Eating hasn’t always been easy for me. I know that sounds like a weird thing to say, but for somebody suffering from Celiac Disease – especially when it’s undiagnosed – eating is more of a chore than a delight. Add in a serious pollen allergy that keeps me from eating a half-dozen kinds of fruit, and it makes everything harder. This was the life I lived for several years, from my mid-teens to early 20s, before I finally went to a doctor to find out why I always felt so bad.

I figured out that something was up with my digestive system when I was 14 years old, but in classic teenager form, I decided to silently live with it rather than deal with it. Once I got to college though, it started to get out of control. I always felt heavy or bloated after meals, I was lethargic and never wanted to go outside (I’m definitely a homebody, but this was another level), and felt uncomfortable on dates or in social situations.

After finally seeing a doctor and getting diagnosed with Celiac, I was faced with another hurdle: There were so many things I couldn’t eat anymore. It was a whole new challenge – I don’t cook and I know nothing about food. Then I found Rise. I was so excited that there was a way to get access to a personal dietitian without laying out hundreds of dollars – it only cost as much as I would have spent on beer every week. I had no idea, however, about the profound impact Rise would have on me.

It sounds cliché, but Rise really has changed my life. In the seven months I’ve been using it, I’ve become a whole new person. Managing my Celiac is as simple as pulling out my phone, taking a picture of what I’m eating and typing out a few words to my coach Colleen. I describe what I eat and she gives me feedback, tips, tricks and helps me find things to eat that I would have never found on my own. I’ve even lost 12 pounds since I started, and I wasn’t even trying to lose weight.

Colleen started helping right away. The first thing she worked on was balancing my meals by suggesting new foods or new recipes, and telling me what I should cut out or start including.

Before I started Rise, I would generally eat two eggs with some salt and a couple pieces of gluten-free toast with peanut butter for breakfast, usually skip lunch, and then have either gluten-free mac and cheese, or gluten-free pizza for dinner. Tasty, sure but not exactly healthy. Colleen got me eating more vegetables, and most importantly, taught me to spread my meals out over the day. I started feeling better almost immediately.

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She also helped explain a weird craving for chocolate I had ever since I started eating gluten-free, that I never had before. Colleen explained that it was because I wasn’t eating as much bread, and wasn’t getting as much sugar as before. The craving was my body’s reaction to that.

This might sound strange to say about somebody I’ve never met in person, but I feel like Colleen is a friend.

After watching my habits for a week, she immediately got down to business and started giving me tips. As she started to learn my habits, she started picking up on little cues like being able to tell when I’m getting low on groceries by what I’m eating.

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We also bonded over putting mustard on omelettes, which I love, but I know probably sounds weird to everyone else. She calls them my “omelette creations.” She knows my boyfriend, my dog and my best friend.

Rise has really changed life in so many ways. By eating right, I’ve stopped being lethargic and sluggish, I don’t feel bloated and feel comfortable in my own skin, and my pollen allergies have gotten better. For me, Rise is one of the most brilliant uses of technology I’ve seen. Creating that automatic connection to make nutritionists and life coaches available to someone who’s not able to pay for it is invaluable. Rise opens to door for a lot of people, including me.

This is a guest post by Molly Duggan. Molly is a student at UW.