Diet Culture, Body Shaming, and Other Bullshit I See on Gluten Free Facebook Groups

You guys. I am so tired from fighting diet culture from gluten-free groups. This image was posted and it really got my goat. I don’t know who this original poster that is tagged in the image, and I’m not sharing what group this was in, or who posted it (obviously). But the judgement in this little photo – no thanks.

You want to eat cookies and brownies? That’s awesome. Don’t judge people for wanting to eat comfort food that’s gluten-free. Just because we have celiac disease doesn’t mean we automatically wanted to dive head first into restrictive, or “Clean Eating” diet culture BS. We have enough HATRED OF OUR BODIES in the media, I really don’t need that unsolicited shit on Facebook.

Clean Eating, Disordered Eating, and Eating Disorders

If you are a reader of Celiac and the Beast, you probably know that I suffered from an eating disorder. Because of this, I’m highly sensitive to food judgement from online. I have a thick skin, but I’ve also gone through years of counseling to get me to not hate myself, and to see through online diet rhetoric or clean eating masquerading as orthorexia, disordered eating, or plain old anorexia. It’s disgusting. I’m strong enough to power through seeing someone’s bullshit post about how the only way to health is through “clean eating” (aka orthorexia and taking “good” and “bad” foods to an extreme), but what about the millions of others online that haven’t gone through this counseling? What about those young girls looking for support online and only seeing fake Instagram “stars” pushing detox teas that are basically just laxatives.

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Diet Culture vs. Anti-Diet Culture

Diet culture rages on in social media, despite the efforts from National Eating Disorder Association, champion anti-diet celebrities like Jameela Jamil and her i weigh organization, and anti-diet HAES (healthy at any size) dietitians like Go Feed Yourself. People look to social media for influence, and it’s already been found that social media can affect your mental health and body positivity. But I’m not a 14 year old girl. I’m twice that (okay, a little older), and I keep seeing this kind of stuff posted in groups and I’ve had enough. Yes, I can look the other way – but if you look at the comments in any of these posts – you can’t look away, and maybe you shouldn’t!

It’s part of a much bigger conversation about diet culture, and while the gluten-free “diet” is more like a medically necessary lifestyle – we still get those who want to come in to our “diet” and raid it, pick it down to its bones, and make us feel like shit for wanting to indulge in regular eating behaviors as a celiac. Because clearly feeling normal isn’t enough. We have to live our lives feeling restricted, guilty, and shameful for our choices. No thank you!

Diet Culture Is Distracting

While you’re sitting here worried about being judged by some self-righteous food police, you could be doing a million other things.

  • Working on helping the FDA identify products that are facially misbranded or not following the labeling law and then contacting the FDA! Learn how to report gluten-free food to the FDA.
  • Advocating for celiac disease in literally any way possible. Seriously. Strike up a conversation at the grocery store. Call a restaurant out for mislabeling on their menu or using unsafe practices (and then educating their manager how to make it safe).
  • Raising funds for whatever celiac disease awareness and research organization you choose – be a part of a 5K, have a gluten-free bake sale, whatever.
  • Smashing the patriarchy.

But What About Being Healthy?

Look, I love being healthy. I love nourishing my body with better foods, eating my fill of fruits and vegetables, etc. I love being healthy in ways than more than just food – keeping up on healthy sleep habits, working out to treat my body well, emotional health, and stress management. Listen, I’m even not above getting some work done if it makes you feel like the queen that you are (I, for one, am a fan of a little nip and tuck). But that’s about what you feel like doing to make you feel good. And what doesn’t feel good is me, going a day without chocolate. Or eating carbs.

You cannot get on your high horse and tell me that eating cookies is why I have autoimmune diseases.

Or that I’m a bad celiac for telling people that they can eat gluten-free cake. Or that I’m killing people (oh yes, some ripe a-hole told me that about how I promote eating packaged foods and cookies). Perhaps you don’t get the message that people are not just eating cookies, cakes, candies and chocolate? We’re not talking about anyone on My 600 Lb. Life that has to request an ambulance ride to get out of bed (that’s an extreme of the spectrum). And yes, I will absolutely acknowledge that the USA has a poor standard diet, focused on quick-service so-called junk food, and pervasive fast food advertising, available to 24/7 – especially to the underserved community. But I’m also not talking about that – or even addressing that. Because that could be another book.

What we’re talking about average people here that are just trying to live their celiac, gluten-free life with as little drama as possible. Moms who have kids that want cookies like any other kid. Folks with corporate jobs that want to pack a sad cubicle lunch that makes them happy, for five fleeting minutes between board meetings. And they want this with as little judgement as possible. Just trying to stay away from gluten. We didn’t invite this judgement into our home, we didn’t ask for it – we were simply diagnosed with celiac.

Let me have my gluten-free cake and eat it too. After all, gluten-free is not a weight loss diet by any means.

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Comments: 4

  1. Celeste Noland May 10, 2019 at 8:04 pm Reply

    Sing it lady! There is so much shame around food and I HATE it, when did it become OK for our entire lives to revolve around what we should or should not eat and what everyone else should or should not eat? Decide what you’re going to do and do it like a boss, and allow everyone else to do the same. Geez, we have enough to worry about without judging what other people are putting in their mouths.

  2. Ellen Adams May 11, 2019 at 11:21 am Reply

    Thank you. There was a blog that I followed for a long time, because it was filled with stories of the ups and downs of living with Celiac Disease. But then it got preachy and judgmental. I get enough of that in the real world. Don’t need it in a blog that claims to offer support.

  3. Carrie May 11, 2019 at 4:39 pm Reply

    Thank you!!!! It is hard enough having Celiac and having no chouce to go gluten free, I happen to love pasta, sweets, etc and am not big on the rabbit food!! Stop whining about recipes with dairy and sugar in them in the gluten free groups! Go join a vegan-keto-boring food page for that!!!

  4. Susan Martin June 13, 2019 at 8:28 am Reply

    Oh, you know I’m with you! On many things… But especially this one. Trying to navigate as the Mom of a kid with an eating disorder (among other things) I want to scream sometimes at the judgy mcjudgers lurking around every post and group. It’s easy when you hide behind a keyboard.

    I’m trying to catch myself when I make a judgment that isn’t mine to make. (we’re all guilty of that.) But I’m trying to keep my judgements to politics for now. šŸ˜œ

    This, for us, is a lifetime thing… So eat the cookie if you want it as long as it’s gf/df. (for me) Have a gf/df pizza. Balance it out with some zoodles or not! Chill.

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