Some people tend to assume that eating a gluten free diet is a thing that picky people do in order to have another thing to be obnoxious about. These people that get annoyed with others’ eating habits seem to think that eating gluten free is another fad diet like Atkins or the Super Cleanse. For whatever reason, eating a gluten free diet has become fashionable, and as such, there’s a backlash against it.
The old joke “how can you tell if a person is a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you” has been modified lately to include “gluten free.”
Do you know why I’ll tell you that I need to eat gluten free? Because I don’t want to get diarrhea and break out in hives. I hate eating gluten free, but it’s something I have to do. I don’t eat gluten free to try to lose weight. I eat gluten free so that I can actually digest my food rather than passing it through only partially digested.
At 26 years of age I was 6’4″ and only 135 pounds and couldn’t figure out why I could eat as much fatty food as I wanted but couldn’t seem to keep any weight on. Before you start saying, “oh I wish I had that problem” just stop. Being gaunt is not fun. Being unable to gain muscle mass is not fun. Being malnourished despite eating full meals is not fun. Chronic fatigue is not fun. After seeing a doctor, I found out that my body wasn’t actually absorbing the nutrients from most of the food I was eating and that was because I was constantly eating food I was allergic to. The structures in my intestines responsible for breaking down certain nutrients were basically toasted.
It wasn’t just wheat either. Barley, hops, lentils, peanuts, raspberries, salmon, haddock, dill, potatoes… I had a lot of food intolerances. Most of my favorite foods contained things that were responsible for the damage done to my digestive tract.
So I had to change my diet drastically, and found out soon that they put wheat in fucking everything. It makes a great thickener. It adds substance and, most importantly, stretchiness to most things you add to it. Bread made with wheat is just amazing. There’s nothing better than a big, fluffy, chewy, squishy loaf of bread. And with as many gluten free products that exist, there really isn’t such a thing as good gluten free bread. I mean, there are some that, after toasting and buttering, are fairly decent. As far as toast goes. And don’t get me wrong, having toast to go with my bacon and eggs is stupendous compared to having no toast. But I have yet to try a gluten free hotdog bun or hamburger bun that didn’t make me kind of want to wander onto the subway tracks. Why anyone who can digest whole wheat bread would choose to eat gluten free is beyond me. It’s a sacrifice that you will not enjoy.
Finding gluten free food at first was hard, but with the inexplicable persistence of eating gluten free as a fad diet, there are more and more gluten free options popping up. Last May when Dominos Pizza announced their gluten free crust, I was skeptical but decided to give it a shot. In their announcement they admitted that there was no way for them to prevent cross-contamination in their kitchens. In essence, this was not gluten free pizza for people with real gluten intolerance. It was gluten free pizza for people who think Diet Coke is part of a healthy diet. I ate the pizza, it was delicious, then I a horrible case of the shits almost immediately after. Fun times.
Because of the popularity of eating gluten free, there are gluten free products popping up that contain ingredients derived from wheat that some people may still react to. My hands break out in blisters often if I eat something containing maltodextrin, a common additive in many processed foods. The problem is that even though maltodextrin may come from any starch, it is almost never labeled to indicate whether it came from corn or wheat. And maltodextrin, like wheat, is in fucking everything that’s delicious.
Another mistake a lot of people make is making the assumption that all dietary restrictions are created equal. People are always saying things to me like, “oh there’s this place we should go that I think you’ll love. It’s all vegan so they’ll probably have lots of stuff for you too.” Sure, I’ve had some tasty vegan food before. But for my diet, I’m basically the opposite of a vegan. Vegans love putting lentils in everything. I’m allergic to lentils. Plus I have no problems eating and digesting most meat and dairy. Because of the fact that I can’t eat wheat, I find myself consuming more eggs, milk, and butter than I ever did before. And for the first time since I was in boot camp I’m finally putting on weight again. Obviously, cholesterol is a concern, meaning that I don’t want to overdo it on the dairy and red meat. But now, a little over a year after making my dietary changes, I’ve put on 20 lbs, with the goal of gaining another 25 to be at my ideal weight. Best of all, I’m actually feeling better about myself too.
Still, I can’t wrap my head around why eating gluten free is suddenly such a hot trend. It’s not going to help you lose weight. If anything, you’ll probably put on weight. And for people who actually need to eat gluten free, that’s actually the whole point.