This week, there has been a startling number of disturbing posts on sites I read regularly.
These posts allege that the gluten-free fad cannot last much longer, and that soon all the lovely gluten-free foods available on grocery store shelves will begin to fade away. They seem to have an, “ah, well, it was fun while it lasted…” tone. They are written by bloggers or food sites that I respect.
They make my stomach hurt.
When I was first diagnosed with celiac over a decade ago, no one had ever heard of gluten-free. I said it to waiters and received a dumbfounded stare. I said it to grocery store clerks and received an are-you-crazy-should-I-call-security stink eye. I said it to family members and they thought I was lying or that I meant there was something wrong with my ass (gluten…glutes…). The only way for me to get food was to order it online, which was not nearly as easy or common back then, and the majority of it was made with brown rice – mushy and tasteless.
Someone asked me recently if I ever forget and just grab something with gluten without thinking. My answer made me feel really sad – I said, “I can’t even remember what it’s like to look at food and think, that looks good, and then try it without having to think first.”
I really can’t even imagine what that’s like. It seems like the greatest of all luxuries to me, to just be able to take a bite of something without worrying. Who needs diamonds or a fancy house with heated bathroom floors? Please just let me be able to see a slice of Italian bread and eat it without thinking.
That’s why when I see posts like the ones I mentioned above, I have a very immediate, physical reaction. My stomach starts to hurt. I notice my shoulders creeping up around my ears in tension. I may feel some tears well up in my eyes.
I don’t want to go back to eating brown-rice everything. I don’t even have words to describe how much the thought of future without pleasure in eating terrifies me. I already worry about what’s going to happen when I’m 85 and in a nursing home and I get the wrong meal tray, or if I lose everything and can’t get gluten-free food at the food pantry.
Please, please stop thinking that gluten-free is a joke or a fad. Please stop guessing how long it will take before Eggo and Barilla and all the others turn their backs on me and millions of others. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke. It’s not a food industry fluctuation. I understand that to you, it isn’t a big deal.
But it’s my life. It’s my sustenance. It’s my ability to get through the day without crying on the toilet and wishing I could have the entire lower half of my body amputated.
I don’t mean this post as a “feel sorry for me, I’m having a pity party” type of thing. I know that there are a lot of people who have it much worse than I do. But every time I read one of these pieces, my heart breaks a little, and I get genuinely afraid of my future. So all I mean to do here is ask you this: put yourself in the shoes of a celiac or someone with gluten intolerance. And then cross your fingers for us instead of speculating against us.