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Job Interviews--How To Bring Up Celiac?
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Hello everyone! I was just diagnosed with celiac disease through a positive blood test and endoscopy two weeks ago. This forum has been so helpful! I am currently a graduate student studying biology and will be interviewing for postdoctoral positions this fall. Usually, for post-doc interviews, prospective employers will fly you out and you'll spend a few days meeting everyone in the lab and this always involves meals out at restaurants (basically EVERY meal is eaten out). At this point, I do not feel comfortable AT ALL eating anything prepared by someone other than myself. I have been eating entirely unprocessed foods and have already seen improvement in my migraines and BMs. Also, I will have no say in the restaurants and reservations will probably be made beforehand. I am already freaking out about how to handle this! When I am trying to set up interviews, should I bring up my celiac disease beforehand? I feel like it would be much better to tell them in advance versus them picking me up at the airport and taking me to dinner and saying "oh, by the way....I have celiac disease and can't eat...". But then again, I don't want to sound demanding in emails before I even show up to interview. I really don't feel like I should risk getting sick before I have to give a 1-2 hour job talk on my research! Also, when I go to these interviews, I will not have my own transportation and probably won't even know what hotel/where in town I am staying until I get there. What foods can I pack so that I don't starve for 2-3 days? I am thinking Quaker rice cakes, nut butters, Lara bars, homemade trail mix? I don't know if I will have access to a grocery store (depending where in town I stay), so anything that can't get on a plane with me may not be accessible. I am interested in labs at Northwestern, Harvard, and UCSF right now (atleast in big cities, so maybe I can take a taxi to the closest grocery store?) Usually these interviews are only 2 days, so I'm sure I can survive...but does anyone have any other ideas of food I can take with me? I am also a Type 1 diabetic and vegetarian. Has anyone else been through similar job interviews? I'm just worried because usually different people from the lab eat with the prospective post-doc candidate at each meal as a chance to get to know them and talk science/form opinions on their ability to fit in with everyone else in the lab. I just don't want to come across as snobby or anti-social. I will talk to my boss about this too beforehand to get his opinion (we have had a lot of post-doctoral candidates come through our lab) but I still haven't really had an opportunity to tell him that I have celiac disease.

Thanks,

Caroline

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I don't know if this will be much help to you... but here goes anyway.

I have to travel occasionally for my job. While everyone else only takes carry-on luggage onto the plane, I have to pack a suitcase for all my food. ;) I bring gluten free "granola" bars, cereal, a few canned goods that I have found that don't upset me (and I bring a can opener and spoons!), nuts, ... you name it, I bring it. Sometimes I pack apples and oranges if I'm not crossing the border.

Some hotels are great with their breakfasts as they have actual fruit - not in a fruit salad, but the whole fruit - apples, oranges, bananas. In those cases I don't have to bring my own. Oh, also brining our own kettle and tea / coffee (if that's your kind of thing) is a must. Also, I always split my food between the carry-on and checked baggage so that I still have food in case they loose my bag.

As for eating at restaurants... the whole thing is scary. I tend to google my heart out prior to my trip to find gluten-free friendly restaurants in the neighbourhood I'll be in. In a pinch, I have had luck asking for a salad with no croutons and no dressing. Be prepared to send food back though! And to check it very carefully. Especially if the servers give you the dreaded 'blank stare' when you say you can't have gluten.

I would say not to say anything before your interview. Once there, if they say that they want to go for dinner, just mention that you have a gluten allergy (use the word allergy) and that you can't always eat at restaurants. Then try to guide them in the direction of a place that may be gluten-free friendly (ie - not a deli). If you've found a restaurant or two online that might work for you, you can always suggest one of those. You'd be surprised how accommodating people will be.

Absolute worst case, you go with them but don't actually eat anything. I've done that before too! I'm so used to being hungry now. ;)

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Someone here suggested gopicnic mini meals. The hummus and cracker one is delicious!

I have done the grad school trip thing as a vegetarian and found it tough. As a gluten-free vegan, I think I'd send an email ahead of time to skip scheduling meals and ask for a different social activity (they're just trying to make sure youve got some social skills) like coffee or a walking tour of campus. All those places you mentioned should have nearby stores that'll sell gluten-free stuff. In SF, they're pretty gluten aware and even the corner stores have fresh local produce and Lara bars, generally.

Good luck finding a school! How exciting :)

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Mat Lalonde is at Harvard. He is a monster intellect in the paleo world. He is good friends with Robb Wolf who is not only big on paleo but also has celiac. If you run across him he would understand where you are coming from. I would think that a biology department would be full of people able to understand the clinical implications of your situation.. Be genteel in your emails and you might not have the problems you are worried about. I think it's also a good idea to check with your current department head as you are planning as they should be able to give you great insight into how to handle the situation in a politically efficacious manner. May be a way to work in some education of others about celiac. (I know, probably not really the time nor place, though.) Best of skill in your upcoming interviews. Hope you get the best opportunity/situation.

CS

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Wow. I would think the diabetic and vegetarian part would be just as hard as the celiac in terms of packing food for a plane. I took my daughter to a dance convention and we had to pack food for three days. We didn't even fly and that was hard enough. We took canned beans but I don't think you could take those on a plane. I am also diabetic. Type 2 but I do use insulin. Do they have the "Just" products in your area? These are freeze dried veggies and fruit. I am not sure whether or not they make just peas. I think there are peas in their "Just Veggies" mix. I am trying to think of sources of protein. I sometimes eat the strawberries for snacks. Yes, they are a bit bulky in terms of size, but they are lightweight and dry.

I guess in terms of approaching these people about your diet you could probably just say that you need a place with a vegetarian and celiac menu. As a former vegetarian myself, I know that this in an of itself can make things a lot more difficult in dining out. If there is an Olive Garden or Old Spaghetti Factory in the areas where you'll be going, they do gluten-free vegetarian meals but they are pretty high in carbs. I think the pasta has something like 98g per plate. What I used to do when my daughter was younger was switch meals with her so I got the kid's portion. She is as tall as me now and soon to be 13 so that won't work any more.

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Thanks for all of the replies! Really, the diabetic and vegetarianism is not an issue...I have been diabetic for almost 18 years and vegetarian for 14 years. I only mentioned it because I didn't want people suggesting I bring canned tuna or something! I can generally find something at any restaurant (even if it is just ordering a side salad and a baked potato)....but the new celiac diagnosis is what is really freaking me out. I really didn't think I had typical symptoms and when my endocrinologist suggested I may have celiac disease, I thought he was full of it. Then all my tests came back positive and after 2 weeks of being gluten-free, I have noticed a huge differenc in how I feel. I do think I accidentally ingested something last Friday, and my migraine STILL hasn't gone away. That is what really scares me. I always thought I was mostly asymptomatic until I realized what I was supposed to feel like (without gluten). I've read on here how symptoms can get worse after being gluten-free for periods of time, and don't want to get to the point where I can't even function if I get glutened (that would not make my job talk go very well!). I have always felt bad for people going out of their way to accomodate me and having celiac requires even more accomodations. I think telling them beforehand is probably best but doing it in the most tactful way possible and making sure they are already discussing arrangements for me to visit. If anyone has any other suggestions for things to bring, I would really appreciate it! Thanks!

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Wow, they feed you for 2-3 days on a postdoc interview??? I got lunch and dinner on one day and that was it.

On job interviews, I explain that I have celiac disease, research the area, and make specific suggestions about restaurants that can accommodate me. For packing, I can survive pretty well on a loaf of Udi's and peanut butter. Unfortunately, TSA frowns on peanut butter unless you check it. You can have the usual 3.4 oz in your quart baggie but that's all.

http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/holiday.shtm

San Francisco should be pretty celiac-friendly. I had a very easy time traveling there. Yes, you should be able to cab to a 7-11 if not a grocery store. I've found bananas, nuts, yogurt, and lunch meat to eat at 7-11 and I'm good to go with a loaf of Udi's.

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Just fyi - check out the natural peanut butter section of your store. I found little packets of peanut butter, almond butter, and honey almond butter. I packed those in my suitcase in a plastic baggie with a bag of apples, oranges and a ton of other stuff and they didn't even blink.

Lara bars, nuts, fruit and veggies all travel well. I've found that as I get used to my diet it gets much easier to dine out. Not that I still don't have panic attacks about it....but it's much easier. I have to travel quite a bit for work and have made out fine without getting sick. I do tend to lose weight while traveling now, but to me that's a bit of a bonus round.

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Aside from the food issues you will encounter, when you speak of your condition, turn your celiac disease into an asset of sorts. Speak in terms of it providing you with more passion for research even when the research you are doing may not directly impact you. Explain it as a source to boost your empathy when undertaking research in general as you can relate to people's problems.

Just a thought... Wish you the best of luck in your future!

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There is a wheat-free bakery/restaurant in Evanston, near Northwestern, called Rose's. Maybe that would be an option when you're there? It's not fancy, but the food is good.

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You know during an interview at some point they usually say "Do you have any questions?" I would mention your condition then. No safer time seeing the floor is open to you...

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I live in Cambridge and work for Harvard and there are lots of places you can buy food, Shaws in Porter square has a gluten-free section lots of prepared gluten-free frozen/canned foods and is on the red line. (there's another Shaws on Beacon street which has nothing gluten-free though so go to the Porter Square one)

There are also 3 or 4 whole foods markets in Cambridge which all have a big supply. There is a gluten-free bakery called Glutenus Minimus and they supply several of the local pizza place and cafes between Harvard Square and Porter on Mass Ave. (Cafe Zing in Porter Square books, Simons coffee shop, and Stonehearth Pizza) with gluten-free pizza crusts and pastries. Close to campus you can eat at Legal Seafoods in Harvard Square. They have a celiac menu and we've not had problems. We also often eat at Tamarind House which is a Thai restaurant between Harvard and Porter Square. They don't have a gluten-free menu per se but are very nice and my daughter and nephew have always been OK there. You just have to tell them that you can't eat any wheat or gluten and they'll make it w/out any soy sauce. They have good tofu dishes. Bertucci's has a gluten-free menu, but we haven't tried it as it's mostly grilled meat and salads. I think if you look on yelp.com for gluten free you'll find other places. Since my daughter is 12, we don't tend to go to the fancier places. Stonehearth pizza has a gluten-free menu but they are super slow and the staff has made some mistakes, so be wary of that one.

I also suggest you speak to the admin at Harvard who is setting up your travel and let him/her know about your dietary/medical issues. Please think that if they are inviting you to interview they will want to impress you as well and no one would want to take you to eat somewhere and make you ill. Whoever is setting up the travel can be sure to put you in lodging with at least a fridge and microwave oven. There are lots of B&B kind of places that are more like an in-law apartment with a kitchenette.

The biology dept. is in Cambridge right (not at Harvard medical school).

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