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24 Comments

  1. 1

    Tara

    The tricks I use are my knuckles and long sleeves. I use my knuckles to open and close refrigerators, and the microwave. I use my long sleeves to open doors. I put paper towels down on the table in the lunch room so I don’t accidentally touch the table that may have not been thoroughly cleaned in a while
    I clean my workspace off every morning and leave a little note to whomever uses my area on the weekends that this is a gluten free area. I am not sure if they abide by it, but I clean it every morning before I even sit down.
    When there are potluck days I bring a full lunch for myself and a contribution, but I never take home the leftovers, and I always get what I want before others can put their non gluten free hands in it.
    I also wash my hands all the time.
    I always say “no thank you” at the offer of food and if they press it let them know that I have celiac.
    One coworker scoffed and said that it was overrated and I said well then I should eat (fill in the blank) and then have diarrhea for two weeks straight. That shut him up. Kind of graphic for work but he pressed it.
    I don’t know if this is all working but I’m not sure what else to do.

    Reply
  2. 2

    Jennifer K.

    I have my own scrub brush to wash my plate daily and keep it in my office. That way, I know I have a dedicated plate and cleaning tool. I use paper towels and soap to pre-wash any other dishes I might use before using. I use my knuckles to punch the buttons on the microwave and wash my hands often. I just don’t share…EVER! And if I do bring something to share, once I offer it is no longer safe for me, that is my mindset.

    Reply
  3. 3

    Donna Schaffer

    That college humor video is perfect !!! Thanks for sharing it. I have ran into every single one of these people!! Sad but so very true!

    Reply
  4. 4

    Christine

    I am fortunate that I work in a small company (about 50 employees) and everyone has been understanding for the six-plus years since I found out I have celiac. When we have staff lunches ordered in, those who order know about my dietary needs and will ask me what I want to be sure I have something as well. The toughest part is traveling to the convention we host, especially the years it is in New Orleans (which it will be again in February). But I never hesitate to ask questions — many, many questions if necessary — and usually end up eating the same thing at the same restaurant night after night after night (since I’m there about 10 days). Better to be bored with the options than sick from something if I didn’t ask enough questions.

    Reply
    1. 4.1

      Martha K

      I am also lucky this way at work, Christine! I was diagnosed Celiac 17 years ago (At this company for 25 years – which is big part of why it’s generally pretty easy for me).
      I long ago let my coworkers know that if we have goodies and I there”s not one I can eat, I’m truly ok! They occasionally apologize about a cake or brownies, etc. for small birthday celebrations in my area of the building – but I keep good quality gf chocolate at my desk for just such occasions.
      They often will get something from a local cupcake company with dedicated GF cupcakes available… and n my birthday they go to really sweet lengths to get proper GF treats! I like them very much :).
      Our whole-company functions which involve food usually have GF, DF and Veg options. Yay, California! ;)

      Occasionally someone will offer me something that I politely decline, an mostly they don’t get offended. I can tell them I can’t eat it – but then the false guilt, or the all too long conversation when I just wanna eat in peace – those things happen. And at one point, the lunches I left in the freezer were getting stolen – I wanted to strangle the thief. I started putting very terse “DO NOT EAT” notes on my food. But, for the most part, people are pretty cool.

      One more agreement – asking questions – yes!! I always say a friendly, “Sorry folks – I may have to send the server to the kitchen with a question or two! ” and it usually keeps people from being annoyed by the delay.
      THANK goodness!!!

      Reply
  5. 5

    Cyndi Ivy

    I’m in retail management. We have a shared kitchen, and management eats in the office. For any meal, I keep my eating utensils in my back pocket so they don’t touch anything. I cover my food in the microwave, and wipe the outside parts I will touch with a bleach wipe before I open it. Once in the office / management area, I’m a little more comfortable but still don’t touch anything directly other than my fork and plate. Other than meals, I do not snack on anything I have to touch directly with my hands. And I wash my hands constantly, never touch my face with them regardless, and use hand sanitizer a lot if I’m going to be away from the sink areas. My coworkers forget I have celiac disease because of the way I handle it – every once in awhile someone will comment that they notice how much I do to protect myself. I have gotten cross contaminated from a pizza eater double counting the cash deposit behind me, me touching it to actually drop it, and then eating popcorn without having washed my hands.

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  6. 6

    Becca

    I am very lucky to be a somewhat corporate coordinator at my company and I’ve subtly made a lot of comments at having more gluten free options and asking for dietary restrictions from others, but you can never feel bad for telling someone no, you can’t eat that. If you live like that like pity eating it’s just not worth it, with the amount of working mothers in my workplace they like to learn and try to help. Drives me crazy though to this day that people still try to relate when they give up gluten to be ‘healthier.’ Not the same thing

    Reply
  7. 7

    Lisa

    Wow, you guys make me feel lucky for my coworkers. They let me pick all the lunch places, they went to the gluten free bakery to buy me birthday goodies and they never make me feel like an outcast.

    I’m also the envy of my entire office because of the “fancy” lunches that I cook for myself.
    Hey, they do call me picky but I have to own that one on all levels.

    Reply
  8. 8

    Jennifer

    I currently work in a library and I’m the only employee, so the microwave is automatically safe. However, if the board decides to go out to eat (as they are tonight) as a group, I’m stuck. The only place in town to eat is the local bar. I’m not sure it’s safe, so I’ll get a drink and that’s it. I just don’t relish the idea of throwing up for the next 24 hours and being in a gluten-induced fog for the next 3 days! Occasionally, we have events that include food. In those cases, I make sure that any gluten-free offerings (if we have them) are kept separate from the gluten-containing food and that I eat beforehand just in case.

    Reply
  9. 9

    Sarah

    I carry my breakfast and lunch to work in grocery bags. My food is in containers. As for utensils, I buy the pre-packaged utensil sets and throw those in the bags with my food when I need them. Keeping food in containers keeps residue from surfaces from getting on my food. I can’t wipe down my desk because it’s a rough surface, so I can sit the containers on the desk and prevent food from touching it. If I have to sit food out, I put down paper towels first.
    Residue also gets onto my mouse and keyboard from my and others’ hands, so when I eat meals, I use one hand for handling the mouse and keyboard and the other for eating. I can’t clean the mouse and keyboard off either, which I found out the hard way. I have my own soap dispenser at work that only I refill. I made sure to put my initials and the message “DO NOT REFILL” on the dispenser, and it’s worked well so far. I don’t have to worry about someone mishandling the pump and then contaminating the soap. I also get water from the tap, after I’ve washed it, rather than getting it from the water cooler because I believe someone may have gotten residue on it when cleaning it. Same for the water fountain. We fortunately have a sink inside the office area, so I can go there to wash my hands and can go back to my office without having to touch anything. When I have to go outside and use the hall bathroom instead, I use a paper towel to handle the door and my keycard to get back in. When I get soda from the vending machine, I always wash the can with soap and water before opening it. When I need to wash cups and other dishes, I just use the bathroom sink and the foaming soap dispenser and wash them with my bare hands. It’s a little easier to use the soap dispenser there because I can activate the dispenser with my elbow. I’ve not had any issues leaving my food in the community fridge or using the community microwave. I just wash my hands before I touch food. There have not been any business lunches, but there have been plenty of fun gatherings involving food, and I just hang out with the group and then eat my lunch in my office later. We used to have really nice Christmas luncheons, but for the last several years, organizers have been purchasing tickets for us to eat a really nice meal at one of the dining halls on campus. (Side note: I work at a university.) There’s just no way I can participate in that, so I just stay in my office. When there’s been enough time, my supervisor has been kind enough to let me use a conference room to watch a movie during the luncheon. Someone else stayed behind as well one year, and we watched a movie together. That was pretty fun, but I hated missing out on the luncheon. I tried contacting the dining hall about getting safe food and never got back a response, so I just gave up on the idea. I’ve had to work through a lot to be able to eat safely at work, and I believe that my efforts are finally paying off. I just have to be really vigilant and really careful.

    Reply
  10. 10

    hetty

    I have it pretty easy as I make and bring my own lunches. Don’t share food, don’t use microwaves. My co-workers are quite often curious of what I am eating as I am doing the AIP right now as no gluten just didn’t do it for me.

    Reply
  11. 11

    Stephanie

    I work in an office environment. I wont use the microwaves or refrigerators at work, but on sundays i prepackage in bags cold items for each day of the week and prebrown bag for each day of the week. In the morning i grab a brown bag, ice packs and the bag from the frig. Toss is it in a cooler and roll. At first this didnt work great as i had to experiment with the what and how much to pack, but i found that if there was a grain (not gluten, think gf crackers) for carbs, sweet like fruit for sugar, and meat or peanut butter for protein it worked. Missing on of those three though, not so well. As for utensils I use plastic. Every once in a whilw there is travel for a conference for example but in those cases i just research ahead and pick hotels based on gf options in hotel restaurants so i can get to it easily. Usually in those cases though theyre in pretty major areas which makes things easier. Since the corporate card picks it up i can also pay enough for the meals in those cases to get decently knowledgable chefs as well. Really like those conferences actually. They cook for me and i dont have to pay for the know how 😀 All in all though i still wouldnt give up the conferences, but would be much easier, less time consuming and healthier from home still though. Times i do work from home i still eat better and more. But im not poisoning myself and am eating there as well so it could be worse.

    Reply
  12. 12

    Liane

    I travel for my job. I actually keep food in my purse just in case. I never expect when food is brought in that they accommodate me. I never starve and find if I can’t eat what is provided, I can easily mingle with everyone. I keep gloves in my desk in case I have to touch cookies or bread. I get extremely tired of explaining my disease though. I try to avoid the word “diet”. That is always seen as weight loss. So when I have to plan a dinner with employees and clients I say I have to watch what I eat. The bread basket is passed and I normally just pass it. I try very hard not to call attention to what I can and can’t eat. When people find out, the first question is “what happens when you eat gluten?” Not the discussion I want at dinner with customers. I normally tell them it isn’t dinner conversation.

    It is not easy in the office with Celiac disease. But can be handled. Oh and when I travel alone I don’t go out to eat. I go to a grocery store. My company loves my expense report!

    Reply
  13. 13

    Sybil Nassau

    I like the way Mary and many the other writers handle their celiac situation at work. Sounds like what I teach my classes- call ahead to restaurants, state your needs quietly to owner, chef, manager, staff. Do not expect anyone to provide for you- learn to provide for yourself.. etc, I would like to add, be gracious when you refuse food; be pleasant and don’t tell more than you have to explain WHY when pressed. This is what being in a support group teaches and what you won’t learn on the internet.

    Reply
  14. 14

    Tara Reece

    It really sucks that a portion of our brain has to always be active and aware about gluten does it ever become second nature?

    Reply
  15. 15

    Richo

    I just had to get HR involved, to get my team to stop inviting me to inappropriate venues for team lunches.

    It started back in November 2016, when a senior executive was visiting from interstate, and asked to have lunch with us all so she could get to know us in a social setting. My then team leader booked a pizza/pasta restaurant which could not offer a gluten free option that was guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. My then team leader knew that before booking the venue, because she had previously directed me not to join an earlier team lunch at that venue, because she didn’t want me getting sick.

    Not unnaturally, I think, I complained at the choice of venue. Our employer’s policy is that the lunch should have been inclusive, as it was a work lunch.

    The meal went ahead at the non-inclusive venue, and I missed out on the meal, and the opportunity to network with the visiting senior executive.

    But HR got involved as a consequence. One of the outcomes was I did a presentation to my team in December 2016, where I explained what I could and couldn’t eat, the kinds of places that were best able to cater for my medically restricted diet (since I also have a life threatening soy allergy). I also got a new team leader, who is not located in the same city as I am.

    To my ex-team leader’s credit, she has never repeated her behaviour, and has actually become my champion in the workplace. Unfortunately, though, other colleagues have not followed her example.

    In the period between my presentation in December 2016, and July 2017, out of five team lunches, exactly zero of them were held in venues that could cater for my medical restrictions. One of those team lunches was to celebrate my birthday. Yes, that’s right, I couldn’t go to my own birthday lunch because it was not held in a venue that catered for my coeliac disease. This is despite me being able to reel off a list of at least 4 restaurants which had allergy menus or actively worked with the Coeliac Society to reduce cross-contamination.

    In July 2017, I got fed up. One of my colleagues was pushing an inappropriate venue, and when I told her that I couldn’t eat Asian food because of my coelicac and my life-threatening soy allergy. Her boss emailed me and asked me if I wanted to go to a different Asian restaurant. Then my colleague went ahead and booked me a place anyway, in case I changed my mind. I cracked it deluxe and asked that they stop inviting me to inappropriate venues. I explained that it was similar behaviour to repeatedly offering me plates of food I couldn’t eat, and I was finding it rude. I also added that no means no. I will not wake up that morning and decide I feel less Coeliac.

    My workplace declined to stop inviting me to inappropriate venues, citing my earlier complaint about missing out on team lunches. If anyone understands the logic of that, please let me know, I am still puzzling over that one.

    My workplace also tried to argue that my coeliac disease and my soy allergy are not disabilities, which is technically correct so far as the soy allergy goes. (The allergic reaction itself is not a disability under Australian law, but the immune disorder that leads to the allergic reaction is.) I was told there was no discrimination, because I wasn’t being omitted from the invitation list, and I was being treated the same as the rest of the team. I was also told, in a huffy tone (with crossed arms and accompanying eye-rolling gestures), that “People just want to go out and have fun”, implying that my disease was making things less fun for everyone else.

    In August 2017, I was invited to yet another inappropriate venue. By this time, my “fight or flight” mechanism was going into overdrive as soon as I saw the words “Team lunch” in an email subject line. So I got smart.

    Firstly, I went and saw a new allergy specialist. Up till then, my coeliac and my soy allergy had been managed by my GP, but we both agreed it was time to get a specialist assessment. After my first appointment, I sat down and wrote an email, outlining the “latest medical advice”, which was exactly the same as the old advice except now “chickpeas” were added to the list of foods to avoid. I made it clear that avoid meant zero consumption and zero skin contact. I also made it very clear that the substance of what was discussed in the consultation was private, except to add that there was ongoing testing to be done, and that the medical advice may be updated at a later stage. I also added that for the foreseeable future, I would not be going to any more team lunches and I did not want to be involved in any more discussions about planning team lunches.

    I also reminded HR and my workplace that my employer has a workplace health and safety obligation to provide me with a workplace that is free from hazards, including psychological hazards.

    Much to my surprise, my workplace capitulated without much further argument. Even more surprising, I got an apology from my workplace. (They are lawyers, they almost never apologise.) It seemed she had not made the connection with my restricted diet and why I wasn’t going to team lunches. I was very proud of myself for not screaming at her that I had been telling her for months what was wrong with the venues being chosen. We agreed I would not be included in any invitations or food discussions. We also agreed that sometimes mistakes would occur, and if I was accidentally involved I would politely but firmly remind the team I am not supposed to be involved in these discussions.

    I also got an acknowledgment that I did suffer workplace disadvantage by not being able to participate in team events, and I got a committment that we would work with HR to find ways to overcome these disadvantages.

    I think for me, in my current workplace, this is the best arrangement we can have.

    Reply
  16. 16

    Richo

    I should also add that my workplace and HR also came up with a number of accommodations to help keep me safe in the office. I am getting my own phone headset, which is locked away when I am not in the office. I am also allowed to bring in food handling gloves so I can clean up suspect spills without getting stuff on my hands, and I am allowed to keep baking sheet in the kitchen to create an instant clean surface on a benchtop. I am also allowed to keep my food in a large tupperware container in the fridge, marked allergy-free, and if anyone interferes with the foodstuffs in the container, I should report it right away. We are also working with our facilities people about signage in kitchen areas, and getting a sign for my desk asking people not to eat or drink there in my absence.

    Reply
  17. 17

    Gord

    I am a financial advisor in a small town so am able to go home to eat at lunch so have no issues there, but we are required to travel out of town for upgrading all of the time, so this has been my issue. I’m a guy and don’t carry a purse so it is hard to carry “back-up snacks” around. I had a two-day conference recently with lunch brought in. A year ago at this same event I had pre-arranged for a celiac meal but after eating it I was sick for a week, so I have no trust in them anymore. This year I planned on bringing my own lunch but was shy about carrying around a lunch bag all day (we have to go to several rooms throughout the day). My solution was a laptop bag with my lunchbag inside it. No-one other than the people I ate lunch with realized that I had my lunch with me. I hate people making a fuss over me, but I hate having migraines for a week even more. I have only known of my illness for 3 years, but now that I know the symptoms it has bothered me my whole life, just got progressivly worse. It took me a while to realize that I had to look out for myself, ahead of worrying what others thought. I basically only eat my own food now and have way fewer incidents. It is really hard for anyone that doesn’t either have it, or has a family member with it, to realize the breadth and depth of care needed to make something gluten free. But it is my body and if I can’t be 100.00% sure it is safe I will not eat it anymore. 99.99% isn’t good enough.

    Reply
  18. 18

    Julie

    Reading all of these comments I’m getting annoyed with myself for not already doing some of these things. Every time I do something stupid without thinking (like use a ketchup bottle at a restaurant) I wind up berating myself because after 10 years I should know better. It’s exhausting thinking about all of the ways that you can get sick!

    Reply
    1. 18.1

      Sybil M Nassau

      It’s not the ketchup inside so much as the bottle becoming contaminated from all those grubby hands handling their burger roll then the bottle. So keep a few plastic disposable gloves in your purse and use one to handle the bottle of any seasoning- OR a grab with a few napkins. Wash your hands before eating your meal. Or keep a few of those small packages of mustard, mayo and ketchup in a plastic bag in your purse or lunch bag. Problem solved- you will never be 100 gf while eating out but you can cut down on ways to become contaminated.

      Reply
  19. 19

    Cali Celiac

    How ironic! I was out of state and off the grid (in Utah exploring Zion, Bryce and other wonders with my daughter) for the last week so I just read this today and coincidentally, we are having a going away potluck for a long time employee. I do not participate in group lunches or potlucks, period. The last time I ate at a company function I glutened myself and decided it just wasn’t worth it. Too complicated and in just 1 year I’ve already grown tired of explaining CD.

    I work a compressed work week so I work 12 hour shifts which means I have to pack breakfast and lunch for work. I use plastic or glass containers and microwave my food in those containers, using my own utensils from home. So far I haven’t resorted to using wipes for surfaces, maybe I’m just lucky and not as sensitive to surface contact. I’ve only eaten at 3 restaurant since my diagnosis, mostly avoiding the whole eating out ordeal. I found a gluten free restaurant in Kanab Utah while there and went for dinner to find out they only serve breakfast and lunch, went the next day and found they are closed on Weds. Sigh! I used to be a big time foodie, but CD has taken most of the joy out of eating. I spend way more time shopping, planning and preparing meals, but enjoy them less. I would love to get off the Celiac roller coast even for one day and eat what I want without worrying or getting sick. Maybe a get out of Celiac jail for free for one day card!

    Reply
    1. 19.1

      Dick L.

      I certainly agree with your observation ” I used to be a big time foodie, but CD has taken most of the joy out of eating”, at least as it pertains to eating in general restaurants. Do seek out totally gluten free places– the feeling of being almost normal again– eat anything on the menu– is wonderful. And better luck next time on getting to one while it’s open.

      Reply
      1. 19.1.1

        Cali Celiac

        Thanks Dick. I live near Sacramento Cali, which likes to bill itself as the “farm to fork” capital of Cali, with dozens of new and trendy restaurants, but still very few with Celiac safe GF items and only 2 dedicated GF (Pushkin’s Bakery and recently opened Pushkin’s restaurant). I’ve been trying to figure out how to get more restaurants to carry Celiac safe GF food, but the trend is towards fad diet GF, not Celiac safe. Sacto also has a lots of craft brew companies now, but not one GF beer available from any of them. I’m open to any suggestions of ways to motivate owners to carry GF. Anybody?

        Reply
  20. 20

    Jes Lin

    Have no shame! That’s the best advice I have for dealing with Celiac in public situations, including the workplace. I never try to hide or apologize for my disease :) I also have come to terms with the fact that there will always be people who don’t get it or make rude comments. Instead of getting worked up over it I’ve learned to walk away and do what I gotta do to take care of myself, even if that means being left-out sometimes.

    I bring my own breakfast and lunch to work. I have my own set of utensils in my drawer and bring my own sponge to wash them with (no need to use disposable utensils every meal and create so much unnecessary waste!). I have a mat I lay out in the kitchen to put my stuff on so it doesn’t touch the counter and just make sure to wash my hands before I eat. When people ask questions I tell them :) There are luckily a handful of restaurants nearby that are celiac safe so I can buy my lunch when needed.

    To be honest, I have a crappy team who doesn’t get the severity of Celiac Disease and the concept of cross-contamination. They always want to go for team lunches at the trendy places and unfortunately those places are unsafe for me. So, I just tell them straight up “There is nothing safe for me to eat there”. If they won’t change the venue then I go, have a drink, and eat when I get back to work. I do make it clear that I would prefer to be included AND be safe and I also educate them as much as possible but sadly many people role their eyes at celiac. Instead of making a huge fuss out of it I just find ways around tricky or unfavourable situations while being straight up with what I can/cannot eat, not apologizing (it’s not my fault I got stuck with this crappy disease!) and still always try to educate people.

    For work potlucks I bring something vegan and gluten free so I can engage in discussions about being Celiac (and vegan!) and show people that I can eat ‘normal tasting’ things that just need to be modified a bit and also to spread awareness about celiac and the severity of it. I serve myself first and bring a container of safe food to subsidize and enjoy the company. I ignore any weird looks and stares, and I’ve prepared great responses to any nasty or sarcastic comments (even after all this time I still get some of those…sigh).

    If I get invited to a lunch meeting with a client I tell them from the get-go: I have food restrictions so would it be ok if I chose the restaurant? or Would you mind doing coffee instead, I have food restrictions so I am unable to eat out. If its a bigger group I just call the resto beforehand to see what I can eat. Usually there is a safe salad available and again if not I just grab a drink and bluntly tell everyone my condition and not to worry about me, I ate before coming!

    Celiac is annoying and inconvenient and honestly does suck….but we’re stuck with it so may as well own it. Tell people your needs. If they won’t budge do what you gotta do for you and never apologize or feel bad about your needs and restrictions.

    Reply

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