When I was 15 years old, I had a big discovery that changed my life forever. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which means I cannot ingest gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye). Before my diagnosis, I suffered from sudden and severe stomach pain that came out of nowhere. Both my cousin and mom had previously been diagnosed, but I held off being tested, not wanting to give up eating some of my favorite foods—french toast, pancakes, and pizza. 

Eventually, my stomach pains defeated my stubbornness, and I went gluten free for a week. The week turned into a month, which turned into 6 months, and now 6 years. It wasn't easy. I had to stop eating bread, I had to give up morning bagels before swim meets, black and white cookies after Shabbat dinner, and my regular order of spicy tuna on crispy rice and creamy salmon handrolls at my favorite sushi restaurant. 

The beginning

There were a lot of challenges. But the worst part was eating out with friends. I had to wait until everyone finished ordering so I could explain to the waiter that I was severely allergic to gluten, before trying to decipher which items were gluten free, or could be adjusted to accommodate my allergy.

Choice vs. allergy

My Celiac Disease has made me uncertain at times when it comes to my choices. Now, when I order meals gluten free, I am constantly asked, “Is it by choice or because of my allergy?” I am always perplexed by this question. I think to myself, “who the hell would stop eating wheat, barley, and rye by choice?” People falsely believe going gluten-free is automatically good for them. According to Beyond Celiac, an estimated 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity (6 times the amount of Americans with celiac disease).

For everyone else, going gluten free will do absolutely nothing to their health. Gluten free cookies and cakes are just as fattening as normal treats, but the prices are doubled and it's harder to find ones that taste as good. Yet, the food marketing industry recognized this booming gluten-free trend, and has taken advantage of the gluten by choice fad by labeling naturally gluten-less food as gluten free in order to make an extra dollar.

#SpoonTip: bananas do not have gluten, they've never had gluten, and they never will have gluten.

Why I dislike the gluten-free trend

My aversion to people who choose to be gluten-free stems from the lack of seriousness I experience when I mention my dietary restriction. On many occasions, my friends have joked about my gluten-free “diet," which is a side effect of the gluten-free fad. When I have to ask for my food to be prepared separately or make adjustments to a meal, further inconveniencing my waiter, I always feel a sense of harsh judgement. Eating out with friends who have other food allergies that are perceived as more “serious” or “real” has proven this to me. Nut allergies are taken way more seriously than gluten allergies because they lack a stigma of a diet fad. Not only am I faced with judgement, but my grocery bill is double the price. Every gluten free bread, snack, and cake mix comes in a tiny, half-empty, box that costs twice as much as the “regular” version (can you believe it?). 

Why I'm grateful for the gluten-free trend

Even with my qualms about the trend, I am grateful to these people that make my dining experiences more difficult because they are responsible for the wide variety of gluten-free substitutes that are increasingly available at restaurants and grocery stores. I am able to find pizza, pancakes, crepes, and so much more, thanks to the many gluten-free products now available. Eating out isn’t as difficult as it once was, since many of the restaurants are able to adjust their recipes to offer a gluten-free version. Furthermore, many grocery stores now have sections dedicated to gluten-free substitutes, giving me more food options.

In the end, I still have conflicting opinions on this gluten-free trend. But a lot of good has come out of it. Gluten-free-by-choicers have helped develop demand for gluten-free products, growing the market for these items. Their naivety and numbers has allowed people with serious gluten allergies to find decent food. For this, I am grateful (and a lot less hungry).