Healthy Obsessions The Adventures of a Mild Obsessive Compulsive

Gluten Free is Such a Fad

I’m standing at the checkout at WholePaycheck with my usual basket of gluten free items, and the checker looks at my basket and then smirks and says, “That’s such a fad right now.”

Anyone else ever get this kind of reaction?

On a very personal level, I find it frustrating. Not the fad itself, not precisely. But… Celiac disease is a pain in the butt. Particularly when I was first adapting to the lifestyle, I resented it. No cookies, no kitkats, no pasta, no flour tortillas, no easy shopping anymore. And getting that kind of smirk and snark just made it worse. Like ladling a cup full of condescension sauce over schadenfreude pie. No one likes being the on the receiving end of schadenfreude.

And this brings up a whole can of issues for me. There’s the issue of the fad itself. Which I both like and find annoying. I like it because that means more products that I can eat popping up in Safeway. I like that I can go out to eat and say gluten free and have the waiter understand me at least a quarter of the time. These things make my life easier. I’m selfish, I like it when my life is easier.

But. On the other hand, there are a lot of people running around half cocked claiming to have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity without actually having any understanding of what that means. These are the people who think it’s just a diet. That one bite of cake every once in a while won’t hurt. Yeah, right. This kind of attitude makes it hard for waiters, for example, to take it seriously when I send back a salad because it has croutons on it. Because the chick before me did that, and then ordered a slice of pie for dessert.

And then there’s the moralizing. Since when did what I eat become anybody else’s business? Since when does a checker at a gourmet grocery that *specializes* in this kind of thing get to pass judgment on the contents of my shopping basket?

But. People moralize about food all the fricking time. Over eating is bad (not unhealthy, no, bad – value judgment). Under eating is bad. A former roommate’s girlfriend once looked at me when I was eating string cheese (80 calorie per stick string cheese) and said, “Oh, I wish I could eat like that. You’re so brave to not care.” It gave her such a sense of superiority and virtue to be the one who resisted temptation in the form of a stick of cheese. To think, I have sacrificed my immortal soul for dairy products…

We have messed up attitudes about food. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me at all that, when you add in a food based illness, it just torques the dysfunction up further.

Back at WholePaycheck, now, after that “it’s such a fad, now” line. So I stand there, surprised for a second. And then I say, “Yes, thank goodness! It was so much harder for my Grandma when she was diagnosed 40 years ago!”

And there it is. At the word “diagnosed” the checker’s eyes widen and she looks surprised. Diagnosed is such a great word.

I continue, “No one really even knew what Celiac Disease was then” – not that most people do now, either – “and there was no WholeFoods around. And my poor Grandma is not a good cook. I can’t imagine how she managed it.”

“Yeah, wow,” says the checker, shaking her head. “That musta been hard.”

I get to walk away from this particular exchange feeling like I’ve won. Or at least didn’t lose. And I managed to do it without making the checker defensive or hostile. So, yeah, that probably does count as a win.

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