(Today’s post is the first of many I plan to write about wellness in the civic sphere. After last year’s election, and in the wake of a variety of tragic events, I worry about our ability as a society to engage in healthy, provocative, respectful civil discourse. It’s a topic I plan to visit from time to time and I look forward to your feedback.)
The Non Sequitur cartoon on April 12th made reference to a new food marketing “fad” – label it “gluten free” and the public will deem it healthy, even if it never contained wheat or gluten in the first place.
The cartoon got me thinking. It was pretty funny, and yes, I have had someone tell me that I would be so proud of her for eating gluten free creme brûlée, so I can relate to the spirit of the panel.
But I am a little squeamish about the whole “poke fun at the gluten free folks” phenomenon.
And, I get really hot under the collar when someone takes to social media to make snarky comments about gluten free or otherwise health-conscious eating in general.
Why is it suddenly okay to poke fun at people for trying to do right by themselves?
Versions of this blog post on the difficulty in finding just what it is we are supposed to be eating have been popping up around social media for a few months now. It was circulated both by healthy eating and real food bloggers laughing at themselves and by people jaded by the whole “eat right” scene. It’s cute and I am sure written with good intentions.
But read comments to it and you will start to see why I think we need to all show a little more restraint on the snark. Someone will point out that it’s kind of rude to poke fun at people trying to do the right thing, and someone else will say “It’s just satire.” Then someone will say, “Oh, I’m sending this to my (insert eating style here) friends,” and you get the drift – people are going to use it to send a not-so-subtle message that “OMG you need to shut up about all the precious food that you are eating and how wonderful you feel now.”
“Lighten up, Kristine,” you may be thinking. Or, “You do need to shut up about it all,” is perhaps what’s going through your mind.
But, oblige me a bit.
If you have read my posts about why I eat the way that I do, you may recall that for a very, very long time, I suffered from major digestive problems. To go into a bit more detail than I have before, for all of my adulthood until a year and a half ago, I suffered from intense stomach pain daily. For about a five year period, I had such debilitating cramps every afternoon that I had to stop work and would often just collapse under my desk. For a two year period, I suffered from horrible daily diarrhea, often five to six times per day.
In trying to figure out the cause of my pain, I have had a flex sigmoidoscopy, a barium enema, CT scans of my torso (multiple), stool studies, multiple blood draws, an endoscopy, laparoscopic surgery, multiple rounds of physical therapy, and talk therapy. I have been prescribed everything from antidepressants to anti-seizure medications. I have sought chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage, and NAET.
In December of 2010, I walked out of my last CT scan in tears. I grabbed my husband who was waiting for me and I said, “That’s it. If I have to live with the pain, then so be it. I am not spending my life trying to chase down the cause of this pain anymore.”
In July of 2011, after reading more and more about the Paleo diet from my amazing friend Julie Sullivan Mayfield of Paleo Comfort Food fame, I decided to give it a go. “What do I have to lose but a few weeks of not eating bread and pasta?” I thought.
Mind you, after my endoscopy, my gastroenterologist told me in no uncertain terms that I did not have celiac and was therefore absolutely fine eating wheat and gluten-containing products. I set out eating gluten free largely to prove that he was correct and that all the wonderful stuff Julie had been sharing couldn’t be right.
And I will be damned if within days the symptoms absolutely and completely resolved.
The cramps were gone. The loose stools were gone.
I had my answer.
It was simple, easy, non-invasive, did not require billing my insurance company. And it made me feel like I had a new lease on life.
I get it. All around you, you see “gluten free” this and “gluten free” that. You see people eschewing grains and you think they’re jumping on a bandwagon.
I for one was horrified at the thought of joining a “fad.” I am ashamed to say that I let that fear prevent me from making a decision that would ultimately heal me.
I get a little prickly now when I see people post Facebook statuses criticizing people for “going gluten free.” I don’t see how that is at all helpful or kind or even all that interesting.
But beyond my minor annoyance, I worry about all of those people who want to take positive steps for their wellness – ditching soft drinks, quitting coffee, eliminating fast food, stopping smoking – but are too worried about becoming the butt of someone else’s joke to make the leap.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t care what others think. I agree. But I also think we could all take a few moments to think before we post, or before we make an offhanded comment in real life.
After all, aren’t we all just doing the best we can?
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You may have noticed the following link on my home page:
It links you to Brene Brown’s site. I talked about Dr. Brown in one of my caregiver posts On Vulnerability. I choose wholeheartedness and authenticity in my life, my blog and in my social media interactions. She has spoken before on this whole issue of snark. If any of this has resonated with you, I encourage you to read more of her remarkable work.