"Participating in Life" On a 'Special' Diet

Whether you're new to any sort of elimination diet, or have been dealing with intolerances or allergies for a long time, one thing that never changes is awkward social outings around meals. Honestly, I don't feel like they get that much easier. I just think it becomes familiar. But who knows - it's only been five years.

 We hosted brunch with friends, and the entire meal was gluten free. I didn't eat sugar either. It was fantastic, and no one missed the gluten.

We hosted brunch with friends, and the entire meal was gluten free. I didn't eat sugar either. It was fantastic, and no one missed the gluten.

Think about it - when you are with a bunch of people who can eat anything and you have to restrict X, Y, or Z, all of the sudden you're the outcast. Do these people pick somewhere you can safely eat? Would they even know what that means? And if they are unwilling to acknowledge your needs, what do you do? And if they're not, do you confront them or hang back? Do you try and find new friends? (I vote find new friends).

For the most part, I've been surrounded by people who show a willingness to try and feed me. With my husband, he always gives me dibs on a restaurant choice or preference for dinner. "I can eat anything I want whenever I want," he tells me, "you can't. You pick". My friends always ask me to pick a place to eat, if they're not suggesting somewhere they know I already frequent and love. My dad and sister stock up the house if they know I'm visiting, and always make sure I can eat at any restaurant we visit. And family parties show a consistent pattern of real effort. Even people who get seriously confused on what foods are or aren't "gluten-free", still spend a lot of time consulting with me. If they can't ultimately feed me, I acknowledge and appreciate their effort. That used to leave me really hungry and cranky, but now I know it's my responsibility to feed myself. When other people do it, it's really nice, but not mandatory.

My expectations are not that everyone will get it. My expectations are that people who care about me will at least try.
 Where the Thanksgiving magic happened.

Where the Thanksgiving magic happened.

This past Thanksgiving I did have the blessing of it being all gluten free. My brother-in-law prepared everything naturally gluten free, with the exception of our gluten free stuffing. My mother-in-law's delicious pumpkin pie was gluten free. There was also great care taken to ensure there would be ZERO CHANCE of cross contamination. I could have cried with delight. I was so grateful, but I also realize this is the shooting star of get togethers. It's not most people's experience. It's not even usually mine.

So, what to do? If you're going out to a party, eat beforehand. I know, it sucks that you have to eat pre-party, while everyone else carelessly picks at anything catching their eye. And it also sucks to eat before going to a big meeting because your work "friend" never asks anyone if there are food allergies before ordering pizza for the crew. And yes, it gets really annoying bringing your own food to Christmas *just incase* there's nothing for you. But you know what? If you're bringing your own food, odds are it's way healthier. You ate before the restaurant, but you're not going to get sick. I find, in most cases, people seem to envy MY meal, not the other way around. Yes, my gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free pre-prepped meal. Or dessert. Or dinner. What I have on my fork is not the norm, it grabs people's interest, and ALWAYS breaks the ice and starts a conversation. As weird as I feel, I think most other people envy my *discipline*. Although we know that's not really what it is. There is simply no choice.

If your friends aren't willing to help, keep making new ones. You shouldn't keep finding yourself at a restaurant where you can't eat anything. Truly good friends are out there, and they're awesome and they'll make your life better on more levels than just dinner. And if you're headed to a gathering around food, bring something from home. It's a sure way to break the ice and get people talking to you.

And a pro tip - that irresistible pizza you smell? It never tastes as good as it smells or looks. Remember that, and you will keep your sanity! 

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