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Don't Let Food Control Your Social Plans

Maybe you’ve been here before. Someone asks you to join them for a meal, or you’re interested in going to a potluck event or a party, but your first thought is that you can’t – because of the food.

This is something I still struggle with, especially when food allergies come into play. For instance, recently at work, the office lunch was pizza, rolls, stromboli, and a little salad. For someone with gluten and dairy issues, that doesn’t leave many options. (As a side note, the woman organizing the lunch did ask if I wanted her to get something else for me, since she knew I couldn’t eat much, but since I had other lunch plans, it all worked out.)

But does it follow that I have to let food control my social life?

When I think about it, the answer is no. (Well, not unless I want to use the food as an excuse to get out of something.)

This came up last weekend when I went to a brunch potluck. At first I debated about food. Lots of brunch items are egg, gluten, and dairy heavy. What if I didn’t find much to eat? Should I eat before I went? But then what if they had something I really wanted but wasn’t hungry for?

I took a deep breath. Then I reevaluated.

I calmly reminded the panicked voice in my head that I was only going to be gone for 2 1/2 hours. Even if I didn’t eat much, I would hardly starve.

Plus, I knew other folks attending were gluten-free, and they often had a good variety of food. And the gathering wasn’t really about the food – well, okay, maybe a little about the food – but more about getting together with other folks in intentional community for connection and thoughtful conversation.

I relaxed and decided to trust that everything would be okay.

My one concession to the voice in my head was having a small snack before I left, just so I wouldn’t be too hungry.

And you know what? It all worked out fine. One person brought some tasty baked oatmeal with nuts and fruit, another brought sweet potatoes, someone made chickpea bread, and I even had a little of the scrambled eggs for variety (but not enough to trigger a reaction).

I had enough to eat, and I wasn’t so food-focused that I couldn’t enjoy the social aspect. It was lovely.

Similarly, on nights that I have my book group, I always have a snack around 5 to carry me through until our dinner at 6:45, since that’s quite late for me. And I’ve also learned to adjust the size of a meal in case the next one needs to be earlier, or to bring a snack if an event seems like it might run long.

All of which reminds that I can adapt perfectly well to changing food situations. It does require some preparation, but the real key is not to panic. And to remember that sharing food should be something that brings us together, not something that keeps us apart.

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