A recent study found one third of Americans are now trying to keep this protein out of their diet. Dr. Sanjay Gupta declares: “Gluten-free”is the health mantra of the moment. Trend, fad or mantra, most of the hopefuls are following into the footsteps of Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities who, in the eyes of our layman eyes, continue to be the icons of beauty, youth and success.
Miranda Kerr, Jessica Alba, Rachel Weisz, Miley Cyrus, Victoria Beckham, and Selma Blair, amongst others, are well-known gluten-free “enthusiasts.”
I’ve been on a diet since I can remember. As a kid, I was always weighing more than my (much smaller) friends, and once I hit college, the well-known “freshman 15” really turned out to be “freshman 50+” for me. But I was healthy. And now, looking back, eating a whole pizza for dinner seems like a far off dream, versus an artery-clogging and calorie-heart-attack nightmare.
I’m not celiac, but I do have a gluten allergy. And had to walk a long path before arriving to this life-changing eye-opener. Doctors prescribed counseling for stress, told me to go the gym, and even gave me anti-anxiety medication. In the meantime, I couldn’t get on a plane without going to the restroom 5 times at the terminal, and I didn’t understand why. (Did I mention I was addicted to Starbuck’s banana and chocolate chip coffee cake? Thats why!)
Eating gluten-free, avoiding preservatives and things I can’t pronounce, and spending more time thinking about what I put in my mouth has been the best and most incredible “medication.” It also forced me to spend countless hours baking and cooking, which I just figured out I really love to do. I don’t eat anything that has a label, so if I want a cupcake, I have to bake it myself!
And this is how I lost almost 15 pounds. Remember, I’m not celiac. I’m just eating better and managing my gluten allergy. My body looks trimmer and I can finally see my Pilates sessions paying off. Many people that haven’t seen me in a while immediately notice and want to know “the secret.” I tell them. And that’s how Gwyneth and all her fabulous friends promptly get into the conversation.
Post Atkins and the South Beach diet crazes, eating “gluten-free” for many dieters might be a welcoming option. There is a plethora of cookies and crackers and snack goodies abound. Every day, I discovered a new one at the supermarket, and established brands such as Udi’s and Glutino Foods seem to be exploding in the social arena, with thousands and thousands of followers.
The reaction to this gluten-free “fad” in the celiac community has been very divided. On the one hand, many are enthusiasts – raising awareness for gluten sensitivity is a win-win. On the other, many are getting upset – celiac disease is a REAL illness that affects nearly 1 in 20 Americans, and leads to very serious, long-term, health problems such as destroying the lining of the intestine and damaging the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Dr. Joseph Murray, MD, a specialist in celiac disease at the Mayo Clinic, brings forward the most important takeaway in this argument, as a response to one of their studies that revealed that 1.6 million Americans have cut gluten completely from their diets. “It’s a little ironic,” said Dr. Murray, “that you have 1.6 million people on a gluten-free diet without a diagnosis of celiac disease, and we’ve got about the same number of people who have celiac disease, don’t know it, and aren’t on the diet they need to be on.”
I’m partial to the first group – awareness is always a great thing. Maybe in a few more months I won’t have to fight with a restaurant manager when I ask to replace the French fries with rice, or go through lengthy explanations at a business meeting when I don’t touch the donuts.
And as for Gwyneth and the rest, more power to them. Trying to eat healthier and taking care of yourself are evergreen mantras everyone should adopt.
Check out more celebrities follow a gluten-free diet here.
Check out Glutenista.com handy celiacs and non-celiacs celebs and athletes here.
Even Bill and Chelsea Clinton are gluten free proponents.