Hi!! I'm Rachel Doreian, the Director of Marketing here at The Greater Knead. I am about to share a little bit about my story, and why building community for me is extremely important when dealing with a gluten-free and/or a free-from lifestyle.

I love people, period. I love socializing, bringing people together, helping people out, and overall enjoying life with others. When I self-diagnosed myself with a gluten-intolerance, that radically shifted a lot of things about myself, which ultimately made me feel lonely and isolated. Not so much that any one of my friends, family members, etc. made me feel like an outsider, however that is why I have spent the past 7 years trying to help people in the gluten-free and allergen free space feel a sense of community, and that they have a place to be amongst their peers instead of peering in from the outside. How did this happen? One sentence shifted my entire course of being.

During my early 20’s, I enjoyed every beverage and food items that was jam packed with gluten. Bagels, beer, pasta, bread, tomato soup (some companies thicken it with wheat flour); the whole nine yards. During that time, however (and thinking back to my childhood, I did feel similarly), I was constantly bloated, foggy, tired, had digestive issues out the wazoo (literally), and overall wasn’t feeling well at all. My college boyfriend at the time point blank said to me one day, “Maybe you have IBS.” That statement planted a seed in my mind that helped me to make a huge shift in my life, which has ultimately led me to where I am today.

After doing much research about what could trigger IBS, and evaluating the food choices I was making, I knew gluten had to go (and subsequently dairy and soy would eventually have to go as well). Was it an easy process, uh heck no. I would do well for a little bit, then have a slip, which resulted in all of the symptoms cascading back to haunt me. Emotionally it wasn’t easy as well. “Why me.” “What is so wrong with me that I can’t eat this, and other people can.” “I just want to BE NORMAL.” “I hate my body!” All of these thoughts I struggled with for quite some time, before accepting that this was something my body just didn’t like, and that is ok. This is something that doesn’t love my body, and I have to love myself enough to let it go: Despite whatever food attachments I had.

I left my corporate job in October 2011 to join forces with a gluten-free and free-from market and café in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. It was called, “Food For All” and it changed my life in so many ways. People from all walks of life would come into the store, all ultimately seeking one thing: Community. Whether they were just diagnosed with celiac, their daughter had POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), their son had EoE (Eosinophilic Esophagitis), or just members of the neighborhood, we all had a place to come together and not have to worry about feeling different. Oh did I mention that this is where I met Michelle AND my husband!? #jackpot!

I feel so fortunate that I can continue helping to build that sense of community here at The Greater Knead. I don’t want anyone to ever feel isolated, and I hope that we can continue to grow this movement together.