I’ve been gluten-free for just over two years after being diagnosed with gluten intolerance and, although it took some time to adjust, I’ve accepted the gluten-free lifestyle so well that I no longer really even think about it…apart from when I’m eating out.
There are a number of restaurants I go to fairly regularly and know that I’m safe eating the food, but as soon as someone suggests eating somewhere I’ve never been, I immediately feel anxious wondering how they’re going to cater to my dietary requirements and if they’re going to be one of those awful places where the waiter/waitress assures you that your meal will be gluten-free, not realising you will be able to tell within minutes that they were lying.
Surely I’m not the only person who experiences this panic?
I find that a little forward planning when you have a food intolerance/allergy/immune reaction really helps, so I usually contact the restaurant before going and ask them what they offer for gluten-free meals – hoping they won’t reply with: “Sorry, but what is gluten?”
This made me want to write a post for those of you who haven’t yet overcome the feeling of awkwardness when asking for the allergen menu, those of you who still feel the need to apologise for being awkward. Don’t be embarrassed about feeling that way – I’ve been there and it’s only recently that I’ve overcome it. I still feel it occasionally in unfamiliar restaurants.
Just remember you’re not being awkward. You’re not being fussy either. I don’t know your reason for being gluten-free but presumably it’s because you have a digestive issue and (like me) feel horrendous if you accidentally eat gluten.
I know everyone reacts differently but if I eat gluten my symptoms range from feeling nauseous with a headache, to looking pregnant (approx. 7/8 months) and having an upset stomach. Sorry to disclose that but, let’s be honest with each other, any food intolerance reaction usually results in that so there’s no point sugar-coating it. In cases where I’ve eaten a large amount of gluten (like if I’m told a dish is gluten-free and I eat the whole thing before my body alerts me to the fact it certainly wasn’t gluten-free), I get severe stomach cramps and have been known to fall asleep almost instantly, as though my body feels it needs to shut down to focus on recovering.
It’s obvious this isn’t in my head, as many ‘experts’ are claiming with regards to non-coeliac gluten intolerance.
So I used to wonder why I found myself apologising to waiters/waitresses when asking for the allergen menu? Why would I shrug my shoulders and lower my head as I told them “I’m JUST gluten intolerant” (aware they may not take it seriously, thanks to the previously mentioned ‘experts’)?
Maybe it’s the whole polite British person thing where we feel that anything slightly inconvenient for another person should be apologised for? I don’t know for certain, but something I do know is now I’ve started to shake off that feeling that I’m being unnecessarily awkward when placing a food order, I want to help everyone else to shake it off too (in true Taylor Swift style).
I haven’t asked to be gluten intolerant, just like none of you have asked for your digestive issues (however slight or severe they may be), so I refuse to allow myself to feel embarrassed or ashamed when ordering my food anymore. The majority of waiters/waitresses I’ve encountered have been fantastic and have actually brushed off my awkward apologies, explaining that they understand, but I still often felt like I was being an inconvenience.
In general, I’m perfectly at peace now with announcing I need a gluten-free meal but for those few occasions when the awkward feeling returns I intend to assert myself and not be ashamed of my requests because I have good reason for them.
Who’s with me? Whether you have a food allergy, intolerance or coeliac disease, do you also refuse to feel like you’re being awkward when ordering food anymore?