The holidays are a time of celebrations, food and family, but they can also come with a heaping side of stress, especially for those who are on the gluten-free diet. If it’s your first holiday season since diagnosis, family dinners or work parties can feel particularly intense. While many choose to host holiday meals, which allows for more control, there are occasions where it’s necessary to be a gluten-free guest. How can you enjoy a holiday event without worry, and what strategies can you use to deal with family or friends who just don’t quite understand?
1. Breaking It Down
Traditional holiday celebrations almost always revolve around food, whether that’s a cookie swap party, after-work social or Thanksgiving dinner. The gluten-free diet can force an abrupt change in holiday traditions, and that can be uncomfortable for many. “Holidays are a time when you feel connected to family and friends, and there are a lot of traditions around food,” says Angelia Parsons, LISW, from Light the Way Christian Counseling in Bellefontaine, Ohio. “When you can’t full participate, it’s easy to feel alienated.” She suggests that family and friends often don’t know how to react to the new normal. “There are certain struggles in life that all of us can identify with, but not everyone has had to make significant changes in their diet.”
Katie Wallace, age 24, from Findlay, Ohio, recalls her first gluten-free Thanksgiving. “It was very confusing. At that time, we were still trying to figure out how to cook gluten free, so I felt like I couldn’t eat anything at all.” Her mom, Karen, recalls feeling a lot of fear. “I made a lot of the food myself that Thanksgiving because we were going to be eating at a relative’s home and I wanted to make sure she was safe. It was so scary at that time.”