There has been a recent boom in the gluten-free market, and much of it has to do with an increase in gluten sensitivity and diagnoses of celiac disease. And it's great that stores are offering more of a selection of foods for people with those conditions.
But recently, doctors have been noticing a rise in the number of people going gluten-free as a lifestyle choice -- namely, to lose weight, much like the reasons some decide to stop eating carbs.
Medically, it’s not really a huge deal because gluten isn't something our bodies need to thrive. I equate it to becoming a vegetarian, because we don't need animal flesh, either -- just the protein it provides. The issue lies within the reasoning behind the gluten-free lifestyle; people are going gluten-free to get thin.
This may not sound very serious at first. Back in the '80s and early '90s, there were a whole lot of people who chose to go vegetarian for the very same reason. And then later in the '90s, there was a boom in people jumping on the carb-free bandwagon. I was a vegetarian for 10 years between 1987 and 1998. I was also a bulimarexic during that same time frame.
I didn't become a vegetarian to lose weight, but it was a convenient excuse to use to hide my bulimarexia. Being a vegetarian didn't cause me to become a bulimarexic, but it was a good gateway drug to full-on food restriction.
People are worried that there may be a correlation between making the choice to go gluten-free when not medically necessary and eating disorders. From my personal experience, I’d say that one doesn't cause the other but voluntarily practicing a restricting lifestyle with no ethical or moral basis should be a red flag.
For anyone who has ever seriously limited what they eat, you know it's a runaway train. It is almost an addiction in and of itself. There is a satisfaction that comes from knowing that you have the willpower and the power over your body to change yourself by simply making the choice to restrict. It’s a rush.
We've all been on diets where we've had to watch what we ate. Eat more of this. Eat none of that. This has to be eaten before 6 p.m. That can’t be eaten at all. Run around the block three times and call me Sally. Diets are ridiculous and dangerous. If you want to lose weight the healthy way, there has to be a complete lifestyle change, more activity, fewer foods that are bad for you, and everything allowed in moderation.
If you don't need to give up a food for health reasons, I say don’t do it. Because once you start down that restricting road, it quickly becomes a slippery slope, and before you know it, you are living on a glass of water and half an apple and, in your mind, that is too much food to be eating in one sitting.
I know gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are on the rise. But I also believe that people will do just about anything to look and feel beautiful in a society that values physical beauty above all else. And that is where the problem lies.
Would you go gluten-free to lose weight?
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