Feeling awkward not eating at social events

A.C. Decker, MSW, LICSW

I do all the prep work before I go out to a social event like call ahead and ask questions, eat beforehand, or bring food. But sometimes, it just ends up that I can't eat what is being served and I feel so awkward when people ask why. Do you have any suggestions of what to say and how to feel less awkward?


It sounds like you are well prepared and doing what you can prior to attending an event. You have hit on all of the key points to ensure your safety. Eating beforehand is recommended when you don’t know exactly what the situation will be or you can have a backup protein/snack bar in your pocket just in case.

For smaller gatherings, as you mentioned, it is helpful to offer to bring some food you know you can eat. In either situation, you can call ahead and find out more details to  find out if there will be food you can safely eat. It is helpful to have a list of questions that you use regularly in these situations to uncover cooking protocols, food handling and more information which can guide you on how to proceed. Once you have done all this, there are still times you may have to skip the food offered.

As you said, it can be awkward, but with practice and some thought ahead of time for events, it will get easier. It is important to be open and up front about your situation. Most people don’t understand what an autoimmune disease is so it is OK to say that it is like an allergy in order to create a better understanding of what may happen to you if you consume gluten. The hardest part is being confident without appearing rude. So, it is recommended to keep it simple, thanking them for their efforts and giving a clear explanation.

You could say:

  • “I have celiac disease and cannot have any traces of gluten. If I do, even accidentally, I get very sick and it can take days for me to heal.”
  • “Thank you very much for working so hard to make the food today, unfortunately, my allergy makes me be very cautious. Even a small amount of gluten will make me very sick.”

Published November 1, 2023

Note: This information is provided by NCA and A.C. Decker, MSW, LICSW. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or A.C. Decker, MSW, LICSW by providing this information.

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