Friday, April 1, 2011

Dear Dr. Oz, eating gluten free does not make me fat.

Everybody.  Watch.  Out.   The gluten free diet… Makes. You. Fat!  (please read the sarcasm in my typing)

Recently, Dr. Oz did a segment on his show about ‘the gluten free diet,’ during which he wanted to 'bust the myth' that it would help people lose weight.  During the entire segment, an image behind him declared the gluten-free diet was ‘making you fat!’

I was appalled.  Dr. Oz appears to have been cut from the same cloth as Dr. Phil.  Are either of them really trying to help the public lead healthier lives or are they just looking to sensationalize health topics as a means to increase their media ratings?

In his recent segment on the gluten free diet (it will make you fat!) he works so hard to stir the pot that the entire segment misses the punchline.  It’s unorganized and schizophrenic to the point that I think it probably leaves the general public much more confused than when he began. 

Those unfamiliar with the GF diet probably walked away from that segment shaking their heads thinking, “Those poor people who are gluten free!  They are all going to be fat because they can’t eat wheat!”  I will now have people eyeballing me in the grocery store with my gluten free rice pasta and they will want to spread the gospel Dr. Oz preaches about how fat those noodles will make me.

Dr. Hyman did a wonderful job trying to explain what it means to eat gluten free and why it’s medically necessary for some people.  He also explained very clearly why people who are gluten intolerant might have a hard time keeping weight off when they are eating gluten. 

However, Dr. Oz kept interjecting with illogical follow-up to Dr. Hyman’s statements in his attempt to bring the attention back to the ‘unhealthy gluten free diet, which is full of high calorie and low fiber foods.’ 

The punchline Dr. Oz never got to is that the high calorie gluten free food is just as bad for your waistline as the gluten-filled version it is working so hard to substitute.  Just by virtue of the fact that the gluten free version doesn’t have gluten doesn’t make it ‘free’ when it comes to your waistline. 

Put another way: gluten-free calories = gluteny calories.

Want to eat processed, frozen waffles for breakfast?  Guess what – gluten free or gluten full, they are typically nothing but empty sugar and calories.  Even for people with celiac, if we consume more calories than we burn, we will gain weight.  I would have liked to see the nutritional comparison between Dr. Hyman’s meals shown at the end of the segment to the gluten-full alternatives shown alongside them!  The gluten free lunch was probably a nutritional winner in comparison to that wrap sandwich. 

Dr. Oz’s constant berating of the ‘gluten free diet’ as unhealthy was like nails on a chalkboard.  The ‘diet’ (if we can call it that – it’s more of a way of life than any ‘diet’) is neither inherently healthy nor inherently unhealthy.  There are people who eat healthily while eating gluten free and there are people who eat unhealthily while eating gluten free.  The same can be said for vegans, vegetarians, those with egg allergies, etc.  (I also have to mention here that many people DO gain weight when beginning a medically necessary diet because their bodies are finally able to absorb nutrients!)

I had previously heard some buzz about people in Hollywood using the ‘gluten free diet’ as the next big weight-loss fad, and had even heard that the proliferation of GF products on store shelves and general awareness could give partial thanks to this phenomenon. 

However, I am fearful that this Dr. Oz segment, the tone of which seemed to almost dismiss the medically necessary aspect of gluten free food, is the beginning of black-listing the phrase ‘gluten free.’  Up until now, the gluten free community seems to have been pretty grateful for any publicity, but is all publicity good publicity when it comes to potentially perpetuating misinformation?  If the general public develops a negative association with ‘gluten free’ because of difficult-to-understand media shows such as this, could life slowly become more difficult for those of us who have medically necessary gluten restrictions?  Will non-gluten-free-ers take us less seriously with very real problems such as cross contamination?

Dr. Oz, please don’t use my autoimmune disease as fodder for your sensationalized programming.   My health is at stake. Thank you.


Stephanie said...

"There are people who eat healthily while eating gluten free and there are people who eat unhealthily while eating gluten free."

Seriously! That's ridiculous! I very much dislike these celebrity gurus who people worship like Oprah. It's an opinion. Even my doctors have differing opinions on how to treat me. Doesn't make them the experts on GF lifestyles.

I get it, I can whip up a pretty fantastic unhealthy, GF treat when I want to, but that's what eating gluten free is about. That's about choosing cookies over fruit, empty carbs over whole grains/veggies! It's all about the *choices* I make with my GF options that keeps me from getting fat...

Eden said...

I have a confirmed diagnosis of celiac disease. Eatting gluten free is not a fad diet for me. It's a prescription for my health and future. But I also have to make good daily choices. Brown Rice, potatoes, corn tortillas and beans are simply better choices then processed foods... even if they are labeled GF. It's logical.

I heard a silly, but oh so true, rhyme once. "Just because it's Gluten Free, doesn't mean it's good for me".

There's GF bakery in town that I only visit as a splurge. Just like any other health person would only go to Top Pot Donuts as a treat.

Foodie Therapy said...

Just came across your blog today and I really enjoy reading it! Thanks for all of your gluten free info.

Dia said...

The 'food guideline' when I was in La Leche League ~ 35 years ago was to eat 'a wide variety of food in close to its natural state.'

When our family went GF 2 1/2 years ago, after DNA testing showed my daughter & her family had genes for G Intolerance (which I helped pass on!!) & I lost those 'post menopause' pounds that I thought I was 'stuck with!' Not so - viola! I again have a waistline, more energy, less 'brain fog' etc.

I've always eaten OG & one frustration is the difficulty finding OG GF flours!
I always enjoyed rice & quinoa - & have a CSA share (as well as my own OG garden) ...

It's a no-brainer that folks eating a largely processed food diet will probably continue in that vein if they go GF - at least at first.
A common comment is that folks realize how few foods they ate, & have branched out since going GF - esp. trying new veggies!

At a recent 'dessert potluck' I was at the GF table with a friend whose daughter was Dx with celiac this summer, & subsequently my friend found herself to be sensitive to gluten, eggs, soy & dairy. As she realized most of the goodies dontained soy - other than my coconut macaroons - she commented that's one reason she's doing so well - she knows she 'can't' eat so many 'treats!' She has lost 10#, & her cholesterol is now normal. She looks great, & feels good.

I love your recipe for GF scones, which were one of the first baked goods I tried making after the 'switch' to GF! I rely on whole grains more than baked goods - but it's fun to have some recipes up my sleeve for special occasions!