An Open Letter To Charlize Theron

I’m sure this video will be making its way through the celiac community if it hasn’t already.  I got it from my homegirl MFAMB Jenny.  The content saddens me greatly not only for the obvious backlash and eye-rolling vitriol Charlize Theron has for people who don’t eat gluten, but also because she wouldn’t hate it so much if she’d had tried gluten free products that tasted good.

I love Chelsea Handler.  Always have.  Though I could give two shits if she eats gluten free or not–and from watching this clip, it’s not entirely clear, but it sounds like she’s eating GF to watch her weight–WHICH DOESN’T NECESSARILY WORK.   Chelsea, listen to me!  I was so tiny when diagnosed with celiac disease and the moment my body got rid of the gluten and was able to digest actual nutrients for the first time in my life, I almost instantly put on 15 pounds.  That was irritating.  I continued eating gluten free cupcakes and brownies and cookies, etc., causing my body to pack on more pounds and march down the path to insulin resistance.  I finally learned that a carb is a carb is a carb, gluten free or not.  The way to lose weight is to restrict your calories (yuck) or cut out all sugars and grains (for me, the workable option).  Chelsea sticking her ass in that gluten free cake–and showing us photo evidence–endears her to me even more.

But Charlize.  Oh, Charlize.  I get it.  I really do.  I apologize for my celiac almost everywhere I go because I never wanna be a pain in the ass, never wanna put people out, never wanna invite the eye roll.  But hearing your words made me realize I’ve got to stop that and instead own my “gluten-freeness” out in public.  I would like to let you know that on behalf of all the bonafide celiacs and folks with gluten allergies/sensitivities out there who have been medically tested and diagnosed, I want to help educate you so you sound less angry–even if it’s just playful-hot-girl-angry to rile up your dear friend on her talk show.

Celiac disease is a very real thing with a very real treatment–just don’t eat gluten, and your body can start to repair.  Not a very exciting treatment.  Nothing for the drug companies to capitalize on.  A few large food companies and many cottage businesses have sprung up to get into the gluten free processed food game, but as you learned from the cursed Chelsea cupcakes, most of those products suck.  I know because I’ve tried nearly everything that’s out on the market.  I’m always optimistic to try something new and never surprised when it sucks donkey dick.

Now, what exactly is gluten, you might ask, Charlize?  It’s the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. It’s the substance responsible for the binding and elasticity of the flour in the baking process–gluten, when mixed with just the right amount of egg, baking soda, fat and sugar, makes brownies chewy on the outside and cakey on the inside.  Yum.  I want a cookie just thinking about it.  Watch this hilair video from Jimmy Kimmel Live! that proves that you are not alone in not knowing WTF gluten actually is.

Unfortunately, said gluten causes some folks’ immune systems to go nuts and attack the villi in the small intestines, flattening them so that no nutrients pass through the intestinal wall to be absorbed into the blood stream to nourish the body.  Without nutrients, the body does its best to function, but eventually things break down, and symptoms manifest, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lymphoma, lupus, depression, migraines, allergies, asthma, dermatitis herpetiformis (look it up, it’s narsty), anemia, osteoporosis, severe digestive distress (hello, chronic diarrhea), and infertility just to name a few.  Celiac was until very recently difficult to diagnose, but thanks to a cultural awareness due convergence of the fad diet you refer to with such mean-girl disdain, folks like my mother and myself can find out why we’re so sick and get a diagnosis in order to get better and heal.

Now, Charlize, lest you think this is gonna be a boring medical lesson (it is already, isn’t it?), I want to let you know that some folks who might test negative for celiac go to reputable labs to test for food allergies. They get their blood, saliva, and urine checked, and they discover they have a gluten sensitivity or allergy to gluten. The technical term is called “non celiac gluten sensitivity.”  The conventional wisdom states that the gluten is causing inflammation of the organs, skin rashes, digestive nastiness, bone pain or joint pain, but now we find out…maybe not.

The recent study you are referring to found that it may not be gluten that is bothering some people, but a set of ingredients we are familiar with in the celiac community known as FODMAPS.  This is an acronym for a grouping of chemicals found in certain foods (wheat included) that are known dietary irritants to some people. If you hate the gluten free movement, wait until everyone starts saying, “no thanks, I don’t do FODMAPS.” Because that day is coming, Charlize, mark my words.  Side note, even one of the docs who did the study was quoted as saying, “Much, much more research is needed,” so the true cause of a gluten non-celiac gluten sensitivity is far from discovered.

The processed foods sitting on the shelves of our abundantly stocked grocery stores are making us sick. When people get sick, doctors attempt to treat them.  But people are not feeling better.  Folks are getting fatter and feeling like dog shit.  Can you blame them for looking to their diets to fix what ails them?  I have had great success first going gluten free due to the celiac diagnosis, and subsequently avoiding sugars and grains, and I don’t begrudge anyone on their journey to find what works for them.  If people still feel sick after giving up gluten (or find that they are gaining weight, which is quite common), they are gonna look for the next thing that could be making them sick.  It’s their right, and I’m sorry that it annoys you.

If I could pause for a moment, I’d like some clarification on those dreadful cupcakes that you couldn’t even foist off onto your cleaning lady (Gasp! Don’t cleaning ladies eat everything their wealthy employers give them?).  Were these cupcakes sugar free? Or gluten free?  You said both, I’m confused, so maybe they were both sugar and gluten free, which I agree sounds like a turd burger hockey puck.

I’ve been bitching about this for years.  Gluten free food is twice as expensive because the ingredients are harder to source, and the recipes are even harder to get right.  More often than not, if it’s store bought, it sucks.  I gave up, and now if I’m gonna have a treat, it’s gotta be gluten free, and why eat any ol’ piece of shit cupcake that Chelsea Handler’s assistant has delivered to me?  I wanna make something fresh, from scratch, that’s GOOD.  I promise you that when you schlep to my humble North Hollywood oasis, you will not know that the lime tart you are eating is really gluten free.

So in closing, I agree, taste has to be the first priority when giving someone a baked good, or else it ain’t a very good treat.  But as much as you don’t like it, eating gluten free is a very real path to healing for a lot of people.  As long as people feel sick and overweight and sick of being overweight, they’re gonna look for solutions.  You are pretty and thin and successful and talented.  Do you have to be a dick by shaming others’ dietary choices?  Hell, let the rest of us shove our asses balls deep into our gluten free cakes, if we’re so inclined. It’ll save you the trouble of offloading it to your cleaning ladies later on.

Comments

  1. Gluten Gluten says:

    My GOD. Reading this rant just made me vomit in my mouth. Really.

  2. All this column needs now is a mike drop. Tell it!

  3. I think the comical stuff was towards the people who jumped on the gluten fad, not the celiacs. Take a chill pill (a gluten free one, of course)

    I do agree that it’s bogus how she referred to her “cleaning ladies”

  4. Reading this rant made me laugh my ass off. So many good points were made. To me, the best and most basic point was about food shaming. It’s useless. I don’t care whether people don’t eat meat, or fish, or veggies, or sugar, or gluten. What people decide to put in their mouths or what they don’t put in their mouths doesn’t change my life one bit.

  5. Kristina says:

    Good letter! Every gluten-gobbling person should have to read this AND live a day as a celiac sufferer. Maybe then they would be a little more tolerant, and educated, about that which they know nothing!

  6. That was awesome! I get why she had you so upset. When people don’t understand something, they tend to assume the concept is entirely false. I have come across many people in my life trying to poke fun at the gluten-free lifestyle. For some reason they keep trying to reduce the problem to just Celiacs. Well, I reversed my crohn’s disease from a grain-free/paleo approach! It can happen! I just want to support what you are doing and saying!! Screw the haters! “Keep your eyes on your own plate!”–Diane SanFilippo

    • Congrats on reversing your Crohn’s disease–and thanks for your support! Any time we have a dialogue about this stuff, it’s ultimately a great thing. And amen to keeping our eyes on our own plates. XOXO

  7. You know, I don’t really agree with these open letters to people because, let’s face it, the person it’s intended to isn’t going to read it.
    Charlize Theron has never come across as a very intelligent person and if she can eat gluten and feel fine, good for her.
    Some of us can’t.
    I also don’t agree with eating food that tastes bad. So I don’t eat bad tasting cupcakes. And Chelsea Handler clearly isn’t eating the gluten free baked goods–she’s busy sitting on them. Now there’s one way to lose weight–just sit on the stuff! Probably doesn’t matter if it’s gluten free or not. :)

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