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I need some advice on how to deal with social issues with friends. So a little history. I've never been easy with social situations. I've always had social anxiety and depression  (which the worst of it was probably secondary to celiac anyway.)  When I was in school I really couldn't do much socially because I had absolutely no spare money even to do things like pay for gas or bus fare in college. Then worked 90+ hrs per week between undergrad and graduate school. I got diagonsed 2 months before I left for graduate school in a new part of the country. I was really trying to figure this all  out during graduate school. I had to confront a couple of friends because they were leaving me out of things because i wouldn't be able to eat with them. They accepted that I  wanted to be involved even if I  couldn't eat.

 

Now I've graduated and making friends at work. I haven't found a restaurant that hasn't glutened me. So right now It is just easier  for me to not eat and just get something for me to eat when I am out with friends. But one of my friends made a comment that she finds these meals "very uncomfortable". I'm perfectly comfortable just having something to drink while others eat. I personally would feel more awkward bringing my own food ( and sometimes these things aren't planned - eg. last time we went out) to a restaurant. I know there may be times when I have to do that because I'm traveling or some such or doing a work meal. How do I  deal with her being uncomfortable? I'm not uncomfortable. I know it isn't my job to deal with my friend's emotions. But how should I respond? There are a few restaurants around that have gluten free menus, but I still end up getting sick so don't want to just go and eat there as I still get glutened. Plus I don't want to limit my friends' eating to places w/ gluten free menus. I know that I could try and get a salad and eat that, but that makes me feel worse than just getting something to drink as then i'm paying for  something that I don't even really want. Don't get me wrong, I love salad but having to eat that when people are able to eat full meals makes me feel more alone. I don't know why that is, but the salad makes me feel like  I'm settling. And a drink makes me feel like I'm making my choice.

 

I need advice. How do I talk about this with my friend? How do I manage this with group meals out? I hate that so much  of our social activity has to do with food. I try to do things that don't surround food, but we all work so much for our jobs that a quick meal out is pretty much what we have time for.

 

Thanks.

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The best way to approach is through openly communicating your feelings to your friend. You cannot change the way they feel but maybe if you explain the way you feel as you did above it would make her/him less uncomfortable. It's a shame that they feel the need to alienate you even more by pointing out what you already know. Yeah... we have issues eating out at restaurants but there is more to us than sitting and eating a meal!! Shouldn't it be about your company?? Sorry.. just my own venting there at the end.

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How do I  deal with her being uncomfortable? I'm not uncomfortable. 

 

You've answered your own question.  I'm not dismissing you...I've had this conversation with many friends and associates.  It took me a long time to find the wording I'm comfortable with and it goes something like this:

 

Please don't feel (bad, sad, uncomfortable, fill other emotions) that I can't order the food here.  I am happy to be here (with you, participating in this meeting, attending this party, fill in other events).  Just because I can't enjoy eating what you are eating does not mean that you should not.  Please go ahead while I enjoy the drink I have ordered and the (food/snack) I've brought along.  

 

Once you find your own voice to explain your situation, it gets easier.

 

This I can tell you....there are many folks out in this world that are uncomfortable with/dismissive of our situation....that won't change for a very long time.  The only thing we can control is the ease/confidence with which we learn to handle these situations.

 

Oh...and be grateful when we encounter someone that doesn't make it an issue :)

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All you can do is explain as you've done for us. It seems that you're doing very well with it already, I think.

Your uncomfortable friend will either get used to it or, well, they won't.

The level of depth you get into explaining yourself to your friend really depends on how close the two of you are.

 

1 person being uncomfortable doesn't, to me, make it a pervasive social issue as your title suggests. I guess if you feel that this person is representative of all your friends or something, then maybe you need to be more assertive and act more confidently in your actions?

 

No matter what though, over time, all things that were once uncomfortable become comfortable. Just keep sticking to your guns, and if you're hanging around the same people all the time they'll sort of have to get accustomed to it. Don't order salad just because someone else wants you to eat. That's silly.

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For someone who says that they have had social problems, you sound highly competent socially.  It sounds like it is your friend with the problem.  Sometimes, I find it easier to just say that I already ate, or I'm not hungry.  Eventually more involved explanation may be necessary.  I think that explaining that you might be made very sick should be more than enough.  Your "friend" is putting her comfort ahead of your health.  That's not a friendship that I would value.   

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I take my own food when I eat out. The first time i felt really awkward. It was with a large group of people I see maybe once or twice a year. It got easier each time after and I don't feel awkward at all. I bought an insulated bag/cooler that looks like a tote bag. No one knows I'm carrying a cooler through the resturant. I also bought resuable packs that can be heated or frozen so I can pack hot or cold food. When server comes to take my order I tell them that I have several food allergies (a little lie but so much easier then going into details about celiac and cross contamination) so I brought my own food. I have never had a problem. I've done this at fast food places, mom and pop places, local restaurants, and sit down chain restaurants (Chilis, Fridays, Cheddars, etc). Often I'm asked if I need anything heated or if I need a plate or silverware (I alway bring my own). I usually just eat out of the containers I packed my food in but also bought plain white paper plates to use at restaurants if I want to blend in more.

Close friends and family know I will bring my own food and don't care. They have all seen what happens when I get glutened. If it's a large group of us, I'll explain the celiac thing if I'm asked why I brought my own food. I figure its a teaching opportunity.

Have you explained to you friend that is uncomfortable what happens when you eat gluten? How sick you were before you found out you had celiac? Maybe if she understands exactly what happens, how sick it makes you, all the symptoms it causes, she'll be more understanding and not care that you don't eat when they eat.

What about having a small group over to your house for dinner. Have them help you made it even. You can explain to them what you went through before being diagnosed, and what happens when you get glutened while having fun making dinner and a few glasses of wine/drinks. You can supply all the food or ask each to bring a few ingredients for what your making. If you drink ask everyone to bring their favorite wine, liquor, or stuff to make a mixed drink. It would be a fun educational night. Maybe they will all be more comfortable after they understand all the effects of gluten.

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I completely understand. It's so hard at first, but I agree with everyone else. You just have to keep on explaining and explaining. YOU CAN'T HELP IT!! 

 

Keep telling your friend that and make her feel at ease. Eventually she'll understand. I find that when that happens I just eat an energy bar at the table or some crackers that I've brought. That seems to work very well.

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I bring my own everywhere....have never had wait staff bat an eye...in fact have had some look relieved.  I do order a drink where prior to my BYO days I always just drank water in restaurants, but I think it is important to order something and it gives me the opportunity to say I have multiple food allergies so it is not safe for me to order food.  Sometimes I ask for a plate if I feel like blending in a bit more at the table.

 

While I know saying we have allergies is not technically correct...it is language everyone understands....which makes the conversation short and sweet :)

 

I do investigate where we are eating....once in a while I am able to order something safe for me and I do.  Hopeful I'll be able to more of that in the future...until then I've found no problems bringing my own and has become easy for us.

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"I'm sorry it makes you uncomfortable when I don't eat, but wouldn't it make you more uncomfortable if I got sick? Or wouldn't it make you more uncomfortabe if I stayed home just to keep you from feeling uncomfortabe?" 

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Thanks everyone. I have trouble being assertive. I know that I am a people pleaser which makes this harder. I don't want to make other people uncomfrotable. This is the first time I've actually had someone specifically say it makkes them uncomfortable, but it was all my work colleagues could talk about every time we went  out to eat. I think I've got my work colleagues to become comfortable with us going  out somewhere to eat without me being able to eat (often last minute things). I really can't eat at the restaurant that has the gluten freem menu as I get glutened every time. I am going to try to bring food with me when things are planned before hand. One time at a training I had a chocolate meal bar. Someone mentioned it and I said: well I get to eat chcolate for my lunch and you only get a sandwitch. :P

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It sounds like you've figured this out the hard way but a "gluten free" menu does not mean the food is still gluten free when it gets to you at the table.  However, consider the situation from your friend's point of view.  They're eating and probably feel like you're sitting there watching them eat.  It would make me uncomfortable too.  Try taking a snack with you - like a bag of nuts.  That way you're at least nibbling on something so they don't feel so self-conscious.

 

Also, don't get down on yourself about not being particularly "social".  It's a myth that being "social" is good and not being "social" is somehow bad.  Try reading the "Introvert Advantage" book.  It's got a couple of annoying sections where it implies that "even" as an introvert you can manage to be successful... as if it's some sort of hurtle to get over.  But overall it does explain how the introvert mind works and how introverts aren't doing themselves any favors by trying to act like extroverts.  It also explains why extroverts try so hard to make introverts act more like them... they can't help it.... even though the traits they try to push onto introverts are the very traits that introverts find the most annoying.

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Been there with friend's that feel uncomfortable with me not eating. Or feel sorry for me.  I don't there s any one  answer.   Sometime (If I know the place and feel comfortable) I'll order from a gluten free menu, other times I will bring my own meal or sometimes just a snack.  Some chips or something.  That way my hand is going to my mouth like everyone else. :P 

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I've brought along fruit before, an apple, orange, banana or such like.  And a Lara Bar or some nuts.  Sometimes I've ordered side dishes like cooked veggies to eat, and get a couple of them.  My friends have never given me any weirdness about it, except to maybe ask why.  Or comment that "wow you eat so healthy!"  ha ha! :)

 

If she tells you she is uncomfortable, just tell her she is making you uncomfortable too.  She may as well not feel alone after all.  Two uncomfortable people are better than one?  Maybe not.  :)

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I think the best thing to do is study and learn exactly what you can and can't eat when you eat out. I know that's pretty obvious, but I think once you learn what things are more likely or not to have gluten, you can branch out a little bit.

That being said, I usually go for a salad. If I get alcohol + a salad, I don't really feel like I compensating and it doesn't really bother me at all. I feel you about bringing food though, screw that. I usually kind of make fun of myself too lol, that always takes the edge off and usually people laugh/are curious and don't really think about it

 

I mean, if you saw someone with a cocktail and a salad, would you be like, wow, that guy is such a bummer?

 

Don't be afraid to be specific when you order too, I usually stress that I'm pretty sensitive and if they could clean the grill/double check, etc. Meat and some form of mashed potatoes is pretty good, just ask without any sauces if you can.

 

Again, I think the best part is taking it lightly/you know make fun of yourself

 

I wouldn't feel bad about getting a salad. Alcohol is pretty great too

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