Celiac Disease / Uncategorized

This Is Why I Can’t Come To Your House

Step 1: Don’t Invite a Celiac

The holidays are coming right up, people, and you know what that means:  Eating and drinking until you can do nothing but moan and roll around on the floor.  In the case of us gluten-free types, however, it means avoiding delicious gluten that is served up at every event, dinner party, and office ho-down we attend.  It’s why I carry gluten-free crackers, muffins, and beef, in my handbag.

Still, this season I thought I’d try something new.  I spoke with Living Without Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Alicia Woodward this week who is simply filled with fantastic advice for the gluten-free and allergic who have to leave the house. Which was fascinating because Woodward and I have very different approaches to being gluten-free in the world. While she advocates the taking control of your situation, I’m more of a crying-in-the-car-on-the-way-home kind of gal. Luckily she’s also a psychotherapist, and I feel much better now.

So, Alicia Woodward, EIC, how do I navigate this holiday season when I don’t want to irritate the hell out of everyone who extends an invite to my gluten-free self*?

Read on for holiday bliss.  Or at least, holiday, “meh.”

I have to say that I’m wary going to other people’s parties because of the whole cross-contamination thing. Plus, I don’t want to have “the talk” about cutting boards, because then I’ll never be invited over ever again. How can I feel normal going to other people’s homes?

I think you’ll evolve in time where you’ll find that right balance. It’s going to be different for you than for other people.

Some people are so super sensitive, they basically miss work if they ingest the tiniest bit of gluten. There are people who are so sick with neurological celiac it might take them months to recover.  Even without the most severe symptoms, no gluten is good for a celiac, and you have to figure out how vigilant you want to be.

You’ll either find that you’re not going out — which I don’t think will make you happy — or you’ll find yourself saying, “Hey, I’ve got this great flour blend, let me bring something.” You also find out who your friends are. Those are the people who say, “I wouldn’t do anything to make you sick.”

I have a hard time saying anything, much less being ever-vigilant.

A lot of people just eat really well before leaving home. If you don’t want to say anything, then you’re just full when you walk in the door. If you and I talk five years from now, you’ll have found that balance for what’s natural for you.

One of the things that people have to learn when they’re diagnosed, is how to find their voice and it’s really hard to do that. We’re all raised to be polite.

I’ve heard people say, “I was so hungry and everything had gluten in it, so I ate it.” I usually just starve and drive through In ‘n’ Out on my way home and order up a Flying Dutchman. Is it common to give in to gluten out of hunger?

I don’t know if it’s common or not, but if people have limited symptoms they’ll take a hit. Or if they have huge cravings. I remember talking to a college student about fellow celiacs in college who say “Well I’ve been good for six months, and I deserve . . .” But if people get sick enough, it’s like eating gravel.

There is a spectrum of reactions. Those of us who can’t eat gluten are all over that line. There’s so much that still needs to be researched and learned about symptoms.

I just don’t think there is any right or wrong to approach this, as long as you’re gluten-free. Everybody develops their own way of being gluten-free in the world. I think that’s okay.

For more advice on living with devil food allergies, check out the magazine for people like us — you know, weirdos — Living Without.

*Please note, I have dozens of friends who go well out of their way to accommodate me. This is a “me” problem, rather than a “they” problem. Friends — you rock.

Image via kevindooley/Flickr

12 thoughts on “This Is Why I Can’t Come To Your House

  1. I just found out that some friends took out books from the library about what they can make when I come over because they don’t want me to feel left out at dinners. How awesome!

    At three weeks being gluten AND dairy free (MAN I hope that dairy part is reversed), I’m doing pretty well… not many cravings that haven’t passed. The holidays will be interesting.

  2. Your neurotic dysfunction feels so delightfully familiar. Are you sure we’re not, like, long-lost cousins?
    Good play bringing in a straight woman / sane person.
    Seriously, thank you for writing these things and in what I consider the perfect tone. I’ve considered coming out on my blog (I’m almost on top of my year anniversary); I think I might just point folks here. Truly, thank you. 🙂
    Last year I took the day off work for our big holiday shindig. But my wife and I–whom I at least consider essential to the afterparty festivities–showed up for the white elephant gift exchange (I brought a specially-labeled poison package full of forbidden items we were cleaning out of the pantry; some folks will actually buy things for those exchanges, but I think that’s cheating). There was plenty of good, gluteny food leftover for her, but I got to avoid smelling it all day at my desk. Plus, I was able to opt out of some of the “day of” hassles. Woot!
    And our local GiG group had a big pot luck. It’s funny how amazing those seem to me now that I can’t really go to any (except the two GiG events each year).
    Food is like the medium for human fellowship. It’s hard not to feel like an outcast when you literally can’t break bread with everyone else.
    But on another plus note, several months back some Jesus people who mean a lot to me shared communion at a gathering I was a part of. Partly because I was there they used GF pita. And Dandelion Wine. I swear that Jesus was in that bread, even if it didn’t have his preferred carrier-gluten. Take that Roman Catholic Church (*for the record, I’m not a Catholic and don’t relieve believe in either transubstantiation or consubstantiation).
    Yeah, okay, I need to go back to my own blog. But thanks for letting me get some of that out.

    • Ha! Oh Joel, just wait until you hear about my near anxiety attack when requesting a food server at Chipotle remove his gloves and put on new ones before making my tacos. That, my friend, is for the book.

      And you know Jesus WAS in that pita. That’s awesome.


      • Yeah, I think He was. My friends are pretty awesome too.

        It was hard for me the first time, but I’m convinced that the Chipotle staff in the West End Dallas is absolutely the best in the nation (especially after our recent experience at the ‘pootle in Indy; oy, those people had some problems). I go to Chipotle up to three times a week. Most of the staff that are at the beginning of the line of my Chipotle (hey, Foursquare says I’m the mayor; it must be mine) start changing their gloves now without my saying anything. But when I go to a new Chipotle I just say “hey, can I get new gloves?” like I’m asking for pico or something and not like I’m an autoimmune-dysfunctional freak who’d be poisoned by tortilla residue. I’m totally cool in the Chipotle now.

        On the other hand . . . We went to a BBQ joint in Indy that was supposed to be all GF-friendly and stuff. The woman who took our order made a special point of walking back and talking to the staff about what it meant that the order was GF. I walked away and couldn’t bear to watch (sometimes I do the “if I don’t see it, the cross contamination didn’t happen” thing). My wife, God bless her, was like an eagle on those guys. First she caught them not changing their gloves. Then she caught them fondling buns (yaknow, yeast rolls) after they changed gloves and before they finished with our brisket. She’s cuter than I am so she can get away with telling people how to do their job. Plus it’s believable that she would actually kick someone’s ass if she had to.

        Looking forward to the book, BTW. 🙂

  3. I have definitely been in the ‘crying in the car on the way home’ camp. However, as someone who was NOT INVITED to pancake breakfasts and pizza nights when the rest of my friends were because ‘you can’t eat anything’ – I determined pretty early on that I would rather be invited and not eat vs. not being invited at all. (I also kind of got a new group of friends.) plus, that means more wine for me at most dinner parties.

    one of my favorite get together things now is a meetup group in san diego that’s entirely gf! (woo hoo!) we’ve had game nights and christmas cookie exchanges and outings to restaurants – and everything is safe. I’m not sure if there are others around the country, but I sure wouldn’t be surprised!

  4. April, you really tell it it like it is, thank you for that! Truly, there are so few outlets for this kind of celiac sadness truth telling (all with a healthy dose of dark humor, which I appreciate). Everyone wants to be so positive, it really makes a cynical girl like me have no where to turn. Um, except here and my own blog.

    I am also a cry-in-the-car kind of gal, but I have to do it quietly because my 4-year-old who has celiac sits in the backseat and hears everything (except when I tell her to stop grabbing her brother, that she never hears). I do my best to put on a neutral face, but so many invites have to be turned down because even well meaning friends and family don’t understand, which makes me and my husband kind of sad.

    And don’t even get me started on cutting boards. I get panic attacks thinking about trying to explain this stuff to people. But I kind of have to for my kid. However, if it was just for me, I suspect I wouldn’t be as diligent.

    Thanks for this post, including the positive and helpful (yet still honest) advice from Living Without.


    P.S. Can’t wait for the book!

    • Thanks everybody for the Amens.

      Dana — One thing we talked about, which did not go into this piece, is how if I — or you, or anyone — was advocating for my kids, I would be much better at it than advocating for myself. It’s much easier to take care of other people than yourself. Phhhpt on that. But it’s true.

  5. I’m still fairly new to the whole GF thing, and do often have trouble being as direct as I need to be, even at restaurants. So I’m super thankful that I have a friend who was diagnosed over a decade ago, and is teaching me the ropes. Also, after a slow start, my husband is now ALL OVER it, and does a lot of the asking for me, even getting a little self-righteous on my behalf once in a while. It just took him seeing me get sick one time, and now he’s my protector. It’s very sweet. 🙂

    But otherwise, yeah, I’m totally with you. In n Out on the way home beats risking it!

  6. I am one of those with neurological manifestations. On top of being extremely sensitive, I loose at least five weeks out of my life.
    My biggest fear came true at a friend’s daughter’s party. She told me she was going to have gluten free food there too. I told her please don’t on my account. I told her I could bring someone. She told me no, that she was going to make some things for me and her brother who also has celiacs ( however the brother still drinks bud light?) when I asked her how she handles cross contamination she asked what that was!! Yikes.
    She was not happy that I was “full” when I got there..so I asked for her to pack me a plate to enjoy at home later…..phew!

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