About two weeks ago I found out that I needed to stop eating gluten. Since then, I’ve been doing a lot of research about what I can and cannot eat, how to stay healthy on a gluten free lifestyle (notice how I didn’t call it a ‘diet’), and how to incorporate this transition into my everyday life as seamlessly as possible.
Unfortunately, over the course of this research I noticed that there seems to be a lot of prejudice about gluten free lifestyle habits and it isn’t as one-sided as I had anticipated. On the one hand, I’ve got people telling me that going gluten-free is just the latest and greatest in a long line of fad diets that come and go over time. These people raise an eyebrow in skepticism at the mention of the phrase ‘gluten-free’ and look down upon the people who follow this lifestyle, even those of us who are making the change due to a legitimate health condition. On the other hand–and perhaps more disappointing–are the people who have been gluten-free for years due to medical conditions such as Celiac disease who act as though anyone who is just starting the gluten-free lifestyle now is an impostor. These people look down upon others such as myself as if they see themselves as superior in their imaginary hierarchy of who has it worse.
I haven’t been broadcasting my diagnosis by any means (aside from talking about it here, but nobody who knows me in person knows that this blog exists…) but I have talked to a few people who I know that follow a gluten-free meal plan in order to get some advice and meal ideas. I had expected that these people would give me some good advice and genuinely help me but instead I was brushed off by them because in their opinion I do not need to be gluten-free to treat Hashimoto’s Disease. Apparently they think they know more about my condition than my doctors do. Oh ignorance, how you irritate me.
With all of this being said, I think there is a common trend when it comes to many illnesses. When it comes to eating disorders, there is a hierarchy in which anorexia is considered much more severe (and often the desired diagnosis for sufferers looking for validation), however, bulimia is statistically much more dangerous due to the binge-purge cycle. Similarly, anxiety and depression have become something of a trend over the past few years and even I am guilty of thinking that people say they have anxiety just for attention seeking purposes. But who is to say that their anxiety is not just as serious or perhaps worse than mine, just because they share it all over Facebook or Tumblr? Maybe that is their way of reaching out for help. Just because I keep my anxiety disorder to myself does not mean that others do not find support in speaking out about their experiences via social media. If anything, these people are brave enough to share their experiences and raise awareness which is something that I have to commend them for. It took me a long time to recognize the value in these peoples’ experiences and how powerful it can be to share their stories with their friends and family. It is something that I have not been able to do (aside from anonymously talking about it on here…) so who am I to criticize others for doing something that I wish I had the courage to do myself?
So, while I do not appreciate the way that my gluten-free lifestyle is being prejudiced, I am thankful for the opportunity that it gave me to reflect on my own opinions and experiences of others.
Have any of you ever been frustrated when an issue that you struggle with becomes a mainstream “trend”? Did you ever feel like there was a hierarchy of suffering? How did this manifest in your experiences and how did you change the way you thought about it?
Let me know in the comments below!