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Social Situations
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My internship had its first potluck today. I found it really uncomfortable because everyone kept asking me why I wasn't eating the "yummy food" that people brought. It made me feel even more awkward. I know in other social situations people have known about my celiac as they have been social situations, but I didn't really want to share this information with everyone at work as it is none of their business. How do people deal with these nosy people. My supervisors know given that I needed to let them know in case I need accommodations at any point. But this seemed so intrusive from these other people. While I have been working with them a couple of days a week for about 2.5 months, given my position I feel like it is imperative that I keep my personal and work lives separate. How do people deal with the nosy people who wont leave you alone? My supervisors have been great about it, and it isn't that i think that my co-workers will be mean or unprofessional with the information, I just feel a need to keep a strict boundary between work and my personal life. And it is easier to keep those separate if I keep everything separate instead of picking and choosing what I keep separate.

Any advice? Apparently these things happen a lot at my job and I don't want to have to keep dealing with this as only a small percentage of people were there today so next time I will probably get the same questions. One person did figure it out on her own when i turned down her food offers one to many times (I was surprised to have this happen). But otherwise I feel like this is my information and I shouldn't feel pressured to share it.

Thanks.

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I just usually reply with a "oh no thanks, I've got food allergies" and no one questions further. I know you want to keep personal and work life separate - but I don't think that crosses the line. Lots of people have food allergies, and you don't need to get down into the details of why and how and what you've got going on. You can always quickly follow that up with a "gosh I love your earrings/shirt/shoes/presentation" etc to keep any further questions from coming.

Honestly, getting that out of the way will keep people from questioning further and can help to keep you from looking like a snob who doesn't want to participate in stuff like that.

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Depends on the situations for me. Among people I don't know, or don't now well, I am like you.....I don't care for everyone to know my business. Every has theirtake on any given subject and sometimes the things people say are really not what I want to hear so keeping to myself is smart in these mixed situations. I might tell someone that I wsn't hungry or I might say I have an allergy and leave it at that.

In a situations among friends though, I have been very open. My friends know my situation and have asked lots of questions and we have had great conversations about it.

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Googles, I once was one to keep health issues personal.. That did change when I was diagnosed in June of 09 and learned that we need to spread the word to help others with Celiac.. IMHO, I feel it's our duty to spread the word about Celiac to help others out there..

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It adds to the humiliation, isolation, and general disconnect you feel when avoiding sharing with a group.

It gets better over time. Or maybe you just get used to it.

I've started calling Friday, Gluten Friday, at my work. They always bring in breakfast, and it always is something gluten based. Doughnuts, pastries, bagels, breakfast sandwiches. I never realized how much a normal person's diet revolves around Wheat flour until I started this.

They all treat it like a joke, so I just fire back at them. Thats my coping mechanism.

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It gets better - we have a lot of food around my workplace - people bring it in, patrons bring it in, and our supervisors bring it in for 'a job well done'. With Christmas coming, it'll just get worse. I've been working there for over 4 years - it doesn't bother me anymore. Everyone knows I can't eat stuff and I keep food in the freezer or fridge so I do have something to eat. After awhile folks just stop asking.

Does it suck when there are yummy goodies ? Yeah, but I know being sick sucks even worse. It truly doesn't bother the majority of the time.

I wouldn't look at it as blending work & personal together - it is what it is, there will always be food, it's up to you to find what works (bring your own, buy your own, whatever).

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I SO know how you feel....as I sit here at my desk eating my apple while everyone else is in the breakroom gorging themselves on cookies, donuts, pastries, bagels, muffins....<sigh>. When they commented on my willpower I told them I have none, but I have no choice. I agree with the post saying to tell them you just have food allergies and leave it at that if you don't want them to know your business. I also agree it's our job now to spread celiac awareness!

I find it hard to believe in a company of over 200+ people *I* am the only one with celiac? No.....I know there is one girl here who has it, but she refuses to get tested. Oh well, I tried.

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I don't know what situation it is that you're in that makes you feel like you need to keep this to yourself, but I think it could be a mistake, especially if you start seeming standoffish or even rude to others. If your office does potlucks or any social stuff together, then it suddenly IS a part of your work life. Some offices depend on at least some social interaction to keep a certain atmosphere.

richard

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When people bring their home made foods in I think they feel rejected when you won't even try it? It would probably be best to say it sure looks good, but you have food allergies and can't try it. They think you are rejecting them, rather than the food item they brought.

Usually if you have a reason like that they won't question it further. If they push for more info you can change the subject or sidestep the question if you don't want to give details.

My hubby is diabetic and has trouble resisting what's brought in at work for a job well done. It's usually do-nuts, bagels, or pizza. All of those are things he tries to limit. He says if he tells them no thanks..they argue that just a little wouldn't hurt.

As the holidays draw near this issue may be coming up more? I think you may have to come up with an answer that works for you?

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I agree with others that say if food is a part of work then so is your celiac disease. People will think you are being rude and rejecting them if you don't give them a reason that makes sense. It's not fair but it's true. Telling someone "I have celiac disease" or the white lie "I have food allergies" after they press when you politely say "no, thank you" is not a slippery slope toward telling people all about your personal life. If someone wants to know more about celiac and you are uncomfortable sharing your experience, just tell them a book to read or website to visit and change the subject to something you are comfortable with.

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Yeah standard 'I have celiac.' should do the trick as it's fairly well known nowadays but normally I like to turn their question on its head by saying 'oh that's right make me feel bad about it why don't you!!' etc etc, shoving it right back at them. They never ask again :) and you makes them as opposed to you feel socially awkward. Bout time shoe was on the other foot I say!

Or another option is to have a funny reply to hand. It's obviously up to your own sense of humour but quips like 'and destroy my amazing figure? Nah' or 'I prefer to read labels on the food rather than eat it' can diffuse this potentially socially awkward query. There are no doubt better ones out there but you get my drift.

If it's your boss or superior I always like 'if you're happy to give me 2 weeks sick leave I'll eat as much gluten as you like, just give me the OK...'. The topic is swiftly changed thereafter. Ok ok so if it came to if you feel as bad as I do I wouldn't even eat gluten in exchange for 2 weeks off but that's not the point, he/she's never going to say yes.

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I'm fairly private at work so I do understand your wanting to separate worklife with personal life. But I hope you remember that these people don't know you. If they ask you anything at all, they're probably not trying to be mean, most would just be attempting polite conversation since you seem fairly new to the job. Maybe now would be a good time to lay the groundwork for future similar events. Use some of the suggestions above to come up with (in advance) how you will respond.

But please remember it's not their fault that you cannot eat gluten. Truth be known, I'll bet more than 50% of the people in the room will be intolerant and may never connect the dots before it's too late. And yes, some will have additional questions. But this may be the first of many such situations, workplace or no, where you may wind up being a "gluten celebrity" and the askers don't realize you have been asked for your picture or autograph already 10 times that day. I know it can get old if you let it. Have those responses in your pocket at the ready, and you will control the situation however you like.

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I have a coffee mug that says "Gluten is the Enemy" that I use at work. It gets the point across, but I've been here a few years and they're used to me and my sense of humor. Some humor goes a long way, in my experience, in making others feel more comfortable about my issues.

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I agree with the rest. I think you will have to share some information, but not all the details.

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My company does a big lunch for everyone for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am normally completely open and happy to talk about my celiac, but I HATE these lunches. I always have to sit with people I didn't know well because everyone comes down to the cafeteria that day, and when I say food allergies, I get the question "you're allergic to turkey??" more times than I care to count. So now I treat it as a social hour. I pretend I've already eaten and jump from table to table with a drink in hand socializing and saying hi to everyone. No one asks questions if you're not eating because they assume you've already finished, but everyone asks questions if you're eating something different.

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"No thanks. I have food intolerances." That's my reply. (I'm in an area that's always been pretty good about not questioning the "intolerance" portion of that statement. If I were in an area that were different, I'd have no hesitations about lying and saying "allergies" instead.)

Face it, you cannot have 100% separation between work and personal life. Not only is it not possible unless you don't drive your own car to work, you always wear the same uniform, and you never put up a picture or take a personal call anywhere near a coworker. And if you really try to have as close to 100% separation between the two, you will likely find that you alienate your coworkers. Because people are social. They like to find common interests. So, if someone says "Do you have any hobbies?" and you just say "Nothing related to work", you're going to look aloof and weird.

I'm not saying you have to blend the two together completely! And nor do I mean to imply that the walking a line that makes you comfortable is easy! Far from it. But pick your battles and don't make situations harder on yourself by trying to keep a huge separation that might work better as a more moderated separation.

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My best tactic is to eat a huge meal before any type of potluck. That way when people ask why I'm not eating I can say "Oh, I just ate a huge meal and I'm stuffed". They can see on my face it is true. If I say I have food allergies everyone wants to know to what and what my reactions are.

I don't mind anyone knowing I can't eat gluten but it does get old after a while answering questions so sometimes I just don't mention it. Also some of the very well meaning people I know try to bring gluten free options but cross contamination is such a strong learning curve that we've all been through that it is unlikely that anyone gets it right on their first try. Nothing worse than having to run off because you got sick at a social event. Especially if it is the food served that made you sick. So I just avoid the food completely. I also follow the tip give above about treating it like a social situation where you move from table to table and not settle in at one where it is obvious that you aren't eating.

Good luck!

Michelle

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I think trying to avoid the topic brings more attention to it.

Saying you have food allergies, intolerances, celiac (however you wish to explain it) isn't like discussing the fight you got into your significant other the night before.

Yes, it's a little personal, but when I think of people that I know professionally but not personally, those types of things aren't really a big deal. I know one who is diabetic even though I don't even know if she's married or has kids, etc.

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I hear you all saying I will share, and I did share with one person. I will try being more forthcoming in the future. My experience has been bad with sharing my celiac with my school was I have been discriminated against. My professors said things from that my asking about what was being served at a lunch for new students (shortly after diagnosis and so I wasn't so aware of cross-contamination) was inappropriate (and having this written into my yearly review) to most recently being questioned about if I should be in the field I am in because of it when I went to talk to my practicum professor who is supposed to be the one who helps me deal with my job (it is an internship). I had to disclose my celiac to my supervisors at internship and they were supportive, but I am hesitant to tell others in case I need them to step in to help me and don't want them thinking that there is something that they will have to do all the time (as it isn't).

This is all so hard.

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You all have some really good suggestions! At least once a week we have breakfast (bagels, do~nuts) brought in for our department and uaually 1 or 2 lunches as well. They are brought in by sales reps from suppliers we use, I usually keep busy (hide!). But that makes me feel like more of an outsider than I already am. So sometimes with the lunches I just make a plate then bring it home for my gluten eaters. I did have a conversation about my celiacs with one of the reps just after my diagnosis~next time he brought bagels AND a yogurt just for me! Lol~it wasn't gluten free~ but he tried!

I'm thinking about getting a box of gluten-free donuts to keep in the breakroom freezer so I can start being more social with my coworkers,

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