There’s a reason why Celiacs aren’t always in for a social event. Think about it, every social event has food: employee lunches, dinner with friends, birthday parties, and picnics. They all have the same element: eating. When that goes away, what do you do? All of a sudden you are either the outcast and people don’t invite you out anymore, or the world revolves around you and your disease. Both of these give you attention that you don’t want or need at most times. I mean, I live with Celiac Disease, and it’s one of my biggest platforms, but I don’t always want to talk about me, me, me. (Que the Toby Keith song).
Here are some tips for those that are starting on their gluten free journey, to make social events much more positive:
- Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to bring your own food. Don’t be afraid to speak up when someone says “let’s go to restaurant xyz” if you know you can’t eat there. I do this a lot and while it does attract attention, it’s fair that you get to eat too! Also, don’t be afraid to ask your hostess what they are serving. I did this for a birthday party I was going to last night, got the menu as well as the name of the BBQ sauce they were using, etc. I was able to eat it all and if I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have known!
- Be strong. Going gluten free isn’t easy, for sure not in the beginning. I would tell you it is, but you’d be disappointed. It gets easier. Shopping gets easier, eating out gets easier and, hopefully, your friends and family will become sensitive to your needs. You will need strength to not bend and eat that pizza that you used to love. It will pay off if you stand strong because your body will thank you for it as it heals from the damage that gluten has caused. Always remember that!
- Ask for help. If you don’t know where to shop, what to shop for or what brands are better than the next, just ask. Find a group online or a local gluten free group and ask people their opinions. As people that are GF, we have plenty of them! In Grand Junction, we have an online Facebook group called Gluten Free Grand Valley Gluten Free Grand Valley but have people from all over so if you need support, just join our group. We love to help! Don’t want to ask in a public forum? Email me. I’m more than happy to help someone via email.
- Take the attention. Hopefully that means that people care about you and want to do what’s best for you. If they ask what restaurant you want to go to it means they want to hang out with you and keep you safe. I know that’s why my friends ask and I’m so grateful for their care. If it’s negative attention, take it as an opportunity to educate them on why it’s so important. Sometimes people just don’t understand and when they are told, it changes their opinions. And with people saying that GF is just a fad diet, it’s a great time to tell them that not all people use it that way.
- Wear it proud. Yes, being a Celiac isn’t easy and isn’t always fun but we are different and have a lot to offer the communities we live in. We can show people that having an autoimmune disease doesn’t mean that we can’t still LIVE. I love it when I’m introduced to a little girl with Celiac and get to tell her all of the things I do even though I have this strange, food related disease with a funky name. I wear the Celiac ribbon a lot and get asked what it’s for. Educate the public!
Things get easier as you get rolling and as more people understand, your life will get easier as well.