Celiac Disease and a Food Scarcity Mindset
Each May, during Celiac Awareness Month, the food scarcity mindset in the gluten-free community becomes so noticeable in social media posts. Not that this mindset isn’t front and center all year, but it’s especially noticeable in posts about the gluten-free finds, the new products, the giveaways and promotions in May. I want to share a little bit today about this mindset and about how it can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and disordered thinking about food.
Many of us get so excited about the ALDI options, believing they are only available that one time a year. The social media posts that follow go like this:
“I drove an hour each way to buy 25 cheesecakes at ALDI.”
“Standing outside waiting for ALDI to open so I can buy all of the gluten-free pasta. Hope none of the rest of you wanted any. Haha.”
“I’m so sad I didn’t get ANYTHING from the gluten-free finds at ALDI. There was NOTHING left.”
Not to single out ALDI, it happens everywhere. When the gluten-free pumpkin pancake mix arrives at Trader Joe’s, I’ve been guilty of buying a case of it. I’ve also found expired boxes at the back of the pantry the next summer. When someone shares a new product on Instagram and everyone runs out to find it, buy all of it, gets upset they can’t find it, as though happiness and fulfillment in life relies on a new gluten-free hot dog bun.
And then there was a pandemic…
So many people who eat a “normal” diet were hoarding essentials, pantry staples. But what about those of us whose only medication is gluten-free food? Well, better load up the pantry like we are preparing for the end of the world, right? Perhaps you felt this, that it was an even more urgent need for those with a medically-necessary diet than for those who can eat anything.
It isn’t just related to buying food at the grocery store either. Ever packed a loaf of bread in your suitcase? Traveled with a week’s worth of groceries for a two-day trip? Had a panic attack over not finding anything to eat at a music festival or amusement park? I see you. I’ve been there.
I might miss out. I might never eat this “one thing” again. There won’t be enough for me. The supply chain is broken. I’m not going to get any, it’s going to all be gone. What if it’s never available again?
At what point does this fixation on gluten-free food become unhealthy? At what point does this become a dangerous scarcity mindset? From my perspective, celiac disease and a food scarcity mindset are very intertwined. We can’t count on gluten-free products being abundant. We have to be super mindful of what we eat, which easily becomes a fixation on food. Those we turn to for support and encouragement online share posts often that are about food, recipes, new products. We follow Instagram accounts to see pretty pictures of food and learn about new ways to make food. It is easy to slip into a place of fixation, a place where our mindset is one of food scarcity.
Here are a few things I am doing to find some ease in my life when it comes to this mindset:
- Limiting the amount of time I spend on social media. (I am aware of the irony, as many of you sweet readers came here to read this from a social media post.)
- Choosing what media I consume carefully. I am quite leery and weary of accounts that share new products nearly every single day. I don’t need to buy all of those products. This isn’t unique to the gluten-free community, it’s the purpose of influencers in any niche.
- Focusing on the abundance of naturally gluten-free foods that I can always eat. I don’t need all of the gluten-free specialty products to have incredible meals and snacks.
- Reminding myself that it is easier than ever to find gluten-free products when I do want them. And that many of the “once a year” products are actually available year-round.
- Therapy. There is no shame in this. I’ve chased being thin to the point of carrying a bathroom scale with me around the world. I know too well about unhealthy fixation on weight, calories and yes, even gluten-free food. It’s okay to reach out for help if finding balance in this area is challenging for you. And truly, how can anyone be expected to make such a drastic change in their life, something that impacts every meal, most social settings, without a little bit of help?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on celiac disease and a food scarcity mindset. Do you struggle with this? Do you purchase gluten-free food to the point of hoarding because you fret about never finding the product again? Where do you find balance?