Fashion: Masochist: The Faux-Allergy Diet

By Rachel Baker | Boston Magazine |

Legit food allergies are no laughing matter. For those who suffer from, say, a serious wheat intolerance, a dinner roll could mean a trip to the hospital, or worse.


But for anyone with less-than-life-threatening sensitivities, food allergies have become an affliction of convenience. The same poor souls who deconstruct their dinner order in the name of preventing hives can be seen scarfing gluten-packed slices from New York Pizza during the booze-soaked wee hours, with nary a rash in sight. (The appeal to serial dieters isn’t hard to fathom: Much like low-carb regimens, a gluten allergy bans all wheat products.)

When I decide to give gluten-free living a whirl, my first surprise is how much I have to forgo. Turns out, wheat isn’t just in wheaty things like bread and Triscuits. It shows up in anything involving basic flour (including my favorite food groups: nachos, cobblers, and muffins), plus it’s used sneakily—to thicken soups, coat onion rings, add texture to healthy-looking sautés.

But the perks quickly become apparent. In the past when I’ve explained that I can’t have cucumbers in my salad (translation: "I hate cucumbers") or that I can’t eat lard ("I’m dieting"), my requests invariably were met with rolled eyes and thinly concealed disdain. Not so with an "official" restriction, which I learn is most effectively conveyed by wielding an "I have a gluten allergy" in a tone that says, If I die right here at the table, you’ll be seriously inconvenienced.
An allergy is also better for my pride. Dining at Bouchée with a fashionable crowd, I order the burger, no bun. Before there’s time for them to judge my carbo-paranoia, I whisper, "I can’t eat gluten." They nod sympathetically. At an office meeting, I decline the cookies without hurting the baker’s feelings or getting mocked for being on another "crazy" diet.

Two approved indulgences make the diet easier to swallow. Although beer is verboten, wine and liquor are okay. Secondly, potatoes. (May I have a slice of toast? No. Greasy French fries? Yes!) But I learn the hard way: After losing 2 pounds, I’m back to break-even following a double feature of rosemary frites at Sel de la Terre.

After another week, I’ve dropped 3 pounds. With the added benefit of zero attitude from chefs, servers, and friends with higher metabolisms, I’m happy to be this allergy epidemic’s next "victim."

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