This is a request to the must-educate-the-misguided-public Internet consortium. I’m usually very supportive when people correct ads and trends that are misleading or out-and-out fraudulent. You also stand up to the anonymous commenter publicly bullying subjects in random photos and videos shared across cyber-space, and you keep your arguments credible and authoritative by using correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. For these acts, I personally thank you. With no sarcasm intended, I get that you keep the rampant mob-acceptance of the unacceptable somewhat in check by bringing the horde back to reality. I really do.
With that being said, please back away from the gluten free lifestyle. I mean very, very far away.
I am celiac. I must eat gluten free all day, every day. No exceptions. Any gluten I ingest is accidental. I’m quite ill afterwards, and it doesn’t end at the gut for me. I get intense fatigue, nerve damage and some form of neurological impairment for about two months while the gluten leaves my system. I know every pro-wheat argument includes the exception for people like me right before they list all the valid reasons gluten free as a single diet choice isn’t all that healthy. I agree that it can’t work for long-term weight loss, and the only good diet is a balanced diet high in fruits, veggies, and whole grains. But if someone wants to go gluten free and asks me for advice, I’m all over it. I applaud their choice and tell them where to find the best substitutes.
My reasons are selfish. Completely, totally selfish. Sue me.
If you’ve ever tasted the older gluten free baked goods, you would wonder how this trend took off. Sure, over-processed blech bleached white flour is about as good for you as packets of sugar mixed with slow-acting poison, but it’s hard to appreciate what you are not putting into your body when the alternative feels like cardboard and sometimes tastes like it was left underneath rotting cat food. As the comedian, John Pinette, said, “Have you ever tasted gluten free food? It needs gluten!” (His gluten-free routine had me in tears, holding my gut that ached from laughter.)
In the early days of my diagnosis going to restaurants was challenging. Wait staff rarely knew what gluten was, let alone what on their menu didn’t have it. The kitchen was little better, and I felt like – and was often treated like – one of those rude and demanding diners whose food is secretly spat on. I used to marvel how vegetarians – a diet that, with few exceptions, is a lifestyle or religious choice and not medically necessary – were catered to while my health issue was an annoyance. And I say this as a former vegetarian (ten years with no meat until my daughter was born). Meatless items were marked with a symbol on the menu. Gluten free had to be researched in the allergen binder, if there was one, generally presented to me by the manager because the waitress was done with me and my ridiculous request.
It all changed when my question of, “What do you have on your menu that is gluten free?” was suddenly met with, “Is this an allergy?”
O.M.G. It was like the rays of heaven fell down and landed upon the waitress’ head. I didn’t have to explain myself, or defend my position. I felt validated, but mostly I felt heard. Never mind that celiac disease is an autoimmune condition and not an allergy (Benadryl can’t help) – someone understood that I was asking because I had to ask.
I told her what a pleasant change it was, and that she had made my day. She smiled and shrugged, and she explained that some diners wanted gluten free by choice.
What? Choice? Who would choose to give up nearly everything in the grocery store? The concept baffled me.
Then, during one of my rare and treasured wanderings through the bookstore, I saw prominently displayed the now famous book, “Wheat Belly”. When I read the tag line, “Lose the wheat, lose the weight”, I actually laughed. What sort of strange twist of logic was this? Going gluten free caused me to gain weight. As terrible as the gluten free options were, they were significantly higher calorie than the white-flour counterparts. Like, twice the calories for 2/3 the size of bread slice. Plus, I was absorbing more now that my gut had healed. (Yay, me!)
Very quickly, like in a matter of months, grocery store chains began stocking lots of gluten free products. Sections were dedicated to foods I could eat. Cake mixes, cookies, and actual varieties of bread. Then pastas, cereals, and snacks. Foods I never questioned, like potato chips (GF tip – always check ingredients and never presume) were suddenly labeled gluten free. It had risen from the ranks of the strange and undesired to be a badge of honor. Buy me! I’m gluten free!
I no longer laugh at the “Wheat Belly” book. I thank it and the movement it started. Because now that the diet I have to follow is a lifestyle trend, everyone wants a piece.
My grocery store now has three areas to buy gluten free goods. No longer a tiny selection of freezer-burnt options hiding in shame in their health-food section, I can find nearly everything I love in a version I can eat, including all that junk I shouldn’t.
The cost has dropped. My bread was around $8-$10 for a tiny loaf. Now, if I look around I can get it for $5.50 – $6. Ditto for cookies, cake mixes, and flours.
Speaking of flour, Robin Hood has a gluten free all purpose mix. ROBIN HOOD! The go-to company for flour, the trusted name brand and the industry expert of good flour, has a gluten free blend out for several months now. And it’s gooooooood. I’ve used it for baking. My gluten-loaded family can barely tell the difference.
DuPont, the edible-chemical giant, has invented an additive that allows gluten free breads to mimic the texture of wheat breads (link pending). This is also a new product, and I can taste – and feel – the difference in my food. Chemical crap-storm? Yes. Yummy, yummy, yummy? Also yes.
I can order pizza, and sometimes it tastes like pizza. Pizza has always been my favorite food, and for years I had to make it at home or go without. Many chains now carry a GF crust, and the kitchens are pretty cool with avoiding cross-contamination. I am currently on a mission to find and sample all GF pizzas. (The best in my area is Boston Pizza, but my all-time fav is Abbey’s. Sadly, I am separated from the closest Abbey’s by several hours and an international border. The Boston Pizza version tastes just as good, but it’s smaller for about the same price as the Abbey’s.)
Smart restaurants are making gluten free options. Some have a separate menu, or the dishes are marked with a GF symbol on the regular menu. I am no longer embarrassed to ask, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Even the sandwich shop at Disneyland had gluten free bread, which was not posted anywhere in the restaurant, and my meal was made by the chef herself to protect it from the contaminated surfaces. Everyone is cooperative and supportive, so even if I have to order salad I feel confident it’ll be safe.
None of this would be possible without the deluded masses looking for a quick weight loss solution. And the movement has improved the lives of undiagnosed celiac sufferers, who think their body has been purged of a Big Business poison rather than a naturally-occurring protein they can no longer tolerate. Hey, whatever makes you feel better about yourself. Whatever motivates you to monitor your food intake or to set health goals. It’s all good. Please, go gluten free. Let’s keep those sales numbers up. Just make sure to add colorful servings of real produce to your daily food intake while you are at it.