Dealing with Those Who are Intolerant of Your Gluten Intolerance
If you tell your co-workers that you are not eating fat or sugar because you want to lose weight, they support you. If you say that certain vegetables upset your stomach, no one tries to slip them to you to see if you are being honest. Then why is it that when you tell people you have to eat gluten free, they sometimes think you are a trouble-maker, a liar, or at the very least a hypochondriac?
There is not a way to please all these nay-sayers that will go above and beyond to convince you that such a major step is unnecessary, however, there may be a few ways to ease the blow to those unsupportive people in your life when you announce your gluten intolerance or avoidance.
Here are some tips that I have found helpful. Even if you have super supportive people around you, some of these tips can still make life a little more pleasant.
1. Don’t share all the reasons you have found that gluten is harmful
Most Gluten Free people quickly become experts on their health because of the hours and hours of research that go into figuring out how to heal themselves or their child. Preaching the evils of gluten implies to others that you know better than they do, and you probably do, but you’ll get a much better reception if you keep it to yourself. When I spend time with friends who are not gluten free – one with an autistic child, or the one with many autoimmune diseases and continuing ill health, among others, I try to bite my tongue. They know where to find me if they want Gluten Free info and they know I have a lot of it!
People often feel judged when you abstain from something/anything. I will never understand this concept, but I know it’s true. If I tell people I don’t drink alcohol, they can get downright hostile, partially because they see it as a judgment on the fact that they drink even though it’s not. It works the same way with gluten. People often feel judged if you don’t eat gluten, especially if you tell them why they should be gluten free, too – even if you are telling them how it will help them.
2. Keep your new found health expertise to yourself
It seems the most irritating thing to the non-gluten free is the constant discussion of what you can eat and what you can’t eat. When you are out with family or friends, just kindly say “no thanks” if you are offered something you can’t have, just as you would if you were offered something you didn’t like. No need to make a big deal or provide any explanation.
3. Discuss your health issues, and vent to other Gluten Free-ers
When you go gluten free or encounter a friend, relative or coworker that is unfamiliar with your situation, explain it once in as much detail as you feel is necessary to make it clear. Explain that it is not a choice, but a necessity. Comparing it to an allergy seems to be something people can grasp without being annoyed with you for “choosing” to make life so difficult. Your friends and family who want details will pursue them, but don’t offer more than they want to know. People may ask questions, but they really don’t want details on your bloating or digestion, etc.
Vent and discuss your issues on a site like the Gluten Freeville Facebook page or a local support group. Even the most patient of friends will grow weary of being around you if all the talk when you are together is about you and your health or diet.
4. Set Realistic Expectations
Don’t expect people to provide you or your child with gluten safe meals. Tell your friends and family that you will be bringing your own food to events at their homes so they will not have to worry about what to feed you. If your child is gluten free, send food with them instead of expecting others to learn their way of life. If they take interest in trying to make you something special, you will be pleasantly surprised and they won’t feel that you are putting the burden on to them.
5. QUIETLY begin to shift the food in your home
If you suddenly announce everyone has to go gluten free, you will likely have whining, crying and heavy push-back. At your own home, begin to buy naturally gluten free products and quietly make some great gluten free recipes without discussing it unless you get compliments on the meal. There are many great gluten free meals and treats that you can make. If you are not the cook or shopper in your home, this is much more difficult, but not impossible. You may have to get a bit more involved in the process than you are currently.
Before I introduced my gluten free kitchen to my family members that didn’t have to be gluten free, I just began serving great gluten free meals. When they’d say they enjoyed it, I’d proudly say, “That was all gluten free!” and leave it at that. Pretty soon, that was happening every day and I don’t think I ever discussed the fact that I was shifting the whole family (in order for it to be a safer environment for the one that needed it.) It just slowly went from two types of each meal, the gluten free and the regular version, to just the gluten free version.
Changing Intolerant People
By now, you have astutely figured out that this is not advice on changing the people in your life that are hostile toward your gluten intolerance. Sadly, there’s no magic. You can’t change other people. You can only change what you give them to react toward, and treat them with kindness if the face of adversity. If events, conversations, meals and outings are not frequently about you and your health issues, you may just find that those unpleasant confrontations with insensitive people will begin to fade away.
Have any other ideas on dealing with the intolerant people in your life?
Add them in the comment section below.