My Quest to End Food Superiority: Part 1

I recently posted a video on YouTube because I was just kind of fed up. I had one too many comments either told to me, mentioned on a GFF’s blog, or talked about in my personal life. I want to talk a little about bullying, criticizing, and food superiority (as one reader aptly named what I was talking about). I put my thoughts down to paper, but had so much to say that I spread it out over two posts.

TOPIC: WHEN DID FOOD BECOME THE NEXT COACH PURSE?

I’ve been feeling this way since Expo West, where I was thrust into the natural/vegan/vegetarian/organic universe – where everything I put in my mouth felt like it wasn’t good enough because it wasn’t “XYZ.” I even overheard some vegan bloggers complaining that other bloggers were pestering them about their own food superiority with passive agressive comments about palm oil. “OMG did you see her comment, she was like ‘it’s too bad that includes palm oil.’ I can’t believe she said that. Passive agressive much!?!?” Now, I don’t really know what palm oil has to do about anything because I’m not vegan (and I kind of felt like I was listening to Clueless), but those comments started me on this whole topic and it didn’t get better when I got home.

Most of what I found online was about bullying with children – but I know that it isn’t true. I feel like the kid who eats lunch alone in the bathroom when I step foot into the new yoga studio down the street where everyone has perfect butts and expensive Lululemon yoga gear. Even as grown adults, we are faced with misunderstanding about the gluten-free lifestyle for those with celiac or intolerances and even cruel words, unneeded and unnecessary advice (that may not actually be accurate), food superiority or even bullying. I thought that once I went GF and found my community that everyone would be so full of love and puppies and sunshine that we’d all be happy with gluten-free life that we wouldn’t feel like the kid in the bathroom at lunch.

As I was thinking about doing my YouTube post, one of my GFF’s Alissa of Breaking Up With Captain Crunch wrote a piece about it in “Advocacy Is Not Spandex.” Here’s an extract from that:

I choose humor, or at least, I try, to spread my message. Yeah, I like junk food. No, I do NOT love exercise. I’m obsessed with keeping myself as gluten-free as possible (just ask my incredibly patient, forgiving and HANDSOME husband). I’m not going to lecture you for not eating only whole foods, or only organic. I will get needlessly excited about Glutino toaster pastries, and gluten-free expos and bowling alleys where I can eat pizza. That’s my advocacy. It might not be your advocacy, and that’s cool. I still respect what you do, even if you are up running in the dark, or harvesting your own chickens or giving up chocolate.

Comments like “how do you eat all that?!?!” and that eating processed foods make you fat, unhealthy, lazy, etc. make me so angry. Eating gluten-free is hard enough as it is – and I’m one of those people that think it’s “easy” after years and years of perfecting the diet (and I still struggle every now and then), so when you’re telling me that I’m only going to “heal,” feel “100% again” or lose weight by going paleo, primal, whole 30, vegan, corn-free, soy-free, quinoa-free, GFCF, etc. it upsets me. Hey, if you have done any of them and succeeded, I am so happy for you. But when it comes to a standard diet for EVERYONE, I truly believe there isn’t one that is cookie cutter for everyone. X > Y > Z > eating cupcakes for breakfast – and everyone seems to have their “X.”

TOPIC: FEAR AND ANXIETY CREATION SUCKS

I follow one brand – and this brand will not be named – that creates a lot of fear in their posts. And they aren’t the only one. Everything is always “XYZ NOW CAUSING CELIAC SYMPTOMS” “DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T HAVE COFFEE WHEN YOU HAVE CELIAC?” “OMG CORN IS THE SAME AS GLUTEN.” “CROSS REACTIVITY BLAH BLAH BLAH.” We’re already on edge as a celiac – we’re already on pins and needles about literally everything. The last thing we need is fear-based marketing for your blog. Until CDF, CSA, or another celiac organization tells me I can’t have XYZ, then I will keep eating it – if it makes me feel good. Now, like always, if something makes you feel like crap – don’t eat it! But please don’t make anyone fearful of food, we’re already terrified of food. Now, if there is science (proven science) to back something up, and you want to spread the word, that’s fine. But we don’t need to be on red alert about literally everything. Calm down, have a sip of wine, and think twice about the blog title.

Tomorrow’s topic: MY CELIAC IS NOT YOUR CELIAC and how our paths to healing are different too…

 

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Comments: 22

  1. Ellen March 27, 2013 at 10:08 pm Reply

    I think I love you.

  2. Sarah S March 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm Reply

    Perfectly written. Although I would like to make the argument that cupcakes for breakfast are for sure ‘x’. If I could, I would start every day with a cupcake and a cup of coffee 😉 But seriously, this post is great. I’m sharing it with my peeps tomorrow.

  3. Angela March 27, 2013 at 11:06 pm Reply

    I love that you wrote: cupcakes for breakfast! I frequently have cupcake for dinner! 🙂 Seriously, I love that you are addressing this. Even though I typically eat vegan, Paleo, everything free… It’s not by choice, it’s by need. People I encounter, in general, seem to not understand that part of “my celiac is not your celiac” (or my food allergies are not your sensitivities) either.

  4. Mel H March 28, 2013 at 5:22 am Reply

    This is brilliant. I tend to be a bit clueless, and was about this, but respect is needed period.

  5. Janelle March 28, 2013 at 5:24 am Reply

    Erica,

    I am with you on this entire post, but I especially love the last paragraph about brands creating fear and anxiety. It makes me batty for more than one reason. 1. Their claims have little to no SCIENTIFIC research to back them up. If there is research behind it, they must not read it or they misinterpret the findings. 2. If there was a huge new finding for those of us with celiac disease, WE’D KNOW ABOUT IT! The organizations that were created to advocate for those with celiac disease would maybe let us know? Seems like something they’d want to get around to fairly quickly… 3. All the fear mongering and mistrust makes me scared to become a medical professional. I understand that many people struggle with their doctors for many years before they get a celiac diagnosis. I can only imagine how frustrating that is. But with more people turning to blogs for a majority of their medical advice, I am noticing that fewer and fewer people are trusting their doctors, nurses, and dietitians… people that went to school for YEARS to learn about the SCIENCE behind the human body. And now people don’t trust them! All because a blogger, who likely has no background in science, research, or health, told them that coffee acts like gluten in the body. WHAT?! I don’t understand how some people believe a blogger with no credibility in the health field (beyond personal experience) holds more merit than a doctor or dietitian. It makes me very sad. Medical professionals are doing things everyday to help people feel better. They do CARE, they want to HELP, and they want to RESEARCH and find a CURE. Why can’t we be on there side, instead of fighting against them?

    I have no problem with people sharing good news about a diet that works for them, or how they feel if they don’t or do eat ______. It’s all about the underlying message and agenda.

    Sorry. Rant over. Thanks for the post. 🙂

  6. Amanda March 28, 2013 at 5:45 am Reply

    I commented on your FB video post about it and I totally agree with everything you said there. I LOOOVEEE the video you made (and by the way — I hope this doesn’t sound totally creepy, but I saw some actress on Law and Order SVU last night who totally looked like you, at least in the bullying video, and I kept wondering if it was you!)

    It sucks that food has become such a platform for superiority complexes — and it’s not limited to the Celiac community, either. That’s fantastic if a certain diet helps one person but that doesn’t mean it will help someone else. I also am not a fan of people ganging up on a Celiac who isn’t eating gluten-free (even if they’re famous). I get it, it sets a bad example. But we’re not the food police. People continue to smoke after they have lung cancer, they continue to eat Twinkies and Ding Dongs or whatever after being diagnosed with diabetes and some people have a tough time breaking up with gluten after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I don’t think it’s SMART, but it’s their life, their body and I don’t think it’s right to attack them about their choices either. And let’s face it, bullying and shaming people into eating a certain way never really works.

    So please keep writing about this topic! Bullying/food shaming is far too pervasive in our society in general and it’s even worse to be bullied when you ALREADY can’t eat much.

  7. Cortnie Chase March 28, 2013 at 5:50 am Reply

    Your Amazing! You have truly hit the nail on the head 🙂

  8. Jennifer @ Gluten Free School March 28, 2013 at 5:51 am Reply

    I have mixed feelings on this topic. It’s not right for folks to make snide remarks to you whether its on the web or in person. However the food/nutrition space is one that’s highly debatable and often filled with a lot of fervor and passion. It should not excuse rudeness whatsoever.

    Though I understand where you are coming from and will never claim to know what any day in your shoes is like as I do not have a celiac diagnosis, there are some serious issues about the problems that typical gf products cause health-wise for gf folks. There’s a lot of money washing through our community handed willy-nilly to bloggers and organizations that creates a conflict of interest to provide a counter conversation to eating the latest gf product.

    I was one of those folks who was and is constantly disappointed with the gf product space. I work with folks who got sick as a result of eating that way. I work hard to share my info in a non-combative way, but like many, I’m frustrated with the fact that conversations about gf junkfood seem more important than taking care of one’s health. I mean, the restoration and preservation of our health was the reason we all went gf, right?

    I used to review gf products and had to make a choice to institute a strict policy to only review things that meet my own standards. That means only products I’d personally eat get reviewed. One per month and I don’t take payment for them. What I write is what I honestly think.

    I’m sorry that you’ve had so many bad experiences and I agree that there is a lack of manners from many. But maybe consider if there is something more that the community as a whole could do to actually have a fuller, honest conversation rather than just swimming in food company money and ignoring anyone’s potential and, in some cases, reasonable concerns.

    • Erica Dermer March 28, 2013 at 9:11 am Reply

      Yes, I believe in nutrition! I believe in eating what I feel good about eating! I eat well – fruits and veggies and lean protein, etc. I don’t eat fast food, etc. But if people get on my case about eating cookies, cake, etc., it’s so frustrating! It’s not like I ONLY eat refined sugar – good god! I get paid ZERO dollars to write any of the posts I have written about food!

      While I think that we all need to focus on our physical health, I think our emotional health is part of what we need to consider too. I can’t mentally let go of a lot of my comfort foods just to satisfy someone’s idea of what the perfect diet is, and I know many people are like that as well. To tell someone that what they’re eating isn’t right when they’re eating gluten-free and trying their hardest to maintain sanity battling parts per million out to get them!

      YEs, HONEST conversations without judgement is what we need more of!

  9. I love this so hard. You got the “kid eating lunch in the bathroom” thing spot on. Can’t wait for part 2.

  10. No Gluten Here March 28, 2013 at 8:17 am Reply

    We should be the judge of our own eating habits, and foods, noone else should judge us. —unless we are talking about growing children, the it should be up to the parent.

    I have a daughter that has struggled with bullying in school for the last 4 years because of her having to eat “Celiac”. In her case, Others want to judge because it’s something “they” don’t understand, nor do “they” want to understand… Once we except everyone for who they are it might subside.

    I also have a family member that discusses my celiac eating with other family members, causing eyebrows to raise and asking them, “do you think she really has celiac?” Clearly unexceptable!

    I mostly eat celiac healthy for myself, because I can’t tolerate a lot of glutenfree things, (celiac & cancer) so if anything makes me ill, I don’t eat it again. I do TRY and stay away from sweets….

    BUT it’s going to be a Carrot Cake Easter at my house 🙂

  11. Taylor - GlutenAway March 28, 2013 at 8:38 am Reply

    Awesome post! I noticed that when I first started my blog I shared a lot more things that were truly what I ate everyday and just shared things that weren’t all Paleo or Super Healthy. But now I feel like if I mention one thing about a “non-healthy sweet” gluten-free product, I’ll be attacked and judged instead of supported about my diet.

    I completely agree with what you wrote. If what your eating on your diet works for you, then WHO CARES what anyone else says. Everyone is different and deals with Celiac in their own way. Thanks so much for writing this and sharing much needed info to our community.

  12. Eva @ Pastel Bakery March 28, 2013 at 10:17 am Reply

    Reading this post reminds me of when I was a kid and picked on for eating sweets (b/c I was on the heavier side). Others felt that I wasn’t entitled to have that slice of cake, or that piece of candy. It’s sad to hear this same thing now happens but b/c you’re not eating a ‘healthy’ gluten free diet. We did not choose to have to follow a gluten free diet, it chose us. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allowed to indulge as others do. No one should ever be picked on b/c of what they consume. Can’t we all just play nicely in the sandbox?

  13. Gluten Free Betsy March 28, 2013 at 12:26 pm Reply

    This is great! I’ve often felt this way too, whether it was a comment on my blog or in person, and yes, it hurts when someone makes a nasty comment about MY gluten free diet.

    Everyone is different and knows what is right for their body. I know some people that shun certain brands of gluten free foods that have had no effect on me. I think it’s great to share experiences with foods/brands with others, but as a precaution, not as a disapproval to others who do eat those foods.

  14. Kristin March 28, 2013 at 2:39 pm Reply

    I know, I admit, my reaction is absolutely crazy but I almost cried when reading this page. I follow one blogger, that although I really like, I swear every time I read the posts I end up so stressed out it’s ridiculous. I’m an asymptomatic Celiac so I rely on others to help me decide what’s safe. But it was getting unreal the number of things that were being questioned as unsafe. I had typed and erased so many posts to nicely say “Please stop making me more neurotic than I already am!”. Your one paragraph above, “FEAR AND ANXIETY CREATION SUCKS” summed it all up for me!

  15. Kristin March 28, 2013 at 3:07 pm Reply

    Sorry — just one more thing. I am so glad to see you address the constant comments about how we shouldn’t be focusing on gf junk food. It so often seems like the question of whether or not something is safe turns into whether or not something is healthy. There is a big difference! I try very hard to eat healthy but when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease 2 years ago it was very difficult to let go of the treats I had spent 40 years enjoying. Did I eat donuts everyday? No way! But all of the healthy stuff I could still eat. The stuff I was missing were the treats that were now toxic to me. So I went in search of gf alternatives. Are they awful for me? Absolutely! Even more so than their traditional versions. I just wish when I asked for help on whether or not something was safe to eat I could just get answers to that — is it safe. I am certainly smart enough to know whether or not it’s healthy.

  16. Michelle @ The Q's and P's Of Me March 28, 2013 at 4:31 pm Reply

    I love this. I have been avoiding alot of the celiac forums because I feel like there is so much judgement going on. Everyone has their own levels on intolerance and sensitivity. We all struggle with foods we miss the most. Do we really have to become martyrs, hasn’t gluten taken enough joy from our lives.

  17. Kyra March 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm Reply

    Cupcakes for breakfast!!! That’s how I roll! (But seriously, E, well written. And thank you. I love what Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl tweeted the other day, about how some people feel better when they don’t eat grains. That doesn’t make grains bad. And some poeple feel better when they eat low sugar. But sugar is not the devil. Live and let live and let us choose for ourselves what makes us feel healthy!

  18. Samantha March 29, 2013 at 7:09 am Reply

    Great post!

  19. GFKimAZ March 29, 2013 at 11:28 pm Reply

    Wonderful post! Eat whatever makes you feel good. Our gluten free lifestyle (and additonal issues with food) make life hard enough. My 5th grader has been GF since kindergarten and is now having some food bullying issues of her own. Amen – let us choose what we “safe” foods we eat.<3 Kim

    • GFKimAZ March 29, 2013 at 11:29 pm Reply

      * additional UGH!!! don’t type and watch TV at the same time LOL

  20. Andrea April 2, 2013 at 10:36 pm Reply

    Great post, Erica! We all have a choice to make and that is our business NOT theirs! I went to school to be a Certified Health Coach and probably drive my fellow health coaches nuts that I get excited about things like discovering GF deep dish pizza this week in Chicago. I also got excited about finding GF apple pie in NYC last week when I went out there. Kyra’s cupcakes get me excited too, all SO contrary to what I should be eating but you gotta live too! Looking forward to meeting you at the GF Expo in Chicago soon!

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