Gluten-Free – It’s Not A Diet, It’s How Some People Don’t Die

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Last week, something happened to my friend, Hannah that infuriated me. Hannah has Celiac disease, which means she’s allergic to gluten. Upon visiting one of her favorite restaurants, one that offers completely gluten-free options, she was left feeling shamed and angry. Had I been there with her, my big mouth may have gone loose and words would have flown. Bad words. I may have been banned from said establishment for life but it would have totally been worth it.

Two members of this restaurant’s staff were beyond rude. Not realizing Hannah had just ordered a gluten-free sandwich, their comments ranged from the unnecessary, “Ugh, this person who needs gluten-free food is so annoying,” to the uneducated, “It’s not like this diet does anything,” to the downright dangerous, “Oh, I guess I better change my gloves now, “ (laden with sarcasm).

Not only did these two employees make complete asses of themselves, they disrespected a customer and their employer. A company that touts itself as a provider of gluten-free food has a major responsibility to uphold that. One, people on gluten-free diets deserve it and two, people who need gluten-free diets could get horribly sick from eating contaminated food. Think of a child with a peanut allergy who, maybe doesn’t even eat peanuts, but eats food prepared in the same area as peanuts. Celiac sufferers have that same degree of sensitivity to gluten.

This brings me to a slight problem I have with gluten-free diets – not people who have Celiac disease and who’s lives depend on eating this way, but people who think gluten-free is the hippest new weight loss diet like low-carb or low-fat. And they just have to jump on the bandwagon.

Gluten-Free-Food

This is what the world has come to – gluten-free cherries.

I have nothing against people who choose a gluten-free lifestyle for personal reasons. I mean, come on, I’m a vegetarian. Not because meat makes me sick or I’m allergic to it; I just don’t like it and I choose not to eat it. What I have a problem with is people who have no clue what gluten even is and, therefore, have de-sensitized people to its actual significance. The people who insist they need it (and really don’t) and have made it an annoying request that almost always results in an eye roll from the server. The people who have contributed to it being nothing more than a buzzword, a marketing term food companies can use to jack up prices, and make themselves seem “healthier.” That image of cherries? That’s real. I didn’t Photoshop that. I’ve also seen proud “gluten-free” packaging on products like milk and eggs.

To understand my frustration, here’s a little lesson: Gluten is a combo of two proteins; it essentially acts as a “glue” that holds together products like wheat bread, rye crackers and flour tortillas. As a rule of thumb, it’s typically found in more carb-rich foods and, also, barley-based beers (which is partly why gluten-free and cider beers have become so popular). So, will cutting it out of your diet lead to weight loss? It could. Now, does gluten sound like something you’d find in beef jerky or fruit?

Educate yourselves, people. If you need or choose to be on a gluten-free diet, know what it is and where it’s found. Don’t let yourself to be up-charged for gluten-free rice cakes and coffee. Don’t pay more for gluten-free versions of breads, cupcakes and cookies unless you have Celiac disease and can’t live without them (I’ve read research that cautions people who don’t have Celiac disease to avoid these types of foods, as they’re processed differently and not necessarily good for you). And please don’t call it a diet.

Finally, for the love of all things good, if you work in a food establishment that proudly promotes gluten-free options, please learn why that’s important. Understand that not everyone is trying out “the new gluten-free diet” – know that some people will legitimately get sick if they eat it. Respect that and treat them like a small child with a peanut allergy. You wouldn’t roll your eyes at a kid with a peanut allergy – would you?

How many of you live a gluten-free lifestyle? Is it due to Celiac disease or for personal reasons? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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10 Responses to Gluten-Free – It’s Not A Diet, It’s How Some People Don’t Die

  1. Amen sister! I have Celiac disease and have dealt with all of the same frustrating stuff that your friend did. It cracks me up when I see bags of fruit, or LETTUCE, with a gluten free label on it. Happy to have the additional options that a trend can bring, just not the extra risks.

    • lindsaybabb says:

      Ha ha, gluten-free lettuce. It just sounds ridiculous, right?! I think more people are becoming aware of gluten-free foods, just not the real reason for it. Sigh. One day – and blog post – at a time! Thanks for the read and comment!

    • Kelly Anderson says:

      I second the Amen! However, I am learning that cross-contamination appears in everything in the packaged food world, even things that are naturally gluten-free. The FDA allows “commingling” and so things you wouldn’t think could come in contact with gluten in the original shipment or the packaging process. I have yet to find nuts not processed in a facility that also processes wheat. I even saw pre-packaged raw chicken breasts processed in facilities that process wheat. But, I agree that labeling lettuce is extreme, washing it is what is important. I am such a severely sensitive celiac right now that I won’t eat anything packaged that isn’t either certified gluten-free or I can wash and prepare myself.

      • lindsaybabb says:

        I wouldn’t have known something had to be “certified” as gluten-free to ensure it really is – thank you for sharing that, Kelly!

  2. I am a celiac and I love love LOVED this post. You truly captured some of the hardships we experience trying to live out our daily lives. Your friend is so lucky to have you in her life. Education is key.

    • lindsaybabb says:

      Aw, thank you! A server once accidentally give me a real burger instead of a veggie burger – I spit it out but I was okay 🙂 You Celiac folks don’t have it so easy; I hope more people in the food industry take the time to learn about the disease and take it seriously. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. I don’t have celiac disease, but I too share the same frustration with people that don’t understand that there are people that cannot have gluten! They think its a dietary choice or even that people are being picky eaters. I have an allergy to apples. I LOVE apples. But I can’t tell you how many times people say “oh, yeah, I forgot you don’t like apples.” NO! I love them, they just make my mouth itch! Educate yourselves. Please.

    *steps off soapbox*

    • lindsaybabb says:

      Exactly! Glad to know I’m not the only one. Side note, that’s a bummer you’re allergic to apples – I love them too! Thanks for reading and the comment!

  4. I absolutely love this post! I have celiac disease and a whole horrible list of food intolerances and I can’t even tell you how many times people don’t take me seriously. I’m really cautious about gluten when I’m out to eat and there have been so many times that I just don’t eat what is given to me because I can tell they didn’t take my allergy seriously and it wasn’t prepared correctly. Even in restaurants claiming to have gluten free options. And yes the eye rolls you get from waitstaff every now in then too! I can’t tell if this gluten free fad is helpful to the celiac community or not. On one hand it advocates and educates others on gluten free and makes it more readily available. But on the other hand I feel like some of that education ends up getting skewed and people promote what they think gluten free means when in actuality it’s not correct.

    • lindsaybabb says:

      Thank you, appreciate the kind words and comment! I never really understood the struggles of Celiac until I had a co-worker with it – I’ve seen servers roll their eyes and brush it off when she mentions she has a gluten allergy. Not cool. You’re right on about the double-edge sword with the popularity of gluten-free eating. Hopefully people will start becoming more aware for the right reasons!

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