On how to survive the holidays with a food restriction…

So, you have celiac disease. Welcome to the club. Or a nut allergy? Glad you’re here. Allergic to eggs? Fish? Wheat or soy? Well, I bet you fear the holidays as much as I do.

My name is Stephanie, and last year I was diagnosed with celiac disease. On top of that – I’m allergic to nearly every damn food on this green earth.

I was diagnosed October of 2015. The harsh reality of my food restriction didn’t hit me until I was eating Christmas dinner with my in-laws. While my in-laws were dishing up their food, I came to the harsh realization that I would never be able to enjoy another holiday the same way again.

When you don’t have any food restrictions, all you have to do for most holidays (or parties, or meals, or anything) is just show up. But when you might vomit/have diarrhea/go into shock from consuming the smallest quantity of some food item – you start viewing eating food with a group of people a little differently.

Last year, my holidays were sad because I didn’t know what to do. One year later, I’ve learned. I wanted to share what I’ve learned and recommend how you can prepare for the upcoming holiday feasts/potential reactions season. If you read this and have more tips/recommendations please leave them in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

1) If this is your first holiday with a restriction – it’s ok to cry… for a minute.

My ham brought me to tears. It brought me to tears because in a house full of food, it was the only thing I could eat. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it’s ok to cry for a few minutes. But then (and sorry to be so harsh here) you have to pick your ass up and get over it. No amount of crying is going to feed you. So feel sad, and then go find yourself some amazing food that you can scarf down. Wine is one of my go-to consumables.

2) When you come to someone else’s house – don’t expect to be able to eat anything.

Last year I somehow thought I could just eat the stuff that didn’t contain gluten. But then, I saw my GF cookies nuzzling the gluten-filled cookies. I thought I could just eat the turkey, but then I saw someone graze a plate of turkey with the stuffing spoon. Within seconds all of my plans were destroyed. The worst part was, I didn’t come with a plan B. Honestly – what is fair for me to expect? There are 20+ people at this event. It is unfair and unreasonable for me to think everyone should shift their plans for me. It is my responsibility to make sure my food is safe. I think this has been one of the most difficult things for me to overcome, but it’s gotten better.

3) Bring your own food.

I went to a Thanksgiving party a few days ago with my close friends, and I brought all of my own food. Everyone at the party knows my limitations, so they weren’t freaked out when I was munching on my own numnums while they were scarfing down the food I couldn’t eat. When you can – just bring your own goodies. Cheese and crackers are relatively potable, so are Lara bars. And I mentioned wine, right?

4) Eat ahead of time.

Realistically, you can’t always bring your own food. You’ll either look like a cheapskate or seem crazy. When you can’t bring in your own food, eat ahead of time. And if you don’t want to feel bitter about watching strangers eat the food you can’t enjoy – eat something AMAZING. That way, you won’t feel sad about Timmy eating bonbons because you’ll have had some GF pizza, or nut-free donuts, or whatever.

5) If you can, cook at your own house.

By the grace of God, we are hosting Thanksgiving this year. I won’t have to bring all of my own food. I won’t have to starve. And the best part – I won’t have to worry about when I’ll get sick from cross contamination.

6) If you’re cooking for someone with an allergy – ask them about their preferences.

I trust about three people to cook for me; one is a chef and the other two are super GF. It isn’t personal, it’s just that I can’t afford to get sick. If you want to provide food for someone with an allergy, just shoot them a message and ask them their preferences. And if they say “Don’t do anything,” please don’t be offended.

Happy and safe holidays everyone.

Captain Jack knows what’s up.