As with any big change in your life, changing your diet is bound to cause you some anxiety, at least at first. Going gluten-free is a big step that may feel like it is taking you away from familiar comfort foods, while also distancing you from the people around you. Learning how best to talk to others about being gluten free is the first step you can take towards feeling more comfortable with your healthy dietary decision.
- Find a Succinct Way to Explain Your Choice – Rather than preparing a long speech comprised of all the reasons why you believe going gluten-free is the healthiest choice for you, and regaling others with tales of the specific ways your body can change as a result, remember that while it is an new and necessary life choice for you, no-one likes being lectured or feeling forced. To avoid causing tension between you and those close to you, if you have a medical diagnosis, try saying “I’m doing it on doctor’s orders,” or simply, “I’m allergic to gluten.” If you are doing this for personal reasons, try saying, “I’ve read that it can have a lot of really great health benefits, and was inspired to try it,” and then wait for them to show interest before proceeding.
- Wait for an Appropriate Moment – It is crucial that you wait to be prompted for an explanation or for a point when people are talking about food sensitivities or their own diet choices to talk about your own. At that point, you can feel free to delve into some of the reasons why you are going without gluten and the struggles you’ve had, ideally without including overly personal health information that may make others who don’t know you well uncomfortable.
- Don’t Pressure Others to Make the Same Decision – Pressuring others to become gluten free based on your medical needs or lifestyle choices can increase the distancing effect changing your diet can have, even if everything you’ve learned or read while undertaking this diet commitment yourself indicates that it would be beneficial to them. Avoid insisting that others should try it and instead stick to casually talking about the benefits it has had in your case.
- Have Ready Answers – To ensure that a conversation about your diet doesn’t become one-sided, prepare yourself to answer the questions a politely interested friend or partner may have, such as “how do you get the nutrients you need?” or “what foods can you eat”?
- Take Responsibility for Providing for Your Dietary Needs – One major stressor during social gatherings and holidays is providing for people with allergies, food sensitivities, or alternative dietary choices. Many people do not know that many foods are naturally gluten free. Indecision and stress about providing for you may cause them to react more negatively to you than they would otherwise do. By taking responsibility to provide safe alternatives for your social gatherings, you can help educate your loved ones and introduce the gluten free lifestyle in a non-threatening and undemanding manner. You can even surprise them by serving them foods they might not have guessed were gluten free, such as Ktoos cookies, which are really similar to Oreos, or gluten free pasta.
- Don’t Take It Personally – If someone reacts with shock or negativity to your diagnosis, or decision and expresses the disbelief that you need this diet or an opinion that you might be endangering your health, don’t take it as an insult to your intelligence. Instead, realize that they have been taught that foods rich in gluten are a necessary part of a healthy diet and, unlike you, have had no reason to research and find out otherwise. Patience and understanding of people’s misconceptions are an important part of keeping communication about your choice open and pleasant.
Maintaining friendly, casual and open communication about your diet will help prevent people from becoming confused and even potentially upset by it. That said, it’s also important to remember that those who really care about you will respect just about any decision you make, and to clearly and calmly tell alert others when you feel you are being too harshly criticized for your choice.