The trouble with following a specific dietary plan is that someone, everyone, has advice. Usually, they want to make sure you know...you're doing it wrong.
We're gluten free. At least, 2 of us are 100% gluten free. The other 2 are somewhere between partially and mostly gluten free.
Now, I must explain to you that there are multiple ways of following a gluten free diet. My way involves replacing traditional wheat based foods with whole grains and vegetables. Spaghetti squash, for example, might take the place of flour-based noodles.
I'll admit that it's easy to slip into a habit of using rice everywhere. Mostly because there are still a few digestive issues going on, and rice is cheap...and easy. But I use brown rice, or a blend of white and brown rice products to increase the fiber content. And both fruits and veggies are staples in our diet alongside beans and nut butter.
Our diet is relatively balanced. Except for my daughter who has anxiety issues surrounding food. Major, massive, heart pounding, scene stopping, "are you going to let her get away with that?" kind of anxiety issues surrounding food. In fact, she's managed to starve herself for days on end to avoid eating something that looks the least bit...not right. She needs help. And we're trying, so, so hard to get it. Oddly, our relatively healthy diet keeps getting in the way.
I want to share a recent conversation. I called, again, to talk, again, to an advice nurse about her tummy aches...again. Her doctor had prescribed a new dietary regimen, and her tummy aches changed in severity so I wanted to document it.
I got a spiel about fiber. Fine. I agree. Fiber is important. Then the nurse started in on an explanation about whole wheat and a list of specific brand names to look for. By this time, my daughter was whimpering again and I was frustrated (this isn't the first time I've ever called for a tummy ache issue. It isn't the first spiel on fiber, vegetables, the evils of soda, the woes of the Standard American Diet yadayadayada, and frankly...they're preaching to the choir.) so I cut her off and said "We're actually gluten free, but I'll keep an eye on her fiber intake. We usually are good about it, but with the recent changes and her picky eating I don't know exactly how much she's had lately."
The response was interesting. And infuriating.
"Why are you gluten free?"
"Some of us have Celiac and it's just easier to keep the house gluten free."
"Well, there's the problem! Ma'am, I'm not your doctor, but really, your daughter needs more wheat. There are very few people who really have Celiac Disease, and they suffer a lot, but most people are misdiagnosed. You know, the rest of your family might really benefit from adding wheat back to your diet. I just can't stress enough how important whole wheat is for good health."
At first, I was speechless. And then, as words began to form in my head...I had to bite my tongue. Take a deep breath. Count to ten.
There is nothing inherently necessary in anyone's diet. No one item is inherently vital to our health, except perhaps water. Wheat...wheat is a grain which happens to be dominant in our current food supply. It might be a source of fiber. But so are oats. Quinoa. Raisins. Brown rice. Buckwheat. And a thousand fruits and vegetables that may or may not end up on our plates at any given meal.
Wheat is not a necessary component of a healthy diet. In fact, some dieticians (the ones who do their research and keep up to date on actual studies and current understandings) might say that a truly healthy diet is a balance of a variety of foods including starch, proteins, plants and fats. Calcium rich foods should be included. No item should be used to the exclusion of other items.
Wheat? It's just convenient. Too convenient in most standard diets.
When I got to 10...and back down to 0...I interrupted her litany on the virtues of this single grain to ask exactly how much dietary fiber an 11 year old girl should be ingesting each day. She sputtered to a stop. "There isn't an exact number we just know that she isn't getting enough..." and then "...Well, ma'am, more whole wheat would really help her feel better..."
What minerals and nutrients, exactly, is she lacking that including wheat in her diet would improve?
"Well, I don't know, exactly, that's not the point. The point is that she really needs more wheat..."
She admitted she wasn't our doctor and didn't have the authority to diagnose us as being misdiagnosed...and then I cut her off as she began to defend her advice with speculations regarding the overdiagnosis of a condition that most estimates claim is grossly under diagnosed.
In the end, I made an office appointment and spoke to an actual medical professional. Who did not try to talk me out of a gluten free diet, but couldn't give me much advice either.
The problem, you see, is that we're eating wrong. I don't buy fast food or soda. The kids lack essential snack cakes, sprinkles and candy. Idiotically, I serve up glasses of water and encourage them to drink from a handy waterbottle instead of purchasing soda on our outings.
Clearly, if I were to feed them like their peers...at least we could sheepishly admit that we have things to work on. We'd have something to blame. The good old usual suspects.
When you don't have the usual suspects, and you're already gluten free, I think the medical community must feel a little lost. But don't quote me...I'm the one eating wrong.
(I just wish I could find the right wrong diet for my daughter.)