe there is always a positive lesson you can learn from every outcome. If you work hard, believe in your capabilities, and surround yourself with people who will help you grow your capabilities more, then I feel like that is the most that you can do to be successful at any task.
Q: Beyond the gluten-free diet, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to celiac disease and/or your health? How do you combat those challenge(s)?
A: Surprisingly, celiac disease and being gluten-free is the least of my health problems now. For years, I have dealt with a rare type of adrenal disorder that makes life much more difficult. This is because my adrenal gland does not produce any cortisol whatsoever and without cortisol, vital organs shut down and stop working completely.
Because my adrenal gland does not produce any cortisol, this leaves me having to take medication multiple times a day to act as my own adrenal gland, which can be very difficult. I often have days where I cannot get out of bed, I cannot think properly, I cannot talk properly, and I have many more symptoms. This can all be caused by not taking the proper dose of medication. It’s made life much more difficult as a young adult who travels and works very much. I’ve learned over the years to manage it a lot better to make myself appear to be a normal young adult. It’s always a hard condition to manage, nonetheless.
Q: Short or one word answers for the next questions please:
- What is your favorite food? Sante Fe Chicken Salad
- What are you most passionate about? Helping children, teens, or adults who go gluten-free
- Who has been most influential to you? My mom
- What is your favorite book? Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston
- If you could meet one person in the world, who would it be? Bryan Cranston
- What product do you wish you invented? A cross contamination eliminating device (it doesn’t exist, yet)
- What does success look like to you? Dedication and perseverance to a cause that you truly believe in.
Q: Finally, for someone new to celiac disease, what is your best piece of advice?
A: My best piece of advice is to accept that it won’t always be easy. It doesn’t always have to be easy but with each day you can get better. There are many gluten-free foods that actually taste great now and many online resources to help. Every day, more and more people become educated on our disease which makes it easier for all of us. Just be optimistic and know that you can live gluten-free and still be happy as long as you take the time to get better along the way.
If you know of another awesome gluten-free blogger or someone making waves in the gluten-free industry, please leave a comment below to let me know I should feature them in a future Gluten-Free Influencer Meet-and-Greet. Thanks!