Novak Djokovic Gives Gluten A Backhand

13 Comments 17 May 2011

Did you see this article in The Wall Street Journal today?!

The Diet That Shook Up Tennis? Starch Madness: Novak Djokovic’s Domination of the Sport Has Coincided With His Gluten-Free Turn

 [to be read in soft sports commentator voice]

Now you know me, I’m not exactly the type of girl that follows sports. In fact, I even went to a few cheerleader sign up meetings in high school just to get a free donut. I know, pathetic.

BUT, I am excited to see this article today. I know it says he “is allergic to the protein” and briefly explains how that differs from celiac disease. So, why am I excited?

One reason is because I’m thinking about all of the men that will possibly read it and become more familiar with the terms “gluten allergy” and “celiac disease”.

We all know how most of our boys don’t like to go to the doctor or fess up to not feeling well.

(I  should probably explain here that thanks to Laura Rigby I will often refer to men as boys, it’s just a manner of speech and it is not meant to be an insult.)

So, evidently, this D-jok-ovic guy is a really big deal and on top of his game right now, so I’m hoping it will make it easier for men to feel manly while looking out for their health when it comes to gluten issues. Maybe some will even get tested to see if they have celiac disease.  And imagine how macho it will now sound at the sports bar when declining non-gluten-free food, “No thanks, man, I’m on the Djokovic Diet.”

Another thing I liked about the article was the quote from David Levitsky, a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University, “…a gluten-free diet might have benefits for those with mild allergies, or even no allergy at all.” Then he went on to discuss positive psychological implications and the article further mused about this as the possible reason Djokovic seems unstoppable right now.

Why did I like that quote so much? Because I’m so sick of reading sensationalized headlines or quotes from dietitians about how a gluten-free diet could be potentially “dangerous”! Really?! People actually can get all of their fiber and vitamins from fortified Wonder Bread and then fall apart when that is taken away from them? I think their whole diet may have needed an overhaul more than a gluten-free diet being “dangerous”, but I digress and this is probably fodder for another blog post.

I can hear a few of you resisting, “Yikes! But if people without celiac disease start making a gluten-free diet popular then no one will take us and our needs seriously!! And besides, this diet isn’t a choice for me! I would never choose this!”

I want you to know that I totally respect your viewpoint.

I just see things a different way. The gluten-free diet has forced me to learn about food, ingredients and various cuisines and I’m grateful for that. Yeah, it’s not convenient, and it has been super awkward at times, but I believe that if I didn’t have to do this diet for my health when I was really sick I would now be like almost every other American and still eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese because it is 4 for a $1.00. My relationship with food has changed. I now see it as fuel and medicine for my body and my brain. At times it is used strictly for entertainment, but not entirely.

I also think that we really don’t know the whole story with gluten yet. Remember how happy we all were when the medical community was able to announce that studies had proven gluten sensitivity to be real and just as serious as celiac diesease? Think of all of the people that previously were turned away from well meaning doctors because they didn’t fit a profile for actual celiac disease. I know a lot of them are glad that they listened to their bodies and stayed on a gluten-free diet anyway.

This is another reason why I’m glad our new friend Novak Djokovic and his gluten-free diet are in the spotlight right now. It’s perfect timing, really. Just in time for Celiac Disease Awareness Month, which indirectly branches out and also helps many others with health issues that are affected by gluten. 

Oh, one last thing…the photos of Nadal and Federer photoshopped as steaks were a little corny. I think it would have been more amusing to see them pictured as gluten-free cupcakes! 😉

So, what did you think of the article? I’d love to hear your opinion! Especially any gluten-free fellas out there!

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13 Comments so far

  1. 1
    Jenna Spurlin says:

    I loved reading this article! Glutards in a whole new light! It really rebranded the gluten free/celiac disease to be less sickly and more macho for health and performance reasons.

    I have a friend who is a professional triathlete and iron woman competitor that is extensively gluten free by choice for training. She is embracing the mental and physical clarity that a gluten free diet offers and is rewarded with better workouts and times. It is awesome to see her abiding by something I am slaved to just for better times and a healthier digestive/immune system. And to know, that I am reaping those benefits as well. It helps me gain perspective when the “I just want a cookie” fit overwhelms me.

    Not to forget, my favorite example of gf athletes, the Oklahoma City Thunder, currently spotlighted and up and coming NBA team at the moment. #thunderup

    As I sat in the crowd at a Thunder game this past month, a group of young professional bros behind me spoke of the Thunder coach’s decision to do a gluten free diet with his team. They bashed the decision and showed much immaturity to the topic. Happily, I turned around with a smile on my face and said, “I’m gluten free and its great, I totally understand why the Thunder are!” They froze, blank stared at me, and tried to recover, but had no legitimate support for why a gluten free diet would be bad. That was definitely a win for GFreeism and a day I was proud to be gluten free, just as my favorite NBA team!

    So now, with this article, pumping up the machoism to the gf madness, I think more groups of guys, just as those behind me at the Thunder game, will drop the negative bashing, and embrace the health, training, and performance benefits in a more responsible diet.

  2. 2
    Jane says:

    I was shocked at how ill informed the writer of the piece was in relation to our diet. (No pizza….and so on!) Clearly, they were ignorant about our diet and reinforced the old ideas about our not being able to eat bread and pasta. It reminded me of the gastroenterologist who called with the Celiac diagnosis. “You won’t be able to eat anything”, he said. He was also the one that 35 years ago said I had IBS and he was wrong then too.

      Sonia Simone says:

      Wow, what a tool. 🙂 I met my first person with celiac about 10 years ago, before there were as many good resources, but he just ate a lot of Japanese food (he lives in Vancouver) and certainly didn’t have the attitude that he “couldn’t eat anything.”

      To paraphrase Courtney Love from many years ago, There are a million things to eat that aren’t gluten. 🙂

  3. 3

    Only positives will emerge from this article. Djokovic is lighting the tennis world up right now. Not losing in 2011! And if his diet has paved the way, look out, soon other elite athletes might start losing gluten from their diets.

    It’s interesting to note that when Djokovic was eating gluten, he was still the number three player in the world–not too shabby. But sometimes even minor modifications can make a #3 become #1.


  4. 4
    laura-marie says:

    WOW, pretty good article. I am sending it out to all I know. i.e. those who are still clueless of what I deal with on a daily basis. I agree with Jane.. maybe our g/f pizza etc. is not the same as gluten pizza etc. But we still have it. 20 years ago we had very little to choose from and present day we have so many great choices, that truly give us the best balanced diet. Thanks Kelly!

  5. 5
    Linda says:

    Geez, I didn’t know nutritionists are qualified to make that kind of diagnosis! I think it’s great, though, that at least the word is out where the readership is in the millions. I just wish the content had been edited by an expert. One day! Thanks for sharing this–hugs–Linda

  6. 6
    June says:

    Hi. I read this with great interest as I am a celiac who must maintain a GF diet. A co-worker has chosen to go on a GF, Milk and egg free diet as advised by a naturopath to help her with numerous health problems. After a steep learning curve right after my diagnosis, I have learned to enjoy GF food as I know I am now healthy. I quickly found alternates to bread which I still love. I do eat much healthier than I did in the past. No more canned soups with tons of sodium, now I make homemade soup with lower sodium, lots of herbs and spices for flavour.

    Other celebrities have “come out” as gluten free and I believe it has helped the awareness. My freinds and co-workers have learned about a gluten free diet along with me, we are all so amazed at the number of food that can contain gluten. It still bothers me that I can eat yogurt of most brands here in Canada; when I holiday in the US, many yogurts have “food starch” which could contain gluten.

    Bravo Novak!!

  7. 7
    Linda says:

    Regarding June’s post. I’m sorry you weren’t able to find a satisfactory selection of U.S. yogurts that are clearly GF. Actually, there really are a lot of them, but it may depend on where you shopped. As I’m told, less urban and more remote areas carry fewer brands, leaning toward more mainstream yogurts which do have a tendancy to contain questionable ingredients. I live in a small city, but our grocery stores carry many varieties of yogurts that are clearly gluten-free. I guess it just depends on location.

  8. 8
    Ligea says:

    I think it’s excellent that this article will raise awareness of the gluten free diet; however, I am one of those with concerns that it will begin to be viewed as a “fad” and Celiac disease not be taken as the life-threatening situation it can be. There has been a facebook post by a chef in Colorado spread around the internet lately. He said he feeds his GF customers his home-made wheat pasta and to me, that’s a VERY dangerous thing. As with most things there are good and not-so-good sides to this type of article.

  9. 9
    jilly says:

    I am gluten and grain sensitive, rather than gluten intollerant and was told many years ago by a doctor who worked in sports medicine, to “think like an athlete.” He advised a low gluten diet to all his athletes and recommended the same eating style to his friends as well. This was 22 years ago, and I have tried on and off to be gluten-free. Each attempt proves my doctor friend was on to something, as I felt better and looked better with this one modification. Many friends thought this guy a quack. Over the years, the rest of the world is catching up with my friend’s advice. Gluten free is here to stay! Yay Djokovic!

  10. 10
    Terri says:

    I have just started a gluten free diet. While I understand that such a diet may be good for someone with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or sensitivity, I do not understand all the cheering about gluten free diet in general. I used to eat whole grain pasta and bread (not Wonderbread), now it is down to either rice and corn, or those artificial gluten free products (looks like pasta, bread etc., but is full of crap). So what’s up?

  11. 11
    Ashley says:

    Thanks for sharing your funny, witty viewpoint on this! I had no idea that Djokovic is gluten-free, and I’m so glad that he is vocal on this issue and not hiding his (what others would see as unnecessary) newly found health and strength!

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Kelly Courson


Thanks for stopping by! I'm Kelly Courson and this is where I've shared my gluten-free finds since 2003. The world has been my gluten-free oyster for 14 years now and I love sharing what I've learned in order to help others adapt to a gluten-free diet. Have a look around and feel free to leave a comment. Connecting with people like you is what has kept me going this long! Seriously.

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