Your Stories: Jo Knowles

Jo selfie editedFree-From Heaven reader, recently diagnosed Coeliac and newbie blogger Jo shares her Free-From story as a a full-time mum to two constantly hungry, ever-moving, little tornadoes of energy. She has turned to blogging to help herself and others navigate through the foggy haze of gluten-free living. 

My name is Jo, I’m 34 and I’m a Coeliac. I feel I should be standing up in a darkened room, surrounded by a circle of people all clapping politely at my confession here, but I’m not. I’m sat at home, debating whether or not to tuck in to yet another highly calorific, sugar-laden gluten-free cookie.

You see, therein lies the problem. Since being diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, my once bountiful and many varied diet has reduced to the size of a pea (which ironically, I can still eat). Gone are the lazy Saturday night greasy takeaways, the impromptu dinners out in town or the overflowing Sunday roasts at the forest pub. The spontaneity has gone. The level of choice has gone. The lifestyle has gone. By eliminating gluten from my life, it has also eliminated another huge chunk of me – my social life. 

The first few months were extremely difficult, I won’t lie. The fear of somehow being ‘gluten contaminated’ was a massive fear and the undeniably relaxed attitude of others only made that fear grow. Whilst the ‘gluten-free’ diet seems to be woven into every celebrity diet and trending on every social network, the knowledge of its cause; Coeliac disease was not. Friends sympathised on my condition, but I could see their blank expressions pass over their eyes like a cloud passing over the midday sun. It was soon forgotten about and I became the ‘difficult’ friend to cater for, which in itself is rather soul-destroying. Throw in a recent dairy and alcohol intolerance, and hey ho, I’m the life and soul of every party – not

But then something happened. I made a decision. Yes, I had become a Coeliac, but that didn’t need to define me. I am and have always been a massive ‘foodie’ with both my husband and myself involving every social engagement around food. We were avid shoppers at Waitrose (spending a small fortune and what probably equated to what could have been a second mortgage for a holiday home in Portugal) and we loved, loved, loved to eat. I loved to bake with my children and a questionable chunk of our lives revolved around food. Why let that change?

And so began my new quest. To not let being gluten free hinder me or my family in any way. To not resort to buying all the gluten free products (which, don’t get me wrong, are delicious and are a welcome treat when the rest of the shopping aisles are now a no-go area, but many are laden with calories) and begin finding recipes that are delicious, healthy and most importantly, won’t leave me hugging our toilet, head throbbing, stomach recreating scenes from Mount Etna…. 

And thus began my blog. From baking gluten-free birthday cakes for my toddler, to hosting a three course dinner for friends; I endeavour to show how cooking gluten-free can actually be a blessing. How it can open the eyes to new ingredients, open my mind to new taste experiences and most importantly, open my heart to embracing my new life as a Coeliac. 

Let them eat cake, she said? Too right, life is too short to not eat cake. (Providing its gluten free, of course…)

You can visit Jo’s blog at

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