Mireille's Journey To Health


Politely “Weird” – The Courteous Guest With Dietary Restrictions

place setting

Oddball.  Yep, I’ve been called that a time or two.  Weird.  Health Nut.  I’ve been called a few things.  Never rudely.  I’m very thankful for that.  Most people don’t find my healthy eating offensive… just different from what they’re used to.  For example, I remember going to a birthday party for one my little guy’s classmates.  They were serving Domino’s pepperoni pizza and a Wal-Mart birthday cake.  Typical birthday party food.  I didn’t have any.  I’d planned for the scenario that there might not be anything there that I would eat, so I’d eaten before the party.  I got a few confused looks.  The parents asked if I wanted any pizza or cake.  I told them I eat very clean because I feel better when I do.  This was before I knew I had celiac, but already, I knew certain foods upset my stomach and my digestive process.  They told me they don’t normally eat cake and pizza either, but that this was a birthday party.  It seemed they were trying to hint that because it was a special occasion, you were supposed to forget about healthy eating and should partake of Wal-Mart cake and Domino’s pizza.  I did my best to change the subject and take their minds off the fact that I wasn’t going to give in.

It seems, the easiest food situations are with really close friends and family.  At least they are aware of your diet.  Some are perhaps more supportive than others, but the preexisting awareness is helpful.  Not everyone is as understanding.  All of my life I’ve been allergic to peanuts.  Nobody messes with that one.  In fact, if you mention a peanut allergy, a lot of people panic and double check that there are no peanuts around.  Eating for overall health is something that some people will support and encourage, and others might really disapprove – for whatever reason.  I think people feel like if a meal is prepared and you’re not eating it does not meet your “healthy criteria” then you must think you’re better than everyone, or you must be ungrateful.  Now, since being diagnosed with celiac, I find people see that in an in-between kind of way.  Some people go out of their way to accommodate me with gluten-free foods.  Other people aren’t as familiar with celiac.  They don’t understand it’s a real thing.  They really don’t know how to approach it.  Eating with a lot of people is always interesting.

Casual settings are easier to deal with than formal settings.  For example, I have a military ball in just a few weeks.  It’s very formal.  The girls all wear gowns and the guys wear their dress blues or a tuxedo.  The meals are all catered.  There are speeches.  Like I said, it is very formal.  You can’t just eat before you go.  You can’t just pack a sandwich.

If you have dietary restrictions, whether for overall health, disease, allergy, or intolerance, you may have experienced anxiety on some level, knowing you had some type of food gathering to attend.  Will there be something you can eat?  Will they be offended if you don’t eat their food?  Should you bring your own food?  Will they be offended if you bring your own food?

Here are some tips to be a gracious guest, even with dietary restrictions:

  1. First and foremost, give the host as much notice as possible!  The host has invited you to be at this event, however big or small.  They want you there.  They want you to have a good time.  They really don’t want to serve you food that you can’t or wont eat, particularly if it will make you ill.  However, planning an event is stressful!  No matter how big or small, there is stress involved in planning an event.  Imagine being the host, making sure everything is planned just right, or so you thought, only to have your guest refuse to eat anything you took the time to prepare.  You’d be a little hurt or offended.  By letting the host know you have dietary restrictions ahead of time, you give the host the opportunity to prepare a dish that you could eat.  Or, perhaps, you could make arrangements with the host for you to bring a dish that meets your dietary restrictions.  The key point here is to do whatever you can to give your host ample notice, and avoid catching them off-guard.
  2. I mentioned that you could offer to bring a dish to share.  Let’s look at that further.  For pot-lucks, this is a no-brainer winning way to go.  Even if you can’t eat anything else, you can still eat what you brought.  Plus, at pot-lucks, nobody cares if you eat one dish and not another.  Pot-lucks are typically casual gatherings where dishes are brought by many different people and are often eaten buffet style.  There’s very little pressure to eat something that does not fit your diet.  In dinner parties where the host is preparing all of the food, let them know aboutyour dietary restrictions and offer to bring a dish that meets your diet so they don’t have to go out of their way to change their planned menu.  If you’d rather just pack a meal for yourself, you can let them know that you’re grateful for the invitation, are excited to be there, but would like to bring your own food because of your dietary restrictions, and ask them would they be ok with that.  If you’re attending a more formal event, such as the military ball I mentioned earlier, and they are not able to accommodate your dietary restrictions, you can ask if it would be ok if you brought your own food, though most venues will try to accommodate you, if given adequate notice.
  3. When you eat differently than everyone around you, you risk drawing attention to yourself.  It’s just one of those things.  This opens up the opportunity for people to comment on your diet.  Some people may be genuinely interested, and some people may rudely share their opinions of disapproval.  The best thing you can do is to divert the conversation away from the food on your plate.  Surely, there is something more interesting for everyone to talk about!
  4. Relax.  It can be so stressful going to a “food event” when you have a specific diet.  At the end of day, be gracious, be kind be friendly, and don’t feel pressured to eat anything outside of your diet.

Your diet doesn’t define you.  When you receive an invitation, it is because someone thought of you, and wanted you to attend.  Attend!  Smile, and enjoy yourself.  Worst case scenario, you can grab something to eat on the way home.  If you are friendly, polite, and kind, nobody will think you’re a prude.  Enjoy yourself!


4 comments on “Politely “Weird” – The Courteous Guest With Dietary Restrictions

  1. ranu802
    July 28, 2015

    Hi Mireille, it must be difficult if everyone notices you are not eating what is served at a party.I thought if you tell them about your dietary restrictions they’ll understand,Thank you for yet another interesting post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • mireillesjourneytohealth
      July 28, 2015

      Thank you, most people are pretty understanding, but occasionally you come across someone who doesn’t. Ultimately, though, planning ahead and notifying the host is key.


  2. amanpan
    July 28, 2015

    I understand. No nuts, sugar and some seafood for me. Some people don’t understand the seriousness of those with allergies or health issues relating to food.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mireillesjourneytohealth
      July 28, 2015

      Definitely. It’s nice that there’s more of an awareness of dietary restrictions now than ever before, but planning ahead is still so important.


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