A true experience with what is often considered a "fad diet"

by Jessica

I walked into science class, expecting another typical period of learning new concepts and completing practice problems. However, as I sat down in the front of the classroom, I overheard a group of girls having a conversation behind me: a conversation filled with topics that bothered me in every way possible. They were talking about eating healthy and food allergies. During the conversation, one girl said, “I wish I had Celiac Disease”. I uncomfortably shifted in my seat., but I did not say what was on my mind. You never wish upon yourself that you’d be stricken with an allergy or with something that could affect your health in such a detrimental way.

She said she wanted to “lose weight” and “eat healthy” but that is not the point of Celiac Disease, let alone a gluten free diet. Celiac Disease is much more than just going on a diet, it dramatically affects your body in ways that the average person will never understand unless they experience it themselves.

Children and teenagers today grow up in a society where new trends are always making headlines and influencing people to change certain aspects of their lives. Fad diets are most definitely a popular subject when it comes to the news.

Everyone has heard of this so called “gluten free” diet, and there are those who believe it does not benefit the individual in any way. However, there are people who are willing to take any path to become, in their opinion, “healthier”. These people choose to restrict themselves from enjoying the pleasures of everyday food. These people choose not to eat bread and choose not to eat other gluten filled items because it supposedly makes them “healthier”.

These people are the people who go out to eat and choose to say “I’m gluten free. What options do you have for me?” For a person who is actually ill with Celiac Disease, this can be the most frustrating thing. These individuals diagnosed with the disease do not have the choice to eat gluten free or not. They absolutely must follow a strict gluten free diet, and are completely cut off from enjoying the food that people rave about on a daily basis.

When people hear me talk about my allergy they sometimes believe that I am exaggerating, but Celiac Disease is a real health issue that shouldn’t go ignored. It affects you not only physically, but mentally, and it can change the way you see the world. Often seen today in pop culture as a fad diet, gluten free diets are a reality for millions of people who suffer from Celiac Disease.

When I was only 9 years old, I received news that to this day still affects my life in
dramatic ways. At first, I didn’t really understand the whole concept of Celiac Disease. However, as time passed and I got older and matured, I started to understand the severity of the situation and finally realized that being on this gluten free diet was a necessity and not a joke.

In the beginning stages of my experience with Celiac Disease, I can truly say that I struggled. I despised having to be the kid who was different and who was always complaining about not feeling well, and it lead to me ultimately being embarrassed about my situation.

It didn’t help that I couldn’t find any gluten free food outside the house. Birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, even just going out to dinner was a constant and unconquerable struggle. Walking through grocery stores and scanning each aisle for a food labeled “gluten free” seemed pointless after my fiftieth attempt. There was nothing I could do: I had such limited options. I was so jealous that other kids were free to enjoy anything, and I had such a large restriction.

As years passed and I grew older and matured, I finally started to understand what Celiac Disease was.

I still hated having to eat differently than all the people surrounding me, but I told myself that things were never going to change and I was going to have to get used to it sooner or later. Although it did still bother me when people chose to eat gluten free, it could also be considered a benefit in my case.

Since so many people were choosing to live this lifestyle, more and more companies began to produce gluten free products, and soon enough the grocery store shelves were filling up with all different types of gluten free goods. To think that 5 years ago you couldn’t find a single decent sounding item and now the shelves were stocked was an incredible feeling. This diet became so popular that tons of restaurants started adopting gluten free dishes and some even creating whole menus dedicated to gluten free meals.

It took me a while to realize the irony of the situation.

How had the idea of people trying out this crazy fad diet turn into greater awareness for Celiac Disease? To see myself being mad at people for following this diet for no beneficial reason to now seeing even more awareness being raised for this illness I’m dealing with is an amazing feeling. Nowadays, I can go anywhere and find something that accommodates my needs. I am no longer embarrassed about my allergy, and instead choose to embrace it. After this long and complicated journey I am finally comfortable in my own skin, and am not ashamed of the lifestyle I have to live.

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