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When I went gluten free three and a half years ago, one of my first thoughts was, “Well, there goes my social life.” After all, most social gatherings and events revolve around food, and most foods you find at places like bars, restaurants, work conferences and events are gluten filled. I figured being around all that gluten would make me want to eat it on occasion — but I knew my body didn’t want that.
What a dilemma.
So I hung back. I turned down invitations to go out with my friends and I skipped any gatherings where I knew there wouldn’t be anything for me to eat. At my day job I stayed at my desk while everyone else went on to the break room to celebrate someone’s birthday and have cake.
But then I got tired of it.
Eating gluten free was something I knew I had to maintain for the rest of my life, and I couldn’t keep punishing myself because of it.
Right then and there I made it my mission to take back my social life. And I did exactly that.
Here’s how you can do it, too:
1. Pack snacks you love.
I always toss yummy, gluten-free snacks into my purse for when I know we’re going somewhere I won’t be able to eat. That way I can still enjoy some food while everyone else does.
2. Keep in mind why you’re gluten free in the first place.
Being around delicious-smelling gluten foods can be tough at first. The memories of what you used to eat may make you want to eat just a tiny bit for old time’s sake.
What helps is remembering why you’re gluten-free to begin with. For me, it’s because of how much better I feel every day — and for how awesome my skin looks now.
I know I never want to go back to where my health was a few years ago. That’s my motivation not to touch any of the gluten-filled foods the people around me are eating.
3. Bring a dish to pass.
When you’re going to an event or gathering at someone’s house, you probably won’t have any control over what they’re serving. To avoid the awkwardness of an apologetic hostess after she finds out you can’t eat anything she’s prepared (believe me, it’s not fun), bring a dish to pass.
Make something you love that’s so delicious no one will know or even care that it’s gluten-free.
The hostess will appreciate the gesture, and this way you can ensure you won’t starve while everyone else munches down.
If you feel comfortable with the hostess, you can always call her in advance and see what she’s planning to serve; then you can make a dish that complements it. Plus, you’ll be able to find out if she is, in fact, making anything you can eat.
4. Host the get-togethers.
A great way to have lots of yummy gluten-free food is to host some of the social gatherings. Create a menu of your go-to gluten-free recipes and ask people to bring a drink of their choice (I’d be bringing some kombucha).
It’s a fun way to get people to try new things, and you can safely eat everything, which is awesome.
5. Screw it and treat yourself instead.
Sometimes being social isn’t the best option when your gluten-free needs can’t be accommodated. In this instance, it’s best to just say screw it and find a way to treat yourself instead.
For example, a couple years ago, when I was still working at my corporate job, they sent out invitations for the annual holiday luncheon. The invite went out at least a month in advance, which you’d think would have been enough notice for me to get in contact with someone about the food.
Instead, every email I sent about what was on the event menu got ignored. When the day of the event came, I was so irritated that I skipped out when everyone left to go to the restaurant where the luncheon was being held.
I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant and had a delicious gluten-free lunch and then got a pedicure. I returned back to the office at the same time as the rest of the group.
Being gluten-free doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your social life. You just have to get creative and find or create ways to eat gluten-free while being social at the same time.