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Not a day – or meal – goes by when you’re not reminded that you cannot eat gluten and that you’re “different.”
You can never sit back, relax and go with the flow when food is involved in the plans. And let me tell you, food is almost always involved in the plans.
I decided to write this article to share 12 gutsy things every gluten-free person has to get used to doing to share with you just how brave the gluten-free community is and has to be. This “diet” isn’t for the faint of heart.
This list includes both my personal experiences as an eight year gluten-free veteran, and includes sentiments shared by my community within the Gluten-Free Diet Support Group on Facebook.
If you’d like to share another “gutsy” thing you’ve had do, please do so in the comments below. 👇
12 Brave Things Gluten-Free People Have to Do
It takes courage to eat gluten-free in a world full of gluten. Let’s talk about all the brave things gluten-free people have to do day-in and day-out.
(1) It Takes Guts to Date
I can only imagine how difficult dating is when you don’t eat gluten.
For starters, most dates revolve around food. When you meet someone new, and they want to take you to dinner, it’s hard to keep your gluten-free diet a secret.
The worst is that gluten-free dieters are often described as “high maintenance,” according to this British study, and more than 40 percent of Brits said they would be “reluctant” to date someone on a gluten-free diet.
If your date is an unkind soul, you’ll find out pretty quickly. However, if he or she is respectful, kind, understanding and compassionate to your plight, your date is a keeper 💯! You’ll be able to sort out the winners from the losers in no time.
(2) No Kiss For You
While we’re talking about dating, it can take an awful lot of courage to tell your date, “No kiss for you,” if you’ve first watched him or her scarf down a burger and beer.
You don’t want to play saliva volleyball with someone who just ate gluten because it exposes you to gluten. Muster up the courage to ask your date to brush his or her teeth first before going in for that first kiss.
(3) Hands Off My Food
We all have friends who love to share food and who have no inhibitions about sticking their fork in other people’s food to take a bite. And we all have that friend who ask for a sip of your margarita because she wants to try it.
When this happens, gently bat away their grabby hands and suggest, instead, that you will put some of your food on another plate, or pour some of your drink in a glass. It may feel awkward to not want to share your food or libations with your friends, but necessary to do in order to avoid getting glutened.
(4) Taking Food First
When a friend is serving food buffet style, and there’s a mix of non-gluten-free and gluten-free dishes, I have to muster the courage to ask if I can take my food first before all the utensils and foods get cross contaminated.
I’ve become better at asking to take first, and those who know me well suggest I take first anyway.
A friend of mine had a 50+ dinner party in her home a few months ago. She had about 7-8 gluten-free guests. She made an announcement at the start of the meal that went something like this: “If you’re gluten-free, you eat first in my house.” She then prompted us to grab our food from the buffet first. This small gesture made my day and made me feel so special and cared for!
Related Reading: The Emotional Burden of the Gluten-Free Diet
(5) Eating at a Restaurant
Oh how it takes guts to order food at a restaurant, particularly one you haven’t eat at before. You have to comb through the menu, ask the waiter a million questions, and feel like a social pariah throughout the process. I always think to myself, “Yep, I’m one of those people.”
There are many times where I wish I could just order my food and be done with it. Not so fast when you eat gluten-free.
A few weeks ago, after a long day of skiing, I stopped at Chipotle to grab a bite to eat with my husband and kids. The line to order was out the door! The restaurant was slammed with skiers like us looking for a quick bite to eat.
As we stood in line, I said to my family that I would just order chips and guac as I didn’t want to hold up the line by asking the servers to change their gloves and get me food from clean containers.
My 12-year old daughter wouldn’t have it!
She lectured me, right then and there, about how I deserved to eat and that if I didn’t tell the server to change their gloves, she would. She told me to never feel bad about advocating for myself.
Ah, gotta love the pep talk straight from the mouth of babes.
As it turns out, as soon as I told the server, “I have a gluten allergy,” he quickly changed his gloves and made my food with clean ingredients. It took him an extra 30-60 seconds to accommodate my “special” request. No big deal after all, but a big lesson learned for me.
Sure, it took guts for me to ask for this accommodation with a long line of people waiting behind me, but I am glad I did. My daughter is right. I deserve to eat too.
(6) Testing Food for Gluten
It takes so much courage for me to test my food for hidden gluten with my Nima Sensor, but I do it often because I need to be safe. The reason this is gutsy is because you never know what the results will be.
If the Nima Sensor smiles, it means it didn’t find gluten and I’m home free and can eat the food placed before me.
However, if the Nima Sensor displays a “Gluten Found” message, I inevitably have to have an uncomfortable conversation with the server… and then sometimes also the manager and/or chef. I’ll never forget when the chef at Maggiano’s come out to discuss my “gluten found” test results. It was hard to do and I had to put on a brave face despite feeling sad and depleted inside.
Related Reading: 13 Things You Need to Know about the Nima Sensor
(7) Sending Food Back
If my Nima Sensor finds gluten, I of course send the food back. But sending food back takes a lot of courage to do when you eat gluten-free.
I think all gluten-free dieters have had to send food back at one time or another. If I see a slice of bread on the side of my soup bowl, or a stray crouton on my salad, it goes back. These are clues telling me my meal was not prepared in a way safe for me. (Tip: To ensure the chef makes me a new salad or dish, I mess up the original dish so it can’t be re-served to me.)
(8) Not Eating Food Someone Made For You
On occasion well-meaning friends have made me a dessert that I didn’t feel comfortable eating. Many people don’t “get” what it takes to prepare a safe, gluten-free dish for me. I’ll ask them if they used their mixer to make the cake (almost always a “yes”) and the I have to explain to them that their mixer has all sorts of gluteny flour bits that put my dessert at risk.
I also don’t feel comfortable eating pasta at other people’s houses for fear they strained it using their gluteny colander, and I won’t eat things like gluten-free waffles that have obviously been cooked in a waffle iron used to make gluteny waffles.
Even though someone went out of their way to make something gluten-free for me doesn’t automatically mean I’ll eat it. I may feel guilty turning them down, but I’ll eventually muster up the courage to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
(9) Baking Bread
I have tried to bake bread many times. I’ve experienced many fails and a few successes. Baking bread that tastes good and mimics the texture of wheat bread is hard. If you’re brave enough to venture into gluten-free bread baking, more power to you.
Even more brave is sharing that bread with gluten-eaters and having to endure comments such as, “This isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” Geez, thanks for the compliment.
Related Reading: 21 Struggles Only Gluten-Free People Will Understand
(10) Keeping a Gluten-Free House
I have a 100 percent gluten-free house, but on occasion, people will bring gluteny foods into my house. An ex family member thought she was being supportive when she brought a gluten-free cheese dip to share… until she pulled out her wheat crackers and said she preferred to eat her dip with her wheat crackers.
Here’s where my bravery had to kick in. I had to tell her that she could not eat the crackers in my house (oh, imagine the crumbs of gluten everywhere!), and that I would provide gluten-free crackers instead. Of course she was insulted (she’s a drama queen), but it’s my house, so it’s my rules.
It takes guts to tell me people not to bring gluten in your house, and if they do, to have to tell them to enjoy it elsewhere.
Traveling is one of the hardest and bravest things us gluten-free people do. Not every country understands gluten-free nor do they readily have food options free from gluten. When you travel, you’re at the whim of others (restaurants) to provide meals for you.
I only travel on occasion. I used to love it more, but in my post celiac disease years, my idea of fun is staying inside the comforts of my own bubble. That said, I won’t let my disease prevent me from seeing the world… and inevitably my husband will drag me out of my comfort zone.
Related Reading: Your Ultimate Gluten-Free Cruise Survival Guide
(12) Advocating For Yourself
Above all else, the most courageous thing gluten-free eaters have to do is advocate for ourselves wherever we go.
We must speak up in order to be taken seriously, and never let anyone diminish our requests.
We must never settle for restaurants and people who just don’t get it, especially those trying to cash in on the gluten-free trend without providing safe gluten-free meals like Panera and Papa John’s.
We must always ask for gluten-free accommodations at weddings, conferences and special events, never allowing a caterer to collect money without providing a meal for all [gluten-free] guests.
We must always stand up to bullies who try to make us feel bad for eating a certain way. When I encounter someone who is dismissive of my “diet,” I have no problem telling them how bad they made me feel and how eating this way is not a choice for me nor millions of people in my community.
What Am I Missing?
There you have it, 12 brave things gluten-free people have to do.
Remember, it takes guts to be gluten-free. Be sure to channel your inner superhero and power through whatever comes your way. You got this!
What other gutsy things have you had to do or say? Please share in the comments.