It seems like every few weeks we’re writing with news of another celebrity or professional athlete who has gone gluten-free. The comments are mixed — some of you are glad for increased attention to the cause, others are concerned for the wrong attention being paid to the cause. But I think today’s gluten-free celebrity will garner generally positive feedback.
You may know Jennifer Esposito from television series like Blue Bloods, Samantha Who?, Rescue Me, and Judging Amy, or her roles in the movies Crash, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, etc etc. But did you know that not only does Jennifer Esposito have celiac disease — she’s started a nonprofit to help with celiac education? Hooray!
As Esposito said in an interview on Huffington Post, it hasn’t been an easy road or a short one — her diagnosis came in 2008, after more than 20 years of symptoms and suffering. In her own words:
To this day, I still deal with the side effects of being a celiac and repercussions of improperly being diagnosed over the years. There is a lack of proper education about the disease for consumers and only now is the medical field paying closer attention…
There is a misconception that if you remove gluten from your diet, you dramatically feel better. This is not true. Yes, many of the stomach issues and other ailment start to subside, but this is an autoimmune disease. Like any other autoimmune disease, it needs your attention everyday!
In fact, if Esposito weren’t a celebrity, her story would read much like the stories of many of the gluten-free world’s most beloved bloggers, business-starters, and chefs — and of the many people on gluten-free forums looking for answers. Her gripes, discoveries, and beliefs sound pretty familiar, so I just want to share a few of my favorites. You can read the full interiew directly on Huffington Post:
Gluten-free dieting is becoming a fad thanks to high-profile individuals who are removing gluten to achieve weight loss. This makes me want to scream!
It is imperative that you have correct testing.
…with one bad meal they [the symptoms] are ready and waiting to come to the forefront. That’s why I am determined to educate and make people aware of the truth about this disease.
The way Esposito has chosen to leverage her fame is by creating a nonprofit called Jennifer’s Way, with the mission statement, “The Jennifer’s Way Foundation for Celiac Education (JWF) is dedicated to the advancement of awareness, research and education of celiac disease.” You can learn more about it on their website, which also includes recipes, favorite products, etc.
Note! There are also products. Right now, a gluten-free all purpose flour blend and a gluten-free pancake mix. Other products and books are planned, as is a gluten-free bakery / info spot in New York City. But before you get alarmed (“Aha! A marketing angle!” I thought at first), let me share with you this blurb:
Every piece of this blog, products and the celiac campaign are funded completely by ME. Straight from my pocket. Every penny of the profits from these products is going back into the the cause for education, awareness and bringing us better choices in food…Know that the money from these products are not buying me a new pair of Manolos or a vacation on the beach, but awareness, education, better quality products and hopefully some change to the way celiac disease is viewed.
My two cents? It’s nice to see someone who has a de facto platform step up in a responsible, well-informed way. I’m looking forward to hearing more about Jennier’s Way and their advocacy programs as they grow. What about you?