Gluten Free Food: The Double Standard

As a young girl, I was never shy around food. My parents used to joke that, unlike other families with girls, they had no worries about me or my sister eating enough. I ate a lot, enjoying the surprised look on my waitress's face when she picked up my empty plate. I ate what I felt like. And that was that.

casey the college celiac
Through the years...
Then came celiac disease. A fear of food for a short period of time; a struggle to adapt to my new gluten free diet for a long time. The most recent dietary dilemma hitting me, though? The double standard that plagues anyone who eats a gluten free diet for a medical reason like celiac disease or gluten intolerance. More specifically, the conflicting stereotypes of gluten free as "healthy" and "gross."

Everyone with access to a newspaper, computer or a "hip" friend has seen the influx in gluten free fad diets. Gluten is the devil! Gluten free is healthier. Avoiding gluten will make that extra weight just fall off. (Even the gluten free cookies and cakes, obviously!) During my freshman year of college (which intersected with my struggle to gain weight and heal from celiac damage), many of my new dorm mates would say was, "Wow! I was I had celiac disease so I was skinny like you!" or "At least you have a disease that forces you to eat healthy!"

casey the college celiac
Freshman year!
And though I never said it in quite these words, I often thought, "Screw that. Wanna trade?"

The fact is, my diet has transformed for the better since my diagnosis. Gone is the girl who struggled making a baked potato - instead, I often make three meals and several snacks a day. More veggies and fruits, less processed food, and better qualities of meat. That's what the gluten free diet looks like for me. But, I could just as easily gorge on gluten free brownies, chocolate mug cakes, french fries from a contamination-safe fryer and pizza. It's all free of gluten (the "bad" stuff), right?

casey the college celiac
Gluten free = delicious, but not necessarily healthy!

So when people say I'm a healthy eater because of celiac disease, I want to tell them that's just a misunderstood stereotype. I'm gluten free because of celiac disease. I'm a healthy eater by choice. Just like everyone else.

On the flip side of gluten free food is the "gross" stereotype. The societal mindset that makes me embarrassed to bring gluten free desserts to a school event or, when I do bring them, apologize with a mild shrug. This double standard emerges mainly out of ignorance - people fear (or, in this case, at least stick their tongue out at) what they don't know. And I sure didn't have a clue how a gluten free chicken pot pie really tasted until a year after my diagnosis.

casey the college celiac
The typical "gluten free" faces!
When new people - friends, family, classmates or even strangers - see my food, two reactions usually occur. Sometimes they say, "Wow, that looks really good!" And while I love the praise, I can't help but hear the unspoken ending, "for something gluten free." Other times, it's more blatant with something like, "No offense, but your food doesn't look very good." I usually laugh it off, but that doesn't mean offense isn't slightly taken.

The truth is, I don't need a reminder of how much I'm "missing out" on that soft, crunchy loaf of French bread. I don't need a reminder of how "weird" my new normal food may be. What people do need a reminder of? Not to judge a book - or a gluten free burger - by its cover...err, bun. When I first began to eat my veggie-packed smoothie bowls, my dad often asked, "How is your...concoction today?"

casey the college celiac
The Nutribullet has a new beloved!
Nearly a year later, now he's the one eating - and loving - a smoothie concoction at least once a day.

Gluten free foods, most often, don't taste like their gluten-filled alternatives. If they did, I'd be concerned actually. But they're the only options for my plate. And if my Instagram is good for anything, it's to prove that gluten free isn't a synonym for gross. My gluten-loving family and boyfriend can attest to that.

The little girl who ate everything in sight and the celiac teenager whipping up gluten free grub have experienced a lot of changes - not only in diet, but also in perspective towards food. For the first time, I can relate to feeling self conscious about my plate. To having my diet generalized to a "healthy" fad to worrying whether what I'm eating is normal enough.

casey the college celiac
Fueling up for a fun life!
My diet is not here to be judged, over-analyzed or broken down into society's stereotypes. Neither am I.  So I'm going to follow my younger self's advice: eat whatever (celiac-safe) food I like. And enjoy shocking others - not with how much I eat, but how much drool my gluten free food can incite!

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*

Do you ever feel judged because of your gluten free food? What other gluten free stereotypes do you notice? Comment below!


  1. "At least you have a disease that forces you to eat healthy!"
    That comment makes my blood boil. With my Celiac AND my IBS. I often say, NO I choose to eat healthy, I could eat gluten free junk food..

    1. EXACTLY!! I mean, they could eat healthy too and just lay off the gluten-filled bread and goodies!

  2. "I'm gluten free because of celiac disease. I'm a healthy eater by choice."! So good! I love the foods I do and can eat and I wouldn't change my diet even if I didn't have Celiac. I am happy and never embarrassed by it.

    1. Thanks for the praise and I'm glad you can relate! Now that I know how to cook and how delicious healthy food can be, I don't see myself going back to my processed food diet even if I could.

  3. I can't believe people imply you should be grateful to have a disease! That's messed up. Thank you for sharing your story - it's very inspiring!


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