The difference a diagnosis makes August 6, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking, societal commentary.
Tags: celiacs, cooking, food, gluten, gluten free diet, health, low-carb
I’m almost upon the 1 year anniversary of receiving my official diagnosis of celiac’s. It’s a happy thing for me because I’m feeling and looking far better than I did a year ago despite the fact that I still have a ways to go. I’m still waiting for my ability to digest peaches to be restored.
To celebrate, the FDA has just released new regulations stating that gluten-free items must have under 20 ppm of gluten. (Coincidence…but they were supposed to have come out with a decision on this
months years ago.) My friend Kari posted an article about this on FB:
The 3 million Americans with celiac disease and all those traumatized against grain by the Atkins craze a decade ago will soon be shopping with ease. The Food and Drug Administration, after a six-year delay, has set new standards for what food can carry the label of “gluten free.”
It was an interesting article, but their whole ‘gluten-free is just a fad’ undertone got on my nerves. I’ve seen a lot of articles like this (I discussed one at length in this post).
This sort of thing gets on my nerves because for years I had to listen to people tell me how my low-carb diet was a fad and not healthy for me. I went on a low-carb diet at the age of 22 because I had fibromyalgia (*ahem* not really, but I didn’t know that then) and having weight problems. Miraculously, I got better after going on the diet. (Not so miraculous now that I know what I have.) However, the fact that I felt better and lost weight didn’t phase people. I continually heard from doctors how I was going to end up with high cholesterol, how the weight I’d lost was ‘water weight’ (ummm…I’m sure that 80 lbs. was all water), and on and on. I was flummoxed: I was told I needed to lose weight but once I did, I was lectured on how I did it the wrong way. As a side note, the fact that I was no longer in pain and my fatigue had gone away were irrelevant.
Going to any social gathering was even worse. I would be rather careful about what food I ate (and I never felt I was overly picky…just asked them to please hold the bun or whatever), but it never mattered. Inevitably, some stranger would come up and begin lecturing me on my poor food choices. I came to the conclusion that there were really a lot of busy-bodies out there who had nothing better to do than search out people who really weren’t looking for any advice on their diet in order to fill their ear.
I’ve been putting up with this for 15 years. I can no longer count how many times I’ve had to justify to ‘strange’ dietary choices to people. And the funny thing is, they never want to hear how as a vegetarian/vegan or on a normal diet, I actually grew sicker. (Celiacs, it turns out, impairs the body’s ability to digest protein.) The implication was that I must not have been doing it ‘right’…whatever that means. The fact that, in the last few years, it wasn’t working was an additional reason for people to come out of the woodwork and criticize my choices…nevermind that what they were telling me was exactly the wrong thing to do.
Now that I have the magical diagnosis, it’s amazing how differently people react. I always bring my own food with me to social things. If someone asks, I just say I have celiacs. Rather than telling me how unhealthy my diet is, I most often get the observation that I am eating very healthy. No one grills me about why I eat the way I do or tells me that I’m making poor choices anymore, but they ask questions about how I handle it and what things I need to look out for. Occasionally, I will get comments about how they know someone who has celiacs, as well. In fact, in the past year, I have had ONE negative comment about how gluten-free diets were a fad…and that person was obviously so woefully uninformed about that (and several other topics) that I didn’t bother wasting too much brainpower on him.
This has me stunned. The reason why I’m stunned is because I’ve hardly changed my diet at all. It was very easy to transition to gluten-free because all I really needed to do was cut out a slice of bread or a dessert here and there. (Okay, so I did have to cut out my favorite Chinese restaurant permanently, and I do have to buy all gluten free soy sauce, which is a bit of a pain.) Most of my diet was already protein and vegetables, and I’ve really found that sticking with that has been pretty easy as I’d already been doing it for 15 years. The only major difference I’ve noticed is in people’s perceptions.
This is why I get frustrated when I see these judgmental articles about how people who are doing things ‘gluten-free’ or ‘low-carb’ are just following a fad. I don’t suppose it’s ever occurred to the writers of such articles that food can have a profound impact on how your body feels and that, just maybe, some people really are paying attention to that. People don’t like to be sick or fat or tired all the time, so if they say something is helping them to feel better (particularly when 40% of people with celiacs have no symptoms), then I’ll cheer them on for making healthier choices.