Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Beauty Queen with a Gluten-free Message

When I was in San Francisco for the GFAF Expo, I had the pleasure of meeting with some wonderful people from the TasteGuru company. 

Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bake Shop, Andrew Yeum of TasteGuru and I at the GFAF Expo
They are similar to a "box of the month" club but they are specifically for those living a gluten-free lifestyle. The Taste Guru team finds, tastes, and evaluates a huge assortment of gluten-free food from all over the world. They figure, if they like it, then other gluten-free people will too! After the Expo, they sent me a box and I was thrilled with its contents. They even made sure it was dairy-free and soy-free for me! I loved everything in it. I actually like it so much that I purchased a subscription for my mom for her birthday. I am not sure she was able to sample all the contents in the first box because my sisters may have gotten to it first. However, that just tells you how good the products are that they select. 

I was then blessed with a phone call saying that they would like to publish an article about me and my journey as a Celiac Disease advocate in their Gluten-Free foodies section. I was truly ecstatic! So, below is the very kind editorial they printed on me. 

A Beauty Queen with a Gluten-Free Message

Brandy Wendler
At Taste Guru, we believe in the Gluten-Free Foodie: The colorful personality that eats gluten free, supports gluten-free causes, and shows the community the benefits of sticking to the diet when it comes to healthy living. Have a gluten-free foodie in mind that we should highlight?  Let us know!
Brandy Wendler has become a welcome face at a variety of celiac disease and gluten-free events. As Mrs. Northwest International 2013, Brandy uses her title to the gluten-free community’s advantage, spreading awareness for celiac disease, and constantly educating others about the gluten-free lifestyle.
Brandy’s personal journey with celiac disease began six years ago. The gluten-free pageant queen’s diagnosis did not come easy, and at the time, she was a practicing nurse that was also enrolled in a master’s program. She made visits to dozens of doctors, trying to find the answer as to why she was constantly feeling ill. It seemed as though no one could figure out what the cause of her sickness was.
After eventually visiting an edndocrinologist, Brandy found out that she had celiac disease, as well as allergies to dairy and soy.  The lifestyle adjustment she was forced to make was very difficult, and she initially lost a great deal of weight. Like many gluten-free newbies, she didn’t know what to cook or how the new ingredients she was eating were supposed to be used. During this stressful time, Brandy also was planning her wedding and nearing graduation for her master’s degree. Needless to say, she was overwhelmed.
Brandy and her husband decided that it was best for her to take six months off after her graduating to focus on her health and adjustment to gluten-free living. This time would allow her to learn what gluten-free food she could eat, how to cook, and she would also have time to regain her strength through working out. During this six-month period, Brandy began to search for support services and places to shop for gluten-free food in and around Anchorage, Alaska. This search resulted in frustration as she found nothing that could be of help to her.
One evening while relaxing with her husband, Brandy was complaining of the lack of gluten-free resources and awareness. As she sat on her computer with Miss Congeniality (a movie about a FBI agent turned beauty queen) playing on the television, a light bulb went off in her husband’s head. He suggested that Brandy participate in a pageant to help spread the awareness she was looking for.
Contrary to what you may believe, many pageant participants are very active in their communities, and are oftentimes very well accomplished women. Brandy could use pageants as a tool to spread awareness for celiac disease while becoming and advocate for the community. She decided to take her husband’s advice and go for it!
The organization Brandy chose to speak on behalf of was the Celiac Disease Foundation. With her background in nursing and a strong passion for celiac awareness, Brandy was ready to be heard. The pageant went just as planned, and Brandy walked away with the title. She now had a crown and sash as a marketing tool, and a platform that stood out against the rest!
The newly crowned gluten-free pageant winner couldn’t have imagined what was to come during her reign. She started receiving requests to speak at various events, kid’s camps, and gluten-free expos. Recognized as more than just a pretty face, Brandy transformed into an authority figure because of her education and background in health.
After her first title, Brandy did not want to stop spreading awareness, so she went for a second title within the Alaska pageant system, and won! Throughout this time, Brandy was becoming more and more of an advocate for celiac and healthy living. She could also relate to those individuals struggling to transition after diagnosis. She shared pictures of her low weight and fragile body after diagnosis, informing people that the picture of health she now radiated did not come overnight.
Brandy currently holds the title of Mrs. Northwest International 2013 until the end of the calendar year. She continues to speak at events, all while holding a full-time job as the director of infection control at her area hospital. Brandy’s favorite lecture to give is Living Heart Healthy with Celiac Disease, as the autoimmune disorder puts those with celiac at a 30 percent increased risk for heart disease.
As if she didn’t seem busy enough, Brandy is planning a move to South Carolina. Excited for the change of scenery, Brandy expressed how she would love to hold a position within a G.I. practice, as it is an area that she feels very passionate about.
Brandy ended her interview with us by saying, "Celiac is not a negative thing; it is positive and changed the course and direction of my life." Words only spoken by a true celiac disease advocate.
How has celiac disease or the gluten-free diet changed your life? Have you become an advocate for gluten-free living among your friends, family, and community?

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