Heidi Collins; Courtesy FOX 9

Heidi Collins; Courtesy FOX 9

Heidi Collins is well known for anchoring on CNN. Many people also know she lives with celiac disease. Six years after her diagnosis she now lives in Minnesota (her home state) anchoring at the local FOX station and exploring all things gluten-free in the Twin Cities.

I had the pleasure to sit down with Heidi recently to talk about living with celiac disease, settling in the Twin Cities (including her favorite local restaurants) plus find out how you can see her whip up a fun gluten-free dish with an expert chef!

Celiac Disease Diagnosis

Heidi was diagnosed with celiac disease 6 years ago, but she’ll tell you she probably was undiagnosed for 20 years before that.  Heidi said she had celiac symptoms since grad school and was constantly leaving events early because she was sick.  Doctors told her it was caused by stress.

“What stunk was that it felt like it was mine to control or make better…for years I would constantly be telling myself I had to handle my stress better.”

Then when she finally got her diagnosis of celiac disease she was relieved to know it wasn’t her fault.

But it still hasn’t been an easy road.  Heidi, who also lives with colitis, doesn’t feel her staunch following of the gluten free diet has really “cured” her of her symptoms.  She admits she hasn’t had regular “bathroom habits” in 15 years.   Her journey to a completely symptom-free life continues, but she says working out really helps her a lot.

Heidi recognizes that something good has come from her celiac diagnosis – she was able to catch her son’s celiac symptoms right away.  Within a year of Heidi’s diagnosis, Riley started in with diarrhea — the classic symptoms of celiac disease. She’s thankful her personal experience with celiac may have saved her son a lot of future health trouble.  “If I have to live this way to know he’s healthy because of it…” she is good with that.   Now Riley is nearly 10-years-old, healthy and doing well eating the gluten-free diet.

Coming to Minnesota

Heidi was at CNN for eight years before the network announced she was leaving in January of 2010.  “Leaving CNN was purely professional. They offered me another two-year contract and my family and I didn’t think it was in our best interest.”

Later in 2010, FOX 9 in Minneapolis-St. Paul announced she was joining their team.  “We’ve been welcomed here…it’s a luxury to be here with my family.”  Her parents still live in the Twin Cities and Collins is a graduate of Mounds View High School.

During her few months in the Twin Cities she has found that there are a lot of gluten-free offerings here. “I don’t think Minneapolis is lacking for gluten-free choices….” In fact, she believes restaurant staff here are “more genuine in their concern” for making sure you get the gluten free meal you have requested.  Her favorites:  The Herb Box (inside Lifetime Fitness in Eden Prairie), Crave, Kona Grill, and Wildfire.

Heidi clearly is an advocate for serious gluten-free cooking in restaurants, even going into kitchens to check on their gluten-free cooking practices.  She says she was envious during a trip to Sweden when gluten-free foods were easy to order, but here it’s so difficult. She hopes in the future that will change.

“I would love to not ever walk into a restaurant again and have the server look at me and say ‘What’s gluten?'”

Heidi is already making an impact and spreading the gluten-free love in Minnesota — she will be joining us at the 10th Annual Walk/Run for Celiac Disease in the Twin Cities on May 21st.  But you can see her sooner when she cooks gluten free with a chef from Crave during the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show.  You can see her March 6th at 11 a.m. on the Main Cooking Stage at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

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