Throughout high school, weight was something I struggled with. I’ve always been bigger than my friends; while they were shopping in each others’ closets for school dances, I was stuck with the low key embarrassment of not being able to fit in their cute dresses and share mine with them. If I happened to have something that might interest them, I constantly felt the need to preface my offer with, “It might be too big for you, but I have…” and this fueled the shame I associated with the number on the tag.
I played a sport, and I would work out, but I could never seem to stick with a kitchen plan that would get me where I wanted. I tried it all: food diaries, Weight Watchers, Atkins, Paleo. They were all trends that would leave me at the end of the month with a fast 20 pounds down soon to be gained back by “cheating.” My internet history was filled with Google searches of “How to drop weight fast” and “How to lose ten pounds in one week.” I focused solely on the number on the scale, a rookie mistake for anyone trying to live a healthier lifestyle.
Fast forward to today; I’m an active, healthy sophomore in college who will be the first to say that I love gluten. I’m not against lifestyles like paleo — if that works for you, then by all means, I applaud you. That takes some serious dedication. But, as a college student who survives off of dining hall food and the occasional splurge on Panera, it’s not convenient, and it’s not realistic.
This past year, the social media trend #girlswithgluten has sparked a national conversation. Ladies everywhere are diving in on their favorite foods and sharing them with this hashtag in the hopes of being a part of something bigger than themselves (or maybe just to be Insta famous, who knows). It’s started a war on those who claim that women should watch what they’re eating at all times.
I’m ecstatic that women everywhere are freely expressing their love of gluten. However, not only has it led to a conversation about gender roles and their place in the foodie world, but many have channeled into a much deeper topic: body image in our culture. And, while this internet trend has done great things, it is also doing a lot of damage.
This social media trend stealing the hearts of women everywhere really does give us an initial confidence boost. #girlswithgluten tells us that it’s okay to eat that extra slice of pizza or go out and grab a burger instead of a salad.
Celebrities are even endorsing the trend. Women like Rihanna, Cara Delevigne, and Ruby Rose have all been featured on the site channeling their inner gluten loving selves. In a world like ours where body image seems to be the only thing anyone cares about, it’s refreshing to see endorsements from these ladies. They show us that sometimes, no one really cares that you’re eating chicken fingers. In fact, they’re telling you that you should eat those chicken fingers. Do it, girl. You only have one life so live it up with all the gluten you want (peep my best friends dressed up as Cheesecake Factory baguettes for Halloween 2015 below).
On top of all that (the icing on the cake, may I say), is that this account takes away from this bizarre “gluten is my enemy” idea that has invaded the heads of about a trillion people. Even the Girls With Gluten website addresses this, saying “We don’t know where gluten-phobia started and why we adopted it so easily, but we’re sick of the idea that avoiding the bread basket is the key to physical beauty and world peace. In fact, we’re calling this bluff.” I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty awesome.
I get it, some people really can’t eat gluten. Celiac is a serious disease, about 1 in every 133 people have it, and I have a number of friends who have been diagnosed. In addition to Celiac, many people have what is called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) in which they experience some symptoms of Celiac without the damage to their small intestine.
The issue with NCGS, however, is that a majority of people with “gluten sensitivity” are self-diagnosed. This leaves room for the possibility of other issues causing the symptoms, not an intolerance to gluten. In a study done by Jessica Biesiekierski, a gastroenterologist at Monash University, only 28 percent of people studied actually met the criteria of having NCGS, and 24 percent of them who were following a gluten free diet still had symptoms even with a gluten free diet. On top of this, the vast amount of people claiming to have an allergy to gluten has actually caused some restaurants to stop taking the allergy so seriously, which is incredibly harmful for those who actually have an intolerance.
So, if you don’t have a serious, identified intolerance to gluten, let me ask you one question: what the hell are you doing?
According to health experts at the University of Wisconson, cutting out products with gluten leads to “eating fewer products enriched with nutrients, which may lead to deficiencies in iron, calcium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.” These nutrients are responsible for carrying and storing the oxygen in our bodies, converting food into energy (so we can eat more gluten), and making DNA, among other things. Pretty sure you need this stuff to survive.
This account is great because it publicly battles all of the bullshit that causes these issues. Gluten is delicious. Gluten, in moderation, is good for you. Goodbye #fitfam, hello #foodfam.
Let’s start with one of the most subtle problems that this trend has. Girls With Gluten is run by the company Dirty Lemon Beverages, LLC. Dirty Lemon is a brand that sells a detox water, a week’s worth for $65, entirely made out of natural products like lemon and charcoal. When on this detox, users do not have to change their diets at all (their selling point).
This sounds like a dream come true, right? Keep doing what you’re doing while you cleanse your body of any toxins with a delicious water alternative. I would probably buy it in a heartbeat if I had more than $13 in my bank account right now.
Here lies the problem, though; Girls With Gluten is, among other things, an advertising gimmick for Dirty Lemon Detox. Does anyone else see an issue with this?!
I get it – us ladies wanna eat what we want without judgement. Why should guys get to down a bucket of wings while we sit by, idly drooling while we eat our carrots? But, while I’m all for sushi rolls and not gender roles, shouldn’t our goal to be to promote a healthy lifestyle? While I agree that diet trends that limit your nutrient intake don’t necessarily guarantee health, neither does gluttony.
While I’m sure the product is great, I personally don’t see the ethical reasoning behind using an account shoving gluten in the face of women in order to sell a detox diet. Get them to eat more, and when they consciously realize they do not look like the models in the gluten filled pictures, they buy your diet plan. It sounds pretty unethical to me, actually.
What’s your first thought when you look at this picture?
Was it “wow, that pizza looks boooooommmmmb”? ‘Cause same. My second thought, though, was “wow, I don’t think I’ve ever looked like that while eating a pizza, and I don’t think I ever will,” and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that idea, either. This just adds the fuel to the fire surrounding the topic of negative body image, adding on to the ever present pressure for women and men alike to adapt eating disorders and unhealthy tendencies.
I did a little research on this topic, and it seems like the general public agrees with me so far. For one thing, people definitely agree that the Internet is changing the way we eat. The media loves to preach body positivity, and yet they do it in such an ironic, and often detrimental, way. An article on The Chive discussed Girls With Gluten a while back, and I think user BrassNBoots said it perfectly when they stated that “It seems it has almost become a fetish to see skinny chicks eating junk food. But if it were a girl with 10 extra pounds there would be comments left and right about ‘try a salad next time.” As a society, we love positivity – once the ideal standard is already attained. But before that “goal” is reached, everybody has something to say.
I get it, body image conversation can be overkill. It’s one of those things that we hear over and over in school and in the news, but it is important, and the facts shouldn’t be taken lightly. According to dosomething.org, 58 percent of college aged women feel pressured to be a specific weight. This statistic can be attributed to social media, in which Professor Dina Borzekowski of Johns Hopkins University notes that “messages and images are more targeted.” If this message is coming from a friend or a popular source which is being liked and commented on by friends, it is likely that one will perceive the message as coming from a more credible and important source.
Forget about the cunning captions for a second, and what do you see? A skinny, beautiful woman with a giant slice of pizza, endorsed and approved by your friends as well as our society at large. Yeah, the food looks great, but I’ll admit it, I’d rather look and feel as gorgeous as the women in those pictures.
What I’m trying to say is that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Well, you can, but the majority of us will feel guilty for doing so. Similarly, you can’t just indulge in a gluten filled diet (well, at least most of us can’t) and expect to look like Niykee Heaton without putting in at least a little bit of an effort at the gym and throwing in a salad here and there. That’s just how our bodies work. But, we shouldn’t feel pressured by our culture’s predetermined standards of beauty, either. Society has taught us that we must replace the sugar in our metaphorical cake with Splenda so we can save calories, and then maybe we’ll feel a little better about putting on that dress to go out. That’s just disheartening and frustrating.
I’m relatively happy with my body and who I am today. The number on the scale, whether I’m at my high or my low, is not a be all and end all testament to my health or my happiness. But that doesn’t mean I’m gonna feel any less guilty about eating that cookie at lunch, and I’m still gonna edit out my double chin on my Instagram.
The media we take in has such an incredible impact on us whether we are conscious about it or not. We’re so quick to judge ourselves and tear down our own image, and yet we spend very little time commending ourselves for a job well done. #girlswithgluten has done an amazing job, on the outside, of promoting body image amongst women. What I ask of all of you, though, is to pay attention next time you like that picture or tag your friend in a comment. Positive body image isn’t about being skinny so you can eat a bagel, and it’s not about eating as much as you want so that you can say that you don’t care about society’s standards. It’s simple; positive body image is just having pride in who you are and what you look like, regardless of what society and the media are saying.
Pay a little more attention to what you’re ingesting mentally, a little less to what you’re ingesting physically, and be proud to be you.