I love the gluten free community – in person and online.
When I meet someone in person who has Celiac Disease we have an instant friendship and endless topics to discuss. It’s so refreshing to talk to someone who understands exactly what you’re talking about – someone to gripe with, to share tips with, ask for advice, and to try new gluten free foods with. As much as non-celiacs can try to empathize – really, they just can’t fully understand.
The online celiac community is such a great group of people. Some are experts in the kitchen, some are advocates for research, some review gluten free companies and products, and some just wax poetic about the trials of living gluten free. Every day I learn something new from the celiac community, and can’t imagine navigating this disease without the help of my fellow bloggers and tweeters.
I’ve got love for celiacs – but our community has also come under attack from many people. Those who think that we’re faking it – that Celiac Disease doesn’t need to be taken seriously. Companies that exploit the gluten free label to increase profits (I’m lookin’ at you – California Pizza Kitchen and Dominos!). Or celebrities who don’t realize that they are harming people with a legitimate disease when they casually adopt a gluten free diet in an attempt to lose weight.
So what can we do about it?
- Focus on Celiac Disease, not gluten-free eating.
While it’s much easier to talk in terms of “gluten free” foods – I think it’s really important for us to move toward a “Safe for Celiacs” mentality. If we can get greater recognition/understanding of Celiac Disease, and the difference between gluten intolerance and Celiac disease, I think that we will all be better off. While I believe there definitely is a spectrum of levels of gluten intolerance – if we can work toward making foods and restaurants safe for celiacs, then they will be safe for everyone eating gluten free!
- Don’t shut up.
I love seeing the celiac community united in fighting something that we feel is hurting us. I loved the flurry of tweets at Domino’s or the barrage of WTF blog posts on our latest celebrity “spokespeople”. By making our voices heard, we can make sure that we’re letting them know that it’s not okay, and that we will not support them as a community. (While I’m on the topic – go sign the petition on the NFCA Amber Designation).
- Bring on the men!
While Celiac Disease is more present in women than men, I’d love to see some more celiac studs join our forces! I think in some ways “gluten free” has become too closely associated with girly bakeries (not that I’m not hopelessly devoted to Babycakes), complicated recipes, or general healthy-living/dieting. I think having a few more good men on our side would help diversify opinions and bring new perspectives. So – if you have a gluten dude of your own in your life – tell him to start a blog or join the Twittersphere!
What do you think the celiac community could benefit from? Where do we go from here?
Nice rallying call! I also think it’s a good idea to not be obnoxious when talking about it. (Which, you’re totally not!) When dining with someone recently I was really shocked by her approach straight off the bat, “Hi, here’s what you have to do for me.” I understand (obviously, as a celiac) that it’s incredibly important to stress the need for safe food while dining out, but a little charm goes a long way. Not just for your own meal, but for those who come after. Otherwise you have servers and chefs saying, “Great, here comes another demanding gluten-free person. Eff her.”
I’m not advocating being a doormat at the expense of your health, but the abrasive nature that some people take — and this is really across the board, not just when talking about celiacs — is not helpful for our peeps.
Right on for the call for men too! Dudes need to speak up, yo.
Awesome post Anna and I couldn’t agree more with all your points/suggestions
It’s one of the reasons I started my blog…not many dudes had a celiac voice.
By the way, I had no idea I was a poetic waxer 🙂
I agree! This community definitely makes a sucky situation a little less sucktastic. I also think we need to keep up a positive attitude and use every opportunity for discussion and awareness. That, and tip the servers well when we feel like we’ve been taken care of:)