Travel Tip #20: Use a Travel Agent

Travel Tip #20: If you’re ready to book a much needed vacation, use a travel agent. No, I don’t mean a web based travel search engine, I mean a real person. I know it’s tempting to book everything online. I do it all the time, but if you’re truly needing a break, there are benefits to having a knowledgable professional with good connections handle your travel plans.
travel agent
Planning a trip can be time consuming. If you’re already taxed from long hours, illness, or caregiving, that time can be better used for restorative activities like sleep, walking in the park or on the beach, yoga, or visits with friends. Using a professional will give you access to options you may never have considered. And if you run into a problem during your trip, a travel agent can find a solution while you relax. And that’s the key — relaxing.

Believe it or not, there are still thousands of travel agents in the US. The Bureau of Labor & Statistics listed 81,700 in 2016. Some agencies are available 24 hours per day (just like the internet) and many offer agents who speak foreign languages. A well-matched professional will offer a level of service technology just can’t duplicate.

I’m pretty independent and I don’t enjoy hiring a company that I have to beg to be responsive or do a good job. Because of that, I’m often tempted to just do things myself. I’m not kidding. I’ve cut my own hair, repaired my toilet, sold my house, repaired my washing machine, and other things I don’t know how to do. I suppose my get-it-done determination has some advantages, but it has some drawbacks as well.

Doing it myself can sometimes be the one thing that puts me past the point of exhaustion. It can be the thing that interrupts a project that’s more important. It can be the thing that keeps me from feeling that great feeling of being taken care of. I was recently reminded of that feeling when I hired a childhood friend to sell my cousin’s farm.

I thought it would take months to move that thing. The top part of the 109 acres was rocky and unusable. There’s no road through the property, no fences, and scrub trees have been running amok for a few years. I was very, very wrong. My friend sold it in a week for the price we wanted. Then, she gave me a gift certificate to my favorite store in that town. The whole thing felt great!

Last summer, I wanted to take a week off. I freed up the time, but ended up staying home. Planning a trip was more than I could muster. Did I know I could use a travel agent? Yes, I’ve had wonderful experiences using them before. The thing is, I sometimes make things harder than they could be. It’s not my best habit.

In the past two days, I’ve hired 3 new people to help me while I split my time between work, landlord, and caregiving duties. Next up, a vacation — time to call a travel agent!

The Importance of Appropriate and Adequate Support for Gluten-Free Kids

Yesterday I wore an elastic wrist support band while I worked.  Since I was a kid I’ve had weak wrists. Yesterday it hurt really badly to move my right wrist. Lifting and twisting motions were the worst.  Writing a post-it note brought me close to tears. I kept adjusting and readjusting the Velcro on the band and still my wrist hurt. I changed how I was shifting my car. I decided to order out for dinner to avoid having to chop anything.

When I got home from work I happened across a traditional Ace bandage and decided I would switch to it so there would be some thumb support and I could suspend my wrist at a different angle. I wore the bandage all evening and all night. This morning, you’d never know I had any pain.

The difference was amazing. I went from excruciating pain to no pain in about 12 hours without any medication.

What made the difference? Appropriate and adequate support made the difference.

If the first band had wrapped my knee, my wrist would have continued to hurt. So the short band was appropriate because it wrapped the correct part of my body, but it did not provide adequate support. Without adequate support my pain continued.

If being dependent on someone else is causing me pain, then you giving me the money to pay all my bills may be supportive, but it is not appropriate. Unless I have the courage and insight to refuse your help, I am choosing to prolong my pain.

And so it is with life. Without appropriate and adequate support, we continue to live in pain.

As parents we want to support our children. We’re willing to do almost anything to help as long as we think it’s important. Sometimes we may have a differing opinion from our children’s other parent regarding what is important. This may be especially true if we’re divorced.

For all of us who maintain a gluten-free lifestyle, we know how much support it can take to stay on track. When our kids have to be gluten-free, it takes both parents working together with doctors, teachers, daycare workers, coaches, friends, friends’ parents, and siblings to provide adequate support.

Angry child

It’s always good to keep in mind how hard it is for us when we feel different from other diners in a restaurant. It’s even more difficult for our kids when they feel different from their peers. They may soon find it unbearable and go back to eating regular pizza if one parent belittles the gluten-free lifestyle or them for adhering to it.

Providing adequate support for a Celiac child requires that all his/her caregivers understand that even a small amount of gluten causes an autoimmune response that can damage the small intestine and require a whole year for his body to heal. Helping our children understand what to avoid is hard enough. Helping them develop enough social backbone and social grace to politely resist another adult’s insistence that “just a little bite of cake won’t hurt” requires that we all work as a united force.

I know that sometimes it would be easier just to give in when our moms, dads, spouses or kids want to debate the merits of staying gluten-free, but if we know that our children’s health depends on it, we must stay the course. If we do not, we are failing to provide appropriate and adequate support.

Have a particularly sticky situation you don’t know how to handle? Let us know what it is and our team will respond with some options to help you.


Photo by David Castillo Dominici

How can I make my family support my eating plan?

Let’s state the obvious right off the bat. You can’t change other people. If your family isn’t generally supportive or does not function well, many of its members may never come around. While it would feel good to have their support or to feel like you are a top priority, the fact may be that you are not the highest priority for any given family member.

Ouch, that’s harsh.

Is it? I know, it feels awful when your desire and need for support are met with resistance, cruelty or, perhaps even worse, are ignored. This can leave you feeling as though you do not matter or hold an important place in the world. It can leave you feeling angry that you are experiencing hurt or neglect from those who you believe should be protecting and nurturing you. Nonetheless, if these are the facts, these are the facts. It is important to tell ourselves the truth. It is important to allow ourselves to consciously recognize what we already know.

Why? It is only from a place of truth that we can learn to rely on our inner strength, stop blaming others, discover that we can value ourselves even if we haven’t been valued, find a way to give up the fear and anger that keep us from feeling empathy and compassion for those who behave badly toward us, and most importantly recognize that we have a choice to live however we want to live.
Yes, I know you may not feel strong enough. You’ll get there.
You may not feel capable of taking on a difficult task all on your own. You’ll get there.
You may want to eat in an unhealthy manner to fill an emotional hole. This one takes awhile, but you’ll get there.
You may feel compelled to gulp down comfort food that makes you unhealthy and not know how to overcome this compulsion. Don’t worry, you’ll get there.

You may feel it’s not fair that you have to make tough choices when everyone else at the table is raving about the delicious cake. Maybe this one particular thing isn’t fair, but everyone has different challenges in life. You can be certain that the people eating cake also have experiences that aren’t fair even though they get to eat cake.

Even if your family is not supportive, it’s okay. You can find a community that is. In fact, we support you. We want you to be healthy and thrive.

Now that we got that out of the way, we know that some families want to be helpful so let’s go back to the question at hand – How can I make my family be supportive of my eating plan?

With a willing participant, you can facilitate the process by being clear, consistent, patient, and gentle in communicating your limitations. For instance, if your grandmother seems to understand, but then offers you gumbo you know was made with a roux and you are gluten-free, what are your options?
1)You can choose to hurt your health rather than possibly hurt her feelings by having to tell her one more time that you cannot eat her delicious gumbo. This choice will be tempting if you feel like you matter less than other people or must earn love by sacrificing yourself. It will also be tempting when you’re afraid of disappointing someone you care about.
2)You can act exasperated because she seems more ignorant than you thought and isn’t meeting your expectation. You may have a high expectation because your grandmother has been smart and wonderful all your life. Perhaps a bit of patience will help you realize that she’s aging and can’t remember as quickly now as she could before – especially if she’s tired or out of her routine. It may be time for you to see her as the real human she is rather than the superhero you have created. Yes, this is tough, sad, and scary because it is hard to watch those we love begin to decline, but facing the reality as it happens will allow you to maximize your connection during the remaining moments you have together.
3)You can act angry or irritated as though she’s deliberately trying to sabotage you. This choice may feel natural if you have another family member who manipulates as a matter of habit. Because you are poised to expect and/or avoid manipulation, the slightest possibility of sabotage can trigger your anger defense. Until you have reinforced your boundaries and have healed from the hurt or humiliation you have endured at the hand of the manipulator, you may need a momentary timeout to gain perspective. That’s okay, take the timeout. Even when you can’t verbalize why in advance, remove yourself. Once you’ve regained your perspective, you can come back and explain. Sometimes the path to healing isn’t perfect and isn’t pretty. It’s still important and making a deliberate choice that disrupts your old-standing habits is always a step in the right direction. If you are inadvertently impolite, apologize. If someone grumbles, let them grumble.
4)You can complain to the rest of the family that if grandma cared about you, she’d take the time to research, record, and remember what you can’t eat. This can be a divisive and negative way of attempting to get the support you need – “Come on team, rally around me-the-maligned”. It can also be a way to avoid taking responsibility for yourself. Once everyone chooses sides and turmoil ensues, you can blame grandma and her allies if you fail to make a positive choice. After all, look at all the opposing forces – who could possibly make a positive choice in this environment? What you may not realize is that you give up your personal power each and every time you allow a group to limit you or blame someone else for a choice you have made. You may also fail to see that you have an active hand in creating chaos and contributing to your own misery.
5)You can throw a fit, yell, scream, and create so much drama that you think it will guarantee she won’t forget next time. You will create the reality you desire – no one will forget, but what they won’t forget is that you behaved badly. They may still feed you gluten.
6)You can politely refuse by saying something like, “Wow, that smells wonderful and I remember how good it tastes. I sure wish I could have some, but I can’t.” If grandma then asks why not, you can follow with, “It’s that darned roux made with flour. My system just can’t tolerate it.  I appreciate the offer though. Thanks for always trying to include me.”

Ahhh, finally a response that allows you to both protect your health and your grandmother’s feelings. Achieving this sort of balance over and over again is the best way to solicit support over the long haul.

Any time you can facilitate simple, clear communication, you will create interactions that offer more time, space, and energy for you to educate and share your passion for being healthy. Following a consistent eating plan makes it less confusing for your family and helps them to adapt and accommodate you. In your home, you can have as elaborate a structure as you’d like. In addition to gluten, I avoid corn, potatoes, and shrimp. Avoiding shrimp and gluten are critical to my health because I cannot tolerate the slightest amounts of these foods. I can tolerate small bits of corn and products with potato flour. When I communicate my needs to a hostess, I do not mention corn or potatoes as a problem because I feel it is best to keep things simple.

Why would I make the choice to only communicate critical limitations? My intent is not for extended family to memorize the intricacies of my dietary plan. My intent is to be healthy, thrive, and have positive interactions with my family. I can eat some cheese dip and chips once every 6 months while we watch basketball or football without sacrifice.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you “fudge” to accommodate your family, but simply that you can soften the way you impart information. Sometimes when something is very important to us, we communicate our restrictions as rigid rules without even recognizing what we’re doing. We lay out the restrictions we’d follow if we were meeting our ideal behaviors every moment rather than communicating the points that are essential and must be followed religiously for us to be healthy. When we make the rules too broad, or based on our ideals rather than reality, we run the risk that before family dinner is over we’ll have bent one of those rules. This causes confusion and often results in the rest of the family taking our real restrictions less seriously.

I am also suggesting that when we communicate with those whose support we desire, we take the time to set clear intentions for that communication. With those intentions in mind, you’ll often find there’s plenty of wiggle room to relax how you communicate without having to compromise your health plan. For instance, if my intent for a conversation is to make my mom comfortable while I firmly assert that I cannot eat her conventional pie crust any longer, I will inherently make a softer presentation than if I enter the conversation with the goal of telling my mom that things have to change because I can’t have the traditional lemon meringue pie for my birthday any more unless she makes me a special crust. Yes, there may be a subtle difference in words, but there is a world of difference in attitude.To help you remember this, it may be helpful to actually wiggle your shoulders before you begin to speak. Remember – when there’s room to wiggle, there’s room for any pressure to dissipate.

If you feel overwhelmed by the changes you’re making or feel as though your family will not take you seriously, enlist outside support. Solicit better behavior by inviting another gluten-free friend to attend a function with you. Most families behave better when there are outside parties around to observe, plus you won’t be the only one refusing a dinner roll. Just make sure you don’t create an us against them atmosphere. Another option when you’re feeling unprepared for family pressure is to skip a few gatherings until you’re in a better position to handle them. You can also have a friend on call for encouragement by phone.

Again, make sure your intentions are benevolent and clear so that a phone call does not become a complain and blame session. In other words, when you call your support friend, a statement like – “I feel like the odd man out every time I refuse the stuffing and rolls and cake. I’m so afraid someone is going to make fun of me or talk about me when I’m out of the room.” is constructive and gives your friend a chance to reassure you in a very specific way because you have clearly stated how you feel. This kind of statement will get a much different result than saying, “I can’t believe my sister! Do you know what she did to me? She put a roll on my plate after I passed the bread basket to her. I’ve told her about a hundred times I can’t have rolls. I swear she just wants to embarrass me in front of everyone.” Now your support friend is in a precarious position.

If she jumps on the vilify-your-sister bandwagon, your friend may add fuel to the fire encouraging you to become more enraged. If he attempts to calm you down by minimizing what she did, he runs the risk of you feeling betrayed. If he simply says, “I’m sorry you had to experience that”, it helps but doesn’t address the specific fear you are masking with angry, blaming statements. While this makes you feel less vulnerable in the moment, it will ultimately leave you feeling less supported.

Please pause for a moment here to recognize that in any interaction each of us can make the choice to be honest, open, vulnerable and invite the possibility of maximum support; or we can choose to avoid our feelings, and the vulnerability that comes with exposing them, and garner partial or ill-fitting support at best.

Which I suppose brings us back to the original question. The best way to get our family to be supportive of our eating plan is to set good boundaries and clear intentions then to make it a priority to be as open, honest, vulnerable and courageous as we can in any given moment.

Do not expect perfection. There is no such thing when people are involved. Solicit support when you need it. Receive support when it is given. Be patient. Be kind to all including yourself. This is a process. Tell us how you’re doing.

You are how you cope!

Don’t you mean you are what you eat?  After all, this is a cooking blog, right?

Well, yes, Cooking2Thrive® is about cooking, but it’s also about thriving.  Don’t worry we’ll tie it all together for you by the dessert course.


It is no secret that our intimate relationship with food sometimes takes on a life of its own. When we vow to modify our diet, eat healthy, lose weight, reduce our intake of sweets or carbs or protein or gluten, we can suddenly feel out of control, or obsessed. It feels like the vow has taken control of us.  Why is that?


Take a moment to crunch on this idea:  Long before we were ready, some of us had to perform tasks that were much too advanced for our age and ability. When things didn’t turn out well, we blamed ourselves or someone else blamed us. Through this process, we learned to cope in a manner that encouraged the overdevelopment of an inner critic. This critic became such an integral part of us that we do not feel like ourselves unless we are thinking: “I’m too fat!”; “I ate too much!”; “I should have eaten slower!”; “If only I had planned in advance, I wouldn’t have had to eat that doughnut at the office, but I was just so hungry!”  As we begin to eat more healthily, this monologue no longer fits, but when it’s turned off we don’t feel like ourselves.  When we don’t feel like ourselves, we begin to feel anxious. Anxiety leads us to seek comfort.  We feel comforted when we eat carbs, so we pick up a cheese roll, criticize ourselves for choosing the food we have vowed to avoid, and breathe a sigh of relief because our familiar coping pattern has been restored.

C. Thriver


Our inner critic may be alive and well and keeping us from doing our best, but it can go relatively unnoticed while our lives roll predictably along. Enter a stressful disruption, and the war we are constantly fighting within can keep us from making changes that are critical to our health and longevity. For instance, let’s say that we’re suddenly served a huge heaping portion of diabetes. Now the carbs we run to for comfort can literally be our undoing. If we continue to cope in our old way, we will significantly decrease our lifespan. And yet, the added stress we feel may pull us even more strongly toward a familiar coping strategy. We want to become more healthy – it just feels as though we can’t. We may begin to feel ashamed or defeated or that critic may pipe up and say, “You’re not worth the trouble anyway, loser.”

Whatever the specifics of your situation may be, when you go back to coping through the use of strategies from the past that do not allow real change, you are stuck. 

Many of us remain stuck for a very long time while our health and quality of life slowly deteriorate. We begin to believe that we’re destined to be sick and then sicker. We focus on alleviating symptoms rather than controlling, healing, or curing an underlying disease process. This seems sane and normal because we’re surrounded by a host of other people who are following a similar path.  But if sane and normal actions cause us to live more limited, painful, or shorter lives, how sane and normal can they really be?

A part of us may sense that this is a question worth asking, but when we are in a weakened or pain-filled state the asking may feel beyond our reach. Without a side dish of support and encouragement, we may be left to cope in the usual manner.


Now for the sweet part! Cooking2Thrive can help support healthy change. Don’t feel like challenging the status quo? That’s okay; we love a good challenge.  Don’t feel you can make progress because you don’t have enough support?  That’s okay; we’re here to encourage you.  Know where you want to go, but don’t know how to get there?  Don’t worry; we will provide a roadmap of practical tools you can use in order to progress.

At Cooking2Thrive, we believe that good health begins with nutritious, fresh food. We believe that with proper nutritional and emotional support, many disease processes can be reversed. We also believe that we all need encouragement and practical tools to develop new ways to process our feelings so that we can discard the coping mechanisms that hold us back in order to live a more rich, full life.

If you currently feel stuck and can’t seem to avoid your inner critic, don’t worry. Things can change.  You can heal!  We can help.

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