Your initial diagnosis of coeliac may have led to hermit-like behaviour. Self-preservation is at the heart of many human decisions. When given a diagnosis and a successful treatment that you can control, it is not surprising one would go all out to follow the rules and tow-the-line. Being a rebel only harms you and the benefits of avoiding gluten far outweigh the consequences.
Initially the diagnosis and the treatment plan may bring huge relief. You finally know what was causing your discomfort and how to avoid it. There will be a time of grieving – the loss of being carefree when eating, the loss of being ‘normal’ and initially the loss of simple meal planning.
You might find yourself staying close to home in the beginning and eating the same foods day in and day out. As you start to feel better and start to understand food labeling and different food sources of gluten, you may feel brave enough to venture out.
Here are some tips to make this transition easier:
If you are eating out at friends, it is a good idea to phone ahead and find out what’s on the menu. Share your diagnosis and explain foods you can’t have and then offer to bring a replacement food for the food containing gluten.
If you are having guests over, you don’t have to make a big deal about serving a gluten free meal. These days there are so many food options that you can easily serve a delicious gluten free meal.
When eating out at restaurants, google the menu online and phone ahead and ask about their gluten free options. Be careful of spices and marinades and unless you are 100% sure, stick to grilled and salt & pepper seasoning.
You will definitely find restaurants that you feel safe to eat from and where you know they will understand your needs – it’s fine to go there regularly. As time goes on you will be more ready to try new places and spaces but always be prepared and communicate with the restaurant beforehand.
When ordering at the restaurant request your order to be taken last and make sure the waiter understands what you require. If you feel unsure, then get up politely and go and speak to the manager just to reinforce your order request.
Functions like birthdays, weddings, Christmas parties and work functions may be more difficult to plan for. Taking along a gluten free snack in your bag or having something small to eat before the function may help you avoid going hungry.
When invited to a bring-and-share, it is easy to bring the food you can eat. Your dish may be popular with the rest of the guests so bring an extra serving in a smaller dish for you. This will allow you to share your main dish but also be assured of having enough to eat.
At the end of the day you will enjoy yourself so much more knowing you won’t be left with terrible symptoms. Remember everyone will go home and forget what you have eaten but you will be left with the consequences of your choices. Make wise ones and socializing will not only be fun but also pain free.