Tag Archives: gluten-free diet

Let’s move! toward awareness of food, fitness, food allergies, and the gluten-free diet (plus a contest for precocious sous-chefs)

I have a big celebrity crush on Michelle Obama. It’s not just her arms (though of course that’s part of it). I also admire the work she’s done to promote childhood healthy eating and exercise habits with Let’s Move! In a (relatively) noncondescending, nonextreme way, the organization has been pushing back against childhood obesity—arguably one of the biggest health issues the United States, among other countries, faces today.

Some don’t believe politicians should get involved with food. But like it or not, by way of crop subsidies, government oversight organizations, and more, they’re involved already. Plus, say what you will about MyPlate (and, as a vegetarian with vegan leanings, I’ve said plenty about that cup of dairy), when it comes to the “food” kids are served and the health education they receive at public schools, we could use a little help.

In a conversation about the initiative, my sister commented that it was annoying how issues of “home and hearth” still seem to fall to the First Lady, in a time when such issues should be equally relevant to men and women. Maybe that’s true. But gendered undertones aside, what Let’s Move! is attempting is important. A campaign to change the food and fitness culture of an entire generation calls for a prominent champion, and Michelle is using her pull to spread awareness about the issue in a way that most people can’t.

Whether or not it’s working is hard to say. I get their newsletter, which means I’m in the bubble, but skimming the initiative’s anniversary highlights is encouraging. In part, I think, due to Obama’s work, policy changes are being made, and large audiences reached. Even the nutrition facts label might get a makeover, and according to the CDC, childhood obesity fell by 43% over the last decade—though tough to tell how much of that can be credited to Obama’s efforts, given that Let’s Move! was only founded in 2010.

Lest you scold me for babbling about my socially liberal heroine on a blog focused on gluten, not politics, I’d argue that a generation of kids learning that what they put in their mouths has a direct impact on their health can only be good for the gluten-free. Children educated about nutrition will be better prepared to care for themselves if food allergies or a gluten-related disorder come their way. Moreover, they just might grow up into a nation of adults who know how to cook, care about food, and value wellness. Again, all good things for them and us.

The reason I’m writing about this now is that (as I mentioned) I receive the Let’s Move! newsletter, and the latest issue put out a call for “all young chefs” to enter the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

It’s a pretty cool contest. Kids ages 8 to 12 work with their parents to create and submit a delicious, healthy, original, affordable, and meaningful recipe. A winning child/parent team from each US state will get to head to DC for lunch with the First Lady.

MyPlateThe recipe does have to be inspired by MyPlate (but the protein and dairy can be vegetarian or vegan, if that’s your thing), but it also has to have a unique story—that’s where “meaningful” comes in. When I read that, I immediately thought, wouldn’t it be cool if one of the winning stories was about learning to cook with a gluten-related disorder or food allergies—facing these obstacles together, as a family, and coming through it stronger? 

Right now, the closest I come to parenting is cooing at babies at the farmers’ market and nagging teenagers to study SAT vocab (which, by the way, is due for a change in 2016). So I thought I’d throw out the challenge to those of you who do have a budding foodie in the family.

If you and your child want to enter, you have until April 5th, and I’ll be rooting for you all the way. A healthy diet is good for us all—and a matter of life and death for some. The food allergic and gluten-free community knows that better than anyone, and our food is darn good, too.

What do you think of the Let’s Move! campaign, MyPlate, the government’s focus on obesity, and the possibly changing nutrition facts label? Will your family be entering the contest?

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Roses are red, gluten is blue (at least, that’s what it makes me, and probably you too)

Loyal readers will have noticed that I’ve been quieter than usual the last few weeks. There are a few reasons for that—some of which I’ll be talking about soon—but I do expect to get back to my twice-a-week schedule eventually.

In the meantime, it’s Valentine’s Week, and in case you’re worrying I don’t love you, I thought I’d reassure you with a poem. Then—because you deserve it, and “less is more” is a lie—I decided to reassure you with a bunch of poems.

This is a gift that keeps on giving, because it means this year you don’t have to confine yourself to blowing a kiss (air kisses are guaranteed gluten-free, even if hubby’s been cheating on you with cookies) or making one of those heart-shaped chocolatey things everyone’s been posting about since January. You can do your boo one better and make your card gluten-free, too!

Jot one of these puppies down in a lopsided heart for guaranteed romance:

Roses are red, violets are blue,
If I could eat gluten, I’d share it with you.

or

Roses are red, violets are blue,
I quit eating bread, but I’ll never quit you.

Or if you, like me, will instead be observing SAD (Singles Awareness Day), or if your taste in chocolate tends more to the bittersweet, I’ve still got you covered. Try this:

Roses are red, violets are blue,
I’d rather get glutened than make out with you.

or

Roses are red, violets are blue,
I’d go on a date, but I’m sick with the sprue.

violets are blue

. . . violets are blue . . .
Photo © M | Flickr

Then, for the descriptivist, there’s:

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Quinoa is white, and sorghum is too.

And, for dear old gluten:

Roses are red, violets are blue,
You hate my guts, and they sure hate you.

Normal small intestines mucosa

. . . and normal small intestine mucosa are pinkish-purple.
Photo © Ed Uthman | Flickr

If you enjoyed, spread the love! It is almost Valentine’s Day, after all.

Share your own gluten-free riffs on the classic in the comments (bonus points for using any rhyme other than “you”—it’s tricky!), and have a happy SAD week.

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Are Food Allergies the New Eating Disorders? Cosmo tells all.

Yesterday, I bought my first (and quite possibly last) copy of Cosmopolitan ever. The February 2014 issue boasts a flashy pink cover, “85 ways to get your dream hair,” and a 4-step “bikini body plan.” Good stuff.

But what really interested me was this:

I’d heard about the article the night before (thanks to Anna Luke, @Gfreegimme3), and I opened to page 182 ready to hate it. 

I wasn’t totally disappointed.

The piece, by freelance health writer Jessica Girdwain, makes the case that some people use allergies as an excuse to eat less, and so control their weight. It urges readers to determine whether they’re truly allergic or intolerant to a food, or in fact struggling with disordered eating.

[Edit: You can now read the entire story online here, so you don’t have to spend the four bucks. No, I don’t know why it’s categorized under “Party Ideas & Tips.”]

The story bugs me in several ways. It:

  1. Features a truly repulsive visual of a lipsticked, nail-painted hottie sensuously devouring what looks like an entire naked pizza crust. It also prints the phrase “eating disorders” in the title with a backwards S and a couple misaligned letters. Like, get it? It’s disordered. Cute!
  2. Muddies the waters about celiac disease: Girdwain calls celiac “an extreme form of gluten intolerance,” then states that “with an intolerance, you may be able to eat dairy, gluten, sugar, or eggs in limited amounts . . . And you may be able to reintroduce the food into your diet in the future.”
        Girdwain and her editors might know that people with celiac can’t eat even small amounts of gluten ever again, but Cosmo’s 78 million readers worldwide may not. The way this article is worded, they still won’t.
        Note: The world’s leading experts on celiac disease now agree that the umbrella term gluten intolerance “carries inherent weaknesses and contradictions” and should be ditched in favor of gluten-related disorders. So let’s start. (I’ll abbreviate it to GRDs for the rest of this post.)
  3. Completely ignores the existence of male eating disorders. Then again, it is a women’s magazine. In its pages, men are merely gods who demand satisfaction by the ritual sacrifice of female dignity.
  4. Appears opposite an ad for Hydroxycut: Really, Cosmo? You’re going to lecture us to avoid restrictive diets, then sell us a weight loss supplement? That’s . . . well, that’s exactly what I’d expect.

Still, the article gets some things right. Girdwain recognizes that food allergies and intolerances are real and are serious. Her primary example is a woman who gets her doctor’s approval to go gluten-free, then spirals into orthorexia (an unhealthy obsession with eating only “healthy” foods).

It’s a realistic story, but the argument it illustrates is guaranteed to get eyerolls from the food allergy and gluten-free community. Many of us struggle to have our needs taken seriously, precisely because we’re perceived as fad dieters or disordered eaters.

There is a connection, though.

Looking into it, I found there are many links between eating disorders and food allergies, intolerances, and GRDs. For example:

  • Celiac disease can be misdiagnosed as an eating disorder.
  • Made-up or perceived allergies can mask or exacerbate an eating disorder.
  • A person with celiac disease can develop an eating disorder.
  • A person with an eating disorder can develop food intolerances.

About 1% of the population has celiac disease, and up to 1 in 13 kids has one or more food allergy. Similarly, data from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) suggests that about 8% of Americans have an eating disorder. With so many people affected by these conditions, there’s bound to be some crossover.

But there’s more than just coincidental crossover.

Run a Google Scholar search on, say, “celiac disease and anorexia,” and you’ll find that the two often go hand in hand. The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center even includes the disorder on its list of celiac disease symptoms.

The association may be because:

  • Sticking to “food rules” or diets can lead to obsessing over food, restricting intake, and/or binge eating.
  • Associating food with suffering can encourage eating less.
  • Social and familial issues related to health issues can spur an eating disorder.

If you think about it, a gluten-free (or dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, and so on) diet is disordered eating. It’s highly restrictive; it encourages religious avoidance of minute quantities of certain foods; it brings fear and anxiety to the dinner table; it drives a wedge between you and those with whom you dine. Sure, for us, it’s the healthiest option, but that doesn’t make it entirely healthy.

Someone already “on the spectrum” of restricting and binging could easily slip, once allergies and GRDs (real or fictional) get involved. And (according to the ANAD) 7 to 9% of people who go on any kind of diet eventually develop a partial or full-blown eating disorder. Small wonder, then, that embarking on an ultra-restrictive diet for health reasons might point people down that path.

Getting personal . . .

In my experience, disordered eating and celiac disease are intimately linked. Though I don’t have an eating disorder (and don’t want to co-opt the term), I’ve got my own share of food issues. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease myself, one of my first and nastiest thoughts was, “Yes! A new, valid excuse to refuse food when it’s offered to me. Maybe I’ll lose weight!”

Sure, I didn’t actually need to lose weight, I knew that more people who go gluten-free gain weight than lose it, and I had more important things to think about—like my health, and what to do about my kitchen. But still, I thought it.

I wrote about this more when the topic came up at Gluten Dude almost a year ago (the firebombs thing was a joke), and I’m sure I’ll write about it again. For now, I’ll conclude, with some surprise, that . . .

I agree. With Cosmo. Do you?

Some women (and men) do rely on excuses to avoid food, consciously or unconsciously; and the actual rise in food allergies and GRDs lends the “fakers” more credence. And people with legitimate reasons to avoid foods sometimes take it too far.

Cosmopolitan February 2014 issue

Oh, Cosmo.

To be honest, I find it refreshing that a magazine like Cosmo would include an article warning against restricting foods to lose weight. Of course, the very next spread is an “I Dream of Bikini” workout, and the women pictured in the issue are the very Photoshopped, personally trained waifs we’re all killing ourselves to imitate. But what’s a little hypocrisy among friends?

The article, with all its flaws, spotlights a real issue, albeit an uncomfortable one. I’m interested to see how others in the community respond, and I’d especially love to hear YOUR thoughts.

Have you read the article? What did you think? Do you have thoughts or personal experience you’re comfortable sharing about the GRD/allergy and eating disorder connection, or the blurry lines between them?

Sources (I accessed the full texts through my alumni network, so you may just have to trust me):Anorexia Nervosa and Celiac Disease: Two Case Reports,” “Eating disorders and celiac disease: a case report,” “Coeliac disease and eating disorders – forgotten comorbidities?

Other reading on this topic: “Eating Disorder or Celiac Disease?…Or Both?” on About.com, Carrots and (Candy) Stick‘s response to the Cosmo articleLiving Without‘s 2012 article, “Celiac Disease and Eating Disorders”

Thanks for reading! If you stuck through to the end, double thanks! When me and my dream hair and bikini bod are lounging on the beach this summer, I’ll think of you.

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Sprue Stories: The Christmas Edition

You may have figured this out by now, but I love Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Some of the most wonderful bits, in my opinion, are the songs, movies, and stories that go along with it. (You know, scary ghost stories and tales of the glories?)

So, I thought I’d share some with you. You’ve read the fairy tales; you’ve seen the Disney remakes; today, it’s time for the Christmas Edition, with a side of good cheer. Enjoy.

Note: I guest-posted a handful of these at Taste Guru’s blog today. If you’re incoming from there, you’ll want to skip straight to A Christmas Carol, with Gluten.

Santa with sleigh and reindeer

The Other Reindeer

You know Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen, Rudolph, and maybe even Olive, the other reindeer. But do you recall Ceecee, the celiac reindeer? Of course you don’t; no one does. Ceecee used to laugh and call Rudolph names just like everyone else, but then something in that North Pole air activated her celiac genes. Soon, she was breaking antlers like a much older deer, spending sleigh practice in the bathroom, and struggling with sinus infections that gave her a scarlet schnoz to rival Rudy’s.

Since celiac was dramatically underdiagnosed in Santa’s Village, Ceecee never learned what was wrong—everyone told her it was probably just holiday stress. Boy, did she ever feel bad when Rudolph got to guide Santa’s sleigh, and she got cut out of even the footnotes of reindeer history.

The moral: If celiac disease has to happen to someone, it might as well be to a bully.

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Not So Jolly and Happy

Frosty the Snowman was a jolly, happy soul, until his latent gluten sensitivity manifested itself with symptoms of depression and anxiety. After that, all he did was sit in a nearby walk-in freezer, eat frozen pizzas, and complain that he was going to melt any day now. So much for laughing and playing just the same as you and me. Mind you, as a snowman, he ought not to have had a digestive system in the first place, much less a malfunctioning one, but there you go: he really was as alive as he could be.

*

What the Grinch Really Stole

The Grinch, as you’re likely aware, hated Christmas. So much, in fact, that he tried to stop it from coming. But Dr. Seuss, as doctors often do, got a few parts of the story wrong: it wasn’t a heart, but a gut problem. The Grinch had suffered through years of gluten cross-contamination at the table of those daft little Whos, and this year, he was ready to end it.

So, he stole into Whoville and packed up all the gluten in every house, except for a crumb that was even too small for a mouse (though not, of course, too small to make him sick, had he eaten it). Okay, yes, he did get a bit carried away and nabbed a wreath or two as well. And he did pitch it off a cliff with a maniacal glint in his eye. But then he stayed up all night preparing a totally gluten-free feast—right down to the marinade on the roast beast!

By the time the Whos were rolling out of bed, the Grinch was rolling back into town, tooting his horn and distributing quinoa cookies right and left. Little Cindy Lou Who (whose stunted growth and persistent insomnia suggest she might’ve been diagnosed with celiac herself if Dr. Who hadn’t been so busy holding hands and singing nonsense with the rest of the town) beamed, and they all marveled that, even without gluten, Christmas Day was still in their grasp.

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Almost Twelve Days of Celiac

On the first day of celiac, my doctor gave to me…a positive endoscopy.
On the second day of celiac, my doctor gave to me…uhhh. Man, we really need to work on our follow-up care.

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Underneath the Mistletoe Last Night

No one suffers from fad diets as much as Santa Claus. Maintaining that jelly-bowl belly isn’t easy, you know, and he doesn’t ask for much: just cookies and milk, and a carrot or two for his steeds. But first the low-fat craze brought him soggy applesauce cookies; then the low-carb people started leaving him no cookies, just milk; then the vegans got into the game and started setting out cups of hemp milk (with more applesauce cookies). Now the gluten- and grain-free crowd gifts him lumpy cookielike substances that disintegrate into his beard as soon as he takes a bite. Poor guy.

Still, when I saw Santa kissing my gluten-sensitive mommy, I hoped he had indeed gotten only gluten-free goodies at all the hundreds of thousands of houses he’d visited before ours. Otherwise, I knew that Mommy, weak Mommy, would be waking up on Christmas feeling considerably less than nice.

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Wise Career Moves

It’s a good thing Hermey became a dentist when he did, because Ceecee the reindeer was just the first in a long train of undiagnosed celiac animals and elves, none of whom could understand why they suddenly had so many cavities. Hermey was there for the fillings and root canals, and eventually, Mrs. Claus went back to school, became a gastroenterologist, and diagnosed them all. Now, if only something could be done about Santa’s awful insurance policies.

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A Christmas Carol, with Gluten

Old Scrooge was a rotter, but he had an excuse: he felt lousy. One gloomy Christmas Eve, the ghost of his old partner Marley appeared (not a figment of Scrooge’s imagination conjured by indigestion, though you could see why he’d think so). “You’re forging a chain of symptoms that will destroy your life and your afterlife,” Marley warned.

The culprit, as you might guess, was gluten. Since Scrooge was sunk in denial, Marley ushered in some backup.

scrooge2

“I am the Gluten of Christmas Past,” said the first apparition, showing Scrooge a nightmarescape of himself on Christmases gone by: running to the toilet, lying in bed with a cool towel on his forehead, and snapping, “What right have you to be merry? What reason have you?”

The Gluten of Christmas Present came next, showing cheery scenes of Christmas dinners with nary a speck of flour, even in the pudding. The last home belonged to Scrooge’s clerk Bob, whose tiny and mysteriously ill son Tim had found considerable relief from a gluten- and caseine-free diet (though his parents could ill afford to pay the premium for such foods).

Christmas Future drove in the final nail (door, coffin, whichever you prefer): Scrooge’s tombstone. “Lymphoma,” the ghost confirmed, gloomily. “Entirely preventable.”

Scrooge awoke ready to change his ways. He called out the window to a passing boy, “What food is gluten-free?”

“Why, turkey, sir!” the boy called back.

The matter decided, Scrooge sent the boy off for a prize bird for his clerk, dumped the remnants of his (questionable) gruel in the fire, and went gluten-free immediately (because, New Year’s resolutions? Bah, humbug). Weeks into his reformed diet, Scrooge’s rage issues dissipated, and he lived charitably and gluten-free all the rest of his days.

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Let me know your favorite Christmas stories in the comments. After that, have a happy, healthy, cross-contamination-free holiday. See you next year.

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