So May was Celiac and Allergy awareness month. This month there were a couple of high profile stories about basically people making fun of celiacs and their diets. Toast being thrown, the disease being called trendy etc. I learned of an incident recently where a child was bullied at a party because he has Celiac Disease. Another kid tried cramming cheezies in his mouth saying “can you eat this can you eat this?”
This is completely inexcusable and just mean but where does it come from? Food Allergies/sensitivities are a fairly new phenomenon. When I was a kid you never heard of food allergies/sensitivities even though they existed. When I was 4 I was diagnosed with hyper activity. The doctor put me on Phenobarbital which did nothing but make me sleepy. Then an old Indian nurse my mother worked with told her to take me off all food dyes as I may not tolerate them. At the time I lived on Tang, this fake orange juice full of red and yellow food dyes. Within a few days of being off Tang I calmed down to normal 4 year old business. No mention was ever made to the fact I may be allergic to food dyes. I had a friend that couldn’t drink milk because he got a rash around his mouth, was he allergic, no he just couldn’t drink milk, that was the thought back them.
Fast forward to today and we hear of food allergies/sensitivities almost every day. Unfortunately attitudes and knowledge has not kept pace. 15 years ago when I went gluten free because of an intolerance, my friends thought I was just being difficult. “just eat it, why do you have to be so difficult?” was a phrase I heard all the time. Many times I did “just eat it” and dealt with the consequences after. I am very conscience of today of ‘putting’ people out because of my food allergies/sensitivities. Should it be that way, NO! Do I shout it from the roof tops, no, I try and educate where I can. For the most part when I let people know how bad I feel when I eat certain foods and that I could die from eating certain foods then they have a better understanding. I don’t scold, I don’t make them feel bad because they don’t understand and I don’t lash out, I try and always come from a place of love when there is an issue around understanding. I am sure if I was still feeling like crap and just starting to deal with my food allergies/sensitivities my coming from a place of love would not be so much of a place of love but from a place of being p’ed off for having to defend my food choices.
Nothing good ever comes from anger, all around we need more understanding, more compassion from both sides. Was Disney trying to get a laugh? Yes of course, what they didn’t understand that for someone with Celiac disease getting toast thrown at you can not only be embarrassing but scary as well. Would they do a show with someone with a peanut allergy? Probably not but then again there is way more understanding around peanut allergies. Many people have jumped on the no-gluten bandwagon not because there has been a diagnosis but because they feel bit better not eating it or they think they will lose weight. I think that is great but for those of us diagnosed with either celiac disease or gluten intolerance we get lumped into the ‘trendy’ category.
It makes us easy targets to make fun of unfortunately. I have gotten miffed when a waiter says in a condescending tone “oh you are gluten free”. Yes, yes I am and I was before it became ‘trendy’. If you don’t believe this is real I dare you to feed me gluten then stand down wind of me 2 hours later, it really is not very pretty and certainly not fragrant!
So whether I eat gluten free or because it is trendy or because I have a medical need what business is it of anyone else’s. When my kids were little I chose to feed them very wholesomely, I didn’t allow them to have sugary cereal or treats, they ate gluten free and didn’t drink juices or soda pop. Did everyone agree with my decision? Of course not, my own mother told me I was being abusive to my kids for not letting them eat Fruit Loops. Here is the thing though, I have never judged those moms I see going through the McDonald’s drive through handing their kids a Happy Meal and a soda pop, why? Because; it is their choice; for their child. I have no right to question the way another child is fed or another person chooses to feed themselves. I have no idea if the mom is just being lazy or if she has had a really crap day and all she can muster is a trip to McDonald’s, I have no idea if 364 other days in the year she feeds her kid organic home cooked meals. It is none of my business as it is none of anyone else’s business as to what I choose to feed myself or my children. If you are not living in my shoes you have no idea why I have made the choices I have.
Bullying is all over the media, schools have anti-bullying policies, we run seminars on bullying but somehow it is ok to bully someone about their food choices which for many of us is not a choice it is a necessity. It shouldn’t matter if you have a medical condition or not what you choose to feed yourself or your family should never ever be the fodder for a tv show or news feed or as a way to sell media.
Watch 10 minutes of any Real Housewives show and you can see how bullying is completely ok to sell a show and ok for us to sit and watch and be entertained by; but if a troubled kid bullies his classmate well that is taboo they are painted as being evil. If the media is going to get behind this anti-bullying campaign then they need to take a very long look in the mirror and realise how they are contributing to the problem. Hello Disney! How is a child is suppose to watch a show where someone is throwing toast at a person that is Celiac/gluten intolerance etc and separate that from bullying their classmate with words or worse their fists? How do they separate a bunch of ‘housewives’ calling each other names and shouting at each other; from calling their classmates names and shouting at them? Let’s be examples for our kids in every aspect, let’s not support media that promotes bullying as entertainment.
So from a place of love and tolerance I am asking the media to think before they act or speak and have some compassion for their fellow man. Whether you think someone is being trendy or difficult you don’t always have the whole story so just keep your opinions to yourself and let them eat <gluten free> cake!