Seeing Fact from Fiction in Foodie Fads

by Tess Burkley

I’m decidedly “over” a lot of things these days. Fat shaming, racism, misogyny, classism—I could (and do) go on and on. Recently I came to realize I’m way over something: giving people grief for changing their dietary habits in perceived “faddish” ways.

I’m not saying fad diets don’t exist. Lots of people try them and even more make fun of those who try them. Some are really moronic, but the reality is that legitimate scientific discoveries continue to be made about what is healthy for us and what isn’t. The gluten-­free phenomenon is one of the most recent bandwagons folks are eager to jump on. I might have been a skeptic myself if it weren’t for my mom’s severe sensitivity, which she had as a kid and then which re­emerged in her late 40’s.  She convinced me to try it, and honestly, I’ve never felt better.  While I can’t be totally sure that I have a true allergy, or that my seasonal allergy symptoms have really improved a ton or I have better mental clarity, I don’t attribute the correlation purely to coincidence.

I’ve done quite a lot of research and learned that, basically, our guts and brains aren’t designed to handle nearly as much wheat as we ingest.  Dr. David Perlmutter of PBS claims in an article in The Atlantic that the modern American diet is about 60% carbs, and that this contributes to “almost every modern neurologic malady.”

Of course, savvy business people have taken advantage of our collective gullibility and desire for next “thing” and have marketed “gluten­-free” to us to the Nth degree… but I still argue that it’s more than a fad diet. Perlmutter proceeds to tell us that “the best recommendation [he] can make is to completely avoid grains.”

Not too long ago I listened (uncomfortably) to a friend’s rant about this, which included eye rolls and air quotes, while she called someone’s gluten-­free pescetarianism bullshit.  If I labeled my own eating habits, I would be a gluten-­free, ovo-lacto pescetarian who limits sugar.  Judge me if you will, call me trendy, obsessed or stupid­­, but do so with the knowledge that I consider my body my temple. I’m definitely not perfect, but I do try to ward off conditions I’m genetically predisposed to, I worry about cancer-­causing, bullshit­-filled substances marketed to us as convenient food, and I consider the ethical and environmental consequences of food production.

Do I find the eating habits of lots of people I encounter deplorable? Pretty much. But do I tell them so, ridicule them or try to convince them to change? No. Because really, what someone chooses to ingest for sustenance is a deeply personal concern, and it’s anyone’s prerogative to eat what they want.

While my body is my temple, Taco Bell is someone else’s.


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