Saturday, May 16, 2015

Gluten-Free is Not a Personality Type

The other day I came across this article. It annoys me so much. For so many reasons.

Feel free to head on over and read it for yourself, as I'm quite aware my interpretation of this is more than likely biased, but the TL;DR is the author of this piece feels that "ordinary" eaters like herself are being squeezed out by people with allergies and fad dieters.

Okay, so firstly let's go hang out in the supermarket where there is less than quarter of an aisle dedicated to gluten-free food (which, by the way, does not in any way exclude ordinary eaters as you can safely eat all of it) and the REST OF THE FRICKEN' SUPERMARKET filled with almost all gluten-populated foods, and tell me again how you're being marginalised.

This idea seems borderline delusional to me, but it's not what annoys me about this article. It annoys me because it feeds into the wide-spread idea that people who go gluten-free or try other diets are only doing it because they are following the latest "fad." Yes, I'm sure there are some people who are elitist about diet, and are doing whatever health craze is currently most popular. I've heard about these people. I've seen them in movies, and parodies and I've certainly heard "ordinary eaters" complain about them.... but I've never actually met anyone like this.

The people I know who have special dietary requirements are all incredibly lovely, genuine people. They realise that their diet can be inconvenient, and do what they can to minimize its impact on other people. NONE of them think that having an allergy is a "badge of honour"; they perhaps just don't feel as ashamed of their affliction as some ordinary eaters like the author of this article seem to feel they should be.

I assume the type of people described in the article do exist, but my guess is that their behaviour has less to do with diet itself and more to do with the type of people they are. If it wasn't about a diet they would be behaving in the same way about some other topic-de-jour. You can't really blame diet for that and quite frankly, if your friends really are behaving in this elitist way then maybe it's time to take a good look at who you are choosing to associate yourself with, because I think that may say more about you than it does about anything else.

This article also implies that any diet is nothing more than a whim that can easily be changed. To be fair, the author of the article does state:
 "I'm certainly not inferring that food allergies and intolerances are made up, or that those who suffer desperately from them are all fussy malingerers."
But whether or not it is your intention, writing an article like this tars us all with the same brush. The comments are littered with people saying things along the lines of: I have a friend who has a REAL food allergy, and she almost never talks about it. And then I have this other friend who claims she has an allergy, but I saw her eat gluten once, and she just goes on and on about it. I think she's making it up. If you've ever found yourself thinking something like this, has it ever occurred to you that your friend talks about her food issues a lot because you don't believe she has a real allergy, and she's scared you'll put gluten in her food if she doesn't go on about it?!

I do get that sometimes it might seem like food intolerances aren't a big deal, especially if on occasion you see someone who is gluten-free eating something containing gluten. Sometimes humans do things that aren't good for us and sometimes we eat things we're not supposed to. This may lead you to believe that people's difficulties with food aren't real... or you could have a bit more compassion and come to the conclusion that eating a restricted diet is hard. People don't always have the will power to give up immediate gratification just because it's going to make us sick later. If this is difficult for you to understand, think about the last time you or someone you know got really drunk. You probably knew, as you were drinking, that it wasn't good for you, and was potentially going to make you vomit (or at least have a hang-over the next day) but you did it anyway.

Even if a person's diet is not about an allergy or intolerance, and just about "wellness" - just take the time to consider the fact that people don't generally go on a quest for "wellness" if they are already healthy. Whether the problem is a physical illness, wanting to lose weight, or just general unhappiness with their life, having a bit of compassion and support for what someone is going through and their attempts to help themselves would go a lot further than getting irritated because they occasionally post about it on social media. After all, the stuff you like to post on social media is probably irritating to at least a few people as well.

I'm still struggling to understand how exactly it impacts on so-called "ordinary eaters" that other people eat differently to you. Did we at some point infer that we care what you eat, or feel that you need to eat identically to us? Because I'm going to let you in on a little secret: we really don't. Eat nothing but chocolate all day if you want - it makes absolutely no difference to me.

The author of the article claims that her problem with diets is that we should be focusing on bigger issues:
"I'd much rather they focused on meatier problems, like how we tackle food insecurity (that's not knowing where your next meal is coming from, not worrying if your buns look big enough) in Kiwi families."
Reality check: you're writing an article about how other people's diets annoy you. Don't try to claim the moral high ground about focusing on bigger issues.

For the last few months I've been thinking about trying dietary approaches to get better control over my diseases. I'm not doing this because I want to go off my medications; this is not a case of me rejecting medical science or being "chemophobic". I'm thinking about trying to heal myself with food, because there are no more medical options for me. If I want to be healthier, I am going to have to figure out how to do it myself.

Initially I was too embarrassed to tell anyone that I was contemplating doing this, because I thought the reactions would be ones of derision, just like the attitudes displayed in this article. But the reality is, I'm tired of being exhausted and in bad pain all the time, and it's really distressing to have to deal with the potenital for falls or loss of function on a daily basis. I'm willing to try drastically altering my diet, because I'm not ready to give up and simply watch as my health and ability to function deteriorate. It may not help, but sitting on my ass doing nothing certainly isn't going to help either, and this at least has a chance.

Now, I've sure my friends have gotten sick of hearing me talk about vegetables over the last few weeks, but they also get that doing this is important for me, and they're being supportive of that, because that's what friends do.

Being an ordinary eater is not a problem, it's a privilege. Enjoy it, but please try and take the time to be grateful for it too.

Thanks for reading,
Little Miss Autoimmune.

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