Gluten-free dishes that sound… ok.

The Times is really excited about their gluten-free recipes, which they claim are actually flavorful. Maybe they are! I’ve had Babycakes and that shit is delicious. But oh man this gluten-free craze is the worst.

Don’t get me wrong: Some number of people have legitimate gluten allergies or intolerances (I actually suspect I am slightly gluten intolerant? And also lactose-intolerant? Whatever I eat cheese and pasta anyway and just deal with getting really sick every single day) and can become extremely ill if they consume gluten. That sucks! I am sorry for you people. And lots of people try to eat gluten-free food because it just makes them feel better or they like it. Great. But “I’m allergic to gluten” seems to be the new cover for women who are basically just seeking to limit their food intake, and is almost never mentioned in any articles covering the trend of gluten-free eating. For example, the Times says:

Gluten-free baked goods have become tastier as demand for them has risen. More Americans — about 6 percent of the population, according to the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland — have found that gluten, in wheat, barley and rye, causes health problems. What had been a niche market has become mainstream.

Notice the phrasing — “causes health problems.” Not that they’re allergic to it or even sensitive. Celiac Disease is a real thing, and it sucks. But only about 1% of Americans have it. And it’s unfortunate that a legitimate intolerance to certain foods is being used as an excuse to just not eat bread (it also makes everyone more skeptical of people who claim gluten allergies).

Obviously I can’t blame women — and it seems to usually be women, as I’ve met like one dude in my life who says he’s gluten-intolerant — who claim to have gluten sensitivities for using that as a convenient excuse not to eat. There is immense social pressure to go out and eat a lot, but also to not look like you eat a lot. “I’m gluten intolerant” is, in many circles, a much more acceptable reason to forgo bread or pasta than “I’m trying to stay skinny” or “I’m on a diet.” And that is very fucked. But we should maybe be casting a bit of a jaundiced eye on the gluten-free fad. It can be great, for folks who can’t consume gluten products without getting very sick; it’s also great insofar as it makes us more creative with the food we eat, and less reliant on the same old ingredients and recipes.

But it’s not great that it’s an acceptable cover for eating issues. It’s on the same footing as veganism and other dietary restrictions — great when done right, really less great in that a whole lot of people use it as a way to avoid eating.

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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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209 Responses

  1. Florence
    Florence June 3, 2011 at 10:27 am |

    (I actually suspect I am slightly gluten intolerant? And also lactose-intolerant? Whatever I eat cheese and pasta anyway and just deal with getting really sick every single day)

    I’m totally lactose intolerant, but it just leads to extreme (EXTREME) gas. I can deal with perma-death-farts as long as I get my cheese and ice cream.

  2. cle
    cle June 3, 2011 at 10:34 am |

    I’m kinda with you on this but not all the way – I am gluten free because I feel better eating gluten-free – not because I’m intolerant, but because it makes me feel less stodgy and bloated.

    What I would love to see is a society where people don’t question your choices. I shouldn’t have to explain every time I order gluten-free, or enquire about it, nor should I get the ‘eye roll’. similarly, my SO shouldn’t get the question every time he says he doesn’t drink. But then, a less judgemental, more tolerant society would go a long way to solve a lot, eh?

  3. miga
    miga June 3, 2011 at 10:45 am |

    You know what’s good? Cashew-oat waffles. I was worried about them (i ran out of eggs and flour), but if you find the recipe online and add vanilla, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon that is friggin DELICIOUS. And filling! And probably better than flour, which we USians eat so much of anyway.

  4. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 3, 2011 at 10:47 am |

    I’m honestly kind of weirded out by the requirement in this society for people to explain their personal choices. I mean, if I order soda water instead of beer, or forgo bread, or prefer to eat the vegetarian lasagne, what’s it to anyone? I never explain my preferences/needs. I say, “No thanks” if offered something I don’t eat or drink, and I don’t explain why (and get kind of stroppy when people insist on explanations).

    If I was going to a friend’s house for dinner and I had food allergies/intolerances, I’d let them know as a courtesy. If I’m having someone over for dinner, then yeah, I’ll need to know if they’re celiac or lactose intolerant or whatever. I don’t want to serve something that will make my guests sick.

  5. Ellie
    Ellie June 3, 2011 at 10:50 am |

    I don’t mind people who choose to eat gluten-free as much as I mind people who can’t be bothered to learn what it means. I used to manage a vegetarian restaurant (just vegetarian, not vegan or organic or gluten free or whatever) and I’d regularly have people come in with friends or family to show off our extensive “vegan, organic, gluten-free” bakery case. Mostly just trendy people who don’t understand organic food beyond it being good for you or something.

    Funny thing, over the past couple years, three of my four college roommates have all stopped eating gluten, and say they’ve felt much better as a result. One says her lupus symptoms are worse when she eats gluten, one says his chronic migraine problem improves when he goes without, and one says she gets less bloating & constipation with her IBS when she goes without. None of them have celiac’s or anything, but I don’t doubt any of their claims. If it makes you feel better, go for it, I don’t really care what you call it.

  6. Westwood
    Westwood June 3, 2011 at 10:52 am |

    Gluten-free dishes that taste good – why is that a surprise? Gluten is in the flour, and there’s tons of other kinds of flour that are flavourful, moreso than wheat.

    Who cares why other people want to eat gluten-free, intolerance or not? That’s their concern. I really don’t understand why people care so much about what other people eat/don’t eat. What weird importance/sub-texts we attach to food.

  7. Laura
    Laura June 3, 2011 at 10:55 am |

    I’m with Sheelzebub. Its true dietary restrictions can be covers for eating disorders, but I can’t think of a scenario where bugging someone about their reasons behind not eating a dish/a meal/at all is going to result in them dealing with any disordered eating they may have in a healthier way; I imagine, in fact, that they are trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves, and the attention given in return would probably up the shame they feel.

    While other people’s problems are Sorta Really Important because everyone lives in a society composed of groups and circles of friends, acquaintances, coworkers, families, etc. they are also Really Not Your Business.

  8. Bridget
    Bridget June 3, 2011 at 10:57 am |

    I’m a Massage Therapist, so I tend to hang out with a lot of New Agey types (and I admit I have some of those tendencies myself!). I’ve noticed a lot of people being “diagnosed” with “food sensitivities” by chiropractors or other alternative medicine providers. I’m skeptical about it, because the tests used to determine these “sensitivities” don’t always seem to be based on good science. One massage client told me her chiropractor was doing something involving a laser on her hands and feet to “diagnose” her. I guess I don’t know enough about it to say it’s all quackery, but it seems fishy to me.

  9. Rachel
    Rachel June 3, 2011 at 11:01 am |

    Sheelzebub: I’m honestly kind of weirded out by the requirement in this society for people to explain their personal choices. I mean, if I order soda water instead of beer, or forgo bread, or prefer to eat the vegetarian lasagne, what’s it to anyone? I never explain my preferences/needs. I say, “No thanks” if offered something I don’t eat or drink, and I don’t explain why (and get kind of stroppy when people insist on explanations).If I was going to a friend’s house for dinner and I had food allergies/intolerances, I’d let them know as a courtesy. If I’m having someone over for dinner, then yeah, I’ll need to know if they’re celiac or lactose intolerant or whatever. I don’t want to serve something that will make my guests sick.

    I definitely agree that in general people shouldn’t question another persons food choices, or any other choices for that matter. But at the same time, I think that if a person close to you is making poor food choices you should probably talk about it.

    For example. . . My husband only eats double cheeseburgers (only cheese), hot dogs, cheese pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches (with grape jelly) and sometimes fruit. His dad has Type 2 diabetes (previously called adult onset diabetes) and so my husbands diet deeply concerns me. So we talk a lot about his food choices and ways to change so that he doesn’t end up like his dad.

  10. Laura
    Laura June 3, 2011 at 11:04 am |

    You didn’t suggest it, you are right, but I am not sure what other action people would take as a “takeaway” from the post; when we cast a jaundiced eye on the fad, what actions should be taken? Since it’s not great that it is a cover for eating issues, what should we do about it? You definitely didn’t say to criticize people explicitly or implicitly, and you explicitly said not to blame women, but I can’t think of much else that would be done; of whom would we be suspicious/concerned/doubtful?

    Does it make sense that the takeaway that I (and perhaps others) got was that gluten allergies should be regarded with suspicion?

  11. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil June 3, 2011 at 11:06 am |

    I really don’t understand why people care so much about what other people eat/don’t eat. What weird importance/sub-texts we attach to food.

    Ah, this question I can answer. Think about the role food plays in a culture (any culture, really). There are norms about what you eat, when you eat it, and how you share meals with other people. For example, I have an acquaintance who has a lot of food sensitivities and it drives me round the bend to eat meals at her house because she’ll actually cook something for her guests and then something else for herself. The message I get from that behavior is, “I don’t like you enough to share the same food as you,” even though I KNOW her thought is, “I don’t want to burden my guests with all of my food restrictions.”

  12. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 3, 2011 at 11:11 am |

    I’m a Massage Therapist, so I tend to hang out with a lot of New Agey types (and I admit I have some of those tendencies myself!).I’ve noticed a lot of people being “diagnosed” with “food sensitivities” by chiropractors or other alternative medicine providers.I’m skeptical about it, because the tests used to determine these “sensitivities” don’t always seem to be based on good science.One massage client told me her chiropractor was doing something involving a laser on her hands and feet to “diagnose” her.I guess I don’t know enough about it to say it’s all quackery, but it seems fishy to me.

    No chiropractor should ever be diagnosing food sensitivities, which is an immune issue, and has nothing at all to do with spinal realignment, and you know what, the tests for food sensitivities usually involves food trials, elimination diets, and/or shots. Speaking as someone with major food allergies and chemical sensitivities (mine trigger everything from seizures to hives to stomach pains to anaphylaxis) the signs outside chiropractor offices that say they can treat allergies make me furious.

    On a side note, there’s a lot of disbelief when I tell people about my allergies, and acquaintances (they stop being friends very quickly) often try to sabotage my diet by slipping things I can’t eat into food to “prove” I’m healthy, and then they’re very surprised, and often angry when I get sick and have to leave. I know a girl whose friend’s mom snuck a peanut into a brownie and almost killed her. Maybe gluten free is becoming trendy, but I’m not going to say a word.

    Also, celiacs is rare, but wheat allergies more generally aren’t, and gluten free is also often wheat free, and some people with wheat allergies hit on gluten free and stick with it because it works.

  13. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 3, 2011 at 11:12 am |

    serious quotefail above, sorry about that.

    Got it for you. -Friendly Mod

  14. gretel
    gretel June 3, 2011 at 11:15 am |

    I don’t like the cycle of fad diets, because often people don’t know enough about nutrition to follow them and wind up making themselves ill (been there!). Also the whole issue of parents being misled by so-called “experts” into forcing their children to go on gluten-free/casein-free diets to “cure” Autism enrages me.

    But what I think is interesting about gluten-free diets becoming popular is that I hope it raises awareness of autoimmune diseases (Celiac, MS, lupus, Crohn’s, etc.). Specifically why are so many more people developing them in most societies? And why do they overwhelmingly affect women? (Source)

    As an aside: Did people hear about tennis player Novak Djokovic giving up gluten? He was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, and since giving up gluten his game has improved. (P.S. Tennis legs!)

  15. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil June 3, 2011 at 11:18 am |

    On a side note, there’s a lot of disbelief when I tell people about my allergies, and acquaintances

    This is why the proliferation of “allergies” and “sensitivities” really bothers me–it means that people don’t take real allergies seriously. Allergy does not mean “Oh, I just don’t like peanuts.”

  16. Arkady
    Arkady June 3, 2011 at 11:18 am |

    @ Bridget

    I hang out on a few science/skeptic blogs, and allergy diagnosis by ‘applied kinesiology’ is a popular one, certainly in the UK. The ‘practitioner’ puts food of each potential allergy type in the person’s hand, then sees how much resistance they put up when that arm is pushed backwards. Clearly nothing to do with real diagnosis…

    Loose definitions for anyone who doesn’t know them: Allergy is an immune system response, so if you get inflammation, hives, asthma etc that’s an allergy. Coeliac is an innapropriate immune response to gluten in the gut tissue. Intolerances are more broad, generally speaking just an inability to process something e.g. lactose intolerance; humans ‘naturally’ would stop producing the enzyme that processes lactose when they stop breastfeeding as children, but once our ancestors started domesticating animals we got a selection pressure for people who kept producing the enzyme. Lactose intolerance is the gut bacteria having a feast on the undigested lactose once it gets to the small intestine.

    So long as people keep up nutrition levels on an exclusion diet, cutting out a food group doesn’t matter too much. It can cause problems when adequate nutrition isn’t met as a result though, there have been some unpleasant cases in the UK of naturopaths telling parents of autistic children to exclude meat, gluten and dairy (and sometimes more) all at once without offering dietary plans that would compensate on the nutritional side (only dieticians have to be qualified in the UK, anyone can call themselves a ‘nutritionist’ without any qualifications)

  17. gretel
    gretel June 3, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    Attackfish: I know a girl whose friend’s mom snuck a peanut into a brownie and almost killed her.

    Someone actually did that? That is pure evil and something I thought was only a plotline in Freaks and Geeks.

  18. llama
    llama June 3, 2011 at 11:22 am |

    I frequently have lunch with a group of 6 young woman (mid 20s) all of which have has some sort of restriction like this, gluten allergy, lactose intolerance or vegan/vegetarian.

    I think a part of having some sort of special dietary requirement is the control/power that it gives, the group has to go where everybody can eat something.

    I just wish vegan restaurants had meat choices like others have vegetarian choices.

  19. Brigid Keely
    Brigid Keely June 3, 2011 at 11:24 am |

    There’s this cooking show on PBS where some woman makes really terrible looking food while some dude plays guitar soulfully in the corner. Anyway, at one point she was making some kind of bread product and advised the viewers at home to use whole wheat flour because if you mix white flour and water you get glue and if you eat bread products made with white flour they literally turn to glue in your intestines and glue them together, literally.

    I have a feeling that those kind of out and out falsehoods spread by people shilling cook books/products are part of the impetus behind the gluten free fad. On the plus side, I have a lot of friends who can’t tolerate gluten and it’s getting easier and easier for them to find food that doesn’t leave them in agony.

  20. Frank M
    Frank M June 3, 2011 at 11:25 am |

    The rise in people stating they have food allergies is probably in some ways a little similar to the rise in people being diagnosed with mental illnesses of one kind of another – part of the rise is due to a genuine improvement in recognition and diagnosis of particular conditions, and then part of it’s just due to quacks wanting to make a quick buck with faddy treatments and people who feel better when there’s a scientific-sounding name to put to their quirks. And the numbers of the latter mean that the former have a harder time being taken seriously; still, the situation we have now where some attention-seekers appropriate real conditions is probably better than the situation in the past, where real conditions were just plain ignored. (Obviously the ideal would be for people to just be honest and sensible, but the human race as a whole tends to struggle with that.)

  21. gretel
    gretel June 3, 2011 at 11:28 am |

    llama: I just wish vegan restaurants had meat choices like others have vegetarian choices.

    Well, okay, that’s what you wish, but most restaurants are designed around meat, and that’s why there are vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Lots of vegetarians don’t want food that has been cooked on a grill where meat is cooked. Their only guarantee of that is in a restaurant that doesn’t have serve meat. And often in non-vegetarian restaurants, the only option is a salad. Or a veggie platter. It really depends on the cuisine, but that has been my experience numerous times.

  22. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil June 3, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    Attackfish: I know a girl whose friend’s mom snuck a peanut into a brownie and almost killed her.

    Someone actually did that? That is pure evil and something I thought was only a plotline in Freaks and Geeks.

    A classmate of my brother’s lied and told him that the cookies she had brought in for her birthday didn’t have nuts because she knew he was allergic and wanted to see what would happen. Fortunately he spat it out immediately and grabbed his meds, but it could have been really bad if his allergy were worse. (To be fair, they were in kindergarten at the time.)

  23. Laura
    Laura June 3, 2011 at 11:31 am |

    Jill: My point was that media outlets shouldn’t just be like, “9% of people have gluten issues, ok!”There should be some deeper examination there of what in the hell is going on.

    Ah, ok. I misinterpreted the post, then. There was the pointing out that the NYTimes article didn’t mention anything about specifics or about disordered eating, but the last two paragraphs seemed to be more focused on individuals than the media.

    Thanks for the clarification! It would be awesome if there were articles that talked about disordered eating and the ways people hide it without taking the “Enter the dark, depressing, black-and-white-toned world of THOSE WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES!!!!! How secretive and strange their sad ways, to be pitied!” tone.

  24. Ellie
    Ellie June 3, 2011 at 11:36 am |

    llama:
    I just wish vegan restaurants had meat choices like others have vegetarian choices.

    The vegetarian restaurant I managed actually opened a joint deli next door, that served meat, partially for this purpose. They shared some seating area, but had two different counters, two completely separate kitchens, and mostly separate staff– so there was no chance of putting a veggie dish on a meat grill, or anything like that. Two separate businesses, some shared customer space, same owners.

    A bunch of our customers were absolutely furious over this. It’s beyond me why, but they were. They thought we were selling out or something? Or maybe they just misunderstood the fact that they were still going to be ordering the same food they always had, and that there would be no contamination. I think they liked to imagine the owners were vegetarians with delicate vegetarian sensibilities, but they weren’t.

  25. Roadrunner
    Roadrunner June 3, 2011 at 11:37 am |

    This really hits home for me–my mom, for my entire 30 year life, has claimed a rotating variety of food intolerances. For years it was dairy, then meat, now its back to dairy with gluten intolerance as the new addition. On the one hand, I don’t think she’s lying when she says that whatever the new diet of the year is “makes her feel so much better”. On the other hand, it’s just hard for me to believe that this many foods could give her trouble, and that the foods in question would change so often.

    At the end of the day, our stomachs mostly evolved to eat food–meat, grains, fruit, vegetables, all of it. (The exception, of course is lactose–us northern Europeans are a little weird in our ability to continue digesting lactose after childhood.) While I don’t doubt that some people’s stomachs have trouble with some food elements, I just find it really hard to believe that humanity has been eating wheat for 5000 years, and we’re just now discovering that it’s indigestible for a significant part of the population. Celiac is a really serious disease, but it’s also really rare.

    Anyway, I just always wish I could be sure that my mom was changing her diet because of real health needs, and not because she got talked into the latest health food store fad. The easiest way to eat a balanced diet is to eat lots of different kinds of foods, and when she unnecessarily restricts an entire food group, I worry that she’s not making up the nutrition elsewhere.

  26. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 3, 2011 at 11:45 am |

    FashionablyEvil: (To be fair, they were in kindergarten at the time.)

    Now this I can understand. Ive always been amazed the woman who pulled the peanut trick didn’t end up arrested.

    FashionablyEvil: Allergy does not mean “Oh, I just don’t like peanuts.”

    I actually have this issue more with my perfume allergy than my food allergies. Artificial scents (and smellable artificial flavors) trigger my asthma, and I get a lot of very huffy “You don’t LIKE my PERFUME?” No, your perfume is lovely, I’ll be over here with my inhaler. Hand lotion’s awful too, with all the scents that go into it. “Are you trying to keep me from moisturizing my dry, cracked, painful skin?” No, really, I’m not.

  27. llama
    llama June 3, 2011 at 11:54 am |

    gretel: Well, okay, that’s what you wish, but most restaurants are designed around meat, and that’s why there are vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Lots of vegetarians don’t want food that has been cooked on a grill where meat is cooked. Their only guarantee of that is in a restaurant that doesn’t have serve meat. And often in non-vegetarian restaurants, the only option is a salad. Or a veggie platter. It really depends on the cuisine, but that has been my experience numerous times.

    If you have a vegan in your group of friends you don’t get to go to most restaurants, you go to vegan ones. That is unless you get sick of eating vegan and cast them out of the group.

    This may very well be what happens because it is really hard to keep organizing a group of non-vegans to go to vegan restaurants time after time.

    So yes for the sake of the vegan in our group I wish that vegan restaurants where more inclusive.

  28. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 3, 2011 at 11:56 am |

    Roadrunner: This really hits home for me–my mom, for my entire 30 year life, has claimed a rotating variety of food intolerances. For years it was dairy, then meat, now its back to dairy with gluten intolerance as the new addition. On the one hand, I don’t think she’s lying when she says that whatever the new diet of the year is “makes her feel so much better”. On the other hand, it’s just hard for me to believe that this many foods could give her trouble, and that the foods in question would change so often.

    Actually, a rotating pattern of food allergies is a sign of certain types of immune diseases. What happens is that people with “allergic” immune systems often have a predisposition to certain allergies, but sensitize to other substances easily. When those are taken out of their environment/diet, they feel better and slowly desensitize, meanwhile they’re sensitizing to something new. The best way to avoid this is to eliminate problem foods, and to rotate the diet. By this I mean, draw up a list of everything you eat with a nutritionist, and put down four days. Put each food only in one day. And by food, I mean “broccoli” and “wheat” not noodles or broccoli and cheese sauce. Ask the nutritionist about which plants are related, so that they can be grouped together, for example, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage should be on the same day. This helps prevent sensitization, and helps make sure you get all the right nutrients.

  29. Brandy
    Brandy June 3, 2011 at 11:57 am |

    llama:
    I just wish vegan restaurants had meat choices like others have vegetarian choices.

    Vegan restaurants wouldn’t serve meat because.. it isn’t vegan. That wouldn’t make sense. Vegan-friendly restaurants are what you’re after – lots of vegan choices but with plenty of meat and cheese and what have you. The Other Side Cafe in Boston is a good example.

  30. llama
    llama June 3, 2011 at 11:58 am |

    Ellie: The vegetarian restaurant I managed actually opened a joint deli next door, that served meat, partially for this purpose. They shared some seating area, but had two different counters, two completely separate kitchens, and mostly separate staff– so there was no chance of putting a veggie dish on a meat grill, or anything like that. Two separate businesses, some shared customer space, same owners.

    I really wish somebody had the vision to do this where I live. It would make organizing social events so much easier.

  31. Brandy
    Brandy June 3, 2011 at 12:02 pm |

    llama: If you have a vegan in your group of friends you don’t get to go to most restaurants, you go to vegan ones. That is unless you get sick of eating vegan and cast them out of the group.

    Since most restaurants in existence are not vegan, wouldn’t it be more practical for non-vegan restaurants to have an option or two for vegans? Or does the vegan friend in your group simply refuse to go to any non-vegan restaurant, even if they have (decent) options available to them?

  32. llama
    llama June 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    Brandy: Since most restaurants in existence are not vegan, wouldn’t it be more practical for non-vegan restaurants to have an option or two for vegans? Or does the vegan friend in your group simply refuse to go to any non-vegan restaurant, even if they have (decent) options available to them?

    The vegan insists you can’t be sure they don’t mix it all together which is true you can’t. When I said about offering meat choices just like other restaurants offer vegetarian, I meant even a token choice of one thing that wasn’t even that good would help.

  33. ladysquires
    ladysquires June 3, 2011 at 12:19 pm |

    I tend to suspect that for many non-celiac patients who claim to “feel better” after giving up gluten, the placebo effect may be playing a role. That doesn’t mean that their subjective experience is not valid, but at this point, no mechanism for non-celiac gluten sensitivity has been identified by medical researchers. It is, at bottom, a marketing gimmick for health food companies.

    I am a pretty avid gym rat (and an “overweight” gymrat at that–it’s a personal hobby, not something I try to impose on others) who keeps up with a lot of fitness news sites and online communities, and along with vegetarian, low-carb, and non-dairy, the gluten-free diet is fast becoming not just a food preference but a “healthier than thou” marker of how virtuous one’s food choices are. I recently heard one trainer describing his gluten-free, low carb, no cheese, vegetarian pizza in a manner that suggested his eating habits were on par with rescuing a litter of kittens from a burning building.

    In certain fitness communities, there is a ton of social pressure to eliminate entire food groups or nutrients, whether or not there is any strong scientific evidence backing that choice up, and gluten is just the latest culprit. Health nuts tend to limit their food choices in the ways that religious ascetics eschew earthly possessions. It’s become a sign, not just of your particular dietary proclivities, but your moral status.

  34. Ellie
    Ellie June 3, 2011 at 12:22 pm |

    llama: If you have a vegan in your group of friends you don’t get to go to most restaurants, you go to vegan ones. That is unless you get sick of eating vegan and cast them out of the group.

    This may very well be what happens because it is really hard to keep organizing a group of non-vegans to go to vegan restaurants time after time.

    So yes for the sake of the vegan in our group I wish that vegan restaurants where more inclusive.

    So what’s the difference between a vegan restaurant with meat in it and a meat restaurant with vegan options? Once it starts serving meat it’s not a vegan restaurant anymore. I’m not disagreeing with the idea of offering options for everybody, just wondering why it’s called something different.

    Also, it’s a lot different for a meat eater to suck it up and eat vegan for a meal than it is the other way around. I’m a meat eater but many of my meals end up vegan on accident without compromising my personal beliefs or dietary preferences.

  35. gretel
    gretel June 3, 2011 at 12:31 pm |

    llama: If you have a vegan in your group of friends you don’t get to go to most restaurants, you go to vegan ones. That is unless you get sick of eating vegan and cast them out of the group.

    We have very different vegan friends, apparently. Even my most militantly vegan friend (who works for a certain very irksome pro-vegan organization) will go to a non-vegan restaurant.

    I recommend having a potluck or picnic somewhere. That way everyone’s happy. Except the person doing the dishes.

  36. zuzu
    zuzu June 3, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    Sheelzebub: I’m honestly kind of weirded out by the requirement in this society for people to explain their personal choices. I mean, if I order soda water instead of beer, or forgo bread, or prefer to eat the vegetarian lasagne, what’s it to anyone?

    No fucking kidding. I quit drinking a few years ago, and it wasn’t that big of a deal when I lived in NYC, because the people I retained as friends weren’t my drinking buddies, who I had to let go (because all we did was drink). I continued to go to Pub Quiz or out to dinner and nobody really gave a crap what I drank because they just weren’t paying attention to it — one of my friends hadn’t even realized that I’d stopped drinking because I came to quiz and she paid much more attention to the contents of her own glass than to mine.

    But I recently moved to California, and my not-drinking has suddenly become an issue. My boss, a lovely man otherwise, pretty much freaked out when he found out I didn’t drink — and he’s been telling other people for no damn reason. We were at a dinner party one evening and suddenly a guy with whom I’d already socialized SHOUTED across the room, “ZUZU, YOU DON’T DRINK? WHY NOT?” He was sitting next to my boss. Wonderful! Love being on the spot like that! And I don’t feel like fucking explaining it in front of everyone, thanks! Even if it were your business, which it’s not! And BTW, asshole, you hadn’t even noticed before he told you!

    But because my boss has been telling people at work about the fact that I don’t drink, it means I don’t get invited to informal work-related social opportunities. I don’t get invited out for drinks. I don’t get invited to events that involve wine country, even though there’s lots of stuff to do in wine country that doesn’t involve booze, and it’s always good to have a sober driver.

    I finally had to just come right out and tell him that he needed to stop doing all that and start including me. He took it well, and I don’t think it occurred to him that a non-drinker might very well be interested in this stuff. I also have some leverage because he really likes me and wants me to stay here until he retires in five years, and I was able to give him guilt about isolating me socially in a place where I don’t know anyone.

    On gluten intolerance: I don’t really know anyone who claims it as a cover for restricted eating, but I do know someone with actual diagnosed Celiac disease who has a hell of a time convincing her mother not to slip wheat into everything at holidays because her mother thinks it’s all in her head.

  37. Nicole
    Nicole June 3, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    Does it make sense that the takeaway that I (and perhaps others) got was that gluten allergies should be regarded with suspicion?

    This is exactly how I was left feeling after reading the post. That and “Who cares if people want to avoid gluten.”

    I don’t!

    As someone who has celiac (proven with an endoscopy even), the fact that there is more awareness about gluten-free makes my life a hell of a lot easier and more affordable. Didn’t realize I had to worry that people wouldn’t actually believe my allergy or understand that consuming a crumb of gluten could trigger an auto-immune response resulting in all sorts of nastiness in my upper GI.

    And here I though the worst part of being confirmed celiac was that I would never be able to enjoy my favorite Thai or Korean dishes (soy sauce…womp womp.)

  38. zuzu
    zuzu June 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm |

    zuzu: On gluten intolerance: I don’t really know anyone who claims it as a cover for restricted eating, but I do know someone with actual diagnosed Celiac disease who has a hell of a time convincing her mother not to slip wheat into everything at holidays because her mother thinks it’s all in her head.

    I should note: this woman is Italian (as is her mother), so I think her mother sees her dietary restriction not as something which keeps her immune system healthy and her pain under control, but as a rejection of her culture and family.

  39. Florence
    Florence June 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm |

    ladysquires: In certain fitness communities, there is a ton of social pressure to eliminate entire food groups or nutrients, whether or not there is any strong scientific evidence backing that choice up, and gluten is just the latest culprit. Health nuts tend to limit their food choices in the ways that religious ascetics eschew earthly possessions. It’s become a sign, not just of your particular dietary proclivities, but your moral status.

    Totally anecdotal, but I have a friend whose obsession with being “the skinny girl” (her words) has led her through a series of exercise and dietary fads for the last ten years all in the name of general health. But the “health” portion of her food intake obsession is heavily tied to an emphases on weight loss and/or maintenance. She was part of the lactose-intolerant trend and is now on the gluten-free wagon. By her statements, it seems like “gluten-free” for her is actually an acronym for “Atkins diet”.

  40. Florence
    Florence June 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm |

    Not an acronym. A substitute. Whatever. You know what I mean.

  41. zuzu
    zuzu June 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm |

    llama: I just wish vegan restaurants had meat choices like others have vegetarian choices.

    Why? Just go to another restaurant if it’s that important to you to eat meat.

  42. ladysquires
    ladysquires June 3, 2011 at 12:48 pm |

    Synonym? I got what you meant :-D

  43. Shoshie
    Shoshie June 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm |

    Ellie: The vegetarian restaurant I managed actually opened a joint deli next door, that served meat, partially for this purpose. They shared some seating area, but had two different counters, two completely separate kitchens, and mostly separate staff– so there was no chance of putting a veggie dish on a meat grill, or anything like that. Two separate businesses, some shared customer space, same owners.

    At the college I went to, which has a substantial percentage of students who keep kosher, they had two kitchens in one dining hall, one that was kosher and one that wasn’t. There were separate plates, silverware, even trays, but it allowed students who kept kosher to easily eat with students who didn’t. It was pretty fab. Of course, the food was crappy dorm food.

  44. Laura
    Laura June 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    And here I though the worst part of being confirmed celiac was that I would never be able to enjoy my favorite Thai or Korean dishes (soy sauce…womp womp.)

    So, home cooking is not always easy to make as tasty or as convenient as eating out, BUT there are (more expensive, bleh) GF soy sauces! I have a friend with Celiac, and I am pretty sure he uses this: http://www.glutastic.com/soy-sauce/

  45. ladysquires
    ladysquires June 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm |

    Just to address the issue of food-policing, however, I DO get what it is like to have your food preferences/needs publicly judged and called into question.

    I, for example, am extremely “sensitive” (I guess) to bitter flavors. This means that chocolate, coffee, and nearly all green vegetables that aren’t deep friend or smothered in a sauce that masks their natural flavor are completely unpalatable to me. I simply cannot stand them. This means, however, that I frequently turn down offers of food–particularly chocolate desserts–simply because I do not care for the taste. And by “do not care for the taste” I mean that attempts to eat chocolate cake are frequently accompanied by the embarrassing but totally involuntary initiation of my gag reflex.

    My food preferences are often interpreted as snobbishness and/or childish recalcitrance (and they could be–I just don’t have the will to fix them along with all of the other things that are fucked up about my personality), but there is a social cost in turning down offers of coffee and chocolate.

    So yeah, food preferences/tolerances are real and really shouldn’t be judged, but there is a tremendous amount of social pressure to restrict and avoid just as there is a tremendous amount of social pressure to accept. And I would frankly just prefer that we all mind our own goddamn business.

  46. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm |

    I think Jill was pointing out the hyperbole surrounding this fad. Speaking strictly for me, all of these people claiming celiac disease and other food intolerance irritate the shit out of me. I know someone who has celiac. It’s no joke. If he eats any gluten at all, he will end up in the hospital. Pretty much any processed food is out, since that has gluten in it.

    I have friends who are lactose intolerant and who prefer to not eat gluten or certain foods. If I have them over, I make sure to either eliminate it from dinner OR (if it’s a dinner party or a get together of many people) have as many options as possible they can eat.

  47. Jim
    Jim June 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm |

    Roadrunner: I just find it really hard to believe that humanity has been eating wheat for 5000 years, and we’re just now discovering that it’s indigestible for a significant part of the population. Celiac is a really serious disease, but it’s also really rare.

    This is the thing – only part of humanity has been eating wheat for any length of time. it only got into Northern China about 3,000 years ago. It’s a minor grain in southern China. Northern Europeans for instance never ate much wheat except on very special occasions. It was hard to grow much north of Champagne and that latitude and people either ate barley and oats in in the west or rye to the east and further north. The problem is that that wheat was the prestige grain in Western cultures because of the earlier dominance of the Mediterranean, so when people got the North America where there are huge areas that grow wheat very well, and it became cheap and abundant, people were inclined to switch to a primarily wheat diet. So while the out-and-out disease may be rare, but there can be other problems with this non-traditional food to which so many people are not adapted.

    Here are the genetics on it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celiac_disease#Genetics See how widespread the mutation is – all the way into India. The mutation doesn’t confer any advantage, but under what were normal conditions for these people it didn’t impose any disadvantage either. Wheat is not some kind of universal, oh-my-God-what’s-wrong with-you food.

    I agree with Sheezlebub way upthread. Commenting on other people’s food choices, or worse yet presuming to judge them, is intrusive and rude. The exception is close family members, to whoever mentioned her husband. Otherwise it’s just a boubndaries violation.

    I take it a step further – a lot of times when kids are finicky about specific foods, they may be experiencing the very first steps of a developing food sensitivity or allergy. These things don’t come on strong all at once. And it isn’t always some kind of power struggle. Food is supposed to be pleasurable, not some kind of grim duty. Death to all Puritans!

  48. Ismone
    Ismone June 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm |

    As someone who is mostly grain-free by choice, I’m going to have to disagree with Jill and the other posters who think wheat and other grains are fine for us all as long as we don’t have celiac.

    I occasionally get food-related hives for pretty much no reason. A culprit has never been found. Some of my siblings believe they have problems with a leaky gut, which is not well understood. There is some celiac in my family, but clearly I don’t have it. There are also some thyroid issues, diabetes, hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, and related conditions. It seems, that for whatever reason, some of us have problems with digestion and with blood sugar regulation. We are also of several ethnicities that have not been eating wheat as long as others.

    For that reason, I switched to what is mainly an Atkins-type diet. And it has been fantastic. My hands don’t shake nearly so much from hypoglycemia. My hyperglycemic relative stopped getting near-constant UTIs. We all are leaner and more capable of doing the types of activities we want. Sometimes I will eat bread or cake or whatever. And a lot of times when I do, I bloat up like a pufferfish.

    Grains are really hard to digest, not just for us, but also for animals. There is a reason why corn-fed beef have to be so stuffed full of antibiotics.

    In short, if eating bread works for you, go for it. But realize that just because someone doesn’t have a diagnosis doesn’t mean they don’t know what is right for them. Yes, people will sometimes do good things for the wrong reasons. Or not-good things because they think they are good. Frankly, that isn’t my problem, and my sister and I and other family members get really annoyed about being cross-examined when we don’t order the rice or ask for no potatoes or send away the bread.

  49. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm |

    And I said it irritates me because I think some people are riding a trend, and it really minimizes what people with food intolerances and allergies go through. That stuff is life-threatening.

    Having said that, it’s rude as fuck to pressure people into eating certain foods or drinking caffeine or alcohol, or sneaking it in. Really, if someone prefers to not partake of something, it’s okay to relax and not take it as a personal rejection of you. Gah. That way, we can peacefully coexist with people who have food allergies/intolerances, picky eaters, teetotalers, caffeine-rejectors, vegetarians, vegans, carnivores, and fruitarians.

  50. zuzu
    zuzu June 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm |

    @ Jim: Wheat’s pretty heavily subsidized, too.

  51. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm |

    I actually have this issue more with my perfume allergy than my food allergies. Artificial scents (and smellable artificial flavors) trigger my asthma, and I get a lot of very huffy “You don’t LIKE my PERFUME?” No, your perfume is lovely, I’ll be over here with my inhaler. Hand lotion’s awful too, with all the scents that go into it. “Are you trying to keep me from moisturizing my dry, cracked, painful skin?” No, really, I’m not.

    I used to love scented things–I still like the smells, but don’t wear them or use them. My mother developed a sensitivity years ago, and even the most lightly scented stuff could irritate her, so I stopped. Scented lotions are often way too strong (you shouldn’t smell me coming down the hall) and scented candles irritate my sinuses. Also, my place smells much better if I crack open a window for a few minutes. Fresh air. WHO’DA THUNK IT.

  52. Ellie
    Ellie June 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    Shoshie: At the college I went to, which has a substantial percentage of students who keep kosher, they had two kitchens in one dining hall, one that was kosher and one that wasn’t.There were separate plates, silverware, even trays, but it allowed students who kept kosher to easily eat with students who didn’t.It was pretty fab.Of course, the food was crappy dorm food.

    There’s another place in town where I live now, where they have a lot of great vegan options in an otherwise super meaty kitchen. They actually have two different deep fryers, which I think is super great! I do really appreciate when a kitchen (or kitchens?) offers lots of choices and still manages to be sensitive to individuals’ needs and preferences. It’s not easy to do, and can be prohibitively expensive to build two separate kitchens (even just get two separate grills or deep fryers) but I think it’s great when someone does it.

  53. Florence
    Florence June 3, 2011 at 1:44 pm |

    ladysquires: Synonym? I got what you meant :-D

    Lulz. I swear I can’t write anything lately without noticing terrible grammar or typos after the fact.

    I, for example, am extremely “sensitive” (I guess) to bitter flavors. This means that chocolate, coffee, and nearly all green vegetables that aren’t deep friend or smothered in a sauce that masks their natural flavor are completely unpalatable to me. I simply cannot stand them. This means, however, that I frequently turn down offers of food–particularly chocolate desserts–simply because I do not care for the taste. And by “do not care for the taste” I mean that attempts to eat chocolate cake are frequently accompanied by the embarrassing but totally involuntary initiation of my gag reflex.

    My sister is the same way. She’s convinced she is a super-taster.

  54. thewhatfor
    thewhatfor June 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm |

    Any time there are fad diets like this, a certain number of people embrace them as panaceas and then go around telling everyone else their health problems would be solved if they just changed their diet.

    I have a few relatives who have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon. I have no idea if they are actually sensitive to it, and it isn’t really any of my business. BUT: they have both become very zealous, to the extent that they’ll say things like, “Oh, you have depression/arthritis/acne? You should really stop eating gluten.” As you can guess, this makes them super fun to be around.

  55. beanphed
    beanphed June 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm |

    I think anyone who doubts the effect of eating excessive amounts of gluten should try eliminating it from your diet for a couple of weeks and then reintroducing it. See how your body feels before, during and after. I’ve done this a couple of times and I noticed a difference in my body. While i haven’t completely given up gluten products, I’m eating them A LOT less then I used to and feeling better for it.

    Gluten’s in a lot of stuff and most folks do not give their digestive system a break from it. Eating any one food day after day for breakfast lunch and dinner may eventually lead to food intolerance. It happened to me when I tried the vegan fad and now soy gives me belly aches.

    Variety is good.

    We also have to remember that most of our diets in the 1900’s and now developed by Kraft and other multinational food companies. They were not always thinking of healthy when they developed all the food we grew up. I can understand how people over time can get a little distrustful of the industry and look to more radical ways of eating.

    I don’t really see it as the same as vegan. Vegan is a lifestyle choice. When food is making you sick? That’s something entirely differently.

  56. Yonmei
    Yonmei June 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm |

    Ismone: As someone who is mostly grain-free by choice, I’m going to have to disagree with Jill and the other posters who think wheat and other grains are fine for us all as long as we don’t have celiac.

    This. It really doesn’t matter why someone’s eliminated a specific food or class of food from their diet. It’s rude as hell to make comments about what someone else has chosen to eat, and speculations about how people who go gluten-free dairy-free whatever-free are just being “fashionable” or are just favouring their pet eating disorder, are encouraging that kind of behaviour by treating some dietary choices as non-privileged.

    Which of course they are.

  57. Florence
    Florence June 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm |

    thewhatfor: I have a few relatives who have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon. I have no idea if they are actually sensitive to it, and it isn’t really any of my business. BUT: they have both become very zealous, to the extent that they’ll say things like, “Oh, you have depression/arthritis/acne? You should really stop eating gluten.” As you can guess, this makes them super fun to be around.

    Oh god, I just attended a raw foods demo that left me sooooo pissed off and frustrated. I left at the point the presenter cheerfully said, “And do you know anyone with cancer? If so, encourage them to quit chemotherapy and eat more raw foods!”

  58. Jim
    Jim June 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm |

    Sheelzebub: Having said that, it’s rude as fuck to pressure people into eating certain foods or drinking caffeine or alcohol, or sneaking it in.

    In fact it can be really dangerous. It can kill someone with a peanut allergy.

    zuzu: @ Jim: Wheat’s pretty heavily subsidized, too.

    I had forgotten about that, Zuzu. That actually made political sense, once upon a time. Now it’s just ossified.

  59. preying mantis
    preying mantis June 3, 2011 at 3:09 pm |

    It kind of floors me that there are people who fuss over someone not drinking. I’ve never really met anyone who wouldn’t interpret that as “is on the wagon” amongst the older crew or “cannot mix alcohol and their medication” amongst the younger. Both of which are usually classed under “none of my business, really, and a terrible idea to harass them about.”

    It doesn’t really floor me that there are people who sneak allergens into food or give people a hard time about allergies/intolerances, mostly because it’s such an unbelievably asshole move that it strikes me as the sort of thing people do when they’re not attending NOM rallies, driving H2s, or yelling at kittens.

  60. H
    H June 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm |

    Jill:
    Ok except no one suggested that anyone bug anyone else about their reasons for avoiding certain foods?

    Except for that being the entire reason for your post.

    Yonmei: Ismone: As someone who is mostly grain-free by choice, I’m going to have to disagree with Jill and the other posters who think wheat and other grains are fine for us all as long as we don’t have celiac.

    This. It really doesn’t matter why someone’s eliminated a specific food or class of food from their diet. It’s rude as hell to make comments about what someone else has chosen to eat, and speculations about how people who go gluten-free dairy-free whatever-free are just being “fashionable” or are just favouring their pet eating disorder, are encouraging that kind of behaviour by treating some dietary choices as non-privileged.

    Which of course they are.

    THIS. Jill, why do people have an obligation to eat wheat unless it’s *really* bad for them? Like, if it’s just a little bad for you, you should still eat it? That makes *no sense.* Sure, if you’d rather feel sick every day and eat pasta, go for it. If you’d rather feel sick every day and torture and murder cows so you can eat cheese, well, that makes me *really* not care about your health. But if someone finds that not eating wheat makes their lives better, there’s no moral claim there. All you have is that it’s non-normative and it seems like that makes you uncomfortable.

  61. Ismone
    Ismone June 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm |

    Jill,

    Regarding why I think you and other posters are stating that wheat is fine and healthy for non-celiac patients and people without diagnosed intolerances. This, from you:

    Notice the phrasing — “causes health problems.” Not that they’re allergic to it or even sensitive. Celiac Disease is a real thing, and it sucks. But only about 1% of Americans have it. And it’s unfortunate that a legitimate intolerance to certain foods is being used as an excuse to just not eat bread (it also makes everyone more skeptical of people who claim gluten allergies).

    I don’t have a sensitivity or allergy to gluten. I have been tested, and apparently have no food allergies, except possibly to tomatoes. For me, it appears to cause health problems. And as beanphed pointed out, it may not be all that great for any of us. It is hard to digest, it is ubquitous, and as someone else pointed out, we northern europeans haven’t been eating it for long, and clearly never as a daily staple.

    Other commenters who made similar statements, like llama:

    I think a part of having some sort of special dietary requirement is the control/power that it gives, the group has to go where everybody can eat something.

    Nope, I don’t do it for control.

    Or ladysquires:

    I tend to suspect that for many non-celiac patients who claim to “feel better” after giving up gluten, the placebo effect may be playing a role. That doesn’t mean that their subjective experience is not valid, but at this point, no mechanism for non-celiac gluten sensitivity has been identified by medical researchers. It is, at bottom, a marketing gimmick for health food companies.

    Just because a doctor hasn’t figured it out doesn’t mean I don’t have problems. I clearly have symptoms, and no, they are not in my head.

    From Brigid,

    I have a feeling that those kind of out and out falsehoods spread by people shilling cook books/products are part of the impetus behind the gluten free fad.

    So, she is calling the idea that gluten can be bad because white flour is so gluey and out-and-out falsehood. It really isn’t, btw, all white bread which is high in gluten is really gluey. That is actually the reason we use gluten in so many things–because it binds them together. Whether or not that causes problems in the gut, well, I would have to know what the woman actually said and do some reading.

    From Roadrunner,

    At the end of the day, our stomachs mostly evolved to eat food–meat, grains, fruit, vegetables, all of it. (The exception, of course is lactose–us northern Europeans are a little weird in our ability to continue digesting lactose after childhood.) While I don’t doubt that some people’s stomachs have trouble with some food elements, I just find it really hard to believe that humanity has been eating wheat for 5000 years, and we’re just now discovering that it’s indigestible for a significant part of the population. Celiac is a really serious disease, but it’s also really rare.

    This was explained by another commenter as not being accurate. We haven’t been eating grain forever, and some population groups, including ones that I belong to, eat it very sparingly.

    It is entirely likely that grain played a crucial role in the development of advanced societies, as it is a food that is calorie dense, can be farmed easily, can keep for years, and can be easily transported. That does not mean our bodies like digesting it.

  62. Ismone
    Ismone June 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm |

    Well, Jill and I can find common ground on the torturing and murdering cows thing. Feministe. A both/and blog.

  63. Ismone
    Ismone June 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm |

    Well, if you want to pretend that by setting up a dichotomy between a “legitimate intolerance” and “an excuse to just not eat bread” that you aren’t advocating anything, okay.

    I do not have a medically diagnosed intolerance or allergy. So I guess I fall into your latter category, although yes, earlier you did say go ahead and eat what you want if it makes you feel better.

    I guess I am confused as to why you think people aren’t eating that way because it makes them feel better. Sort of like how I don’t smile when I don’t feel like smiling.

  64. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 3, 2011 at 3:38 pm |

    thewhatfor:
    Any time there are fad diets like this, a certain number of people embrace them as panaceas and then go around telling everyone else their health problems would be solved if they just changed their diet.

    I have a few relatives who have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon.I have no idea if they are actually sensitive to it, and it isn’t really any of my business.BUT: they have both become very zealous, to the extent that they’ll say things like, “Oh, you have depression/arthritis/acne?You should really stop eating gluten.”As you can guess, this makes them super fun to be around.

    Lord. I hate assholes like this as much as I hate douchebags who demand to know why you are eating/drinking (or forgoing) certain things (and try to slip them to you if you’re allergic/intolerant). Both types of people deserve to be locked in a gladiator death match ring for all eternity.

  65. vanessa
    vanessa June 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm |

    I’ve been stuck mostly in bed for the past few weeks after a very painful ankle surgery, and I wish to thank you all for the delightfully bitchy feeling that comes from reading absurd arguments on Feministe threads.

  66. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm |

    thewhatfor: Oh, you have depression/arthritis/acne? You should really stop eating gluten.”

    The arthritis bit isn’t as nutty as you think. Because some forms of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis are auto-immune based, food allergies can be a trigger for flair ups. My grandmother has auto-immune arthritis and food allergies, and since she’s stopped eating tomatoes, one of her main triggers, she has had much less pain.

    Now the problem is when this is extrapolated. Someone has a wheat allergy that triggers their arthritis, and they decide all arthritis is caused by gluten, and disaster. Trying to explain to somebody that what works for them =/= miracle cure for all is fun times.

  67. gretel
    gretel June 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm |

    preying mantis: It kind of floors me that there are people who fuss over someone not drinking. I’ve never really met anyone who wouldn’t interpret that as “is on the wagon” amongst the older crew or “cannot mix alcohol and their medication” amongst the younger.

    Same here. But I’ve learned the hard way that if I’m not drinking, everyone will assume I’m pregnant. Since if you and your uterus are in your 30s and you don’t want a drink you obviously have a gluten-free bun in the oven!

  68. Ismone
    Ismone June 3, 2011 at 4:03 pm |

    Jill,

    I see your point, but on the whole I think gluten and grains are bad for many of us, and that Atkins is right, and starches do make, at least some of us, fat. Now, someone whose ancestral diet contains a lot of grain and who feels happy and healthy eating grain–I’m not going to try to evangelize them.

    I don’t doubt that people with disordered eating use excuses to avoid scrutiny. I just don’t know whether that is a significant problem for people who avoid grains and/or starch. And some people might think I have disordered eating because my food preferences mean that sometimes, I pick through food for what I want to eat, and I’ve lost a pretty significant amount of weight.

    But as someone who doesn’t like eating grains, I get a ton of pressure about it, which is irritating, because most of the people doing it don’t really know anything about nutrition.

  69. Ismone
    Ismone June 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm |

    Attackfish,

    Actually, sometimes when I eat a lot of carbs (particularly after I have eaten very few for a week or so) my joints hurt the next day. Don’t know why it happens, but it happens like clockwork, and to my dad, also. But there are plenty of people who eat carbs who don’t get joint inflammation, and for years, I didn’t either.

  70. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    Can we also throw into the pit the people who say that if you eat cheese, you enjoy the torture and murder of cows?

    But I DO enjoy the torture and murder of cows. And kittens. And puppies. And fluffy bunnies. I eat them for a delicious snack, flavored with the tears of a million imprisoned elves.

  71. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    @Ismone This is true. Also, food can have a huge non-allergy based impact on mood. (It also, for some of us rare birds can have a huge allergy based impact. The brain can be affected by auto immune issues too, maple syrup and flax make my mother nearly instantly suicidal and paranoid. This runs in the family, and it’s part of what diagnoses our particular rare auto-immune disease) Also, frequent auto-immune flare ups can cause the body to try to suppress immune function, leading to small skin infections commonly known as zits. There’s also allergy related joint swelling. In other words, you just don’t know. (I know the allergy stuff better because I have it. I don’t mean to be dismissive of non immune-based food reactions)

  72. zuzu
    zuzu June 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    preying mantis: It kind of floors me that there are people who fuss over someone not drinking. I’ve never really met anyone who wouldn’t interpret that as “is on the wagon” amongst the older crew or “cannot mix alcohol and their medication” amongst the younger. Both of which are usually classed under “none of my business, really, and a terrible idea to harass them about.”

    Honestly? I think in my boss’s case, he’s self-conscious about his own drinking, so he watches other people and feels as if those who don’t drink are judging him somehow, or are making a show of self-control, like people who turn down desserts. It’s also highly non-normative to not drink unless you are ill, religious or on the wagon.

  73. zuzu
    zuzu June 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm |

    Jill: I should really leave obnoxious people alone, but: As I’ve clarified several times now, the point of the post was not to say that people should bug other people about their reasons for avoiding certain foods. It was to say that media coverage of food trends is woefully inadequate.

    To be fair, is the Dining section really the place for that kind of analysis? Bittman might be a good one to handle it, since he’s getting into food policy, or the Science or Health sections. Dining’s really all about food trends and recipes and where to buy stuff.

  74. Shaun
    Shaun June 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm |

    I wish people could separate out an alarming *trend* from castigating individuals or looking at everyone who says they have an allergy with suspicion. There is definitely a douchey way to handle this.

    There’s also a lot of sense to what Jill is saying, and I’d like to point out an ableist undercurrent to the whole gluten-free craze. Gluten-free/casein-free is one of the longer-running autism “cure” fads–when I was a teenager my caretakers attempted to cut me off from wheats and dairy, completely and immediately, for this reason. A disproportionate number of the people I run into, on gluten-free diets, are being forced onto it by parents/caretakers. I guess I object to this a lot more mildly than something that’s really actively harmful like chelation, but it still removes nutrition choice from the individual, and it’s so hard to eat healthily as it is for a lot of people.

    I know that free eating choice is what a lot of the posters on this thread are advocating, but when society or the media harps inflated statistics or broadcasts a gluten-free diet as a lifestyle or ideal, then this sort of thing affects those of us who are deemed in need of a dietary change because or diets or our bodies or our enzymes are deemed defective, scientifically or not.

  75. Jim
    Jim June 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm |

    Jill: Can we also throw into the pit the people who say that if you eat cheese, you enjoy the torture and murder of cows?

    Or maybe buy them a ticket to some place where people live off their cows, like Kenya or the west of Ireland? People joke about how people treeat their dogs like their children; that is nothing compared to the way people treat their cows. People name their cows like children; hell somewhere, don’t remember where, the men name themselves after their favorite cows! The of course there’s India, where cows are considered the mothers of humanity. And yes, milk is a dietary staple in all of these places. Oh the HORROR!

  76. miga
    miga June 3, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    @Nicole: Have you tried braggs fluid aminos? I know, it sounds weird, but trust me- it tastes the same as soy (maybe slightly less tang, but only slightly), and can be used for all the same stuff. But it’s gluten free!

  77. Meg
    Meg June 3, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    I’ve been told on several occasions (all by nonmedical persons), that I should give up wheat and dairy for the sake of my eczema. I’m also one of those people who says “sorry, can’t do X, I have allergies,” without being tested. I know, though, that I’m not allergic to wheat — hell, it might contribute to the eczema, but it makes me happy. I AM allergic to perfumes, cigarette smoke (including skin contact with anyone who smokes, no matter how recently or not recently). For a horrible, terrible 7 year period I was violently allergic to dogs. When I say allergic, I mean that within 30 minutes of touching any of the above, my skin bubbles and starts to fall off. I had major problems with people declaring “Oh, you can touch MY dog. He’s hypoallergenic!” — and then get personally insulted when I insisted that I was still not going to pet their whatever-doodle, since while he might not shed, he still had the oils on his fur that caused my problem. Thankfully I grew out of that one… now if I could just age out of the rest of ‘em. Or get sufficient health insurance to get tested so I could finally know what good smelling things I’m allowed in this world.

  78. zuzu
    zuzu June 3, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    Jim: Or maybe buy them a ticket to some place where people live off their cows, like Kenya or the west of Ireland? People joke about how people treeat their dogs like their children; that is nothing compared to the way people treat their cows. People name their cows like children; hell somewhere, don’t remember where, the men name themselves after their favorite cows! The of course there’s India, where cows are considered the mothers of humanity. And yes, milk is a dietary staple in all of these places. Oh the HORROR!

    Yes, just ignore factory farming, because cows are treated well where factory farming doesn’t happen!

    Wow, there’s a lot of cross-pollinization going on, argument-fallacy-wise, between this and the Judas thread.

  79. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. June 3, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    Jill: I mean, I guess anorexia makes some people feel better, and anorexics aren’t eating anything they don’t want to eat. Extreme diets, or refusing to eat whole categories of food because you’re afraid of getting fat, might make you feel better, and it means you aren’t eating anything you don’t “want” to eat. But I’m not sure we need to shrug our shoulders and be like, “Oh well, ok then!”

    Actually there’s a new study out about anorexia that suggests (from what little I’ve read) that it may be, in part, a metabolic disorder rather than simply disordered eating (as its often described). Food for thought anyway. /derail

  80. Yonmei
    Yonmei June 3, 2011 at 5:25 pm |

    Ismone; But as someone who doesn’t like eating grains, I get a ton of pressure about it, which is irritating, because most of the people doing it don’t really know anything about nutrition.

    *nods nods* Like the people who will tell you seriously that being a vegetarian (or a vegan) means you can’t be getting enough protein or iron or whatever in your diet. They were a lot more common twenty years ago, as were apazine comments (because this was before blogs) like this post, endorsing the teasing and harassment of vegetarians because we’re not eating the same as “everyone else”. Well, WTF should everyone eat like everyone else? Chacun à son goût.

    Attackfish: Now the problem is when this is extrapolated. Someone has a wheat allergy that triggers their arthritis, and they decide all arthritis is caused by gluten, and disaster. Trying to explain to somebody that what works for them =/= miracle cure for all is fun times.

    I had a friend who cured herself of severe rheumatoid arthritis by cutting out dairy. (And I mean severe – wheelchair-dependent in bad attacks, walking with a stick.) After she quit eating dairy, she stopped needing a wheelchair, she could walk two or three miles a day without a stick, she could hold down a full-time job – it was quite amazing to see. So I never minded when she’d evangelise on the wonders of cutting out dairy, though I like cheese (and of course the torture and murder of innocent cows) because I figured what she was really communicating was that she felt wonderful about herself – and I thought she well deserved to do so.

    (Besides, she never evangelised about cutting out dairy over a meal – and it’s not much of a hardship to me to eat vegan once in a while, I’d just hate to give up cheese/cow-torture forever. It was always when we were talking about other things that related to what-she-could-do-now versus what-she-couldn’t-do-then.)

  81. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 3, 2011 at 5:39 pm |

    Yonmei: I could give up the cheese, but giving up cow torture is too much. (more seriously, I’m in a position where I can support non-factory dairy farms, and I do but I’m not in a position where I can give up animal proteins).

    I too will rhapsodize about my medical treatments and diet, because until my family managed to find care for me, I had seizures so constantly that I couldn’t speak or function, and I was in the hospital as often as not. Sometimes it’s difficult to make clear that I don’t think it would work wonders for anyone outside of the small population with my orphan illness.

  82. saurus
    saurus June 3, 2011 at 6:08 pm |

    How do we know that using gluten-free as a guise for weight-loss or food-shame is a real phenomenon? To quote Jill, how do we know that there’s “a whole lot of people [who] use it as a way to avoid eating”?

    I know people who say they’re “off carbs” or whatever when we’re passing around a bowl of bread, but I don’t personally know anyone who abandons gluten unless it really does make them sick, or they feel like our bodies don’t digest it well or whatever. So I’m curious how much of a phenomenon these fake-gluten-abstainers really are? And by “curious” I mean genuinely curious, not necessarily “doubtful”.

    This is not to say there aren’t some very fucked up conflations between healthy eating and dieting, but are we just replacing one trend piece “omg gluten” with another “omg gluten-free fakers”?

    Anyway, I don’t think we should be “casting a jaundiced eye” on gluten-free; it’s faddishness is making life a lot easier for people who historically couldn’t get their hands on any gluten-free alternatives very easily, just as the rise of vegetarianism means I don’t have to eat pasta primavera every. single. time. I go out with friends. I think the problem is fat-shaming, not gluten-free.

  83. Stephanie - Green Stay at Home Mom

    As a lifelong nondrinker, I completely understand why people don’t like to explain their food preferences. It’s not religious, dietary or anything beyond a simple preference for me. I’ve never developed a taste for alcoholic drinks of any sort, so they taste awful and smell awful to me. Anyone who wants to drink around me, fine. I won’t complain. I might grin secretively if asked the next day if you did anything stupid while drunk.

    I prefer that people be open when there’s an actual issue to be considered. I was disappointed to find out that one of my daughter’s friends was gluten intolerant, only because I was told at the party, no time to get her a special treat she could have to replace the cake the other kids were having. Would’ve been nice to be able to prepare for that.

  84. Maia
    Maia June 3, 2011 at 7:59 pm |

    I do think allergies and intolerances and the way they play out are complicated, because there are a lot of contradictory social pressures going on.

    In some circles (actually many, but in different ways) the association between morality and food is strong – and in this association giving up a particular food group is seen as a moral act. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t also social pressure to eat what everyone else eats. In food, like in many areas of life where women are involved, nothing is actually OK – there is no winning – just different ways what you do is wrong.

    I’m deeply invested in this because I’m highly, highly intolerant of all parts of dairy products (things I have detected dairy products in through my reactions: wine and sorbet). And I’m strongly opposed to pathologising food. I work quite hard to use language and attitude towards my allergy which makes it clear that the problem is not with cheese – but mine (for example I never describe myself as dairy-free). But still a lot of people kind of project around my allergy, and take me as making some general comment about how people shouldn’t eat dairy.

    For a long time I moved in largely feminist circles where it wasn’t acceptable to say “I want to lose weight”, but it was acceptable to say “I’m vegan, or I’m gluten free, or I just want to be healthy”. I realised that the latter as a substitute for the former was probably more insidious, and more likely to be a damaging discourse to hear and be around.

    I think the idea that we can control our health is deeply deeply harmful (even while I acknowledge that many people can do things that influence their health). Yonmei:

    So I never minded when she’d evangelise on the wonders of cutting out dairy, though I like cheese (and of course the torture and murder of innocent cows) because I figured what she was really communicating was that she felt wonderful about herself – and I thought she well deserved to do so.

    What your friend said may not have hurt you. But I have a friend who has had arthritis since she was 5. And since then everyone who has heard that someone they knew had had their arthritis cured by anything. And when she was a child she didn’t have control over her own medical treatments. So the way your friend is talking may be particularly damaging to people who hear what she says, never hear of the social model of disability, and when they have a disabled child decide to focus on the fact that she can get better.

    So I think these discussions are important, but I do think they have to be structural. To me the biggest question is how do you expose the damage of a discourse of morality and infinitely achieveable health – without attacking people who all have to live within that discourse.

  85. ellid
    ellid June 3, 2011 at 8:02 pm |

    A close friend of mine is violently allergic to poultry, shellfish, and seafood. Doesn’t matter if it’s organic, free-range, turkey, duck, chicken, salmon, scrod, halibut, lobster what have you – she has ANYTHING with wings, fins, or a shell (including organic, free-range eggs because they’ve been fertilized), she becomes very sick indeed. She has to have her husband work as a taste tester when they go to a new restaurant, and she *always* questions waitresses about whether the vegetables were cooked in chicken broth to enhance the flavor.

    Her mother and father were convinced for years that she was faking it or exaggerating because she simply doesn’t like chicken or seafood. She finally had an attack that nearly killed her in a high end restaurant in Boston after a salad was contaminated by a single piece of lobster meat. *Then* they believed her, but only after they damn near had to rush her to Mass General in an ambulance.

    The kicker? Her father is a doctor. That’s right. He’s a physician, and has been since before she was born. You’d think he would believe her if anyone would, but nooooo…….

  86. Athenia
    Athenia June 3, 2011 at 8:07 pm |

    My mom developed celiac disease a few years ago and yes, it does suck.

    I have two feelings about this:

    1) I’m not surprised that the gluten-free diet is becoming more “popular”—my mother is of the baby boomer generation and they say after years of processed food, that can trigger it. So, it’s not so surprising.

    2) My mom tells me that an actual gluten-free diet is hugely fatty and actually not that healthy. So, I shall laugh at people who think they’ll lose weight by doing it.

  87. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 3, 2011 at 8:31 pm |

    What your friend said may not have hurt you. But I have a friend who has had arthritis since she was 5. And since then everyone who has heard that someone they knew had had their arthritis cured by anything. And when she was a child she didn’t have control over her own medical treatments. So the way your friend is talking may be particularly damaging to people who hear what she says, never hear of the social model of disability, and when they have a disabled child decide to focus on the fact that she can get better.

    THIS.

    Also, I continue to be both shocked and disgusted at the demands for explanations people get for turning things down or forgoing certain foods. And rather agog at others evangelizing their super magic dietary or lifestyle cure-all. Really. I think a lot of people need a nice, hot cup of STFU.

  88. Ashley
    Ashley June 3, 2011 at 8:33 pm |

    I’m a breastfeeding mother and I have dealt with so much food intolerance evangelism over the past 2 years that I have lost pretty much all respect for claims of food intolerance. In the first four months of my daughter’s life I was told to quit dairy 40 times. I actually counted, and gave up at 40. Because, you see, dairy is poison, and [insert normal baby behavior here] is only caused by a dairy intolerance. Cradle cap, frequent poo, infrequent poo, occasional crying, preferring to be held in one position, all caused by dairy. Everyone should get off dairy because they’ll feel SO MUCH BETTER!!!!!

    I have good friends who cycle through “allergies.” This month it’s yeast, corn, soy, nightshades, and dairy. A few months ago it was yeast, corn, soy, and dairy. Before that it was dairy and gluten. Before that it was gluten, nightshades, and nuts. And so on and so forth. Now, I’m not bothered by this friend because she’s not evangelical about it. Not once has she said “your baby will have perfect skin if you cut out dairy!” (I was actually told that), but many others have.

    I’m an accredited breastfeeding peer counselor, and often advise new mothers on feeding their babies. Just this past week I had to tell a new mom that her 2 week old’s projectile vomiting was worth seeing a doctor over. You see, her first attempt to “treat” this vomiting was cutting dairy out of her diet (exclusively breastfed baby). Thankfully she called me, but I hear stuff like this all the time. I have another friend who’s cut out eggs because her son got one single diaper rash. Oh, and another friend who didn’t breastfeed, but at the hospital nurse’s urging overfed her newborn, who promptly spit up the excess. “Oh look at all the spit up, your baby must have a dairy allergy!” So the mom used the much more expensive soy formula.

    And so on and so forth. I don’t care what people choose to eat, but I am deeply concerned that all too often people are jumping to food allergy/intolerance/whatever as the sole cause of all of their problems, to the potential serious harm of their children. And then they pester me to do the same.

  89. Ismone
    Ismone June 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm |

    Athenia,

    High fat diets are not unhealthful. Blood lipid profiles actually improve when people cut out carbohydrates, not lipids.

  90. April
    April June 3, 2011 at 9:29 pm |

    I’m not even going to try reading the comments above mine, because I can only imagine why there are already 98, and I don’t need to raise my blood pressure this evening, so my apologies if what I’m going to say has already been said in some way or another.

    I don’t know much about the gluten-free trend, except for when I was a server and accidentally put croutons on a lady’s salad who said she had Celiac’s, and I felt very bad, because not realizing that croutons are bread was rather silly. But from what I hear from many people, once they stop eating gluten, they feel amazing. I’m particularly interested in this because I’m really interested in food and the way it makes me feel. I’ve been considering eliminating gluten for this reason, but haven’t gotten around to learning more about it just yet.

    Anyway, my interest in trying out this gluten-free thing is not at all about weight loss, or trying to have an excuse not to eat in public or something. It’s just a really strong desire to use food as fuel for my body, and putting the “right” things into it to achieve good health and feel awesome. And in my social circle, as well as many other urban hipsters I know and meet, this is sort of a “thing.” My brother-in-law rarely eats bread, not because he’s got Celiac’s, but because he actively avoids everything processed. (The whole Paleo diet is a serious trend among the Minneapolis cycling community ATM.)

  91. April
    April June 3, 2011 at 9:38 pm |

    (God, “urban hipster” sounds so… ick, but I couldn’t think of another easily recognizable way to describe such people…)

  92. orchid
    orchid June 3, 2011 at 9:41 pm |

    I understand Jill’s frustration about the “gluten-free craze” and the way that some women adopt it as a trendy diet. For these sorts of people, often when they say ‘gluten-free’ they mean ‘carb free’, whereas anyone who actually has coeliac disease very rarely cuts out carbs completely – we still eat pasta, bread and cakes, but make them gluten-free instead. And the trendiness of it certainly gives being gluten-free a bad name – in a restaurant, actual coeliac sufferers can then be treated with the same disdain as irritating fussy ladies who are following one fad diet after another.

    That said, there is a lot that we still don’t know about coeliac disease and gluten intolerance, and the 1% figure is almost certainly a VAST underestimate of the actual number of people who have serious problems with gluten. One reason for this is that many doctors are not yet experienced in accurately testing for coeliac disease (and to really be sure, you need to run the whole gamut of strict elimination diets, blood tests, gene tests, gastroscopy and endoscopy with biopsy, even ultrasounds, to be sure what the problem is – it’s time consuming and expensive and because the symptoms can be so similar to symptoms of other problems, often the testing doesn’t get taken all the way). The other problem is that the statistics don’t even consider the numbers of people who don’t have coeliac disease but who have “health problems” caused by gluten. Though this has been for a long time dismissed as impossible or imagined, some research was completed very recently which demonstrated that there is definitive evidence for gluten-intolerance in non-coeliacs (published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology based on research carried out by Prof. Peter Gibson at Monash University’s Eastern Health Clinical School). This is based on the most current way of defining coeliac disease, which incorporates the genetic predisposition to it as well as the various symptoms. (If you have the gene, you may or may not get coeliac disease, but if you don’t have the gene, it’s something other than coeliac disease). So, when people do feel they have a problem with gluten, but it doesn’t show up in the standard tests (although there is actually no standard practice here at all), it doesn’t mean they’re making it up. It’s often at that point that people turn to alternative practitioners who may ‘diagnose’ gluten as a problem, but this is not great because they’re not trained to do so (and the problem could still be something other than gluten).

    One of the main reasons why the medical community thinks coeliac disease/gluten intolerance may be developed is, as mentioned by various commenters, the idea that the human digestive system has not evolved fast enough to cope with the vast amounts of wheat we ended up eating in various population centres. And while humans may have been eating grains for a long time, we ate more diverse grains, and didn’t refine them so they had MORE gluten (because gluten is what makes bread stretchy and fluffy when baked), and didn’t stuff gluten in every possible consumable, as we do now. In many countries, wheat is a cheap filler, and gets added to everything from soy sauce to chewy candy to stock cubes. So, in reality, we are still exposed to it far more than we were historically. (It’s much the same situation with the development of fructose malabsorption – this is often attributed to the large amounts of high fructose corn syrup that are used as a sweetener in EVERYTHING in the US, because it’s the cheapest option).

    There’s another emerging idea about the causes of gluten intolerance, which is still being investigated. Within the sub-components of the gluten protein, there is a unique combination of amino acids which matches only one other substance that we know of so far – the type of fungus that humans are very prone to, found most commonly on the feet, groin area – and in the gut. There are some suggestions that for people with coeliac disease, or maybe just for the people with gluten intolerance, their immune system is mistaking gluten for this fungus (which can be very damaging if it overpopulates the gut), and attacking it for that reason. (Maybe, people with gluten intolerance are actually more highly evolved, because they have this ability to attack the fungus more viciously?)

    Basically, there’s a lot more to the gluten issue than we know about yet, so it would be premature for the wider community to start dividing people into those with legitimate intolerances and those who are just jumping on the bandwagon – there are so many different reasons for getting on that wagon!

  93. zuzu
    zuzu June 3, 2011 at 10:21 pm |

    Ismone:
    Athenia,

    High fat diets are not unhealthful.Blood lipid profiles actually improve when people cut out carbohydrates, not lipids.

    They can be for people with certain conditions. Blanket statements like you just made are harmful because they assume everyone’s body reacts the same way to everything.

    Ask me about the gallstone I just had removed from my bile duct that coulda killed me! And how I have to eat a low-fat diet after the surgery because my pancreas might decide to try to kill me because it’s miffed about the surgery inconveniencing it!

  94. Azalea
    Azalea June 4, 2011 at 1:15 am |

    But…if someone WANTS to lose weight and weigh less shouldn’t they be able to do so without being shamed? Why are we even at a point where other people’s bodies are being policed? First it was you MUST stay skinny and now its you MUST remain the size you are right now no matter what the hell you want because if you don’t other people’s feelings will be hurt and they matter more than you. There are people who absolutely HATE Jennifer Hudson for losing weight (that SHE wanted to lose by the way) as if she needed to stay that size for them. People should be able to gain or lose weight when they want, using whatever legal method they choose without other people policing them. The focus should be on each person remaining healthy vs remaining a certain size or weight. If someone wants to diet SO EFFING WHAT?! I’m concerned that people feel as though they have to diet in secret.

  95. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth June 4, 2011 at 1:20 am |

    I think an analogy to health in general can be made. Some people are really healthy, whether through luck or hard work. Some people have illnesses or disorders, and some people are hypochondriacs. People in category a or b can be pleasant or unpleasant depending on many different factors, and people in category c are pretty much usually not that fun to hang around. Judging whether someone is actually ill or just a hypochondriac is really hard for anyone who is not their doctor to do, so sometimes it’s hard for people to know whether their friends are b or c, and people will usually bring their own perspectives to the issue, whether it’s a history of dealing with ableism, or a realization that a vast majority of these undiagnosed conditions occur in wealthy white women in first world countries, etc, and judge accordingly.

    With food in particular, it seems particularly the case in the US that things can never be nuanced. A food is either great or evil, and shifts radically. Fat, gluten, eggs, dairy, corn syrup, either that’s ALL you should eat, or you should never eat it. Foods that were fine yesterday (pasta) are now pure evil, and foods that were evil (bacon fat) should now be eaten by the cupful at every meal. Running counter to the trend can definitely get you judged or make eating harder.
    Also, depending on where you live or what circles you run in, gluten can actually be a dirty word in some circles, and to be like, “yeah, I eat gluten” is akin to admitting your heroin habit. Ironically, my friend with celiac is the least judgmental person I’ve met when it comes to gluten, but there are plenty of people who’ve seen the light and even if they don’t mean to evangelize, and up coming off as holier than thou or proselytizing. Even on this blog, there are people who say, “maybe if your ancestors have eaten grains for a long time, you can eat grains, but otherwise you can’t,” never mind plenty of Northern Europeans/Chinese people eat gluten with no problem. Speaking in generalizing language like that gets people’s hackles up, because the implication is then “you, Northern European/Chinese person, are unhealthy for eating X, which I, based on my own experiences, have ruled out for you.”

    Finally, there are people who selectively avoid certain foods when it’s convenient or not. It’s hard not to judge if someone claims they can’t eat X in this product, but happily eats X in that product. (Like vegans who wear leather). I agree, it’s really nobody’s business, but it’s hard to take someone’s self-diagnosed allergy super seriously when it’s conveniently only found in food they don’t like or at times or places when they don’t want to eat. Again, it’s not that I think people should be forced to eat what they don’t want, but it’s annoying when people claim health issues they don’t have, and I imagine it’s annoying for people with health issues too.

  96. PeggyLuWho
    PeggyLuWho June 4, 2011 at 4:17 am |

    First, I am that person. Rather, I was. I was vegetarian for 7 years, because I was trying to cover up the fact that I have an eating disorder. It really does happen, and it really would be nice if someone could/would talk about it, and it really bums me out that most of the vegetarians or vegans I know are very resistant to what I have to say about it. Anyway, bring on the pork buns.

    Second, I legitimately lactose intolerant AND allergic to dairy. Intolerance means I get gut problems, and the allergy means my sinus swell and sometimes block to an excruciating level where I end up in the ER begging for a merciful beheading. Fact – people who are lactose intolerant can actually eat most hard cheeses without symptoms, because the lactose is removed with the whey when cheese is made. Until I learned that I was also allergic (“You mean that’s the reason why I haven’t been able to breathe out of my left nostril…EVER?”) I used to eat cheese all the time. It irks the crap out of me when I hear people say they can’t eat cheese because of lactose intolerance. It also bothers me when I say I’m allergic, and someone says, “Can’t you just take those pills?” because people think intolerance and allergy are the exact same thing….Okay, I’m totally derailing into my own personal rant about my stupid allergy.

    Point being, it’s more like the cows are torturing me with their creamy deliciousness that I can’t eat.

    And, finally, yes, as a person in their thirties in possession of a uterus, the assumption almost always is that if you’re not knocking them back, you must be knocked up.

    Especially in California, I’ve noticed.

    Welcome, Zuzu. I apologize for the preoccupation of your boss with what’s in your cup. I differ to the wisdom of Lil Wayne – “I think people need to mind their own business. I don’t care if it was heroin in my cup, it’s in my cup, Fuck you.”

  97. Leslie
    Leslie June 4, 2011 at 8:14 am |

    Celiac isn’t rare – 1 out of every 133 people have it – which actually makes it pretty common. It’s not an allergy but rather an auto-immune disease. I’ve seen numbers as high as 1 in 10 people have some gluten antibodies in their blood based on a number of studies – so lots of people have varying degrees of sensitivity. It is possible to be both allergic to wheat/gluten AND have Celiac -the two are not the same. My son has Celiac disease and reacts quite differently (and gets far sicker) than my friend with a gluten allergy. Part of why Celiac is on the increase is because wheat has been selectively bred for the last generation to have more gluten content – it’s about twice the gluten content now compared to 25 years ago. That makes for better bread but also more likelihood of developing sensitivities.

    People in the gluten-free community talk about the “brain fog” they get after ingesting gluten – and it turns out there’s a link between brain function and the gluten proteins. There is lots of good research to back this up – look at celiac.com and search for gluten + brain and you’ll see lots of peer reviewed articles not just woo. Given that it makes sense that eating gluten free can help some people with autism (which seems to be a range of problems and not one thing despite the catch-all name).

    A gluten free diet does not have to be a high fat, low whole grain diet just as a wheat containing diet does not have to be high fat and no whole grains. It certainly requires more work to do but can be much healthier. Our household went gluten free to avoid cross contaminating my son with Celiac – when I stopped eating gluten I found I felt better too so stopped eating it even when away from home. I don’t see the need to be indignant about what other people do or don’t eat. Everyone’s body is different and respecting people’s efforts to be healthy shouldn’t be an occasion for moralizing. So what if some people are going gluten free for faddish reasons. It’s a lot of work to do so most won’t stick with it unless they find they feel better doing so and in that case where’s the loss?

  98. Athenia
    Athenia June 4, 2011 at 9:07 am |

    Ismone:
    Athenia,

    High fat diets are not unhealthful.Blood lipid profiles actually improve when people cut out carbohydrates, not lipids.

    But a true gluten-free diet isn’t simply “cutting out carbohydrates”—it’s about cutting out gluten. For example, you can’t have soy sauce unless it’s of the tamari variety because surprise, surprise, soy sauce has gluten in it.

  99. Jo
    Jo June 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    I’ve read a lot of the comments—though not all, I couldn’t make it all the way through, so forgive me if I sound repetitive.

    My *problem* or *disagreement* with this post is that, despite whatever cultural implications there are of people PERHAPS using Celiac as a front, that Celiac is indeed a serious disease and I think great, regardless of whether or not it’s a “fad,” that people are becoming much more aware of the diseases’ existence. I have been blessed without any food allergies so far in life, but I have friends and family members with celiac, and I know how much it friggin sucks to go to a restaurant and EVERY TIME have to explain what you can’t eat—and you’re still not guaranteed to get something you can eat. I am glad that there is now more awareness about the issue.

    I don’t think it’s even necessary for the New York Times to mention the use of celiac as a front for eating issues because, well, it’s an article about celiac and not eating issues. Those things don’t always have to be listed in the same sentence. I think that would be detrimental exactly because people would be taught to question those with serious food concerns.

  100. Shaun
    Shaun June 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm |

    Leslie, statistically speaking, some Autistics have Celiac disease or are gluten sensitive. It doesn’t mean gluten-free helps with the AUTISM.

  101. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm |

    @shaun- there’s some indication that for some (certainly not all or even most) autistics, their symptoms can be tied to food allergies, which is why eliminating dairy has helped some people on the spectrum. I’m certainly good evidence that allergies can cause neurological symptoms, with my seizures and narcolepsy. Autism is poorly understood, and as Leslie said may in fact be a host of separate things with many different causes that happen to have similar symptoms.

    There’s also the possibility that some of these people have been mis-diagnosed, and actually have something closer to what I have. When I’m in my seizure halo, I have very autistic-like symptoms, and was diagnosed as such twice as a child. Since my symptoms came and went, my parents were thankfully doubtful.

  102. Ismone
    Ismone June 4, 2011 at 4:54 pm |

    zuzu,

    I should have said, for most people, high fat diets are not unhealthful. You are right, of course, that some medical conditions interfere with the ability to digest certain fats.

    Elisabeth,

    We know that grain is harder to digest then other foods, and that some people come from cultures where they have not been eating it for long. I am not putting any morality on it, but it is less safe, in general, to eat a non-ancestral food. It doesn’t mean it will harm you, but it does mean there is a higher risk of harm.

    Athenia,

    You were taking aim at high fat diets. You are incorrect that they are unhealthful. These were your very words:

    “My mom tells me that an actual gluten-free diet is hugely fatty and actually not that healthy. So, I shall laugh at people who think they’ll lose weight by doing it.”

    Shaun,

    There is an auto-immune component to autism, so being careful about allergies and the immune system could have a very positive effect on autistic people. Depending on the cause of their autism, as it probably has multiple causes.

  103. Shaun
    Shaun June 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm |

    Ismone, you state there’s an auto-immune component to autism and then say there’s multiple causes. We don’t know what causes autism beyond there definitely being a genetic component and maybe/probably being an environmental component, so no, you can’t just say there IS an auto-immune component, unless you’re a time-traveler working with a very different set of data and studies, in which case I would REALLY like to have a conversation with you.

    Attackfish, fair enough. There are several comorbidities associated with autism, so it may definitely help some Autistics. My objection was more along the lines of treating dairy as an automatic “cause” of autism, as if it’s something that can go away when dairy is removed.

  104. Yonmei
    Yonmei June 4, 2011 at 6:47 pm |

    Maia: So the way your friend is talking may be particularly damaging to people who hear what she says, never hear of the social model of disability, and when they have a disabled child decide to focus on the fact that she can get better.

    When someone I like very much, who I used to see sometimes in a wheelchair because she was saving her spoons and couldn’t afford to spend them all on the effort of walking, who I’d see walking with great effort and pain, recovers – she’s walking, she’s pain free, the wheelchair is in the back of the cupboard gathering dust – well, Maia, dunno about you, but I’m going to rejoice with her rejoicing, not try to bring her down with critique about how the way she’s phrasing her rejoicing “could be damaging”.

  105. LectorElise
    LectorElise June 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm |

    Jill,

    to be honest, your post immediately put me on the defensive. I have been gluten-free for roughly two months now, and the difference it’s made in my health are both remarkable and life-changing. My joint and intestinal pain, IBS symptoms, headaches, irritability and fatigue went away after two weeks GF. My depression, in conjunction with medication, has retreated. I am beginning to put on weight, after years of saying that someone of my diet and activity level shouldn’t be so skinny, so tired, so hungry all the time. I don’t have a diagnosis. But I know what’s happening with my body.

    So to read a post which disparages the ‘gluten-free craze’ which makes it possible to be actually, honestly healthy…makes me very, very tetchy. I don’t know why you felt the need to single out GF, vegan and other ‘trendy’ diets as uniquely capable of concealing disordered eating, but this post seems to imply that many women claiming celiac disease/gluten intolerance/wheat allergies are faking it. That’s somewhat problematic, to say the least. Saying women are faking allergies is cousin to historical dismissals of women’s health concerns. Besides that: I, and the rest of the women you’re concerned are concealing eating disorders? Are adults. Our food choices are none of your goddamn business.

  106. preying mantis
    preying mantis June 4, 2011 at 8:54 pm |

    Ismone:
    There is an auto-immune component to autism, so being careful about allergies and the immune system could have a very positive effect on autistic people. Depending on the cause of their autism, as it probably has multiple causes.

    So far as I’m aware, the big argument for early and aggressive allergy and intolerance testing for children with ASPD is that you really don’t need any of your mental resources sucked up by avoidable digestive discomfort or histamine responses when you’re already having sensory or cognitive issues. Early identification and elimination of problem foods and additives are a quality of life issue and can improve functioning more by removing a hinderance to functioning, but the underlying disorder itself isn’t being improved.

  107. Brittany
    Brittany June 4, 2011 at 10:37 pm |

    Jill,

    The skepticism you’re suggesting we adopt toward those who claim they have food allergies is exactly why many people, myself included, have difficulty eating out, for example. Many chefs, waiters, heck even family and friends shrug off our claims of allergies or sensitivities or intolerances or diseases as being facades for fad diets instead of legitimate health problems, so they think it’s just fine to simply pick the croutons out of a salad before serving it or use the same utensils for GF and regular dishes or not use regular pasta when GF pasta was requested.

    I’m sure there are women (and men) out there who do use allergies as ways to hide their disordered eating, but just because some people do this doesn’t mean we’re all faking. If someone says they aren’t eating gluten, then you shouldn’t force it on them.

    Of course, you’ve already said that your post isn’t addressing the individual, but rather the media’s inattentiveness with regards to this issue. Those intentions are fine and dandy, but they don’t really come across well in your post.

  108. evil fizz
    evil fizz June 4, 2011 at 11:18 pm | *

    But I DO enjoy the torture and murder of cows. And kittens. And puppies. And fluffy bunnies. I eat them for a delicious snack, flavored with the tears of a million imprisoned elves.

    You forgot the fetus chips. A grievous oversight, but I suppose it can be forgiven.

    but I’m going to rejoice with her rejoicing, not try to bring her down with critique about how the way she’s phrasing her rejoicing “could be damaging”.

    Which is not at all what Maia was responding to. Rejoicing at recovery is completely and totally different from cure evangelism and “This will work for you, too, honey,” which is a hallmark of abilism. (It’s a close sibling of “Oh, well, my cousin had that exact same problem and…”)

    Besides that: I, and the rest of the women you’re concerned are concealing eating disorders? Are adults. Our food choices are none of your goddamn business.

    I can sort of see a parallel with the whinging that goes on in the “obesity” crisis, and “I’m just worried about your health!” nonsense, but I don’t think that’s what Jill was getting at at all. Visibility is great, fad diets and eating disorders? No so much.

  109. Yonmei
    Yonmei June 5, 2011 at 3:52 am |

    Rejoicing at recovery is completely and totally different from cure evangelism and “This will work for you, too, honey,” which is a hallmark of abilism.

    Excellent. Which Maia’s comments about my friend rejoicing at her recovery entirely irrelevant and inappropriate, accusing her of “ableism” because she was delighted she could now walk because she had cut out dairy.

    but I don’t think that’s what Jill was getting at at all.

    No. Jill is saying that there are categories of People who Aren’t Eating What Everyone Else Is Eating (PWAEWEEIS: where “everyone else” is everyone who’s eating the “Normal” diet of meat, dairy, wheat, etc) it’s okay to mock and point at, because they’re probably doing it because it’s just a fad.

    When PWAEWEEIS (silly acronym intentional: we generically get accused of being whiners and complainers because we want to be able to enjoy our food) talk about what we eat and why we eat it, we get accused of being whiners, of “cure evangelism”, of “ableism”, of preaching, of being self-righteous, etc, etc, etc. It’s a very, very familiar pattern.

    When people are are eating What Everyone Else Is Eating talk about their diet, or talk about other people’s diets, they’re just stating the obvious, being helpful, showing a proper interest, commenting on current “fads”. Their comments about our food are normal dinner conversation, and we should smile and take it. If we make similiar comments about their food it’s labelled aggressive, preachy, rude, etc.

    It’s an interesting example of privilege in action: the “Normal” diet is the privileged diet, and people who eat it are entitled to make mean comments (and Jill’s entire post is one mean comment!) about other people’s food.

  110. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 5, 2011 at 5:15 am |

    So I never minded when she’d evangelise on the wonders of cutting out dairy, though I like cheese (and of course the torture and murder of innocent cows) because I figured what she was really communicating was that she felt wonderful about herself – and I thought she well deserved to do so.

    You know, it’s one thing to say that doing X was really helpful to you and (and supporting a friend who’s had success). But I’ve had people evangelize to me about how I could have “cured” my depression with the proper diet, or by cutting out gluten or dairy or eggs or meat or whatever since it worked for them. I didn’t appreciate it and told them to get off of my ass about it. If that made me a joy-killing meanie butt, well, that’s too bad, but the not casting judgement on people’s dietary habits/choices/needs goes both ways.

  111. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 5, 2011 at 5:17 am |

    Also: when you lecture someone about how they’ll “cure” a non-neurotypical condition through diet, or a mental illness through diet, it is ableist. And really fucking rude.

  112. Yonmei
    Yonmei June 5, 2011 at 7:35 am |

    Thanks for illustrating my point by example, Sheelzebub.

    People who found they could fix a really major problem in their lives by avoiding eating a foodstuff that’s considered part of our normal diet, should know they’re not allowed to share how wonderful they feel and why, because for them to speak of their personal experience is ableist and really fucking rude. Now I know.

    Look, I agree with your first comment on this thread – making comments about what other people eat and why is really rude. Especially to be avoided at mealtimes, when frankly all I really want to talk about is “is it delicious?”

    And prying comments into/about other people’s health are likewise rude.

    This does not mean people are absolutely banned from sharing information about their health, positive or negative, if they feel like sharing it and if it’s not inappropriate for the event. I mentioned the friend who cut out dairy and cured herself of rheumatoid arthritis and her habit in the first year or two afterwards of sharing this as an example of how sometimes people talk about what they eat, not at mealtimes, and it’s really just sharing the joy of not having crippling pain whenever you walk. (And as she admitted, she did like cheese: giving it up was like giving up smoking.)

    None of you know my friend or have any reason to share her joy that she walks instead of wheelchairs, and I wasn’t trying to promote “giving up dairy cures arthritis!” or anything else: I could have written the initial anecdote as I had a friend who cured herself of severe rghltsui gnioe by cutting out dried field mouse from her diet, it just didn’t occur to me to amend it to be less evocative, less true, and with more dried mice.

  113. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 5, 2011 at 7:49 am |

    Actually, Yonmei, it’s not that people should just shut up about how well their diet did for them, but you’d know that if you’d bothered to read my post.

    It’s that the non-neurotypical person, the mentally ill person, hell when I was coping with clinical depression, *I* tend to run a gauntlet of these assholes. Not people who just benefited from a diet change and talked about how it helped them, no, they decided that they would go on to look over what we are eating and lecuture us about how a change would “cure” Aspergers, depression, bipolar disorder, cancer, whatever the fuck. After the seventh or eighth time (from the same person) it gets tiresome. Thanks for lecturing me and others about how we shouldn’t ever defend our boundaries or perhaps point out how fucking ablist that is. We shall indeed be quiet and accept the lectures from the peanut gallery who would like to police other people’s food choices and lecture them about illnesses they already have. Yes, your friend’s improved health was much to celebrate. But evangelizing is really fucking tiresome and rude. And like it or not, it is fucking ableist as all hell in these situations. I should not have to explain my food or lifestyle choices any more than someone who forgoes gluten, dairy, or other things. I should not have to be on the defensive for a health condition anymore than your friend does, and I don’t really give a fuck if the person who is attempting to back me into a corner and give me self-righteous lectures about how I’m Doing It Wrong had food issues themselves. Their food issues don’t make them any less abelist or rude.

    Also, thanks for twisting my words, Yonmei! You continue to demonstrate your great talents at it.

  114. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 5, 2011 at 7:51 am |

    Oh, and, since you have trouble reading for comprehension, Yonmei:

    You know, it’s one thing to say that doing X was really helpful to you and (and supporting a friend who’s had success). But I’ve had people evangelize to me about how I could have “cured” my depression with the proper diet, or by cutting out gluten or dairy or eggs or meat or whatever since it worked for them.

  115. jennygadget
    jennygadget June 5, 2011 at 9:05 am |

    Sheelzebub,

    Don’t you just love how all these things that you are supposed to do to magically cure whatever issues are going on usually amount to denying yourself something? Or living your life according to strict rules? Or just plain working harder at doing all the stuff you were “supposed” to do in the first place? hello Puritan ethics. DO NOT WANT.

    Which, btw, leaves me greatly amused by one of the newer studies about ADHD – that praising children with ADHD* regularly and often tends to improve their academic work, above and beyond the norm. The reason seems to have to do with dopamine levels, how ADHD can screw with that**, how dopamine levels are linked to depression, how self-esteem and depression are linked, and how praise elevates self-esteem and dopamine levels.

    Anyway, it makes me want to go around telling people “no, it’s not that [person x] needs to do [y], the problem is that *you* aren’t doing [z]. That’s what they need.”

    Where [z] = “let them eat all the ice cream they want” or “always give them control of the remote” or some such.

    * but only a subset of children with ADHD, actually. which just proves your point even more.

    ** this is quite likely a simplistic description of the interaction

    Yonmei,

    You are the one who described your friend as evangelical about the cure, which means you are the one who said she was doing exactly what people are legitimately complaining about, rather than simply talking about herself.

    Now, I personally, would likely give a friend in that situation a certain about of leeway in crossing that line, considering how dramatic a change we are talking about and how profound this must all be for them. But only up to a certain point. And I would never expect others to do the same.

  116. evil fizz
    evil fizz June 5, 2011 at 9:54 am | *

    Jill is saying that there are categories of People who Aren’t Eating What Everyone Else Is Eating (PWAEWEEIS: where “everyone else” is everyone who’s eating the “Normal” diet of meat, dairy, wheat, etc) it’s okay to mock and point at, because they’re probably doing it because it’s just a fad.

    People who found they could fix a really major problem in their lives by avoiding eating a foodstuff that’s considered part of our normal diet, should know they’re not allowed to share how wonderful they feel and why, because for them to speak of their personal experience is ableist and really fucking rude. Now I know.

    Yonmei, are you trying to win the prize for willful misreadings and ignorance or just giving everyone else squares on a bingo card?

  117. zuzu
    zuzu June 5, 2011 at 12:51 pm |

    Yonmei: People who found they could fix a really major problem in their lives by avoiding eating a foodstuff that’s considered part of our normal diet, should know they’re not allowed to share how wonderful they feel and why, because for them to speak of their personal experience is ableist and really fucking rude. Now I know.

    But you’re not speaking of YOUR OWN experience, but that of your friend, and presenting it as if it would be helpful for everyone.

  118. WestEndGirl
    WestEndGirl June 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm |

    I am a former anorexic with a continuing struggle to fight my disordered eating patterns. However, having been an anorexic with continuing disordered eating, I’m pretty good at recognising disordered eating in other people.

    Anecdata Alert!

    I know at least eight women – who I know closely and/or work with at close quarters – who are hiding their disordered eating behind “intolerances”. Cunningly to act as a control data set, I also have four close friends with serious coeliac disease (as in will end up with hospital after eating gluten) and two friends with lactose allergy (ditto) and other friends who are intolerant to dairy. I am very conscious of catering to my friends’ (quite literally) dietary needs. It is quite literally life-changing.

    However, those very same women who are now gluten-free are the same people who used to not eat sugar, meat, dairy and [ insert 'bad' food here ] in turn over the last months/years and are totally paranoid and conscious about their weight/size.

    But of course, I’m sure it’s just a massive coincidence and none of these women are in fact hiding their weight control behind a focus on ‘health’ aided and abetted by a fat and health shaming media. No, that couldn’t possibly be it. Everyone must suddenly be “allergic”. *Snort”.

  119. Shaun
    Shaun June 5, 2011 at 1:13 pm |

    evil fizz:
    Yonmei, are you trying to win the prize for willful misreadings and ignorance or just giving everyone else squares on a bingo card?

    Yonmei EXISTS to fill out everyone else’s ableist bingo cards.

  120. Alison
    Alison June 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm |

    Another annoying element to the “This worked for me and therefore you should do it, too” thing is that it often presupposes the other person hasn’t already tried it and found it didn’t work. Maybe I *have* already stopped eating this or started eating that and it didn’t do for me what it apparently did for you. If you phrase it as a question – “Have you tried X already?” – that’s a bit better, but there’s still the underlying assumption that you probably haven’t because then you’d be ALL BETTER. And it’s pretty condescending to assume the person you’re speaking to is too fucking dumb to have thought of these possible fixes themselves.

    I really don’t get why people can’t accept that nothing works the same for everyone. Great, cutting out X food cured your Y ailment. But not every person with Y ailment responds in A, B and C ways. There’s a reason why the literature with your prescription meds will often give percentages for how many people reported experiencing all the given side effects – because not everyone experiences all side effects. Medications affect different people in different ways – I’ve never met someone who had trouble with that concept. So why do people think all bodies and minds will react the exact same way to foods? I mean, FFS – something as simple as aspirin, for some people it’s a wonder drug, for some people it makes their stomach start erupting with blood.

  121. Yonmei
    Yonmei June 5, 2011 at 1:39 pm |

    evil fizz: Yonmei, are you trying to win the prize for willful misreadings and ignorance or just giving everyone else squares on a bingo card?

    I’m not even in the competition – Zuzu already won it. (Several times over, of course) but definitely with this: But you’re not speaking of YOUR OWN experience, but that of your friend, and presenting it as if it would be helpful for everyone.

    No, Zuzu; I’m speaking of my own experience, listening to a friend who now joyfully able to walk, telling me that she did it because she cut out dairy. Now I’ve been told that (a) she shouldn’t have shared her experience with me, because anyone who overheard might have been hurt, and (b) I shouldn’t share the experience of listening to her with anyone else, but keep it as some kind of deep dark secret NEVER TO BE SPOKEN OF.

  122. Ismone
    Ismone June 5, 2011 at 2:23 pm |

    Shaun,

    Okay, then take it up with these autism researchers, too:

    Abstract
    Autism is a complex and clinically heterogeneous disorder with a spectrum of symptoms. Clinicians, schools, and service agencies worldwide have reported a dramatic increase in the number of children identified with autism. Despite expanding research, the etiology and underlying biological processes of autism remain poorly understood, and the relative contribution from genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors remains unclear. Although autism affects primarily brain function (especially affect, social functioning, and cognition), it is unknown to what extent other organs and systems are disrupted. Published findings have identified widespread changes in the immune systems of children with autism, at both systemic and cellular levels. Brain specimens from autism subjects exhibit signs of active, ongoing inflammation, as well as alterations in gene pathways associated with immune signaling and immune function. Moreover, many genetic studies have indicated a link between autism and genes that are relevant to both the nervous system and the immune system. Alterations in these pathways can affect function in both systems. Together, these reports suggest that autism may in fact be a systemic disorder with connections to abnormal immune responses. Such immune system dysfunction may represent novel targets for treatment. A better understanding of the involvement of the immune response in autism, and of how early brain development is altered, may have important therapeutic implications.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20643381

    See also, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19758536

    preying mantis,

    At least for some forms of autism, controlling immune responses, or their symptoms, may be very helpful for preventing (or delaying? who knows) the onset of autism:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19773461

  123. AK
    AK June 5, 2011 at 2:56 pm |

    Sheelzebub:
    Also: when you lecture someone about how they’ll “cure” a non-neurotypical condition through diet, or a mental illness through diet, it is ableist.And really fucking rude.

    Agreed. I live with mental illness and I get told all the time that if I just cut X out of my diet or started doing Y I would be magically cured. It’s really offensive. I mean, if I go asking for advice, or if a loved one suggests something in an appropriate way, that’s fine. But I really don’t want to be lectured about how I would be cured if I just stopped eating gluten (for example, I’ve had other things suggested as well) because I order a sandwich.

    And I do want to clear up a couple of misconceptions I saw about livestock on this thread, just because I raise animals for a living and am a bit nitpicky (and obviously love torturing animals enough to do it for a living). First, cows digest most grains very well. They do often have to be processed lightly (such as cracked corn as opposed to whole corn) but otherwise it’s fine. The reason cattle in feedlots are sometimes given prophylactic antibiotics (a practice I strongly disagree with, by the way) is because so many are kept in such a small space. Furthermore, most cattle are raised on grass and then finished in a feedlot for a short time before going to slaughter so you get animals coming into a small crowded space from various farms and locations.

    And while I’m not doubting that the poster who talked about being a allergic to free range eggs was telling the truth, most eggs you will get from a store or restaurant have no chance of being fertilized, free range or no. Roosters aren’t required for egg laying and can often be more trouble than they’re worth as they can harass and injure hens. Most commercial organic farms I’ve been to keep their hens separate from roosters unless they specifically are intending to breed them.

    Sorry for the derail, but I believe that many people are way too distanced from the actual means of food production so I like to clear up misconceptions when I see them.

  124. Shaun
    Shaun June 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm |

    Ismone,

    Thanks so much for ablesplaining the causes of autism to me, especially using research that has its origins in anti-vaxxer hysteria. Gods know I would never have been able to find a study connecting autism to immunological disorder on my own. No no, the field you totally just stumbled onto is a mystery to me and I absolutely need to be educated about it. Good thing you were able to bring a possible MMR connection to my attention–it’s not as if Feministe itself hasn’t posted about the fraud that went into that study in the last month, either.

  125. zuzu
    zuzu June 5, 2011 at 5:01 pm |

    Yonmei:
    evil fizz: Yonmei, are you trying to win the prize for willful misreadings and ignorance or just giving everyone else squares on a bingo card?

    I’m not even in the competition – Zuzu already won it. (Several times over, of course) but definitely with this:But you’re not speaking of YOUR OWN experience, but that of your friend, and presenting it as if it would be helpful for everyone.

    No, Zuzu; I’m speaking of my own experience, listening to a friend who now joyfully able to walk, telling me that she did it because she cut out dairy. Now I’ve been told that (a) she shouldn’t have shared her experience with me, because anyone who overheard might have been hurt, and (b) I shouldn’t share the experience of listening to her with anyone else,but keep it as some kind of deep dark secret NEVER TO BE SPOKEN OF.

    Oh, Yonmei. Never change.

  126. Ismone
    Ismone June 5, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    Shaun,

    First of all, nice assumption that I am neurotypical, and have no experience, personal or otherwise with autism and/or autoimmunity. But whether I am or am not, and whether I do or do not, I said that autism was immunological, you said my statement was imprecise, I countered with others in the field using the same generalization. If it isn’t news to you that the two are linked, I don’t know why you are obejecting to my characterization. If you are objecting that it is imprecise, well, most medical conditions have multiple etiologies, and yet we generalize about them, so I am not treating autism and asd any different then I would treat any other medical condition.

    Further, with regard to the studies I have cited, there is a difference between studies that look generally at all autistic persons, studies that look at autistic persons who regress following a fever, and studies that look at antibodies in a subset of autistic persons. The overall studies that “debunk” an *overall* link between autism and vaccines are in no way inconsistent with studies that show an onset of regressive autism among persons with a mitochondrial disorder following a vaccine that causes a fever. Because not all autistic persons or persons on the spectrum have mitochondrial disorders. And not all vaccines are followed by a fever. And many children have fevers that are not caused by vaccines.

    The study about elevated MMR antibodies doesn’t necessarily mean that the MMR vaccine caused autism either. It could be that the same autoimmune reaction that caused autism also caused the high level of antibodies. It could be any number of things.

    That said, if any study I posted has been actually discredited (and meta-analyses combining studies with different parameters doesn’t count) I would love to hear about them, because this is actually a subject that is important to me for all kinds of reasons.

    Whether or not those reasons are personal are none of your business, frankly.

  127. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 5, 2011 at 5:54 pm |

    Now I’ve been told that (a) she shouldn’t have shared her experience with me, because anyone who overheard might have been hurt, and (b) I shouldn’t share the experience of listening to her with anyone else,but keep it as some kind of deep dark secret NEVER TO BE SPOKEN OF.

    That’s actually not what I or anyone else said, but why bother to read what we wrote (and what I reposted with the relevant bits bolded for your convenience) when it’s much easier to pull something out of your ass so you can continue your trend of acting like a point-scoring, self-righteous dipshit?

  128. Shaun
    Shaun June 5, 2011 at 6:14 pm |

    Ismone, you’re right, you’re under no obligation to disclose your neurotype for me. If you are Autistic, than ablesplaining wouldn’t apply to you (if you aren’t, then it does, whether or not you have another disability).

    I really don’t care. You’re speaking with authority on subjects that no legitimate researcher speaks with authority on, right now. You can suggest a link, but what you were doing was stating a “fact” using the *abstracts* of 2 studies, at least one of which is questionable. At least. In real life, things are not considered to be true unless they have been repeatedly demonstrated by independent researchers (and even then we could talk about the legitimacy of the studies).

    I don’t really care whether you yourself are otherwise disabled, ADD, a parent/caretaker, or actually Autistic, you’re STILL capable of behaving in an ableist fashion. *I’m* capable of behaving in an ableist fashion, both in regards to disabilities I do and do not have, and your non-disclosed Neurotype, Autistic or not, does not shield you from criticism from members of the group you’re making proclamations about.

    You’re using bad science and a bad approximation of science to propagate ideas that are toxic and the domain of non-ally NTs. Stop it. If you want to highlight these studies as a possible cause, or something worth discussion, go right ahead. But don’t claim to have the backing of SCIENCE behind you and speak in absolutes about a topic you clearly don’t understand.

  129. Ismone
    Ismone June 5, 2011 at 10:10 pm |

    I am using the same general language that qualified people in the field use.

    But please, if you want to actually challenge the studies I have cited, I would love to hear it. If they are questionable, show me, don’t just say it.

    Throwing around the word “ableist” doesn’t show anything about the legitimacy of my argument–how is it ableist to discuss the research and discuss generalities–it is just labeling, which is a sort of ad hominem.

    If I said anything genuinely offensive, you would have pointed it out by now. If my arguments were genuinely flawed, you would have pointed that out, too.

  130. Shaun
    Shaun June 6, 2011 at 12:07 am |

    Ismone,

    FFS, you said there “is an auto-immune component to autism,” just like upthread you told somebody that high-fat diets are not unhealthy, which you were also called out on.

    I pointed out what you said that was offensive; you apparently don’t think it’s “genuinely offensive.” That’s your problem, not mine. I also can’t REFUTE the studies because I can’t READ the studies or their methodology.

    Even if they are valid studies, which can’t be determined from the abstracts, they don’t have a body of evidence to support them, so you don’t need to be making sweeping, factual statements. This, apparently, is not a valid criticism to you. I could throw up a lot of different studies implying a lot of different things, but 1) that’s derailing, 2) I don’t care to do it. Again. Go read the thread on vaccines and educate yourself in the links.

  131. Henri Bemis
    Henri Bemis June 6, 2011 at 12:13 am |

    Wow, this thread. I don’t have time to discuss the ableism right now, of which there is a lot and really needs to be hammered out. My short version would be that we need to make sure that we respect each individual’s success or lack of success with various treatments/diets/etc, and not try to apply them universally. But that’s ableism 101, and I really can’t believe that people here are arguing that saying “I’m really thrilled that X worked for your friend, but it is not a universal treatment, and presenting it as such can be damaging to people for whom it hasn’t worked, or doesn’t work if tried, or is outside of their means to try” is a controversial position.

    There are also a lot of unaddressed issues of classism in this conversation, and they do sort of tie into the ablesim. Eating gluten-free costs more. Bread and pasta are undoubtedly staples of a general USian diet, and finding gluten-free substitutes takes more time and money than than buying the standards. That leaves people with food intolerances, that may be anywhere from uncomfortable to life-threatening, with virtually no recourse.

    And I think that’s where the focus needs to be – in making alternative foods available and affordable, while also recognizing that diet restrictions can mask disordered eating, and to provide appropriate treatment, if wanted. I don’t want to demonize anyone for the food choices they make, but I also want to have a conversation that recognizes the ways in which food choices can be a systemic obstacle for different groups of people.

  132. bonn
    bonn June 6, 2011 at 12:30 am |

    I’ve been off gluten for almost two years now. It started with cutting down on carbs after realizing that they were really messing up my blood sugar. Then I realized my colitis, which had been flaring moderately for a couple of years, had disappeared. There was a lot of going back on a normal diet, cutting out wheat, cutting barley too, testing a cookie and so on. And I realized that gluten was a problem. People often ask what happens when I eat it, then get grossed out when I tell them.

    Minor exposure ( bread touched it or there was an onion ring in my fries) messes with the absorption of my bcps. I get my “period.” Fortunately, I don’t take them for sexy reasons. I also get a bit squidgy in my bowels.

    Actual consumption causes the UC to flare. So, bleeding and diarrhea. Hurrah. These symptoms last 1-2 weeks.

    So I get annnoyed with the disbelievers or the fad folks. Gluten makes me *sick*. Doc says I don’t have celiac (though I think he did an antibody test after I’d been gf for a while–lived abroad with no celiac tests available) but it makes me SICK. And goodness …. gf bread is horribly expensive. Most gf baked goods taste soso or worse. Eating out is almost impossible. Of course I look anorexic … I can’t eat anything on the menu! I have a very picky friend who won’t eat where I would like to, and so I always have to watch her eat. It’s annoying.

    I do suggest it to my mom sometimes. She’s on her way to being diabetic just like her mom, and dying early from it out of stubborness. But she sees all this as “my problem” and “you can’t tell me what to do” and “I’m going to eat whatever I want!” Oh well.

  133. Ismone
    Ismone June 6, 2011 at 12:58 am |

    Shaun,

    Both statements I made were generalities, and both, the majority of the time (in fact, the vast majority of the time) are correct.

    And that is how people talk about these things, so I am not beyond the pale here.

    So, you have not critiques of the studies.

    And no, me discussing studies is not “ablesplaining” nor is it offensive. Regardless of my neurotypicality or lack thereof, I am not speaking about or undermining experience, I am discussing scientific studies which are every bit as accessible to me as to anyone else.

    If you think this does anything other than make you look like you’d rather accuse people then engage, well, I leave you to that line of thought.

  134. Ismone
    Ismone June 6, 2011 at 1:09 am |

    And if you link me to “the thread on vaccines” I would be happy to read it. But, I bet I already know more. Because I’ve read pretty extensively on the subject.

  135. Ismone
    Ismone June 6, 2011 at 1:25 am |

    Shaun,

    So, I just read the whole vaccine thread. I learned two basic things: 1) Wakefield retracted his study, which had something to do with the GI tract, 2) Jill cited a study suggesting no link between autism and the MMR vaccine among all autistic children registered within a certain time period in Denmark.

    Considering that I haven’t cited Wakefield, and that I have already explained the three abstracts I referred to, you’re still wrong about the validity of the studies I cited, and no one on this site, you included, has undermined them in anyway in either that thread or this one.

  136. ysabet
    ysabet June 6, 2011 at 1:39 am |

    Well, don’t I feel special.

    I’m a (diagnosed) high functioning autistic, who also happens to have (diagnosed) casein and gluten intolerance. I happen to function better emotionally on a low carb, high protein, high fat diet, too, since it seems to reduce my emotional volatility.

    I’m over the moon that more people are gluten free, and that the tiny minority of dairy (not just lactose) free people is growing, because it means it is significantly easier for me to find food to eat if I don’t get a chance to prepare it myself at home.

    Hell, one day soon I might be able to get psuedofood on long-haul aeroplane flights like nearly everyone else.

    As it is, I have to describe my conditions as allergies, because even though they aren’t that, strictly speaking, describing them intolerances gets me served things cooked in butter, because it’s “only” an intolerance. No, I won’t die. I will spend the next four days in excruciating gut pain, though, and I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have that kind of time to lose every time I don’t eat at home.

    And if I had $10 for every time I was told ‘Oh, that’s got (eggs|coconut cream) in it, you can’t have that because it’s dairy’, I would be a much more affluent woman.

  137. Meowser
    Meowser June 6, 2011 at 8:26 am |

    I’m a fat autistic adult who, after a gallbladder removal last year that made my already bad digestion far worse, so bad I was terrified even to leave the house, did a series of elimination diets that found that gluten was indeed one of the things I had serious trouble with (along with cow’s milk, apples, coffee, and bunches of other things I was quite fond of, at least on the mouth end of my digestive tract).

    Since then, I’ve done my share of cooking and baking with GF flours, after decades of baking with wheat, and I can tell you this: GF baking uses more fat and sugar than gluten baking. Likewise, GF pastas are not calorie savers, not by a long shot. (In both cases, though, you are likely to get more fiber out of the deal, as well as exposure to grains you might otherwise not have had as much contact with on a gluten-filled diet.) So anyone who’s gluten tolerant and using this “diet” to get thin…yeah, good luck.

    As for whether it’s helped my brain? I’d say that less anxiety about potentially shitting in my pants has been a net plus in that department, not to mention that all that D probably wasn’t doing my internal balance a whole lot of good. Ain’t nothin’ gonna make me NT, tho.

    If you can go out for coal-oven pizza, or enjoy a beer and a pretzel at the ballgame without wasting the rest of the game in the crapper…more power to you. Have some for me, okay? Never ever would I try to push the way I eat on someone else. I do think, though, that autism spectrum disorders are WAY underdiagnosed in people over 30, and that acknowledging a gluten intolerance might be a necessary first step in getting diagnosed.

  138. LectorElise
    LectorElise June 6, 2011 at 8:31 am |

    I am with you, ysabet.
    It’s so much fun explaining to various people that no, continuing to eat gluten so I only get a little sick when I eat it, as opposed to very sick since I’m off it, is not a workable option, since it means I’m still getting sick. Argh. Back when I thought my health problems were ‘just’ a dairy issue, I was having the same. damn. conversation.
    Rice =/= gluten is another one of the common battles. Sign me up for the 10 bucks for every 101 conversation plan, and I’d already have a semester of classes paid for.

  139. Ellie
    Ellie June 6, 2011 at 8:38 am |

    Jim: People joke about how people treeat their dogs like their children; that is nothing compared to the way people treat their cows. People name their cows like children; hell somewhere, don’t remember where, the men name themselves after their favorite cows!

    I read a newspaper article once about a study that suggested that cows who are given names produce more milk.

  140. Meowser
    Meowser June 6, 2011 at 8:41 am |

    Oh, and that whole-grain muffin recipe from Gluten-Free Girl they link to on the NYT story? Fabulous. No twigs-and-bark taste at all, and my wheat-eating partner loves ‘em. (I used sorghum, amaranth, and brown rice flour for the whole grains; white rice flour, cornstarch, and potato flour for the starches. The recipe is extremely flexible if you have a kitchen scale that measures in grams.) I have to admit, I never did like the taste of whole wheat that much, and these muffins don’t taste like “should eat but don’t really wanna eat” food to me at all.

  141. Shaun
    Shaun June 6, 2011 at 11:11 am |

    Hey Ismone,

    The burden of proof is on you. Science doesn’t require me to DISprove you. You cited studies but you haven’t provided more than the abstracts. Since no one here (presumably) seems to have access to those studies, we can’t use them to debate.

    Considering you didn’t even know Wakefield’s paper was retracted, I don’t think you know nearly as much about this as you think, and yes, it is ableist for you to think you have a better understanding of autism than others (particularly Autistic people) JUST because you read some abstracts which are, as you point out, publicly accessible.

  142. Shaun
    Shaun June 6, 2011 at 11:18 am |

    I know being called ableist must be a terrible experience for you, and you want me to take it back and instead educate you all about the methodology and history of autism research, but here’s the thing: You are not the first time someone has cited a bullshit or probably bullshit study at me and lauded it as fact. You are not even the 10th. It is not my responsibility to drop everything and manufacture a well-written, cited rebuttal paper every single time someone demands I educate them, and THIS is ableism.

    And no, you do not get to have your claims treated as fact just because no one is willing to do the research you will not (or can’t) produce and evaluate the two abstracts you provided.

  143. Jim
    Jim June 6, 2011 at 11:49 am |

    zuzu: Yes, just ignore factory farming, because cows are treated well where factory farming doesn’t happen!

    Zuzu, factory farming is horrific. If that happens in the dairy industry, I was unaware of that. I thought it was mainly in the beef industry.

  144. Tiferet
    Tiferet June 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm |

    1 in 133 people has celiac disease. Most of them don’t know it. I didn’t know it until this year and I’m over 40. Doctors don’t look for it unless it runs in the family and I am adopted, so I had to make a stink to get tested.

    I think a lot of people feel better without gluten, and that it shouldn’t be called a fad diet–it’s not like eating grapefruit twice a day for a week. It won’t hurt you, though you should be aware that eating a ton of rice bread and rice pasta and rice cupcakes isn’t really any better for you than eating the same items made with wheat, except for the fact that they won’t poison you if you’re gluten intolerant–those are still largely calories from which you’ll only get energy, not a lot of nutrients. Since going GF I’ve made an effort to centre my diet around veggies, fruit and meat, and this has paid off in health benefits above and beyond not being constantly ill with celiac. I do eat GF bread, pasta, waffles and cupcakes on an occasional basis but try not to centre my meals around overprocessed grains.

    As far as I’m concerned, there is really only one big problem around the entire food issue, whether it’s allergies, celiac disease, vegetarianism, kashrut, or something else, and that’s the fact that other people feel they have the right to tell you what to eat and to demand an explanation for why you do or don’t eat something. I tried to do kashrut for a while and while “a little won’t hurt you” is really obnoxious when you’re celiac and you know that it will, it was just as obnoxious when people insisted that I was being a big party pooper because I didn’t want to eat bacon-wrapped scallops or got offended because I asked them to make me my own burger at a barbecue because they’d already “helpfully” added cheese to all of the other ones.

  145. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm |

    Jim: If that happens in the dairy industry, I was unaware of that. I thought it was mainly in the beef industry.

    Yes, it does happen in the dairy industry. Moreover, aside from the impact of living in tiny pens with their own waste, cows are fed a hormonal cocktail to keep them constantly lactating, which causes severe udder pain and makes the cows prone to udder infections. The antibiotics used to treat these infections get in the milk and especially the milk fat at very high levels, which is why I could never drink non-organic milk. It makes me very very sick, and that’s before the moral considerations.

  146. Jim
    Jim June 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm |

    Henri Bemis: Eating gluten-free costs more. Bread and pasta are undoubtedly staples of a general USian diet, and finding gluten-free substitutes takes more time and money than than buying the standards.

    Rice costs about half what pasta costs, and around five times less than bread. But your point stands, because it’s not always available for people, and that’s a structural problem.

    Meowser: Likewise, GF pastas are not calorie savers, not by a long shot. (In both cases, though, you are likely to get more fiber out of the deal, as well as exposure to grains you might otherwise not have had as much contact with on a gluten-filled diet.)

    Rice pasta looks creepy and I have not had the courage to try it for texture. Whole wheat and other low gluten pastas mouth-feel like rubber to me.

    Ellie: I read a newspaper article once about a study that suggested that cows who are given names produce more milk.

    Tame cows that appreciate human contact – no wonder people love cows. Thanks for that, Ellie. BTW it makes factory farming that much more horrific.

  147. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm |

    Jim: I can’t stand Italian style rice noodles. I actually recommend corn noodles. The texture is a little grainy and they tend to fall apart, but they have a wonderful flavor.

  148. zuzu
    zuzu June 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm |

    Jim: Zuzu, factory farming is horrific. If that happens in the dairy industry, I was unaware of that. I thought it was mainly in the beef industry.

    For real? Where do you think all that milk in the grocery store comes from, one cow in Vermont?

  149. Carrie S.
    Carrie S. June 6, 2011 at 1:59 pm |

    It’s also highly non-normative to not drink unless you are ill, religious or on the wagon.

    Which bites, as someone who, like Stephanie @#93, just doesn’t like alcohol. I feel like I’m missing some essential part of being an adult–kind of like how I don’t like coffee, and when I mention that people look at me like I’ve grown a second head.

    These days I’m on meds that interact poorly with alcohol, so I can just use that as an excuse, but for years it was, “Oh, try this, you won’t be able to taste the alcohol.”

    Yes. Yes I will.

  150. groggette
    groggette June 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm |

    Carrie S.: kind of like how I don’t like coffee, and when I mention that people look at me like I’ve grown a second head.

    Are you kidding? I love it when people say they don’t drink alcohol or coffee (for any reason)… that means MOAR FOR ME!!

    /half joking

  151. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 6, 2011 at 2:10 pm |

    Are you kidding? I love it when people say they don’t drink alcohol or coffee (for any reason)… that means MOAR FOR ME!!

    I get the same way about pork products, especially bacon. ;)

  152. Ellie
    Ellie June 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm |

    Carrie S.: … for years it was, “Oh, try this, you won’t be able to taste the alcohol.”

    Yes.Yes I will.

    Ugh. There’s a lot of booze I like; I love wine, I love beer, I love most things with tequila or gin. But I am still strongly suspect of any drink that claims not to taste like alcohol. They all taste terrible, in a boozy, sugary kind of way.

  153. Brandy
    Brandy June 6, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    Carrie S.: Which bites, as someone who, like Stephanie @#93, just doesn’t like alcohol.I feel like I’m missing some essential part of being an adult–kind of like how I don’t like coffee, and when I mention that people look at me like I’ve grown a second head.

    These days I’m on meds that interact poorly with alcohol, so I can just use that as an excuse, but for years it was, “Oh, try this, you won’t be able to taste the alcohol.”

    Yes.Yes I will.

    I can relate to this. I don’t like alcohol, I don’t like coffee, I don’t even like carbonated beverages. Which makes me appear to be a huge pain in the ass even though I am totally happy drinking plain ol’ water.

  154. groggette
    groggette June 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm |

    Sheelzebub: I get the same way about pork products, especially bacon. ;)

    Ha! I would gladly trade most pork products (including bacon…yuck!) for alcohol or coffee. or alcoholic coffee.

  155. Jim
    Jim June 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |

    zuzu: For real? Where do you think all that milk in the grocery store comes from, one cow in Vermont?

    Zuzu, Vermont? Now I see the problem. I live in Washington and there are dairy farms all over here, and none of them are factory farms – so many in fact that they foul the creeks and ruin the salmon runs, so that’s probably what I was thinking, wasn’t I?

    Vermont? I have no idea what you Easterners eat or where your food comes from.

    Attackfish: Jim: I can’t stand Italian style rice noodles. I actually recommend corn noodles. The texture is a little grainy and they tend to fall apart, but they have a wonderful flavor.

    I bet they do! I like almost anything made out of corn. The most disgusting rice pasta I have seen is the rice penne from Vietnam. it looks unborn, like some kind of insect nymphs. The rice noodles for pho is as far as I’ll go with any of that. I can do very well without pasta of any kind, and regular pasta tastes weird ot me and sits hard on my stomach. No loss.

  156. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |

    I have to say, yet again, that I’m gobsmacked that people get pissy about someone not drinking alcohol or soft drinks or juice or whatever. Shit! Water is the most convenient, low-maintenence thing I can offer someone. I love it when someone only wants water.

    I just. . .I just. . .as someone who has people over all the time, I really don’t get why people have to be so fucking assinine as to try and force food down someone’s unwilling gullet. Sheesh. Mushrooms stuffed with curried lentils, braised mustard greens, and roasted beet salad, anyone?

    (Yes, I’m keeping the bacon for myself. NYAH NYAH NYAH.)

  157. Shoshie
    Shoshie June 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    Sheelzebub: Mushrooms stuffed with curried lentils, braised mustard greens, and roasted beet salad, anyone?

    OMG that sounds amazing. I must make this. I totally have mustard greens and beets that are ready to be picked from my garden. Sheelzebub, you are awesome.

  158. Life Under A Rock » Blog Archive » Back on the Wagon

    [...] I was catching up with Feministe and I read this post in which one of the commentators discussed how the rising number of people eating gluten-free food [...]

  159. KathyB
    KathyB June 6, 2011 at 6:02 pm |

    I spent the first 28 years of my life feeling like crap. I was “diagnosed” with any number of bullshit – “nervous stomach”, “irritable bowel syndrome”, “just get over it”, etc. It wasn’t until I visited a nutritionist for the dreaded “poop in a box” test that it was revealed I am gluten intolerant, for realz. So for the past almost-year I’ve been on a largely gluten free diet, and it has done WONDERS for who I am as a person. I can now travel (SHOCKING!) and go hiking with a realistic level of energy (fuck you, Clif Bars!). Of course every so often I wake up in the middle of the night with the “business at both ends” and realize someone slipped me the mickey at a restaurant or cafe. That can’t be placebo effect, and Jill I understand that you’re not saying that it is.

    I agree with you – it’s the people who feign gluten intolerance, or claim that “gluten is airborne, I can’t even be in the same room as this pizza!” (No, bitch, you just can’t stand the smell of fresh pizza. And that’s cool! I find it torturous too! But I don’t pretend it’s going to kill me from 10 paces.) or that there’s gluten in rice, or other equally stupid things no REAL gluten-free person would ever say – who make my life hell.

    At the beginning of the year I got a job at a Large Corporate Entity that peppers each week with a variety of pizza-based lunch-n-learns, birthday cakes, krispy kreme meet-n-greets, baby showers, etc. Now, it’s bad enough that I can’t participate in those (but I sure as shit can house the whipped-cream-frosting strawberries off the tops of cakes, I’ll tell you whut!) but what’s worse is when people offer me things and I decline with a gentle, “I can’t, sorry.” People take one look at my super-skinny frame and assume it’s some kind of diet shit, and so I have to explain, “I’m gluten free, I really can’t.” and even THEN they’re suspicious I’m just making excuses for myself. No, I really just don’t want to lose YET ANOTHER workday unable to get out of bed.

  160. Emily
    Emily June 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm |

    I’m glad that gluten-free food is becoming more popular these days. It makes it so much easier for my mom (who is gluten-free) to find recipes. Now there are even gluten-free foods being sold in normal grocery stores. It’s a big help. That said, people who fake gluten intolerance make things a lot harder on people who actually have it, because people tend not to believe you, or think you’re just part of a fad.
    I wonder if it isn’t a little bit rude to say “That sucks! I am sorry for you people,” to people with gluten intolerance? I mean, I don’t think they want to be pitied any more than people with disabilities do. I don’t know. I guess none of the gluten-free people in the above comments have mentioned it, so maybe I’m wrong.

  161. Meowser
    Meowser June 6, 2011 at 7:15 pm |

    Rice pasta looks creepy and I have not had the courage to try it for texture. Whole wheat and other low gluten pastas mouth-feel like rubber to me.

    There certainly is a lot of inedible crap out there. I haven’t bought any GF long pastas (spaghetti, linguine) with the exception of rice sticks, which actually go quite well with a white clam sauce. I understand Bionaturae’s long pasta is pretty good, though. But usually I make my own fettuccine and ravioli, with a pasta maker. For elbows, I get quinoa/corn Ancient Harvest, and for penne and fusilli, Trader Joe’s makes a really good brown rice pasta. Even with the better brands, though, you really have to watch cooking times carefully; too little time and it’s too rubbery, too much and it turns to mush.

  162. Athenia
    Athenia June 6, 2011 at 7:53 pm |

    KathyB:
    I agree with you – it’s the people who feign gluten intolerance, or claim that “gluten is airborne, I can’t even be in the same room as this pizza!” (No, bitch, you just can’t stand the smell of fresh pizza. And that’s cool! I find it torturous too! But I don’t pretend it’s going to kill me from 10 paces.) or that there’s gluten in rice, or other equally stupid things no REAL gluten-free person would ever say – who make my life hell.

    Gluten can be air borne—especially if you throwing flour around like there’s no tomorrow in the making of pizza or ravioli.

    And this isn’t just my mom freaking out—this is what they tell her in the gluten-free support groups. She’s also gotten rid of her wooden spoons because they could be contaminated.

    Gluten is also in make up and it’s probably not a good idea for her to wear certain lipstick while mascara might be ok.

    It’s frustrating to see people who probably don’t ever go to the doctor claim they have a problem whereas people like my mom have to do everything possible so that her intestines can actually heal by her next doctor’s visit.

  163. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm |

    @ KathyB: Some of these people might not just hate the smell of pizza. Yeast allergies are relatively common, and that lovely fresh cooked bread smell comes from yeast. My friend thought she was allergic to wheat, but it turned out to be yeast.

    On an entirely different note- I can’t drink anything at anybody’s house, including water, because of my petrochemical and chlorine allergies. You folks think you get weird looks when you refuse coffee, soda, and alcohol, try going to someone’s house with one of those fancy aluminum water bottles and refusing to touch anything else. “Are you too good for my water now?”

  164. Dawn
    Dawn June 6, 2011 at 8:43 pm |

    Thank you so much for legitimizing the judgmental attitudes of others, as if those of us with conditions didn’t have enough crap to put up with, now we get the side eye cos it “might be a fad diet” backed up by articles such as this that have no proof and only judgmental comments on their side.

    It’s so nice to know that next time I eat out and ask for GF food in a restaurant, people will stare at me and wonder if I’m on a “fad diet”. Being judged for having a reaction to gluten is just the crowning point of my day.

    As for these “mythical fad dieters”? What business is it of yours what they want to do to their body? Isn’t feminism about respecting the choices of others and not judging them?

    This is no different to the crap people have bleated for years about Autism being a “fad diagnosis” that make’s it so hard for Autistics to get help because everyone seems to assume the worst even though there’s no evidence to back up such an ablist point of view.

    The world totally needs more people adding to the trend of disbelieving folks about their bodies, because we don’t have enough doctors who take decades to diagnose patient due to not listening, or enough times when disabled folks get no help due to society dismissing their needs.

  165. Ismone
    Ismone June 6, 2011 at 9:51 pm |

    Shaun,

    You haven’t cited anything undermining what I have cited. So no, we’re not at ground state any more. I know Wakefield’s paper was retracted. I didn’t cite it, so it doesn’t matter.

    I have a good understanding of those papers. And I have a good understanding of autoimmunity and its connection to autism. You haven’t really undermined what I have had to say so far. You haven’t demonstrated any understanding at all. Doesn’t mean you don’t have it, but I will go off of what I have read rather then what you assert, because the last thread you cited had no bearing on my arguments. So you don’t have much credibility here.

    I am not ableist, and I am not “upset” you called me ableist. I explained why I was not.

    I could whige about all the people who have told me autism doesn’t have an auto-immune component, and how anti-science they are, and put it at your feet and stomp of this thread, but I won’t.

    I stand by everything I wrote.

  166. Fiona
    Fiona June 6, 2011 at 9:53 pm |

    Fuck you and your ableist bullshit. I lost an entire generation of my family to cancer caused by undiagnosed celiac disease. So fuck you and your “faking food allergies because girls don’t want to get fat” and “girls just want to look like they don’t want to eat too much.”

    Yes, that’s right, let’s stigmatize the hell out of legitimate concerns. That way we can shame people for not eating enough AND for eating too much, AND ALSO we can make people with legit food allergies feel bad too.

    Fuck you.

  167. Lis
    Lis June 7, 2011 at 12:45 am |

    At a relatively popular chain in Canada (Boston Pizza), servers are trained to ask if any special request is due to an allergy, or a preference/intolerance–they explain that for preferences, they’ll just refrain from adding X, but if it’s an allergy, they’ll set up a separate line in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination. I find that such an amazingly sensible way to handle things, I don’t know why more people don’t do it.

    I always feel absolutely fantastic after eating bread, though. It gives me one happy tummy.

  168. Annaham
    Annaham June 7, 2011 at 3:43 am |

    I hate to self-promote, but here’s a post I wrote a while ago on why it’s not a great idea to say things like, “[x] person tried this and it REALLY WORKED/cured her” to people with intolerances or health conditions tied to sensitivities. Also, food allergies can be fucking painful. I should know–I’ve been having reactions since my teenage years, and still get them occasionally even though I have cut out the culprit foods (and please–before anyone tries to suggest anything, I ask you not to do so). And people are often clueless or willfully horrible about food sensitivities and allergies.

    The intersections with ableism/disablism here are, I think, pretty clear.

  169. Cara
    Cara June 7, 2011 at 8:42 am |

    Sorry to be late to the discussion, but Jill, if you’re still reading: I’m curious about the observation that “‘I’m allergic to gluten’ seems to be the new cover for women who are basically just seeking to limit their food intake.” Are you saying that this is something you’ve noticed among your immediate circle of friends, or is it something you’ve seen evidence of on a larger scale, or something you’ve heard about from people who work in ED treatment, or…? In other words, what’s the evidence for the argument?

    Chronic dieters and those struggling with EDs exhibit a whole host of restrictive behaviors–as you say, we’re supposed to eat with gusto without looking like we eat at all. As a result, I know people who are paranoid about sugar (no delicious gluten-free Babycakes for them!), people who refuse to eat carrots because they’re “too high on the glycemic index,” people who shun salt, people who dump Splenda in their decaf skim lattes, people who refuse a drop of any alcohol except vodka and soda — the list goes on. As someone who does have to avoid gluten, because it gives me respiratory distress and skin rashes, singling out the gluten-free diet for linkage to restrictive eating strikes me unwarranted, especially since we face so much skepticism about non-celiac gluten intolerance (from the medical establishment, from the food industry, etc.) already.

    But I agree with you that the media needs to dig a lot deeper on food intolerance issues. I would love to see someone investigate the linkages between celiac diagnoses, cases of non-celiac gluten intolerance and changes in industrial wheat production, to say nothing of the commodity crop subsidies that help keep cheap wheat additives, like corn, in thousands of processed foods, cosmetics and other products.

  170. Yonmei
    Yonmei June 7, 2011 at 8:51 am |

    Emily: That said, people who fake gluten intolerance make things a lot harder on people who actually have it, because people tend not to believe you, or think you’re just part of a fad.

    How often is this actually happening, though?

    I was brought up vegetarian, and I’m mid-forties: I remember very well eating out (or trying to) in restaurants and cafes and friends houses, at a time when vegetarianism was understood to be “just a fad”. As a kid (we’re talking younger than 12) I could not have articulated sensibly any ethical standard of vegetarianism, not even a borrowed one; because neither of my parents ever preached any: we were vegetarian because we were vegetarian, as far as I understood it, and that was that.

    To me, as a kid who’d never eaten meat, meat and fish looked (and smelled) disgusting/suspect. The couple of times I ate meat accidentally, I disliked it. Both as a kid and as a teenager (less often as I got older) I encountered people who regarded it as “just” my personal preference, as a fad which they should feel free to disregard (a family I stayed with once instructed me to eat the chicken salad and stop complaining, that was what there was for lunch and everyone knew chicken wasn’t meat). When I was in my twenties, people who had known me for years and knew that I consistently never ate meat/fish, would tell me that “oh, you’re not like these other vegetarians, they’re just being faddy”. And I’d meet these other vegetarians and discover that as new vegetarians they were trying to be meat-free and finding it tough, especially as people who remembered when they ate meat were telling them they were just being annoying.

    So I find it suspect when people who aren’t gluten-intolerant themselves declare that they know that people who strive to have a gluten-free diet are just faddish or fashionable or concealing an eating disorder. They don’t know. They’re just exercising their privilege as someone eating a “normal” diet to poke at the people who aren’t.

    When I organise events I make sure that there are vegan, vegetarian, and carnivore options on the menu. I pro-actively check for allergies or intolerances or religious requirements (most caterers will do a special plate, if you ask). I do it because it’s the right thing to do to make events accessible, but I do similiar things when I’m getting friends and acquaintances together for a meal: Anything you don’t eat? isn’t a hard question to ask. And doing so feeds the hungry child lurking at the back of my heart, who was me, once. That’s my “eating disorder”: I want to make sure everyone is fed well at my table.

    (Also, Ismene? *applause*)

  171. Your Tuesday Random-Ass Roundup: Exposed Weiner. « PostBourgie

    [...] I like Feministe a lot, but this post on gluten-free life/recipes strikes me as … patronizing. I think it reinforces the perception that gluten-intolerance is [...]

  172. Florence
    Florence June 7, 2011 at 11:13 am |

    Funny. I met a lady this weekend who gleefully told me about the gluten-intolerance diagnosed by her chiropractor, which magically also helped her lose a large portion of weight that she said she’d been struggling with for years. She says she feels better, so more power to her, but based on the information she gave me it sounded more like a no-flour diet plan than gluten intolerance.

    Just anecdata. YMMV.

  173. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 7, 2011 at 11:17 am |

    @florence: Don’t get me started on the evils of chiropractors.

  174. ch
    ch June 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm |

    Annaham, your first link doesn’t seem to be working, but the post does sound fascinating! Could you post a working link?

  175. L
    L June 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm |

    Yonmei: So I find it suspect when people who aren’t gluten-intolerant themselves declare that they know that people who strive to have a gluten-free diet are just faddish or fashionable or concealing an eating disorder. They don’t know. They’re just exercising their privilege as someone eating a “normal” diet to poke at the people who aren’t.

    THIS. Thank you.

  176. L
    L June 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm |

    I’m so confused by this post. You start off by saying that a lot of people have an intolerance or allergy to gluten, but then you say that going gluten-free is too often a cover for eating disorders?

    According to what/who/how would you even know that? Your social circle? Coming at eating disorders from this angle is pretty shortsighted, imo.

    Also, “I feel sorry for you people!”? Really?

  177. L
    L June 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm |

    Nevermind I misread that, sorry.

  178. Sarah
    Sarah June 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm |

    Ismone and everyone else insisting that autism has “an auto-immune component” (whatever that’s supposed to mean): No. That’s not scientifically proven by any means, nor is there “an autoimmune component” in the current (or newly proposed) diagnostic criteria. At all. And yes, the suggestion that it would be better for autistic people to be not-autistic is ableist, pure and simple. I would also add that a lot of bogus ideas about autism are connected to bogus treatments, including a gluten-free diet. Obviously some autistic people do have legitimate gluten sensitivities; my best friend is one of them. But not every autistic person needs to follow this diet, and it’s dangerous to promote the idea that we do. There has been one study which has demonstrated that autistic boys on the diet have lower bone density, indicating that too often the diet isn’t carried out in a nutritionally sound way. That’s worrisome. Also worrisome is the fact that the diet often serves as a gateway to more dangerous “biomedical treatments,” including chelation, hyperbaric oxygen therapry, and Lupron (castration drug). Autistic people have died from the misuse of these “treatments.” So, yeah. Promoting the idea that “autism has an auto-immune component”–when reputable scientists haven’t demonstrated any such thing–is dangerous.

    It is also ableist (and unscientific) for non-autistic people to purport to be experts on the subject simply from reading a few abstracts.

    As an autistic person, I already struggle to feed myself in a semi-nutritious manner, given the combo of my food sensitivities (as in I can’t stand the taste or texture of many foods), financial limitations, and my inability to cook and chronic exhaustion. Adding a further complication to my diet issues is just not possible for me. Nor do I have the goal of becoming more neurotypical.

    On the general subject on gluten sensitivities, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, it can be a cover for disordered eating, as Jill said, and also arguably an issue of disability appropriation. People who really have celiac disease can get very ill eating gluten. It’s kind of appropriation to say you have it when you’re just following a diet fad, and may unfortunately lead other people to minimize the condition and therefore be lax in accommodating people who really, really cannot have gluten, ever, without serious problems. It’s trivializing, in short.

    But OTOH there is the issue of underdiagnosis, and even uncertain diagnosis. Doctors aren’t sure whether my sister has celiac disease or not; they’ve gone back and forth on it. She actually hopes not to have it, because there are a lot of good foods with it and following a gluten-free diet strictly is a huge pain. One good thing about the fad is that it has led to greater availability of gluten-free products.

    So I’m conflicted. I see both good and bad things about the fad more generally. When it comes to autism specifically, though, I’m firm in believing that there is a lot of harmful and ableist ideas surrounding the diet. Anyone who legitimately has food sensitivities is going to feel better and happier once they go on an appropriate diet, autistic or not. But that’s not autism.

  179. Dawn
    Dawn June 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    Jill: I mean, yeah, I feel sorry for people who are allergic to super-common foods and get incredibly sick when they eat them. That sucks. Why exactly is that controversial?

    Because of your use of “you people”, you’re othering and excluding us to push us outside of the sphere. Just because I’m disabled and require a specialist diet doesn’t change my gender.

    Plus you’re failing to take into account just what you’re doing to us. You feel sorry for us but not sorry enough to stop trampling us in your zeal to “rescue” women from fad diets. We’re women too, stop throwing us under a bus simply because we’re also marginalized for being disabled.

    By legitimizing judging people based on diet because they “might” have an eating disorder, you’re legitimizing able bodied privilege problems we already struggle with, namely the way people think they have a right to judge and to comment on our medical needs and diet. You could have commented on a diet such as the atkins which is definitely fad, or attacking societies pressure on women to “diet” into the “perfect” figure. Instead you pulled out your privilege, threw disabled women under a bus and then failed to get why we’re upset.

  180. Sarah
    Sarah June 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    If we are to understand allergies and food sensitivities as a disability issue, it’s also important that we not promote pity of people who have them. Just as with other disabilities. People who do not have a particular disability shouldn’t project their own feelings onto people who do, when really they have no way of actually knowing what it’s like to have that disability.

  181. Dawn
    Dawn June 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm |

    Intention is not magic, whether you like it or not, your posts and comments come across as privileged, judgmental, supportive of able bodied privilege and generally justifying stigma already rife and causing problems for disabled people.

    That you continue to ignore being repeatedly told this by the minority who you’ve thrown under the bus in this post is nothing short of pure privilege on your part. Offhand This is the second time you’ve posted something like this which has alienated and upset disabled women and third post I’ve seen on this site which has been disablist in nature. This place claims to be a feminist site yet disabled women don’t seem to be welcome especially when we ask you to listen to why broad brush condemnation of specialist diets as fads is HARMFUL to disabled women.

    Seriously, you’d be furious if a man treated you like you’re treating us when you disagreed with him supporting male privilege, yet you seem unwilling to recognise when you are being privileged and ignorant to a group who are affected by this sort of thing.

  182. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable June 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    To clarify, are you suggesting we identify allergies as disabilities, or as something that frequently run comorbid with certain disabilities (e.g. the commenters who mentioned that aspects of their autism is exacerbated by consumption of gluten)?

  183. Sarah
    Sarah June 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm |

    Not sure if 191 is directed towards me, but I do mean that allergies or celiac disease or something like that is a disability which requires accommodation and understanding under the social model.

  184. Attackfish
    Attackfish June 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm |

    Sarah: Thank you. I have severe multiple allergies, and I am currently trapped in my room because if I leave it’s hepa filtered into compliance air, I will start having violent seizures from the smoke from wildfires a state over. Admittedly, these allergies are part of a larger immune disease, but as they routinely threaten my life, make vacationing hideously difficult, and leave me making some pretty hefty accommodations with work/school, not to mention controlling where I live, what I eat, how I dress (allergic to wool and linen), left me with brain damage, not to mention the way the seizures specifically incited kids to beat me up every day when I was in grade school, oh you bet it’s a disability. I have the ADA regulations and paperwork to prove it.

  185. Annaham
    Annaham June 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm |

    ch: Sorry about that! Here it is.

  186. Emma
    Emma June 8, 2011 at 7:55 am |

    Someone may already have mentioned this, but you come across more gluten-intolerant women than gluten-intolerant men because celiac disease disproportionately affects women; only 1 in 10 celiacs is male.

  187. Ismone
    Ismone June 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm |

    Sarah,

    Just because something is not part of the diagnostic criteria does not mean it is not associated with a condition. I don’t know how many articles I would need to post to convince you that most autism is highly associated with autoimmunity. The strongest one is the one I posted upthread, when talking with Shaun.

    But I’ll try. Here are some writings about autism and autoimmunity:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19431079
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16698940
    http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/44/16/25.2.full

    And it is really, really important to know, not necessarily because everyone who is on the spectrum should try a gluten free diet or try anything, but because that knowledge may help to treat symptoms or to be aware of other medical conditions involving the immune system that may co-occur for people on the spectrum.

    I don’t want to “fix” anybody, regardless of whether or not they fit into a neurotypical box. I do think that it is important to discuss what we do know about any medical condition, because having a more complete understanding of conditions helps people to behave with compassion and helps people to consider treatment options.

    I hear you when you say how horrible it is for people on the spectrum to be subjected to quack treatments. I get that. But it doesn’t mean that discussing the autoimmune component of autism isn’t important.

    Speaking of other surprising correlations, manic-depressive people are more likely to be type-2 diabetics, or to have them in their family trees. The same is also true regarding migraines and panic attacks. They are associated with eachother, and they are associated with manic-depression. Which is good to know, regardless of whether it is cause or affect or just correlative.

  188. Sarah
    Sarah June 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm |

    Ismone: you say you don’t want to force us to become more neurotypical, and yet you medicalize autism at every turn. (i.e. the reference to “symptoms.”) Earlier in the thread, you suggest that “preventing” autism is a good thing. I consider that ableist. And even if you’re just “using the language that experts in the field use”…well, “experts in the field” are usually ableist and almost always use problematic language. (Why aren’t autistic people considered the true experts?)

    None of the studies you linked to–some of which I was already aware of, BTW–demonstrates that “most autism is highly associated with autoimmunity.” Leaving aside that that is a vague statement, what the studies demonstrate seems to me (as a layperson) to be demonstrating is that autistic people are more likely to have a family history of autoimmune disease. This does not however demonstrate that autistic people ourselves are more likely to have autoimmune conditions–and even if we did, that wouldn’t necessarily mean celiac disease specifically. That’s the problem with those studies–it lumps all autoimmune conditions together. I’m honestly not sure what practical purpose these studies serve, except to scare people (especially women) with autoimmune disease into worrying about OH NO AUTISTIC CHILDREN. It’s ableism all around, really.

    As an autistic person, whose mother has an autoimmune condition (type I diabetes), I am not particularly moved by these studies. I don’t see what is so very, very important about these studies, as you seem to insist. Okay, so I might be at slightly increased risk for developing autoimmune disease–although only 1% of children of type I diabetics end up getting the condition themselves, and if I haven’t gotten it by my mid-20s it’s fairly unlikely that I will in the future. But so what? It’s possible for anyone to get an autoimmune condition, so I’m not sure how these oh-so important studies change much. Everybody should, in a better world, receive quality healthcare which will hopefully detect and treat any autoimmune conditions which arise. Not sure what it has to do with autism, exactly.

    Please do not lecture me on what I should or should not be concerned about with my health. Thanks.

    Of far greater importance to me than these studies is the fact that most of the time I can’t communicate effectively with my current healthcare providers because of a whole lot of communication issues. And I’m lucky to at least have access to healthcare, shoddy though it may be.

    Causation studies about autism seem to fascinate many non-autistic people, but generally are of little interest to actual autistic people, BTW. Fact is, the evidence towards genetic causation is overwhelming. Not exclusively, no, but environmental factors play a role in virtually all traits and characteristics. I’m not too interested in figuring out what other factors may have contributed, in a minor way, towards me or anyone else being the way that we are. We’re here regardless.

    While so much money is being spent on causation studies, and how to prevent people like us from being born, way too many autistic people remain unemployed or underemployed, in poverty, and/or institutionalized. That is of far greater concern to me than the studies you seem to feel are so important. Causation studies aren’t going to help my autistic partner get a suitable job.

  189. Shaun
    Shaun June 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm |

    Thanks Sarah. You articulated it much better than I could.

    I think it’s interesting you brought up how causation studies seem to fascinate Neurotypicals. In my experience Autistic people are overwhelmingly disinterested in the cure/causation agenda, but I hadn’t really thought about the Neurotypical tendency to be interested in the reverse.

    As a random aside, I just remembered autoimmune disorders are disproportionately prevalent among the wealthy (don’t have any links, sorry) and autism diagnoses cluster in areas where the parents are white, affluent, and educated. There may actually be a correlation, but it doesn’t imply causation.

  190. Jim
    Jim June 8, 2011 at 5:40 pm |

    Shaun: There may actually be a correlation, but it doesn’t imply causation.

    Maybe it’s the diagnosis part, not the autism part that clusters that way. I don’t know anything about it, at all, but that kind of clustering looks that way to me.

    This is certainly the case when it comes to identifying “gifted children”, or whatever term is current these days.

  191. Ismone
    Ismone June 8, 2011 at 6:25 pm |

    Sarah,

    I am not quite sure how to respond re: medicalization, I don’t mean to offend, but autism is considered a medical condition. The extent to which any cluster of behaviors or symptoms or what have you should be considered a condition vs. part of natural variation–I get how that is problematic. (I.e., people who exercise “compulsively”–do they have a problem, or do they just like exercise a lot more than people who don’t? Who knows.)

    Re: preventing autism–I see how that can be offensive. But when dealing with anything that decreases people’s quality of life, research into prevention seems appropriate. For someone who already has whatever it is we are seeking to prevent, yeah that kind of sucks. And with some of my own atypical characteristics, even though they do have downsides and are probably biological, I happen to like them. Also, I know that some families with severely autistic children have difficulty obtaining the resources to care for those children.

    Whatever you wish to do (or to not do) with information is not up to me. But I am not going to stop talking about it because people tell me I am ableist for discussing biological links and causes. If you don’t want to act on that, or join the conversation, that is up to you. One upside to discussing biological causes for anything that is considered atypical is that it makes it more real to the deniers who don’t want to believe that behavior they personally dislike isn’t being done on purpose.

    Genetic causation and autoimmune causation are not necessarily distinct from eachother, at least not altogether. So I don’t understand why the one doesn’t concern you but the other does.

    Nope, studies don’t help people get jobs. That is true of any condition or state of being. But sometimes they help people understand and treat symptoms. And they aren’t mutually exclusive.

    As for studies showing autoimmunity and autism in the individual autistic person or person on the spectrum, the first abstract I mentioned to Shaun refers to that.

    And it isn’t associated with all autoimmune disorders, either.

    Shaun,

    Re: correlation and causation, the studies point to individual parents with autoimmune disorders having a higher chance at having children on the spectrum. So family analyses show more than population correlation, the show familial correlation. And antibodies to fetal brains probably go a little beyond correlation.

    Also, autoimmune disorders might be underdiagnosed in poor populations.

    Re: obsession–well, I am obsessed with immunology and the bounds of neurotypicality. But again, that is me.

  192. Sarah
    Sarah June 8, 2011 at 7:11 pm |

    I know full well that autism is considered a medical condition. I, however, as a disability rights person, prefer the social model and radical model of disability. Claiming that something is considered a medical condition does not necessarily make it so, nor does it mean that the medical model is the most effective way to discuss the issue.

    But when dealing with anything that decreases people’s quality of life, research into prevention seems appropriate.

    Note all the assumptions here–the idea that autism automatically decreases quality of life, the idea that prevention is a way to improve quality of life (for whom, I might ask), etc. Etc. This is ableist.

    And in this context, we should be very clear about what “prevention” means. We are talking about the fact that autistic people are (somewhat) more likely to have relatives with autoimmune disease. Okay. Using this information to prevent autistic people (urgh) means, basically, scaring and shaming people (especially women) who have autoimmune conditions and suggesting that it’s best if they not reproduce. I’m not signing onto this at all, and again, I think this idea is laden with ableism all around–the idea that autistic people are less than and the idea that people with autoimmune conditions shouldn’t be reproducing. It disgusts me to think that some people would look at my mother and think that she shouldn’t have had kids because of her autoimmune condition, or look at me and think that I’m “proof” that people like my mom shouldn’t reproduce. Yet by connecting this correlation to the ableist goal of “autism prevention,” we are basically telling people with autoimmune conditions they shouldn’t reproduce. I mean, how else do you suggest we act on this information?

    Moreover, if you read the stats correctly, you’ll see that the risk of any given person with an autoimmune condition having an autistic child is relatively low. Maybe it’s higher than that of a person without any autoimmune conditions, but it’s still low. Like 2% or less low. Yeah, that’s clearly worth scare-mongering over.

    A far greater indicator of whether you’re likely to have autistic children is, like I’ve said, your own neurology and family history of autism or other neuro-atypicality. Not of autoimmune disease–which many people have some kind of family history of. Are we going to tell them all they shouldn’t reproduce?

    I’m not particularly interested in genetics research, BTW. I just recognize that the evidence towards genetics being the primary cause of autism is overwhelming, and anything else is relatively minor in comparison. I’d just as soon not bother worrying about the cause of neurological differences at all, but the society that I live in doesn’t seem to agree with me on that. When you add that to the fact that some autism causation theories directly promote dangerous quack treatments…yeah, I’m going to be concerned about that.

    Nope, studies don’t help people get jobs. That is true of any condition or state of being. But sometimes they help people understand and treat symptoms. And they aren’t mutually exclusive.

    And how exactly are these particular findings going to help people “treat symptoms,” exactly? None of the studies you’ve shown suggest that a gluten-free diet is necessarily appropriate, and anyway, I repeat that “acting more neurotypical” isn’t a goal that many of us have. I don’t believe that I or my partner should have to act more neurotypical in order to get a job, or obtain any other right. Yet you suggest this as the answer, which is truly staggering to me. That demonstrates how harmful over-medicalization of disability issues really is.

    I certainly don’t see how these findings do anything at all for autistic people who don’t have autoimmune conditions. As for those that do, of course they should receive appropriate treatment for the autoimmune conditions, but how does the correlation affect them at all? There are significant barriers towards autistic people obtaining good healthcare in this society, and that is of higher concern to me, again.

    But I am not going to stop talking about it because people tell me I am ableist for discussing biological links and causes. If you don’t want to act on that, or join the conversation, that is up to you.

    As an autistic person, I consider discussion about autism to affect me. I don’t have the privilege to consider this as a mere academic subject, sorry. The ableist ideas which you have repeatedly promoted here affect me regardless of whether I participate in the conversation or not. I am “in” the conversation whether I speak up myself or not–as a statistic of an autistic person with a diabetic mother, as part of the supposed “epidemic.” So I prefer to participate directly, so that at least my viewpoint gets out there even though I recognize that it may be radical to some.

    Society-wise, there is a problem when so many resources are going towards causation and prevention (again, urgh) and so little towards services for disabled people. To loosely quote my friend Ari Ne’eman, it is very easy to get funding today for a study that examines the causes of autism, and comparatively very, very difficult to fund a study which looks at how best to educate autistic people. I don’t think that’s an acceptable state of affairs.

    We know this, BTW, because autistic advocates have compiled information about every single research study related to autism funded by a major funder (public or private) in the U.S. in 2009. Less than 1% went towards research involving adults; only 3% went to research involving services.

    See a recently published interview with Mr. Ne’eman here. I think it may enlighten people who are skeptical of what autistic people are saying.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jun/08/ari-neeman-autism-campaigner-policy-table

  193. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis June 8, 2011 at 7:46 pm |

    @Sarah: Thank you for speaking up in this thread. I’m not on the spectrum, but I’m also not neurotypical. I’m sick of abled folk being fascinated with ways to prevent and “fix” people like me when there are things that are known to make our lives suck less. Not that all of our lives even suck nor is that suck necessarily caused by our way of being, but people tend to miss that point.

  194. Shaun
    Shaun June 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm |

    Jim, yes, that’s exactly why autism diagnoses cluster that way. It takes money to get a diagnosis. People who are products of higher education are more likely to think of behavior in diagnostic terms. And doctors still think of autism as a “white” “condition.”

  195. Jemima Aslana
    Jemima Aslana June 10, 2011 at 11:53 am |

    Sarah, you rock. There’s nothing I can add to your comments.

  196. Ismone
    Ismone June 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm |

    Sarah,

    It is important to understand because autoimmune conditions are often difficult to detect. Knowing that autism is related to autoimmunity may be able to prevent the harm caused by the autoimmune diseases associated with autism.

    I get the problems with medicalizing people’s state of being, but if there is a medical cause, we can be aware of what exacerbates or relieves symptoms. No, I don’t think that people should or should not reproduce based on family history–because just about anybody who studies genetics realizes that we all have some non-typical, “harmful” mutations in our own lines.

    But here, on a thread about gluten intolerance, I started talking about the link between that and autism. Not to disrespect anyone, but because it does exist and because knowing it exists can be helpful to some people. Perhaps not to you.

    And I do think it is harder to be non-neurotypical. (Again, there are some assumptions here about me, I am discussing this abstractly for very specific reasons, and I will continue to do so.) That is not necessarily a bad thing, but if certain aspects of the autism spectrum are better understood, there can be better prevention of associated diseases, and perhaps down the line, better prevention of autoimmunity altogether. If our immune systems are out of whack, that is kind of scary. Not because it results (or may result) in autistic people, but because autoimmune diseases are very unpleasant.

    And I stand by my argument that sometimes understanding the medical aspects of a condition of any sort that affects behavior is a good thing, because there are people who try to “blame” the non-typical for behavior that these people don’t like, and see it as volitional rather then as a part of that individual person’s physiological makeup, or brain architecture, or whatever it may be.

    You’re taking aim at me for things that other people are doing, not me.

  197. Melissa
    Melissa June 21, 2011 at 10:53 am |

    llama: I just wish vegan restaurants had meat choices like others have vegetarian choices

    Um… why? There are eleventy billion meaty restaurants out there. Vegan restaurants are a special space where we don’t have to smell meat cooking or watch it being eaten. That’s nice to have as an option. Some of us vegans like being able to eat some where where we’re not giving money to folks who are using it to buy animal products AND we can eat everything on the menu AND there is no risk of cross-contamination. I get slipped dairy after 8 years of veganism – I feel like death.

    Also, you can eat vegan food with no issues. There aren’t any ethical problems for you eating some beans and grains and produce. Meaty restaurants have veg options (sometimes, rarely vegan, though) because not everyone eat animals so it makes sense to have a non-meat option. Vegan chow tends to have the benefit of being acceptable for vegans, veggies and open-minded omnivores.

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