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The new “it” diet?

17 Sep

Gwyneth Paltrow, Chelsea Clinton and that guy from the Old Spice commercials are going gluten-free. That’s right – they’re axing gluten, a protein found in most grains, cereals, and breads, from their lives. And suddenly, the gluten-free diet is the biggest Hollywood diet trend.

Seriously? If someone had told me gluten-free would be the next big culinary thing 15 years ago, I would have laughed, and then asked, “Have you tried gluten-free rice pasta, or dry, tasteless gluten-free cookies?

I got my first sampling of gluten-free foods some 20 years ago, when my mom was diagnosed with Celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disease in which the consumption of gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. In other words, even a little bit of gluten can make a Celiac very sick.

It’s a serious illness, and the diet – well, there was nothing particularly trendy, tasty, or even healthful about the gluten-free diet back when she first started on it. Gluten-free foods (breads, waffles, snacks, cookies) occupied one measly aisle of the local natural foods store. Characteristically, they were chalky, dry, flavorless, and highly caloric (thanks to the large quality of butter and sugar added to make them more palatable). My mom ate them because she had to. My family ate them (from time to time) with her, in solidarity. And then we snuck out to eat “real” food.

About five or six years ago, we began to notice gluten-free foods becoming more mainstream, accessible, and decidedly yummier (and healthier). Restaurants started offering gluten-free menus, bloggers started chronicling their experiences, and online shopping has made it easier for Celiacs to have good food delivered to their doorstep. Gluten-free bakeries are popping up around the country, and other high-end bakeries are offering assortments of yummy gluten-free goodies along with their flour-laden staples.

This means that being a Celiac is no longer a sentence for a life without good food, and dining out is hardly the ordeal it once was for the gluten-free set. I’m all about increasing awareness, but as far as people opting to eat gluten-free for trendy reasons, well, that’s just crazy. Avoiding wheat products is harder than it looks. And from what I’ve heard, when Celiacs go on a gluten-free diet, they usually gain weight (because they are finally able to absorb nutrients). So if gluten-free is the new no-carb, it seems a bit, well, weird.

Even if the trend dies off faster than it started, there are certainly positive things that come from having glamorous celebrities endorse a diet. So, thank you, Chelsea and Gwyneth – because of you, ordering my mom a gourmet birthday cake will be much, much easier!


Sickly Chic

8 Sep

It’s every woman’s worst nightmare. Your name has been called from the hospital waiting room, and an overly friendly nurse is escorting you past the receptionist’s window. You wince as the nurse asks to “get your weight,” and then you enter the small, sterile examination room to find the most horrifying thing ever laid out on the exam table: a freshly bleached hospital gown.

There seem to be two varieties of hospital gowns – the paper variety and the cloth variety. Paper hospital gowns are often (a) see-through, (b) susceptible to rippling in half if you move a millimeter while wearing them, and (c) horribly uncomfortable and unattractive. Oh, and they’re hardly ec0-friendly. Cloth gowns are more eco-friendly, but they are (a) always too big, (b) impossible to close properly, and (c) horribly uncomfortable and unattractive.

In short, they are an embarrassment to anyone who has to wear them, meaning, well, everyone.

Enter Diane Von Furstenberg, who has teamed up with the Cleveland Clinic to make hospitals a bit more fashion-forward. Yes – the world famous fashion designer’s latest project is reinventing the hospital gown.

Call me crazy, but the designer label gowns leave me feeling a bit, well, queasy:

Where to start…

The colors are all wrong. Sea foam green and aqua? Seriously. And the busy print? Egads. Oh, and the cut – I get the v-neck concept, and I see that she was attempting to mimic the flexibility of the ever-popular wrap dress, but Diane Von Furstenberg should know better than to cut the “skirt” mid-calf (the most unflattering length possible). Plus, the gowns have no shape, and do little do define one’s natural waist (which is the smallest part of the body, of course).


What would Tim Gunn say?

Reborn Babies (a trend guaranteed not to catch on)

29 Jul

This week, the blogosphere lit up with buzz and debate about a NYT Magazine article, which posed (and tried to answer) the question, “What the heck is wrong with today’s 20-somethings, and why won’t they just grow up?” In it, writer Robin Marantz Henig explains:

The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever.

I haven’t nodded my head in agreement so fiercely while reading the New York Times since, well, ever. It’s true – many 20-somethings (and even, um, 30-somethings) today find themselves floating around in the emerging gray area that happens somewhere on the road from adolescence to adulthood. On the one hand, we live in a youth obsessed culture that tells us we need to stay young, stay hip, stay cool and carefree – even into retirement. And at the same, time we are told that we need to grow up, be responsible, and follow the appropriate steps towards productive adulthood, according to specific “milestones” set by generations past.

It’s no wonder Generation Y has taken a sort-of DIY approach to growing up, marrying at vastly different ages than our parents, procreating later in life (or not at all), and becoming more and more highly educated, with fewer job prospects available for us despite our degrees. Is this a good or a bad thing?

After 10 pages of waxing philosophical (thanks to interviews with psychologists and sociologists), Marantz Henig concludes:

So we’re caught in a weird moment, unsure whether to allow young people to keep exploring and questioning or to cut them off and tell them just to find something, anything, to put food on the table and get on with their lives.

In other words, “it’s complicated.”

I could relate to so many things about this article that I started to worry: “At what point will I finally wake up and think, ‘Gosh, I feel like a real grown-up today?'”

But all this worrying about my future produced a headache, so I switched on the TV, to a show I can honestly say I have never watched before: Wife Swap. One of the families featured on this particular episode included an allegedly grown-up woman – a mom – who had three human children, and a collection of 14 “plastic,” or “reborn babies” (see picture below. These disturbingly lifelike baby dolls breathe, have a heartbeat, and have real, threaded hair, and “a real spine.” They cost thousands of dollars each, and they never grow up, because, well, they are not real. The Wife Swap woman, however, doted on them as if they were – she cooed them to sleep every night, and even changed their (clean) diapers. She compared herself to Angelina Jolie because she adopted “international” plastic babies from Canada and London.

Suddenly, I felt much better. I might not have it all together yet, but at least I stopped changing baby doll diapers many years ago.