Meet the energetic and incredibly friendly Amber. I don’t remember how we met, but Amber has been a great source of information for living with food sensitivities/allergies. She doesn’t allow the limitations of what she can’t eat stop her from enjoying all that life has to offer. Every delicious bite!
I consider myself a guru of gourmet on-the-go.
Hi! I’m Amber and I’m ecstatic to be a guest blogger for Jill! I’d like for you to think about how often meeting up with friends, families, or co-workers involves food. How often do celebrations, events, or functions involve food? Then, think about how food is interwoven into almost all aspects of our everyday lives. If any of this sounds familiar, then you can imagine the dilemma avoiding gluten can create.
Social Isolation, frustration, and moments of imposed starvation.
So, what’s a gluten free girl or guy to do?
B.Y.O.F. Bring Your Own Food!
At first, I was embarrassed by my B.Y.O.F. plan. I felt awkward as if everyone was staring at me and my lunchbox. I wanted to be invisible and have no one notice. In the beginning, I kept it simple and discrete. I only brought sandwiches or plain grilled chicken, but I was unhappy watching everyone else eat their not-so-simple meals. I decided if I was going to have to live like this forever, I might as well be brazen about it, right?
I started asking what food was going to be served, then would make my own version to bring. I no longer kept my food in a cooler in my car, but would ask the host to keep my food in their refrigerator and politely ask permission to use their microwave. If people were going to look at my lunchbox, then I thought it might as well be cute, so I bought a Vera Bradley lunchbox. Now people stare because what was on my plate, looked better than theirs! Instead of trying to avoid eyes and all the attention, I reveled in it. I used it as an opportunity to educate others about Celiac and the precautions that have to be taken. I felt confident and I no longer cared what anyone thought of me for bringing my own food.
Here is what I’ve learned:
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Never, ever, bank on there being “something” for you to eat. Gluten hides in many places and some hosts are unaware of these hiding spots! Why suffer or not eat when you can bring your own? It’s better to be safe than sorry! Plan your meal based on accessibility to a refrigerator, microwave, and your preference for having hot food to eat.
Invest in a few different B.Y.O.F. bags.
I have a few goodies that I use to take my food with me. Where I’m going, the refrigerator situation, and how long I will be gone determines which bag I use.
Talk to your host/venue/restaurant.
Open communication with your is your best bet! My dad always says, “ask and you shall receive.” Ask what is being served, you may be surprised at the options that are available to you. If there are no options for you, or there are very limited options, let them know you will be bringing your own. For a host, this lets them know why you are bringing your own, so you don’t offend them. This can be done prior, but if it’s a stranger’s house, well, save that conversation for when you get there and need to ask “where’s your fridge?” As for a venue/restaurant, these situations can be a bit trickier and work best when you do not need to refrigerate your food. Depending on the venue/restaurant some places will care, others won’t or they simply won’t notice. Luckily, I’ve had more experiences with the latter.
I’ve brought my own food to:
A wedding (hid it in my purse)
Fast food restaurants
Hotel (on vacation I had a hotel keep my bread in their freezer)
Stranger’s house (I was meeting them for the first time with my big cooler in tow)
St. Patrick’s Day festivities
Wegmans eat-in section
Only once was I told I wasn’t “allowed to” bring my own food and was asked to leave. Since I was there with a group, I refused, stating he still had five other paying customers and that I would order a salad so I would be a paying customer too. Other than that, I have had no problems bringing an entire meal or meal additions (veggies, grilled chicken, a gluten free starch option). I simply take it out when everyone else’s food arrives and add it to a plate or to a “safe” dish that I have requested.
Don’t Just “Get By” Replicate!
Bringing you own food doesn’t have to mean missing out on what everyone else is enjoying. Instead, make your own version! Like I said, I used to go through the motions and just bring a sandwich, but now I consider myself a guru of gourmet on-the-go. For Thanksgiving, I baked my own gluten free, dairy free pumpkin pie and mashed sweet potatoes. At backyard BBQs I bring my own burgers, bread, and sides. I am no longer embarrassed to B.Y.O.F. and I feel pretty awesome when people tell me, “Wow, yours looks so good” or “that looks better than mine!”
Don’t Forget Dessert!
Seriously though. It’s great remembering to bring your own meal, until they bring out the chocolate cake, cupcakes, cookies, icecream, and all the other delectable desserts that you know you can’t have, but are drooling over. At that moment, you feel like all your hard work and preparation goes out the window because you want nothing more than a slice of cake once that final birthday candle has been blown out. Don’t let dessert deprivation happen to you! Instead, make sure to find out if dessert is being served, and if so, bring your own. If you’re an avid baker, bake something for everyone if it’s a party type of gathering. Make it a point to have it be so good, they won’t know its gluten free. Or be a little selfish (cause hey, gluten free goodies are usually expensive) and make (or buy) a single portion of something that you would like to have while everyone else is eating dessert.
It wasn’t always, and still isn’t, smooth sailing. Sometimes I have to eat my food cold. I like cold food, but to others this may be a deterrent to B.Y.O.F.. I would rather have cold or room temperature food that I know is safe and tastes great than pick at a plate of lettuce. I have had strangers make nasty comments to me, endured glares of those who didn’t bother to ask why, and have been told to leave a restaurant.
It isn’t always easy having to bring your own food, but with the right attitude and arsenal of tips and supplies, it’s all worth it.
Amber is a twenty-three year old girl crafting up gluten free and (mostly) dairy free creations in her kitchen. She doesn’t let severe IBS or Celiac Disease hold her back from fueling her body with food that is both delicious AND nutritious. Life’s too short to live off of only salad! IShe blogs over at Eats and Exercise by Amber sharing easy recipes, positive vibes and body image promotion, as well as my love of fitness. She believes that in order to be healthy, you must first be happy and that comes from self-love and a positive mindset! For daily doses of inspiration, follow her on instagram @eatsandexercisebyamber.
Be HEALTHY. Be HAPPY. Be YOU.