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Coping With Co-workers Attitude While Dining Out
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This is probably unusual for most of you, but my disease symptoms are mostly silent - I was diagnosed due to anemia - and when I eat out with certain people I get no respect for my need for gluten-free food. Usual question is, "so what will happen to you if you eat this?" and the truthful answer is that I probably won't have any immediate response (I had random low-grade IBS symptoms for years that have now resolved, but I haven't challenged my guts with any gluten since 9/04 so I don't know what would happen). I've been religious about maintaining a gluten-free diet since my diagnosis because I like not being anemic and not having IBS symptoms and not having horrible poisonous gas all the time, but since I can't claim I will get violently ill from eating gluten I feel bad about making any kind of fuss in a restaurant, especially since my boss's boss is the one showing no respect for this. If it's just me and my family I don't mind telling the server what I need ("wheat allergy" gets their attention) but I could use some suggestions for how to handle people who don't take you seriously. No, it's not like the guy on our team who goes anaphylactic after a whiff of shellfish, and it's not a lifestyle choice like a vegetarian, and I'm not going to get seriously ill within 20 minutes - I probably wouldn't know even if I did eat something forbidden (I feel the pain of those of you who do) - but I need a good comeback that explains succinctly why it is IMPORTANT not to deviate from this diet in spite of the lack of "punishment" for falling off the wagon. Most of my coworkers are sympathetic and used to me passing up the birthday cakes, the cookies and pizza at meetings and lunches, the homebaked goodies, but I think it's hard to take seriously if I don't show symptoms. At least I've set a really good example of what self-control is all about. Any ideas?

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If you can do so without sounding pushy, I would say, "It's my body. If I get sick, I'm the one who will feel the effects. Even a crumb of gluten will severely damage my intestines and could, besides giving me short-term symptoms (whether you want to mention gas or not is up to you) can lead to anemia and a host of complications: diabetes, intestinal cancers, thyroid disorders, malabsorption, osteoporosis, kidney disease, etc." And there's nothing wrong with exaggerating on your symptoms so people will listen to you. That's sometimes what you need to do to make someone take you seriously.

Good luck!

-celiac3270

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I find it helpful to have a restaurant card which explains that it IS a serious disease and let anyone around the table read it before or after it is sent into the kitchen with the waitress/waiter. Then you really don't have to explain much, unless they ask specific questions.

I used to get the "your just fussy" attitude until I started doing that. I believe Kaiti just posted an address for printing the cards recently.

Hope this helps.

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I ignore stubborn ignorance. Those sorts get nothing beyond a "It'll make me sick," statement. If they go on with "well, not that I can tell", a little "but I can" is all I'd dignify it with. :-)

For other questions on "what happens", I go with the "let's just say intestinal symptoms..." to see if they really want to hear any details. (And I don't get that many symptoms.)

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Tell them the truth. It destroys the villi in your intestines.

People generally are like "whoa" when you tell them that. If they ask "then what" you can say that a lot of different side effects can occur depending on what you eat.

This is a disease where you can have major reaction one time that you have never had before.

Oh, if you throw in that this is an auto-immune disorder then that gives it more wieght in their mind.

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I agree with Kristina....I tell people when they ask that it tears up my intestines and cause many other problems. I also say it is an autoimmune disorder and it has seemed to work.

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I explain that it is an allergy that disrupts the immune system and destroys the lining of the small intestine. It is not an allergy that will cause me to go into shock or drop dead but it is detrimental to my health. Usually they want to know more or have at least heard of it. For the idiots that usually shuts them up.

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If they cite the lack of severe immediate effect to encourage you to eat something you shouldn't, you can compare eating gluten to smoking.

Sarah

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If this happens when you eat with your boss and your boss's boss, I'd tell them something they can relate to -- the bottom line. If you eat glutens it may not affect you immediately, but it will make you ill for about 1 week or so and that you'll have to call in sick while recovering. When they realize that they influenced your decision to eat glutens, they may back off.

But I agree with the other postings. I sometimes tell people that its like eating poison, it'll slowly kill you. Or, it's like eating glass, which is how I feel for about a week or so after eating an extremely small amount of glutens.

At the end of the day, it's your body. Stand up for yourself and have the conversation with the waiter only, not the folks at the table. Or, I have also brought my own sandwich (if it's lunch) and ordered a cup of tea.

Just some thoughts.

Helen.

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Wow, Helen. You are the first person I've read who stated that it can feel like you've eaten glass, which is exactly how I used to always feel. I would wonder if I'd gotten some glass in my food when I ate out. It was horrible. These days it seems even worse than that but I still remember how horrified I'd feel when I'd think maybe I had eaten some...

Blech! What we go through!

I stress the autoimmune part, too, and damage to my intestines just to get the point across. If you have a verified diagnosis, no matter how you actually react, you have every right to stand up to any kind of ridicule. I'm glad I don't get that from anyone I work for, I'd be really pissed!

Stephanie

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How come some of the most clueless people are also bosses? (Any Dilbert fans out there?) I love your solution, Helen. I laughed out loud; someone like that would only care if the situation affected his self-interests.

My suggestion, firstly, would be to call it Celiac disease rather than gluten intolerance. Then, I would not only mention that it's an auto-immune disorder, but I'd add that it is a genetic problem. This makes it sound very medical and technical and by mentioning that it is genetic, it shows that you didn't just concoct your dietary requirements one day when you were bored...you have to observe your diet because you were born with the need to stay away from gluten. That boss must be a real delight to work for.

Paula

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I tell them that it causes sudden, uncontrollable, projectile vomiting - sometimes as far as across the table.

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Thanks, everyone. Lots of good ideas that I will keep in mind. There will always be people out there who urge the diabetic to have that piece of cake, and people who slip peanut butter to the kid with the allergy to "prove" it won't hurt them, and although I wouldn't wish a diagnosis of anything like that on them (or would I?) it would be informative for them to walk in our shoes. Since my co-workers and I are scientists I take it for granted that they can understand the implications of autoimmunity and its consequences, but looks like there's always room for more education. Thanks to all - eat safely!

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At my job suppliers and sales reps are always bring in donuts, cake and bagels by the truckloads. In the past it everyone would be like a hoard of ravenous bears sucking down every last crumb. Lately at the end of the day there will be quite a few left over. Many of my coworkers saw how much weight I lost and how much healthier I am now since I quit eating that crap. Some of them are starting to think twice about eating that stuff. So it is possible to change peoples point of view if you set a good example.

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I really like the projectile vomiting! It was hard today because management provided pizza and brownies for lunch. But I did good eating my gluten-free lunch. It just made me kind of feel set apart from everybody.

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Sally, I know how that feels...it feels very awkward for me when I am in that position....

Ian, I do think what we do affects others because I know people that have never been tuned into the health food and now that I have been on it and doing good and have not only seen a difference in me but in my family as well, now they are trying it too...sometimes people actually listen even when you think they are not.

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Actually I think actions speak louder than words. Losing 80lbs makes people stand up and take notice. I work with a woman who lost well over 100lbs on a low carb diet and she won't eat pizza either on pizza day even though she isn't gluten intolerant. When I went from being overweight and sick to healthy I just lost my appetite for pizza and donuts. I much prefer my gluten-free lunch.

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Actions definitely do speak louder than words...quite a few people have started making changes in their eating habits because of what they saw in my family...

I do think talking helps to a point though...people I got so frustrated with came up to me recently and started asking more questions and where to get these foods and so forth and I was apalled because I thought I was wasting my breath.

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I agree with whoever said it makes you feel set apart when others bring in treats at work. Also, until I got this I didn't realize how much people talk about food and describe the taste. Anyway, I don't really have symptoms either and I never know if I accidentally eat gluten. I tell people it is like smoking--it doesn't appear to do anything to me on the outside but it is damaging me internally--and that seems to satisfy them.

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