Gluten Free Follow Me: Interview with Jackie McEwan

Howdy you!

How are ya? Week good? What's happening?

I am SO BUSY this week (so annoying to say that I freaking know).  BUT all my besties are coming in town tomorrow for the next few days for my birthday and I couldn't be more grateful or excited. Too good to be true. We're renting an airbnb on Saturday and having a chef come to cook us amazing eats and hanging together.

LAHVE.

But, to the post today! CUZ IT'S GOOD.

I am firstly, so into supporting people I believe in and vibe with, but also super interested in sharing the stories of people who are doing what they love for their full-time career. Sharing the story of someone who went from doing they didn't love, to following their passion and creating a life out of it - FASCINATING.

Jackie has done that! If you don't know her, she's the lady behind Gluten Free Follow Me, and she's a blogger/influencer who is the lady for all things GF. Working in finance previously in NYC, she built her business, and when right, made the leap to having this passion be her FT. If you're looking for a spot to eat that's healthy, amazing, and GF - her site has GOT YOU!

I met Jackie at the lovely Jordan Youngers yoga event and we vibed immediately.

She's SO smart, open, friendly, warm and genuine and what I love most about her, is when I asked, 'what's your goal' the other night at dinner she goes. 

'I'm just enjoying my life right now. I'm living my goal'.

VIBES.

To be so present in the NOW and grateful for what's happening is so PRECIOUS.

I was like, damn. That is TRUTH and I love it.

So this post is full of good advice for starting your own business, understanding what gluten free eating is like, seeing some of Jackie's favorite recipes and more. 

LOVE IT.

Enjoy LOVES. 

xo

Krista


Brief intro to who you are, what you do

Hi Hundred Blog readers! I’m Jackie, and I’m the founder of Gluten Free Follow Me, the Guide to Dining Gluten Free. I detail and rank 2,000+ gluten free friendly eateries in NYC, California, & beyond, in addition to products and recipes on my website www.glutenfreefollowme.com. I grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and studied Finance and International Business at Georgetown University. After graduation, I moved to New York City and lived there for five and a half years. I worked in the finance industry at a bank for over five years, and as of a couple months ago, Gluten Free Follow Me is now my full-time job! I recently moved to Santa Monica and go back to the East Coast every month or so. I feel so fortunate that I can split my time between the best coasts!

Can you talk about your gluten free journey? 

Five years ago, my sports doctor had all of his patients take a food intolerance test, and gluten came up in my test results. I was like, what’s gluten?! Looking back, my diagnosis made a lot of sense because I would get sick at least once a week in college. In college, I would eat stir fry on Sundays (using gluten-filled soy sauce) and always felt nauseous. I would get sick after eating my favorite sandwich at Cosi and thought it was food poisoning. I went to the Emergency Room at a nearby hospital a few times because I couldn’t keep any food or water down. I had these reactions throughout college but no one ever brought up gluten as a reason for my sickness. Gluten sensitivity/intolerance and celiac disease were not as wide-spread as they are now. Looking back, it seems silly that I never pressed doctors on what was making me sick but gluten wasn’t in the forefront of their minds.

I was incredibly overwhelmed when I finally found out that gluten was making me sick. I had recently moved to New York City and was so excited to eat out at all the restaurants. I went to a few gastroenterologists and found out I didn’t just have a gluten intolerance – I also had celiac disease.

This diagnosis forced me to rethink my meals and snacks because I had to immediately cut gluten out of my diet. I did a ton of research on what foods had gluten in it, what foods were gluten free, and all the grey areas in between. The gluten free diet has become much more popular in the past couple of years, but it wasn’t as prevalent five years ago so it was challenging. 

What is gluten and why is it important, or why is the topic really popular right now?

Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye, oat, and all their species and hybrids. Gluten helps food maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of food – not just bread! Gluten is commonly found in breads, baked goods, soups, pasta, cereal, sauces, salad dressings, but there are so many gluten free alternatives nowadays so it really isn’t hard to be gluten free!

When I first went gluten free five years ago, it was challenging because it wasn’t popular then. You really had to do your own research and search for gluten free items. Now, most supermarkets have an entire section for gluten free items, and they label which items are gluten free outside of that section.

Many mainstream products label their products as gluten free if they are or have adjusted their products to make them gluten free. The gluten free diet has become more popular with greater public awareness and better diagnoses. More and more people are discovering that they have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. I’m glad that it’s become more acknowledged because it’s making people more mindful of allergies and thoughtful about what’s best for their body.

What affect does gluten have on people and why are people trying to avoid it (outside of someone who has celiac disease!) 

People react differently to gluten.

My reaction to gluten is I have to throw up anywhere from three to ten hours after eating it. I’m very sensitive to gluten, so I will know if I ingest it! This is why I do a lot of research before eating out, and ask questions regarding cross contamination and food preparation. Other symptoms can be bloating, skin rashes and red-like skin, digestive discomfort, diarrhea, constipation, headache, tiredness, weight loss, stomach aches, nausea, and more.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease and affects about 1% of the general population. Unfortunately, many people who have celiac disease don’t even know that they have it. I’m so thankful that I found out five years ago because if it goes untreated, it can lead to malabsorption, osteoporosis, iron deficiency, other autoimmune diseases, and in general a reduced quality of life.

A lot of people, including me, forget that certain symptoms you’re having aren’t normal. You normalize it because it happens so much but you shouldn’t feel sick or uncomfortable all the time! I urge everyone to get a food intolerance test as a first step to see what comes up because the results may surprise you.

Many people feel better when they give up gluten, and they end up self-diagnosing themselves as it can be tough to diagnosis gluten sensitivity. If you feel better going gluten free, then by all means, continue to do so! 

Can you talk about your journey with Gluten Free Follow Me?

A few years ago, I started to post about some of the gluten free foods I was eating on Instagram. Surprisingly to me, my posts were met with such a great reception. My followers kept asking for more gluten free friendly eateries, products, and recipes, and I was more than happy to continue to make these discoveries. I was getting so many questions that I knew I needed to put all this information in one place rather than just Instagram. I taught myself how to make a website and how to code, and I launched www.glutenfreefollowme.com in September 2014! I wish I had something like Gluten Free Follow Me to guide me through my new gluten free diet five years ago, but I’m glad I can be a guide for others now!  

What's a typical day in the life?

No day is ever the same which keeps it interesting! It sounds cheesy but I really do wake up excited to conquer the day. On a typical day, I wake up and do my first social media post of the day either during breakfast or at the gym. When I run outside, I don’t bring my phone so it’s my time to zone out and get creative without technology. I run on the beach in Santa Monica, and it really is the prettiest place to run! When I go to the gym, I answer emails, responds to comments on my social media networks, and post for the brands/eateries I manage.

For lunch, I either schedule lunch at a restaurant or throw together a salad and omelet before jumping into my recipes for the day. I dedicate certain days as recipe days so I can be in the kitchen creating recipes uninterrupted and then shoot them in the daylight which is so key for good photos!

During the week, if it’s not a recipe day, I’ll schedule one or two eateries in a day. I’ll meet with chefs and owners at eateries to figure out what’s gluten free at their restaurant and bring up the right questions such as potential cross contamination and modifications/substitutions. If I have an evening event, then I may schedule a lunch in the area and work out of a coffee shop in between meals.  

 Go-to GF snack or meal? 

I kick off each day with fruit, greens, veggies, and eggs. I love eating healthy but I also have a sweet tooth and love my daily chocolate!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to make their side hustle their full-time career?

It’s so important for everyone to have a passion or hobby.

I feel like that’s how your creativity gets going, and your side gig can help you in other ventures even if it doesn’t become your full-time gig. I never meant for GFFM to become anything and definitely not my career. It happened so organically since it stemmed from my passion, but it also took hard work and dedication for it to become what it is today. When I started posting on social media and launched glutenfreefollowme.com a couple years ago, my family and friends never really understood what I was doing or why I was spending all this time focused on GFFM. Now, it’s easy to see how the journey happened but it wasn’t in the moment so I’m glad I believed in myself and kept at it!

Don’t let anyone sway you from what you love to do. It will shine through your work and can then translate into success. Only you know what you’re passionate about, and that makes you so good at it.  

I don’t recommend for everyone to turn their side hustle into their career, but if it works out financially then it may be worth it to take the plunge! My main advice would be to make sure that your side hustle can support you. I know of some people who tried to transform their side hustle into a full-time career and got discouraged since they felt like they had to continually put themselves out there and couldn’t afford to get rejected. They ended up going backwards and went back to “main-stream” jobs so make sure that the timing is right for you! 

What was the best thing about leaving the corporate world?

The best thing about leaving the corporate world is I’m able to devote all of my time and energy to Gluten Free Follow Me! I’m very thankful that I was recently able to make GFFM my full-time gig because it was getting difficult to juggle GFFM with my finance job which was pretty much 9-5.

I would duck out for lunches if I could and if the restaurant was close to my office. I always had Instagram events or dinners after work, sometimes several in one night. I wouldn’t get to the gym until 9:30pm (always have to get my workout in!) so I was definitely running low on time. I would open my packages from brands after the gym, and then do all of my recipes on the weekends.

The hardest? 

The hardest part is I don’t have the stability. Working in the corporate world meant I had a stable salary, and I knew exactly what I was earning and when I was getting my paycheck. However, GFFM is my passion, and I have more of an incentive to do well. Nowadays, I end up working longer hours than my finance job but when you’re doing what you love, it isn’t seen as work :) 

What's the best part about what you do now? 

My favorite part is being creative with food and getting to interact with my followers – I seriously have the best followers! I also love being able to wake up every day and do what I love. I feel like I appreciate it even more because I can now truly dedicate time to GFFM. I’m so thankful that I get to choose how and where I spend my day!

My hours are flexible so I can go running in the middle of the day when it’s 70 degrees and sunny rather than working inside from a cubicle, just staring at the pretty weather outside. I don’t need to be in the office from 9-5 and have people manage me. I’m the boss, the employee, a one-woman show, and I love it that way! 

The most challenging?

 Every day is different which I love because it keeps me on my toes. You have to be very motivated and structured to work from home and run your own business. Now that GFFM is my full-time job, I’m able to be more flexible with timing but I still like to have some sort of schedule to keep me organized.

What are some of your favorite recipes/or restaurants on your website?

Ooh there are so many good ones! I detail and rank 2,000+ eateries, products, and recipes so the list is never-ending. I love discovering new eateries and products for my followers and coming up with delicious recipes.

My favorite recipe right now is an easy cupcake recipe I created last month.

I know that not all of my followers have easy access to gluten free cake mixes so I wanted to create a recipe that was easy to do with kitchen staples.

All you need is:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup GF flour
  • 2 eggs or egg substitute
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • A few drops of vanilla extract

You can make this recipe vegan by using vegan butter and milk.

Combine all of the ingredients, and it makes about 9 cupcakes. It’s perfect for when I don’t want to make a huge batch, and then if I do, I can just double the recipe.

Full recipe on http://www.glutenfreefollowme.com/my-creations - I’m usually an icing gal but these cupcakes are so good, I eat them plain too!

What are you looking forward to in 2017?

I look forward to taking GFFM to the next level and continuing to grow my website and social media networks.

I love my followers, and their appreciative comments and support keeps me going! I also look forward to becoming more of a part of the LA community. I’ve met some amazing influencers and like-minded people so far (like YOU, Krista!) and can’t wait to meet more.

Thanks for listening and hope to connect with you all on GFFM! 


Where can people connect with you?

www.GlutenFreeFollowMe.com

Instagram: @GlutenFree.FollowMe

Twitter: @GlutenFreeFM

Facebook: Gluten Free Follow Me

Snapchat: JackieAanonsen