Having just enjoyed a thanksgiving feast I’m reminded that the dreaded holiday season is upon us. Yes – dreaded. I don’t mean dreaded in the sense of spending time with friends and family. I mean I DREAD having to navigate the holiday parties and gatherings. It doesn’t matter how many people know I’m Celiac, it seems during the holidays I have to explain myself so much more AND take the uneducated criticism.
Just last week – at a work function – ice cream cake was being served. When I turned down a piece (I saw the cookie centre) I was scowled at. After explaining (AGAIN) I suffer from Celiac Disease (CD) the response was “Can’t you just eat around it?” *insert eye roll* I explained that I couldn’t and the follow up was “Oh not worth the risk?” *insert double eye roll* I mean I get it; you can’t blame them for not fully comprehending something as misunderstood and misdiagnosed as CD. But not judging the ignorance of others does not mean caving and politely “eating around the cookies”. Never compromise your health in the name of ‘going with the flow’.
I repeat, don’t risk your health in the name of being polite. This is a no brainer for the seasoned Celiac – but if you’re newly diagnosed momentary awkwardness is a small price to pay to keep yourself out of the bathroom for the rest of the evening.
Here are some ways to stay safe and play it cool when attending social functions!
Talk to your host ahead of time. Educate the person hosting the get together about celiac disease, and the dangers faced by cross-contamination. Offer to come early and help prepare the meal if necessary (if you’re really worried about the cleanliness of the kitchen bring your own utensils, bowls and pans).
Make sure people understand the consequences. If anyone tries to tell you “a little bite won’t kill you”, let them know the severity of your symptoms. The threat of sending you to the restroom with painful cramping, gas, or worse will stop them from pressuring you.
Bring your best gluten-free dish. The key to staying sane when you’re surrounded by homemade comfort food is bringing gluten-free recipes you love. Now is not the time to hastily try something new. You want tried and true gluten-free favorites. I often find this is where you can really educate people. Bring enough to share and when they “can’t believe it’s gluten-free” that’s your chance to school them! Gluten-free doesn’t mean it tastes awful!
Serve yourself FIRST. I make this known well ahead of time when attending events. I usually make a joke about it – I swear I’m not greedy! So grab your plate (with an extra helping for seconds) before anyone else does. This will help prevent cross-contamination from unknowing gluten-eating double-dippers.
Band together. If you have other friends/relatives with celiac disease, support one another. You can cook dishes to bring together, and help each other laugh it off when your inebriated uncle makes a snide comment.
Don’t take it personally. Your friends and family love you very much. Their issue with your diet likely stems from fear of change and fear of the unknown. To some, it’s uncomfortable being confronted with celiac disease and not knowing what it is. Others may not be sure how the disease will change you, and that makes them anxious. So don’t take their comments personally. It has absolutely nothing to do with you!
May your holiday parties not be dreaded 😉