If he loves you, he won’t eat McDonald’s in front of you (or at least apologize for it)

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things that I miss is McDonald’s French Fries. I mean, it’s the memory of the prefect McDonald’s French Fries, and those were few and far between. Still, I kind of miss them. Right after Christmas, the husband brought McDonald’s into the house. It’s not something that he does often, especially if I’m around. But it was Christmas day ,we had driven home from Portland, and we had no food in the house ready to make. So we needed to get take out.

I was lucky, because there was a pho place that I knew I could eat at that was open. The husband, who can eat anywhere he wants, was not. He’s not a fan of pho, which I don’t understand, but I don’t push the issue. He wound up driving around for 30 minutes looking for something easy that he could grab and bring home to eat. What he found was the golden arches. When he came home with the food he looked at me and apologized, but I didn’t really care, because my pho smelled a lot stronger than his fries (and had large pieces of ginger, yum!)

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The truth, and you can’t tell him this, is that it doesn’t bother me as much as it did a year ago. I mean, a year ago, I hadn’t found all of the things that I could eat. I wasn’t as comfortable with my diet. I have some pretty good coping mechanism now. I’m still paranoid about everything. I watch people’s hands. I ask a million questions. I read and double check everything that I eat. But I’m better about the McDonald’s thing now.

My memory of McDonald’s isn’t as sharp as it used to be. It used to be a pining for Chicken McNuggets and Fries. I wish I could say that I found better foods to replace them, but really I just kind of forgot about it. Sure when you drive by a McDonald’s that smell is still there, but now it’s just kind of a thing. Kind of like the smell of yeasty bread rising when you go past Subway. It doesn’t really do anything for me anymore.6c53faa0-35d9-0132-408c-0ebc4eccb42f

Olfactory memory is commonly implicit memory which can be created over time. For those that don’t know what that means, is it’s a conditioned memory, like a Pavlovian response. You get practice associating a sensation, and as you repeat it, your body begins to create neuro pathways, until you have an memory of the sensation burned into your brain. If you would like a really good explanation, watch this video. MatPat, over at Film Theory, does a really awesome explanation about implicit memory using diet coke and (of course) does it by discussing superhero movies. If you’re not interested in the whole superhero aspect of this, skip to minute 6, that’s where he starts the discussion on memory, but really the whole thing is pretty great.

So, how does this apply to me not craving McDonald’s from smelling it anymore? I haven’t eaten McDonald’s in 2 years, this means that the habituation of my neurological patterns for McDonald doesn’t have practice anymore. The smell/recall process isn’t as strong as it used to be. This means that the craving that the smell of McDonald’s used to trigger in me isn’t as strong as it used to be, and will eventually fade. This is why the smell of fresh baked bread doesn’t trigger the same sensation in Celiacs or Gluten-Sensitives as it does everyone else.bd46198633a7768150c7ce3d8b000c78 And is the reason that we don’t even remember the taste of gluten bread anymore.

 

We’ve all said those words. We can’t remember the taste or the mouth feel. That’s because our brain associates bread with our new reality of bread. For adults, our memory adapts for bread to be these heavier, dense, moist loafs. When we think bread we this of Udi’s and not Wonderbread. For children that are diagnosed young, they might not even remember having a loaf of store bought sandwich bread, like Wonderbread. With all of the cures on the horizon, I wonder what it will be like for these gluten free kids to take a pill and have some of that full gluten, cloud light bread. Will the think, “there’s nothing to this, there’s no substance, no body” and automatically dislike it? Will they taste McDonald’s and think “This is nothing but salt!”

25426314198bcbdad3eacc0955af1466There’s some conditioning in our lives that make us like McDonald’s or Diet Coke or Wonderbread. It’s comfortable. And when you have to change your diet, that comfort is taken away. McDonald’s is good, sure, but it’s not great. We have good memories of Happy Meals and play areas, or high school dates, or late night post bar munchies. It’s the food of our youth, so we’re attached to it. But now that I’m 2 years from eating McDonald’s’, I don’t crave it when I smell it anymore. I remember some of the good times. I remember the treat it was when I scraped together enough money to go and eat out when I was broke and in college, but I don’t really care about eating it right now. And I’m okay with that.

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But if it’s not healthier, why would anyone eat gluten free?

Right before I started this blog we went to a gluten free class at our local co-op market. It was a class on what it meant to be gluten free and a taste test of some gluten free products, so a starter gluten free class. Considering that we had be living gluten free for almost a year, we didn’t really expect to learn much and would get a chance to try some gluten free products (which is always a bonus.) We learned a lot more than I expected to, some about gluten free living and some about the Gluticrats who want to be Celitariats.

So, let me start this out by saying that the only Celiacs in the class were me and the instructor. We had a couple of people who might have been non-Celiac gluten sensitives (they really need a better name). I wasn’t sure about the rest of them (some where there because they read that gluten free living could cure arthritis or give them magical powers or something) but considering some of the questions the instructor was asked and their reactions to some of his questions, I feel safe lumping them in with the Wheat Belly crowd.

It came to the point while we were discussing how gluten free starches were more calorically dense than their gluten containing counterparts that one of the attendees in the class asked “If gluten free isn’t healthier, why would anyone eat it?” I have two problems with this question. One, the instructor has just spend 20 minutes discussing what Celiac disease was and how gluten effects those afflicted with it, and two, it sounded like she was asking “if this new food trend didn’t magically make me lose weight why is everyone trying it?” Welcome to the world that invented such wonderful diets and the Lemon aid cleanse and the gummy bear diet. We shouldn’t really question why fad diets exist just what, if any, benefits there are to them.

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I totally loved the instruction at this point in time, because he pointed out a really interesting Canadian study that was compared the athletic performance of athletes who were non-celiac and not diagnosed as gluten sensitive. The study basically found that that was no impact on the athletes performance when eating gluten free. They studied the effects of inflammation and overall performance. Go and read it because the whole thing is super interesting. It was a small study, but it’s part of the beginning of debunking some of the gluten free myths out there.

This starts to go down a road that I’ve touched on before, how many people out there are actually eating gluten free when they don’t need to. A recent article in Live Science stated that about 3 times as many people are following a gluten free life style than actually need to. Between 2009 and 2014 the number of diagnosed cases is celiac desease in the America remained staganit (at .7%) yet the number of people following a gluten free diet has risen during the same time period (here’s the abstract of the actual study  for you to look at.)  The biggest culprits young adults between ages of 20-39, non-hispanic whites, and women.

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So why do these people think that eating gluten free is better, well they’re eating less grain in general when they go on a gluten free diet. More fruits and vegetables. Less fast and processed foods. I mean, when we stop putting a bunch of junk in our bodies we’re going to feel better. Good food is good, it tastes better and makes you feel better because you’re giving your body what it really need and not just some processed cheese dusting (I’m looking at your Burger King and the monstrous things you’re doing with Cheetoes.) Sure I miss being able to go out to grab some McDonalds on a long weekend house hunting. But you know what, I feel a lot better going to the grocery store and getting some veggies and hummus and pretzels. Or grabbing a salad. Every whose ever eaten some junk food knows the ache of that stomach shame, and when you’re eating a lot of junk, you feel it all of the time. Just eating better food makes that go away right away. If you do that because you think going gluten free will make you healthier, and you get that placebo reaction, of course going gluten free is making you healthier. And if you’re eating better food and it makes you lose weight, well then eating gluten free makes you lose weight.

I don’t think we need to get into how that starts rumors and myths start, but I’m pretty sure that exactly what we’re seeing here.

Now, there’s been some pluses and minuses for all of the faux Celitariats in America. That rising number of gluten free diets means that more people are eating gluten free foods, meaning there’s more demand. More demand means more supply, so we have them to thank for all of the new gluten free products on the market. But it also means that we have a harder time eating out in the world. We can go to a restaurant and say, “I need gluten free food” but all of these faux Celitariats who are not confined to strict gluten free diet make cross contamination issues much harder on the rest of  us.

So, eating gluten free doesn’t make you healthier, unless you have celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but paying attention to what you eat does make you healthier. So pay attention to what you eat and start eating gluten again. This doesn’t mean go out and eat fast food all of the time, but go out and eat better. That is how you will feel better.

 

 

 

Do Celiacs dream of McDonald’s French Fries?

No matter how well you ate before you diagnosis there is something that you are missing. It might be fresh baked rolls brought to your table with hot melty butter. It might be cake, literally any cake. It could be red vines, yeah I’m still super bummed about that one. For me though, it was McDonald’s French Fries. It’s one of those things that you can’t get away from. You drive down the road, you WILL smell a McDonalds. And that smell will make you think about those crisp, salty, fries.

For some reason, I intellectually know that you don’t often get those perfect McDonald’s French fries. The ones that are perfectly golden, rigid on the outside, melty on the inside and doused in salt. Most of the time you get something soggy and limp and kind of lackluster. Still, when I smell a McDonalds, my mouth starts to water with the thought of those perfect fries. It’s kind of a Palovian reaction.

And the worst part, there really no reasonable substitute for McDonadl’s french fries. You can try and make your own, but they don’t every quite match up. There’s always something missing. It might be the gluten that floats over from Chicken McNuggets or Fillet-o-Fish, but really, it doesn’t matter, because you can’t really duplicate it at home.

Of course, we all know that we want what we can’t have. I don’t know if we’re conditioned for it or not, but it always seems that we want a nap while we’re at work. Or a snowy day in the middle of summer. It stands to reason that the second we can’t eat gluten anymore, we want pizza, all of the time.

Before my diagnosis, I was only okay with pizza. It wasn’t my favorite or my least favorite, it was just kind of foodish shaped stuff that was there. Now, I want pizza. I honestly really want pizza with a fervor that I never had before, mostly because I can’t have it anymore. Sure, I can go to the store and get a gluten free pizza from the freezer section. Or make a crust at home, but there’s nothing like having someone bring you pizza a Chinese food when you’re just feeling lazy. Or a beer. I wasn’t a big beer drinker before my diagnosis, but the second I couldn’t have it anymore, I wanted it all of the time.

Yes, I could make most of this myself, but here’s the other part of this whole rant. When I make it myself, I feel accomplished. I feel like I did good. I made something, but what I don’t feel is spoiled. When we go to a restaurant and order, even a McDonald’s, someone else is doing all of this for us. It makes us feel lazy, but also a little spoiled. Sure I could fry my own fries. Or bake my own cake, but there’s nothing quite like someone else doing it for you to make you feel a little special.

Dinner at home, it is normal, common, no matter how good the food is, but dining out has always been an experience. When I was younger, we ate out infrequently. Usually it was only on a special occasion, like payday. Going out to a restaurant was a ritual, and we treated it with reverence. We generally only ate out twice a month, on payday, and we would go to this one particular Mexican restaurant and be served by this one particular waitress. On these nights, my sister and I would get Shirley Temples and we had to make sure that one drink lasted our entire dinner. The food wasn’t special, it was good but noting extraordinary, but for us it was special and that is what matterd.

I still have a little bit of that engrained in me. Eating outside of the house is a treat. It’s something that savor and experience. Sure, as I got older, we ate out more. And when I started to live on my own, well it was as often as I wanted. Still, if I go to a place with silverware and they bring me a glasses of water, that still feels special to me. Heck, even going and sitting inside at a McDonalds can feel special.

I used to work with adults and children with disabilities. I did this for about 8 years while I was going through college and some afterwards. Until you take someone with a disability to a McDonald’s or a Starbucks and see how special it makes them feel, you can’t really understand. While I was still in college, my best friend and I spent an evening taking 2 of our high school student clients to the prom.  I don’t remember a whole lot about the dance itself, but before the dance we took them to McDonalds to eat. It was like it was the biggest treat they’d ever gotten. Just to get a Big Mac or a Happy Meal and to eat it dressed up like a princess, that was the highlight of their month. I think that’s when I learned about how important those little things really were.

Celiac’s has made me struggle for control of my food. I have to control everything about food from how it’s prepared to what’s in it, and yet I still want to feel special. I want those little moment again. And I will say, the first time you go to a restaurant and they have a gluten free menu. Or the facility is dedicated gluten free, and you have a million choices spread in front of you. That’s a moment where you can just breath again. Where you can just feel special and relaxed and normal. And every time I go out to eat and get to order french fries and someone brings me a plate with steaming hot french fries, well I feel a little special again. Not quite like someone on TV, but a tiny bit more normal. And somehow normal has become even more special than anything else.