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jasonD2

Problem Telling Wait Staff

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Why do I have such difficulty telling a waiter or waitress at a restaurant that I have a gluten allergy? There are times when i sit down at a restaurant and I have every intention of saying it but then when the waiter comes I back out and just assume my dish will be gluten-free (most times I call the restaurant in advance anyway or pick a place i am familiar with or will just ask for the chef to leave off the sauce or whatever) but why cant I just do this? I got a dose of gluten last week which couldve been avoided if i opened my mouth or asked for the gluten-free menu. I have the most difficulty when its an attractive waitress...in my mind I will come off as a weakling if I tell her I have an allergy so I keep my mouth shut.

Also since I am allergic to dairy I feel like I will just be one of those annoying customers

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They have the cards that explain things in many languages. WHy not print something out ahead of time in English that you can give to the wait staff. This might save some time and if your shy around attractive waitresses it will help them to better understand your needs.

Why do I have such difficulty tell a waiter or waitress at a restaurant that I have a gluten allergy? There are times when i sit down at a restaurant and I have every intention of saying it but then when the waiter comes I back out and just assume my dish will be gluten-free (most times I call the restaurant in advance anyway or pick a place i am familiar with or will just ask for the chef to leave off the sauce or whatever) but why cant I just do this? I got a dose of gluten last week which couldve been avoided if i opened my mouth or asked for the gluten-free menu. I have the most difficulty when its an attractive waitress...in my mind I will come off as a weakling if I tell her I have an allergy so I keep my mouth shut.

Also since I am allergic to dairy I feel like I will just be one of those annoying customers

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I am American - Its an insecurity not a language problem

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I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you're feeling that you're going to be - GASP - "different" if you "admit" to having "special needs", and different would be "WEIRD". BAH! We're all different in some fashion. Having confidence that your "differences" are "ok" just means having confidence that YOU are OK! Practice it! Go to places you doubt you'll ever ever go again, so it doesn't matter what happens. Pretend that you've got a backbone of steel, and the self-confidence of someone else, and do it! (Pretend long enough, and by force of practice, you'll develop it.)

Good luck!

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Why does it matter to you what the server thinks? I guarantee you she doesn't go back to the kitchen after taking your order thinking about you as a weakling, and her level of attractiveness does not affect that at all. I waited tables for a long time and, frankly, I wanted all my customers to have the meal they wanted, and to enjoy their dining experience, but I was never once interested in talking to any of them outside the restaurant, so I didn't care if they were picky eaters or had weird senses of humor or I hated their shirts, as long as they were polite and tipped. Be nice to the wait staff, tip well, rehearse a speech about what you need to avoid (this is where the card comes in - I don't think the previous poster was suggesting you don't speak English, just that this can save you having to give the speech at all), and don't expect female servers to think about it after you've left. They have a lot of other stuff on their minds, because it's a stressful job, so if you're polite it isn't going to matter. And if a server does care, so what? Be polite anyway, and then don't go back to that restaurant, or have a word with the manager, or something. When you have zillions of customers an evening, you don't get hung up on things like this, trust me.

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When you hear someone has a disease such as diabetes do you look down on them and consider them a weakling? I hope not. You probably don't do that and other people don't either. If you don't look at others that way, why would you assume they are looking at you like that? Isn't the saying "if you think people are looking at you and talking about you, think again. People have better things to do."

Kind of like the book and movie "He's Just Not That Into You". The wait staff...they're just not that into you.

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Kind of like the book and movie "He's Just Not That Into You". The wait staff...they're just not that into you.

Ha! That is soooo true!

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I hear you too! I have a really hard time explaining it to waitstaff, and thus far (only eaten out 5 times since going gluten-free), I've only explained it to one really nice waitress. I just ordered really carefully the other 4 times, and so far, so good. I haven't gotten sick from eating out. I did print out some of the pre-made allergy cards (though I'm not allergic - whatever), but I haven't had them with me....need to get better in that respect.

Jana

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Boy...am I really glad that I found this post. I really thought I was the only one having trouble with this. I've told my best friend and, of course, my family and that's about it. I know it sounds strange, but it's not the fact that I'm "different" that gets me, I think it's more to do with the fact that practically no one knows what celiac disease is and they look at you with that "oh, yeah, she's a nutcase" sort of look when you try to explain it.

I went to a party at my neighbor's yesterday and dreaded the trip down the smorgasbord table. As expected, nearly everything there had gluten - pasta salad, brownies, cookies, cake, macaroni salad, BBQ sandwiches, lunchmeat sandwiches, etc. I prayed the whole time that no one would ask me why all I took was a little bit of fruit salad, a half a serving of potatoes and cheese, a microscopic bowl of Taco chili and a handful of plain potato chips. I couldn't even use the driving excuse as a reason to turn down the beer because I'd walked over!

I wasn't even sure I wouldn't get glutened by the potato dish or the Taco chili but I just couldn't bring myself to ask, so I took my chances. So far, so good.

I know it's stupid, but if anyone DID ask, I was actually considering just saying that I had diabetes and needed to watch the number of carbs I ate. Would have looked odd though since I was drinking from a can of regular Pepsi! (Can't drink the diet stuff. Not only do I hate the aftertaste but I get a headache and nasty diarrhea if I do.)

Ok, so now that I'm thinking about it, maybe I AM having a problem with being different. I would have been ok with being different by lying that I was diabetic...because it's something different that everyone knows about and knows is "real". I guess maybe I'm afraid that the celiac disease is just TOO different. I think, too, that I'm worried about making my friends feel bad that they've prepared things I can't eat or, worse yet, that they feel obligated to change what they would normally do just because of me. I hate the idea of imposing or being a bother. Hmmm...something to think about.

I will say that I was courageous enough to ask about gluten-free stuff at one restaurant, but I think it was only because I was travelling and, not only did I not want intestinal issues when I was on the road, but I knew I'd likely never be coming back there again and looking "nutty" wouldn't be so bad.

For those of you that have conquered this unrealistic "fear", what exactly do you say in social situations like parties and restaurants? How much do you say and how do you say it? I know that awareness is rising, but if the stupid doctors aren't versed in celiac disease and treat us as though we're crazy, how can we expect "regular" people to understand?

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Get over it. You will need to say something for the rest of you life. Find a SIMPLE way to tell people you must eat gluten free. You just have to do this when you first come into a place to eat. I also have called ahead if I know where we are going.

I ask for a gluten free menu when I arrive and ask if the chef can adapt any recipes. This tells them before I am sitting down that they need to be able to adjust their menu. I do have some 'Living Without' cards if the chef needs instructions. I also carry some of the language cards if I'm going to an ethnic restaurant. Sometimes the chef only speaks English as a second language and the cards help them to understand about gluten.

I have always found that this prepares the staff and they have been will to go out of their way to helps make for a good eating experience. If you wait until they are taking your order they do not have time to prepare themselves to help.

Asking for the manger when arriving works well too.

Yes, asking for a gluten free menu seems silly but they are starting to pop up once in awhile. If we all asked for a gluten free menu every time we went out in two years most places will have one.

I also have an allergy to papaya. So not only do I have to ask about gluten but I have to check that any meat ordered has not been tenderized and that anything with fruit has not been touched with papaya.

My ds just told me he was out to eat with a group of people when one of them started telling the staff that she was gluten free. No one thought this odd.

I have had friends ask if I couldn't just "cheat" this once. I just tell them I'd really like to but part of my intestine might die so I won't cheat even a little. This seems to satify them that I'm not just a freak/nut case who doesn't want to touch eat gluten.

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Get over it. You will need to say something for the rest of you life. Find a SIMPLE way to tell people you must eat gluten free. You just have to do this when you first come into a place to eat. I also have called ahead if I know where we are going.

I ask for a gluten free menu when I arrive and ask if the chef can adapt any recipes. This tells them before I am sitting down that they need to be able to adjust their menu. I do have some 'Living Without' cards if the chef needs instructions. I also carry some of the language cards if I'm going to an ethnic restaurant. Sometimes the chef only speaks English as a second language and the cards help them to understand about gluten.

I have always found that this prepares the staff and they have been will to go out of their way to helps make for a good eating experience. If you wait until they are taking your order they do not have time to prepare themselves to help.

Asking for the manger when arriving works well too.

Yes, asking for a gluten free menu seems silly but they are starting to pop up once in awhile. If we all asked for a gluten free menu every time we went out in two years most places will have one.

I agree completely with all of this and also applaud its directness. One thing I think it sometimes takes awhile to learn is that no one else is ever going to care about your celiac disease as much as you are (with the exception of your parents, if you're dependent on them), even if they love you and care an awful lot. It's your health, it's your body, you've got to be the one to take care of yourself. That's true in general, disease or no, but in this case means accepting that you have a lifelong disease that is controlled through diet and getting used to talking about it.

I realize that may sound kind of harsh, but as I always tell my students to do when they're reading my feedback on their papers, imagine it in a Kermit the Frog voice. That's approximately the tone I'm aiming for. :)

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Get over it. You will need to say something for the rest of you life. Find a SIMPLE way to tell people you must eat gluten free. You just have to do this when you first come into a place to eat. I also have called ahead if I know where we are going.

<snip>

I have had friends ask if I couldn't just "cheat" this once. I just tell them I'd really like to but part of my intestine might die so I won't cheat even a little. This seems to satify them that I'm not just a freak/nut case who doesn't want to touch eat gluten.

I can honestly say, Ahorsesoul, that I'm a bit disappointed with the way in which you chose to respond to the posts. JasonD2, Jana315 and myself were completely honest and laid ourselves open in talking about our individual difficulties and asking for simple, polite ways that those who have been doing this longer than us talk with wait staff, friends, acquaintances, etc. about celiac disease.

Choosing to say "Get over it" is disrespectful to us as well as dismissive to our feelings. That response reminded me SO much of the way my previous doc would talk to me when I'd complain of symptoms before being diagnosed. You also haven't taken into consideration just what might have gone on with any of us and the comments and perceptions of people around us since we've been diagnosed.

My brother has publicly announced to my whole family that he doesn't believe there's anything wrong with me. He seems to think that I'm just some New Age, tree-hugging, back-to-nature, organic naturalist freak who's on some cockamamie "Save the Wheat, Don't Eat Gluten" campaign. I thought my elderly mother was accepting things pretty well...until she told me before yesterday's party, "If you have to tell anyone, just tell them you have Celiac. You don't want someone thinking you've got some sort of disease."

So, yeah, guess I'm just a bit sensitive about it...but now you can see why.

On a positive note, though, I thought your explanation about part of your intestine dying was pretty inventive and to the point. Too bad you didn't choose to just post that and skip the initial slam.

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I feel for you. I have a hard time speaking up too. Part of it is an irrational fear that I will be perceived as being a nitpicky customer. I think we've all had an experience dining with someone who complains to the waitstaff about anythin and everything, too much ice in the water, soup not hot enough, etc... But after a year and half of doing this, I've realized waitstaff take my medical condition seriously, and they know you're not just being "picky" when you send back a salad they accidentally put croutons on.

At first, I think you will find it easier to eat at restaurants that offer a gluten-free menu. Staff at those restaurants usually understand the importance of it, even of they don't understand all the ins-and-outs of celiac disease. I also find very upscale restaurants are better about it too. They have real chefs who often have been trained about preparing food for various allergies, and they take the requests in stride.

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"Get over it" was meant in a friendly, "this is what I did" sort of way. (It's such a loaded phrase - it's usually said with a direct, in-your-face, well-isn't-this-obvious sort of tone. But it doesn't have to be used that way. I usually use it in a sympathetic, hard-but-no-other-good-option, this-will-take-a-while tone.)

Because, no matter how friendly you word it, it's really more or less what it comes down to. You get to a point where you no longer care if you look nutty, where you don't put your friend's convenience over your health (when they probably don't want to hurt your health anyway), where you stop making life easier for your family but harder on yourself.

Honestly, I think there's a touch of arrogance about it - in a good way, though.

You have so much confidence in your diagnosis, that it doesn't matter if other think you're faking and being a nut. Like someone coming up to you and saying that the sky is green, and you can't convince them otherwise and they're convinced that you're colorblind. You don't feel bad about contradicting them, because you KNOW that the sky is blue. So don't feel bad about sticking to your guns about celiac, because you KNOW that is true. (So, for instance, in your shoes, when your brother told me I was a tree-hugging, save-the-wheat hippie, I'd go up (in mock condescension), pat him gently on the head and say "ok, that's nice crazy man" and smile like you would to a four year old. Making it clear that I was mocking (but in jest) and didn't give a care what he though.)

Why should you care that your mother is worried about someone thinking you have a disease? That's between you and that person, and is not any of her business, let alone her decision.

We all want to be liked, which generally means we don't want to be thought of as nutty. But does that mean we have to lie? Then what really is the other person liking? (In other words, who cares if you're a little nutty, as long as you're you? Not that it's easy for everyone to get there - it wasn't for me - but you (nuttiness and all) are good enough just as you are (nuttiness and all).

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"Get over it" was meant in a friendly, "this is what I did" sort of way. (It's such a loaded phrase - it's usually said with a direct, in-your-face, well-isn't-this-obvious sort of tone. But it doesn't have to be used that way. I usually use it in a sympathetic, hard-but-no-other-good-option, this-will-take-a-while tone.)

Because, no matter how friendly you word it, it's really more or less what it comes down to. You get to a point where you no longer care if you look nutty, where you don't put your friend's convenience over your health (when they probably don't want to hurt your health anyway), where you stop making life easier for your family but harder on yourself.

Honestly, I think there's a touch of arrogance about it - in a good way, though.

You have so much confidence in your diagnosis, that it doesn't matter if other think you're faking and being a nut. Like someone coming up to you and saying that the sky is green, and you can't convince them otherwise and they're convinced that you're colorblind. You don't feel bad about contradicting them, because you KNOW that the sky is blue. So don't feel bad about sticking to your guns about celiac, because you KNOW that is true. (So, for instance, in your shoes, when your brother told me I was a tree-hugging, save-the-wheat hippie, I'd go up (in mock condescension), pat him gently on the head and say "ok, that's nice crazy man" and smile like you would to a four year old. Making it clear that I was mocking (but in jest) and didn't give a care what he though.)

Why should you care that your mother is worried about someone thinking you have a disease? That's between you and that person, and is not any of her business, let alone her decision.

We all want to be liked, which generally means we don't want to be thought of as nutty. But does that mean we have to lie? Then what really is the other person liking? (In other words, who cares if you're a little nutty, as long as you're you? Not that it's easy for everyone to get there - it wasn't for me - but you (nuttiness and all) are good enough just as you are (nuttiness and all).

Clap clap clap

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I understand your concerns, as I was initially not very thrilled about the concept of going out to eat after going gluten free, but I look at it in the way that if it's a choice between me not being able to get out of bed for a week and being in screaming pain, or asking every single question I need to of the waitstaff, um....I ask the questions. Also, I explain to the person that I have an allergy to gluten and I ask about specific menu items (e.g., are the salads premade with croutons or can I get one without them). Waitstaff are usually very nice and at least once recently I was surprised with "Let me get you our gluten-free menu...", so people are becoming more aware. A couple of times the manager of a restaurant has come over to talk to me and showed me ingredient lists and let me ask about marinades, if the meat has soy sauce (more often than not, marinades and soy sauce contain wheat). What I am trying to say is usually restaurants are pretty accomodating, and if they're not, I leave and go somewhere else. I also make sure to leave a big tip (over 20%).

As far as parties, potlucks, etc., if it's potluck I will bring something like chips to share, and then will either cook something gluten free (my rice flour fried chicken was a huge hit at last February's super bowl party!) to share with everyone or I will let the host/ess know that I wlll bring my own lunch/dinner/whatever due to allergies because I don't want to make extra work for anyone.

Of course it's a personal choice, but the thing to think about is this: Is not speaking up worth being as sick as most of us get after accidental glutening?

P.S. Many people don't understand allergies period. I've had friends say "oh, you can have a little bit, right?" or "You're just doing this to lose weight...". Then it's MY turn to roll my eyes :P

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I can understand that feeling. I feel strange having to ask anyone to do anything special for me, and I know how demanding any job dealing with the public is, and maybe especially in the restaurant business. I have eaten out with people who are horrendously picky and it always embarrasses me. I always felt guilty by association, so to speak. So now, I have to be the picky one and ask all kinds of questions.

It was an adjustment learning to speak up, but remember that you are not doing it to be a pain in the butt. You are safeguarding your health.

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