Get Outta My Belly

Can we please stop already with the criticism what other people are eating? It’s old and tired, and you’re making me feel old and tired just having to explain this shit. This is about that meme you posted today, the one that says something derogatory about those of us who can’t or won’t eat gluten, dairy, or (insert other potential irritants and allergens and whatever people don’t want to eat for whatever reasons they have because they’re entitled to make that choice).

You don’t know what health problems I’ve had because of my food sensitivities, and even if I was just eating this way because I’m an adult woman who can eat what the fuck I want, it’s none of your business.

When your diet starts causing you symptoms I’ve experienced, including, but not limited to: ADD, asthma, autoimmune disease, cancer, general malaise and frequent bacterial and viral infections, insomnia, and more fun conditions that strip all the joy from life, guess what…you still won’t have the right to judge what I put in my mouth.

Every day on facebook, someone’s passing around a meme about other people’s eating habits and captioning these pictures with proclamations such as the following crowd favorites:

“Don’t believe the hype, gluten’s not bad for you! GF is a fad diet.”

K. Maybe not for you, but please refer to symptoms list, above, which unfortunately for me were quite real. Also, it’s not a fad diet, it’s the permanent omission of three non-essential grains from my diet. I’m seven years in, and I’m doing fine. So calm the fuck down. You’re freaking out over nothing, ok? Same with dairy. Same with meat. More for you! More bear claws, more steak, more delicious cheese. Shhhhhh. You’ll be ok, and I will too.  And we can be OK separately and we don’t have to eat the same things. 

“People who say they’re allergic to gluten don’t even know what gluten is!”

Hey, you’re the ignorant asshole who’s confusing an intestinal disorder with an allergy. Perhaps before you decide to blindly hit “share” on that funny meme about how people who don’t eat (x) are assholes who live in imaginary fun land, you should consider going to medical school, and if not that, perhaps get your health advice from a gastroenterologist versus say, an OpEd on Huffpost, or a chalkboard display outside a bakery. I mean, really, people. Can you do that?  And if you can’t, can you at least keep your mouth shut?

Oh, here’s a beauty:

“I bet people in third world countries don’t have food allergies,” * 

or its sister statement:

“I bet people who are starving aren’t allergic to gluten/dairy/etc.”*

Let’s pause for a few minutes to really appreciate that last one, which is one of the most offensive, ignorant statements I’ve ever heard in relation to diet. First off, asshat, this implies that my only choice is to either eat all the foods or starve to death, which doesn’t even make sense. It sucks that there are people out there who’d have to eat something that makes them sick rather than starve, and what a miserable shit choice to have to make. Thank goodness I live in a country where I was successfully diagnosed and have access to sufficient wealth, infrastructure, and options that allow me to purchase and consume a fresh, balanced diet that promotes my good health instead of merely keeping me alive in a low-quality life.

*By the way, you’re a dickhole for saying that…just so you know. Several of my real-life friends have said this or reposted other people saying this because they think it’s funny or “lulz so true”. Those people? Also dickholes.

I try hard not to ask for special favors when it comes to eating with friends. If pasta’s what’s for dinner, I’ll bring my own noodles. When we have hamburgers, I eat them without bread or pick up GF buns on the way over.

I’m completely happy with this, so it baffles me that I still know people who get annoyed when I omit bread from my meal. Why are you freaking out? I don’t complain. No one’s being asked to go to extreme lengths to feed me, placate me, or make me  happy. I’m capable of doing that myself.  That’s not asking you to accommodate my diet, that’s me making decisions that support my well-being. You need to know the difference. It’s important to our friendship.

When you offer me something to eat and I politely decline, then you try to push it on me and get offended that I won’t eat it, and I patiently explain for the hundredth goddamned time that I can’t have crackers made with white flour, that’s not the same as me asking you to accommodate me. That’s me saying, no thank you, I can’t have that.

If I ask you what’s in that casserole you’d like me to eat, I’m not trying to offend you. I’m just covering my bases because I don’t feel like vomiting whilst trying to puff on an inhaler and having explosive diarrhea for three days and freaked out acne face and ten pounds of water retention all because I didn’t bother to ask, and you didn’t realize there’s wheat flour in a can of cream of mushroom soup, thanks very much. And you don’t have to freak the fuck out and imagine I’m being a martyr or a drama queen or intentionally trying to make you uncomfortable, because I probably have a snack in my purse for occasions just like this, and it’s not really a big deal. I always do. That’s part of this whole thing. Please stop freaking out.

Me sharing a link on my social media account regarding new scientific information about (x) food intolerance, or a recipe for a vegan version of (x) should not annoy you. I am not passive-aggressively attacking your diet. I’m sharing for those people who might be interested and who, like me, want to read that sort of thing. You don’t have to partake, you don’t have to believe it, and you are not being asked to alter your own diet. Why do you care so hard? Stop freaking out.

And stop, for the love of all that is holy, stop telling me I’m going to starve to death and that I’m not being healthy. What’s not healthy is for me to be sick all the time. Human beings do not require wheat, barley, or rye to survive. They do not need milk or ice cream or sweet, sweet cheese to survive. Every nutrient in these foods can be found in others if you educate yourself about nutrition. Gluten free is not the same thing as dairy-free, and neither of those have any bearing on whether or not you’re consuming meat or animal products — that falls under vegetarianism and veganism, in that order, and all these special diets are completely separate from one another. So before you freak out, you should probably understand what you’re trying to “school me” on.  God, I’m so embarrassed for you when you do this. It’s really just…it’s painful for me. And I’m biting my tongue because I don’t want to have this conversation again. Please don’t mistake my silence for concession or submission. I’ve just tuned you out, that’s all.

Besides, have you seen me lately? Trust me, honey, I’m getting plenty to eat.

We like to poke fun at things we don’t understand, and people who are different. It’s human nature, and I do my fair share of it between friends. But don’t invalidate the difficulty of experiencing issues like this until you’ve walked a similar path. Stop to think about the effect your words might have on a person who needs to limit their diet for health reasons, and how you might be reinforcing a social stigma that could make it harder for that person to take that big step toward a higher quality life. Just because you have the right to voice your opinion doesn’t mean you’re not an ignorant jerk for doing so, and it also doesn’t absolve you for the harm your misinformation and judgement has the potential to cause.

Please think about that next time you’re annoyed by what I’m eating.

Then take a breath and stop freaking out, because me eating no gluten is not contagious and has absolutely no bearing on your future successes and well-being.

You and your sandwich are going to be just fine, I promise.

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