When I realized I was allergic to gluten, or that I possibly had celiac disease, the first challenge was knowing what to eat. After some time I worked this out. But eating out and being invited to people’s homes for meals turned out to be a much bigger challenge.
The Gluten Social Challenge
Some people with a gluten allergy or celiac disease hate the social challenge so much that they either stay home or cheat on their gluten-free diet. Nether is a good solution. Social isolation reduces your quality of life, while eating gluten will make you sick, and cause long-term health problems if you have celiac disease.
In short, you have to deal with the social challenges of avoiding gluten sooner or later. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to deal with all social challenges at once.
Avoiding Gluten -Why it is Socially Challenging
Why is avoiding gluten such a social challenge? There are several reasons. We want to fit in. Most people do not want to feel they are different from everyone else. Many people are shy about pushing for their needs. We don’t want people to go to too much trouble for us, especially our friends. If we seem like too much trouble, some of our friends may stop inviting us out!
One of the things that really wore me down at first is explaining my dietary needs over and over again.
The first step to overcoming these social challenges is to get over it. You have important needs. If you were really away from home and very thirsty or your bladder was bursting, sooner or later you would have to ask someone for help, and you would not be refused.
People want to help each other. True, you don’t want to put them to too much trouble, but if you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy, you need to be on a gluten-free diet. While you can choose to cheat, the consequences are not worth it, believe me!
Overcoming the Social Gluten Free Diet Challenge
It turns out that the social challenge to avoiding gluten is within you, it is not really a challenge with anyone else.
You have needs, you must expect them to be met, and they will.
True, some people won’t get it. They may mean well but get it wrong. You have to ask them lots of questions, provide lots of suggestions, and tell them what to watch out for to keep yourself safe and healthy. This takes some people, especially introverts, quite some effort. I never liked going through all that, but I have to, and eventually I got used to it.
The best place to start is with your friends. If some of your friends aren’t really willing to help you out, then they aren’t really your friends. That’s OK, they will be replaced by better friends who support you. Focus on the friends you have who are really there for you and are willing to support you.
My friends can tell that I hate explaining to the serving staff at restaurants that I can’t eat gluten. They often do it for me without being asked. This is a big help and takes a lot of the pressure off of going out to restaurants.
I’ve always found that when being invited out for dinner, people are very concerned that they feed me food I can eat. It is human nature to take care of our guests. You are not making unreasonable demands. Your friends will recognize that and treat you well, if you just ask.
They key to overcoming the social challenge is to overcome your own inner barriers. Put in the effort to explain your needs to people, and you will find that you can still go out and eat gluten-free.
What are your experiences with your gluten-free diet and the social challenge? Ask questions and share tips in the comment form below.