Posts Tagged ‘Harper’s Bazaar’

The Wheat We Hate to Eat

September 16, 2013


Hating on wheat is the trendy thing to do these days. Everyone, it seems, has issues with the grain, and gluten free is the fashionable way to be.

After reading an article in Harper’s Bazaar about the perils of today’s wheat, it sparked a lively discussion.

In the book Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Way Back to Health, by William Davis, it blames gliadin, a component of gluten, for causing our distress. Dr. Davis contends that wheat causes diabetes, heart disease and acne. He states that the gliadin found in wheat, and its interaction with the opioid receptors in the brain over stimulates the appetite and ultimately causes obesity. Later in the article, several other doctors disputed his theories as bunk, and states that other foods have this effect, including milk, soy and spinach.

It’s difficult to know who to believe.

I have heard people (myself among them,) discuss bloating, stomach distress, acne and “brain fog” as after effects of eating foods containing gluten. I have heard it blamed on the evils of American wheat vs. European wheat, and genetically engineered wheat vs. non-GMO types. Yes, the wheat we eat today is not the same wheat our fore folks ate hundreds of years ago, nor is it the same exact wheat we ate 50 years ago. It is not, however, the genetically modified Frankenwheat it is often accused of being.

I set out to gather the cold, hard facts on wheat production:

It is not legal to produce genetically modified wheat for commercial consumption in North America. Europe also does not permit their wheat crops to be genetically modified. There is no need to brag about flour or baked goods being non-GMO by labeling them as such, since all the wheat products in the United States and Europe fall into that category. Both countries are testing genetically modified wheat, but it is not available for consumption at this time.

Wheat has undergone hybridization over the years, caused both by nature and from man helping the breeding process and therefore creating new species of the plants. While hybridization is naturally occurring, the low-tech process of assisting compatible species to merge has been going on since the beginning of agriculture. This process does not alter the plant’s genetic structure through use of chemicals or technology, and does not introduce genes from other kingdoms into the mix, as does genetic modification.

Gluten is a naturally occurring protein that gives elasticity to dough. It is what helps it rise, and gives shape to the dough. Some grades of flour have a lower gluten content than others due to the milling process, but it is intrinsic in the natural makeup of wheat, as well as that of rye and barley.

Gluten-free flours and baked goods come from the use of alternative flours, not from removing the gluten from wheat. That in fact, would require genetic modification.

There is nothing going on in other countries that would make their wheat more palatable, or digestible than ours. Some common alternative flours are almond meal, garbanzo flour and coconut flour, among others. They often alter the consistency of the food, and can rarely be substituted in a recipe without adapting it accordingly.

While only 1 out of 100 people have Celiac disease, which makes it impossible for their body to process the gluten in wheat and other products, the rest of us are fully able to digest it. While that number is indeed higher than it was 50 years ago, it is still quite low. Many attribute the increase in Celiac disease to the fact that more and more people are being tested for it. Gluten is also being used in many medications, cosmetics and processed foods, which exposes us to much higher quantities of it than ever before.

Going gluten free, or even just opting to go wheat free does have its benefits for the mass population. Most people experience weight loss from cutting these products from their diet. Eliminating bread, pasta, cookies, cakes and other flour-based foods eliminates substantial calories. As people reach a healthy weight, they tend to experience less health symptoms.

Wheat or not to wheat, that is the question. If you suspect you have a problem with wheat, even though your doctor has ruled out a real allergy or Celiac disease,try eliminating wheat based foods, or gluten based products from your diet for two weeks and see how you feel. If you feel more energetic, and your skin or digestive issues improve, then go for it. If it doesn’t seem to have much effect, keep whole grains in your diet for the fiber, vitamins and minerals they offer, as well as the joy we often get from eating them.

Then sit back, relax and wait for the next food villain to emerge.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Being Paid for Paying Your Dues

September 20, 2012

Last fall, Diana Wang fulfilled her dream of working at Harper’s Bazaar. She was given a coveted role as an unpaid intern in the accessories area of the magazine. Just 4 months later, Wang filed suit against Bazaar’s parent company, the Hearst Corporation, for not paying her for her work.

Wang describes her job as “ outrageous and belittling.”

As she recounts, she worked five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., tracking thousands of shoes, bags, scarves and jewelry lent to the magazine for photo shoots. She managed other interns, sending them on errands and helping to file expense reports. She also answered the accessories director’s phone, and filtered her calls.

Did she work long days and handle not so glamorous tasks? Absolutely. Were they outrageous and belittling? Hardly.

While the U.S. Department of Labor states that internships must be educational and for the benefit of the intern, it is open to speculation, whether or not this experience fits the bill.
Did Ms. Wang have an opportunity to see first hand what really goes on at a fashion magazine? Was she able to learn useful skills, and gain exposure? Is that not considered beneficial? It is in my book.

Did she really expect that she would be sitting front row at fashion week as an intern?

I posed these questions on my Facebook page last week, and got a lot of interesting feedback.

While many feel that large companies are taking advantage of young people by using their services as unpaid interns, most felt that this woman had an inflated sense of entitlement.

Our recent economic situation has spawned an unpaid workforce, and internships have become the replacement for entry-level jobs.

One is now expected to have a full resume of internships under their belt, before being considered for a paid role in many industries.

In areas such as fashion, roles at prestigious companies are highly sought after. A positive internship experience can be the ticket to a future career.

This women was not asked to do anything that didn’t need to be done, or was truly belittling.  I would venture to say that most of her bosses had performed those duties at some point at the early stages of their career. Four months of corporate servitude is hardly worth a lawsuit.

Unless she somehow parlays millions of dollars out of the suit, (which is highly doubtful) she has frittered away her dream of succeeding in the world of fashion publishing.

It appears she didn’t want the career of her dreams bad enough to actually work for it, and pay her dues.

What do you think? Does she have a valid case, or is she a spoiled and entitled product of her generation?

Join the conversation and leave a comment below.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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