If you have any type of account related to gluten free on instagram, I promise you have seen Matt before or have seen his non-stop hilarious gluten free related memes. Matt is a Meme Master and I absolutely have enjoyed his content!
So I’m beyond excited that Matt has taken the time away from the meme machine, to share his story and give us an opportunity to peak behind the gluten free meme curtain!
Enough from me! Check out his story below!
Your story…tell us a little bit about yourself!
What’s up everyone? My name is Matt, I’m 28, and I follow a gluten free diet because of IBS (I’ll explain more in the next question). I’ve managed the account @glutenfreestreetgang since August 2018. I started it as a coping mechanism to get over Starbucks getting rid of their gluten free breakfast sandwich by making memes about it. I kept it up once after how amazing the gluten free community on Instagram is and knowing that it’s been making a difference in the lives of others. You’ve all made a massively positive impact in my life as well.
I normally live in London, UK, but I’m originally from Bermuda and spent my teenage years/undergrad in Massachusetts. I’ve been spending Covid lockdown in Massachusetts with my parents and siblings, taking full advantage of all the food that I can’t get in the UK. When I’m not on Instagram I love playing racquet sports (mostly tennis and squash), doing entry level outdoorsy things, spin classes, cooking healthy versions of unhealthy food, and lists.
Why do you eat gluten free food?
After months of struggling with gastrointestinal problems, brain fog, weight issues, and seemingly random fatigue swings, I was diagnosed with IBS after being tested for just about everything else. I didn’t get the best information after this, nor a referral for a GI specialist. On my own I found that removing gluten from my diet solved almost all of the aforementioned issues. This is why I began following a gluten free diet.
Fast forward a few years of trial and error (and getting a referral for a proper GI) I’ve since learned IBS is significantly more complicated than expected. Gluten is not an IBS trigger, but wheat can be and is one of mine. I’ve kept up the gluten free diet out of ease and familiarity (also, my desire to not spend the majority of my waking life on the toilet). Seeing the gluten free label in almost all circumstances means it will work with my gut, and that label is far more common.
What is your favorite gluten free snack? Where can we find it?
Having a foot in two different countries I have two different answers for you!
In the US, Quinn’s peanut butter filled pretzels are out of this world. The brand itself is amazing, they’re transparent about their supply chain and quality of ingredients. They’re gluten free and also corn free as well. In what may be the best possible review, my gluten eating family thinks they’re better than gluten filled peanut butter pretzels. There’s a store locator on their website, but in general they’re found at locally owned health food stores, Walmart, Whole Foods, Amazon, and a few smaller online retailers.
In the UK, hands down, Marks & Spencer’s Milk and Cookies Spread is absolutely to die for. If you follow me on Instagram you may be aware that I’m obsessed. It’s pretty versatile, it goes great with a banana or a piece of GF sourdough – I’m also not above taking a spoon right to the jar. I’ve found it at M&S department stores and foodhalls, any Simply Food location will more likely not have it in stock (outside the UK I understand M&S doesn’t carry it).
What’s your favorite gluten free recipe?
I’ve been on a baking kick since quarantine began, and my brother’s girlfriend Katherine helped kick start my healthy versions of unhealthy food obsession. She showed me a recipe for four ingredient vegan/GF Samoas (for the uninitiated, those are Girl Scout cookies) by Brittany of Eating Bird Food that I’ve been in love with. It’s a hot take I know, but I think they’re better than the original.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when first went gluten free?
I wish I knew that there was a robust online community that I could have used for support. The first few years post IBS diagnosis were isolating. I knew I had IBS, I knew that gluten made it worse, I knew gluten wasn’t a known IBS trigger, but I didn’t know anyone like me. At times it was incredibly isolating. The connections I’ve made through gluten free Instagram have been beyond supportive and caring; you’ve all given me a better understanding of myself and the lives of others with different food restrictions.
If you could only eat one gluten free meal for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
The chicken and waffles from The Fox in Shoreditch, London. The waffle is in the style of an egg waffle; the chicken is breaded and fried perfectly. The kitchen doesn’t keep a consistent closing time which is the only annoying bit. That being said, the kitchen is entirely GF and is celiac safe!
What advice would you give someone who is about to go gluten free?
Assuming this is for medical reasons, always be your own biggest advocate with doctors and do not be afraid to ask for clarification on anything that isn’t clear, even if it seems like a stupid question. Never be afraid to get a second opinion or find a new medical provider, if you’re able to, if you aren’t confident in the answer that you’re getting.
Also, if you don’t get a clear answer from a restaurant on what’s in a dish or how it’s prepared, order something else. You aren’t obligated to order anything (or remain there if you’re dining solo) and your health is not worth the risk.
What’s your favorite thing about being gluten free?
My diet and lifestyle have been significantly healthier* since removing gluten from my diet. I’ve become much more mindful of what I eat and how to better balance what I eat every day. I’m not sure the mindset shift would have happened without the IBS diagnosis. I do miss the freedom of not being on a restricted diet, though. Plus, the things I miss the most (like simply going into a café for a pastry), when I’m able to do do I look forward to it more than before knowing I can’t get it every day.
*: I still snack too much and portion sizes are not my friend, but no one is perfect
What is one thing you dislike about being gluten free and what do you do to mitigate it?
I really dislike how restricted it feels to be traveling – in an airport/plane, in a new city, traveling for work, etc – and how hard it can be to find safe and satisfying snacks in these situations. I know, it probably sounds like a major first world problem, but I keep a fairly strict exercise routine that means I’m often a hungry boy (In my distance running days I occasionally would sneak fries into bars/clubs when out with friends in case of hunger.. the struggle was real).
I mitigate this by always having snacks on me. Like, always. In my bag I usually keep some sort of granola bar, a pack of trail mix, fruit snacks, and a reasonably sized portion of a different snack (pretzels, those little peanut butter sandwich crackers, chips; my definition of reasonable varies by day). It’s a little bit of comfort knowing I have emergency snacks to fend off being hangry.
It is worth noting that I have seen this situation getting better. Most convenience stores/rest stops that I’ve seen in New England/the west coast have been getting better about carrying gluten free snack options, and in London almost all convenience stores, no matter how small, have a sizable free from section. I still am not one to leave that up to chance, though!
How can other people find you?
I’m on Instagram at @glutenfreestreetgang and am working on a blog with more food based content (sneak peak can be found a @lowfodmatt on Instagram), but life has been getting in the way of that more than I’ll happily admit. I’m hoping to have it live this summer.
Matt, it is super cool that you took the time to share and connect with us! Your account is growing so fast and that’s a result of the hard work and hilarious content you provide the gluten free community. Keep up the great work!
I hope everyone can take the chance to follow and join Matt on this gluten free meme journey!