“Excuse me,” I asked the server at a private event at a posh Seattle restaurant, “Can you tell me what you have here at the buffet that’s gluten-free?”
“The vegan table is over there.” The server waved his pointing hand.
I walked away, furrowing my brow. Doesn’t he understand that vegan is not the same thing as gluten-free?
Afterward, I spoke with a friend who had worked for years as a server for a fancy restaurant, and she said basically, high end restaurants look down on their customers with dietary restrictions, because they think we deliberately choose to avoid delicious food in favor of unsavory alternatives, because we are, idunno, uncouth people who love to be miserable?
Well, yes, I have made a choice. I have made a choice to feel as well as I can, rather than feel sick, out of it, or tired all the time. I know there may be some people in this world who can continue eating deep fried stuff, spicy foods and alcohol up until the day of their death, but I am not likely to be one of them, unless those foods end up being the things that kill me.
Here are some of the choices I have had to make over the years:
- A few years ago, I discovered that wheat (including the wheat in soy sauce) and barley malt both caused me to feel hungry, tired, and out of it. I prefer not to live my life like a starving zombie, so I avoid gluten containing foods as much as I can. I guess that makes me one of those gluten-avoiding bandwagon-jumping people everyone makes fun of now, eh?
- When I was in my third trimester of pregnancy, I couldn’t eat deep fried foods without getting heartburn. If you have ever had heartburn, you know it sucks and Tums can only do so much. Luckily, this period of my life was brief and people are usually sympathetic to pregnant women. Unfortunately, deep fried foods in any quantity beyond a few french fries are still likely to make me sick (I’m unsure if its from cross-contamination with wheat, gallbladder issues or what), so visiting fairs and carnivals isn’t as much fun now that I have to pack my own food.
- In recent years, alcohol has begun to not agree with me, especially sugary cocktails and white wine. I can handle a glass of red wine sometimes, but not always. I never quite know for sure if the wine is going to make me feel like a hungry crazy person, so generally I just avoid it. I guess that makes me one of those party pooper types.
- Last month after a colonoscopy I learned I really am at risk for colon cancer. It’s no longer just a mythical maybe due to family history. So now, in addition to colonoscopies every three years, I have to be judicious about consuming foods and drinks known to increase the risk of colon cancer, like red meat, processed meat, and alcohol. If I choose to be smart and care about my health, that is.
- The latest bit of news is that I’ve got bile sludge, which is painful and nausea-inducing for me. Fatty foods make it worse, spicy is scary, seeds are now the devil, and dairy products are super bad news for me at the moment. So trying to plan a night out to eat with my husband, I realized I was limited to…sushi. Which is fine, I like sushi, but there are so many awesome restaurants in Seattle and I am afraid to try most of them, because trying to find a restaurant that can serve me gluten-free, dairy-free, low-fat food is next to impossible. The alternative is to eat what I want, then feel like someone kicked me under the rib cage, and risk a trip to the ER if I get a fever along with the pain.
Having a limited diet is like being alone in a hot air balloon that is slowly lifting off into the air. As it gets higher, you can see all the people around you enjoying awesome foods and drinks you used to love, before you discovered how sick they were making you. It’s a very lonely feeling.
I would never have deliberately chosen to have a diet so different from that of the people around me. It is not fun to make a separate meal for myself when my husband and daughter are eating foods I used to like. It sucks to avoid events and activities because packing my own food can be such a hassle. I would never have chosen this for myself and I do not wish it on anyone. I do not enjoy feeling like some kind of diva when people look at me funny for packing my own food instead of eating what everyone else is eating. It saddens me to turn down your potluck item because it contains something I can’t have. However, the alternative…sickness and death…are truly not much of an alternative.
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