A series of very fortunate events (and a mention in the November issue of Prevention Magazine) has rendered me quite busy with my company Gluten Free Beauty, so I haven’t really tried out too many new recipes or learned any new gluten-free news to share for a few weeks. But then I came across a certain tweet which has me simply boiling to comment on.
Last week there was some uproar over a foolish line included in an ever more foolish new Fall TV show, Two Broke Girls, in which one of the lead characters explained that a customer asking for gluten-free options was simply trying to mask an eating disorder. A thoughtless joke written by some thoughtless people if you ask me. Many members of the gluten-free community took offense to the ignorant dismissal of a person’s request for gluten-free food, especially since for people like me, when you don’t begin showing symptoms until your twenties, long after you’ve left home and moved across the country a few times, it can be hard to convince family and friends that yes, you did actually suffer silently from many unpleasant symptoms, and yes, gluten is to blame. If all I want to do is avoid gluten in order to feel well, why should anyone else have such a problem with that?
Sorry, but as I said, I am boiling up over where this monkey train has traveled. I hadn’t heard anymore about the show’s insults until today when I came across an RT (retweet) by one of my favorite gluten-free resources, Delight Gluten-Free Magazine. The tweet linked to this article: Gluten-Free: The New Eating Disorder. Side note: Hours later Delight clarified, stating why they had shared the article: “We do NOT stand behind this-the controversy was the point! Apologies to those offended.”
The article is for the most part objective, but in the end, the author did find that a woman who for years battled with an eating disorder seemed to be using a gluten-free diet as an excuse for passing on a bunch of tempting carbs. Here is why I am so angry about this article:
- Gluten Can Cause Inflammation: I never did have an eating disorder, but I can remember that even before I began suffering from painful symptoms of my gluten intolerance that a sandwich on wheat bread would make me “feel fat.” I didn’t really understand what people meant when they talked about “bloating” (a term I associated with Pamprin and Midol commercials, and was usually caused by being on your period) which was actually what was happening. I just knew that pre-turkey-sandwich I would feel like me, but afterwards I didn’t feel good about how I looked, and the only way to describe it was that I “felt fat.” Years later I know tons more about how my body reacts to certain foods, as well as the well-known fact that for those of us who are gluten intolerant, sensitive or have celiac, gluten causes inflammation, and bloating. So the lady from The Mode Life’s story who passed up cookies, pasta and beer in favor of wine, fruit and corn chips, who is described as suffering from eating disorders in the past is probably someone who is overly-obsessed with body image, which would mean that even more so than the average person, she is probably very in-tune with her body’s reaction to foods, and inflammation or bloating caused by foods containing gluten that as Dr. Fassano puts it “we are not engineered to digest.” And said inflammation would probably make her “feel fat” and then skip out on all of the nutrient-rich, naturally gluten-free foods she does eat. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation really. Perhaps writers should not be looking so much at the angle of whether a gluten-free diet is being used to mask this woman’s eating disorder, and more so at whether inflammation caused by foods that a she may be sensitive to have led to some of her body image issues. Especially since for many of us, once we do go gluten free, after just one week or so many of us feel loads lighter, as all of the inflammation and bloating has finally calmed down.
- Gluten Intolerance and Sensitivity are Just Beginning to be Taken Seriously: In a recent article for Living Without Magazine, Dr. Alessio Fasano spoke about gluten intolerance and sensitivity saying, “The patients, as usual, were visionary, telling us this stuff existed but healthcare professionals were skeptical.” And just as the medical community was skeptical, so too are millions of Americans. In those millions are our families, our friends, our co-workers, people with whom we share meals, people who often have an unsolicited opinion about our intolerance or sensitivity. People who don’t always believe that we really do need to eat gluten-free to feel well, and who think that a slip up here in there is fine–maybe for them, but not for those of us who live with the consequences. And unlike us, these are not the people who are reading the hard-hitting articles in gluten-free magazines and blogs, we are. But one TV show, one blog, then who knows, maybe one talk show, or morning news program expand on the idea that we are all just masking eating disorders and then all of our hard work in trying to make them believe goes right down the drain. I’m a proud member of the gluten-free community, and I realize that we can’t control what the rest of the world thinks, but I do at least hope that we can refrain from feeding any fires of disbelief.