How to Survive Food-Filled College Socials

If there's one lesson I've learned from my (nearly) four years of college so far, it's that "social" is synonymous with "food." Whether it's friends getting together or a department award ceremony, delicious, gluten-stuffed food always receives an invitation. 

What's a college celiac to do? (Besides turn into a hermit who refuses to turn up to her own senior brunch). Divide and conquer - at least in terms of using my top four tips for celiac social survival! 

this gluten free college celiac's tips for surviving food-filled socials
Dun dun DUN!
1. First, research ahead of time. For instance, last week PLNU's literature department held its annual Senior brunch to recognize graduating seniors (and those who will be graduating a semester early and miss next year's brunch - AKA, me). After agreeing to attend, I asked the organizer about the food being offered.

That's when I learned my school's dining company would be providing brunch - and when I opted to bring my own food rather than ask for dietary accommodations. It's important to consider your past experiences with a company/restaurant/chef rather than trusting that any gluten free food they could *probably* provide is celiac safe

mud run 5k
Sometimes you need to bring out the big guns...
Also, it isn't impolite to distrust someone's "gluten free" food. It's a survival instinct. In my case, politely working with the caterers to "blend in" during the brunch wasn't worth possibly getting glutened right before finals week. 

2. If your research sets off your gluten alert, bringing your own food is the obvious next step. Wondering what to bring? Whatever you like eating!

Because I was attending a "brunch," I packed a green smoothie bowl in a large enough bowl that also allowed me to add my mix-ins (berries, chopped prunes, Enjoy Life trail mix and a little sunbutter) right on top. With some rice cakes and granola in a baggy on the side, my favorite meal became portable

This gluten free college celiac's tips for surviving food-filled socials
Looked something like this!
I know some celiacs like to inquire what the caterer will be serving and cook their own substitute. If eating a similar meal makes you more comfortable, do it! If not, just rock whatever food makes you (and your tummy) happy!

3. When you do pull out your own food, try to not worry about looking weird or out of place. Most of the people at my brunch already knew my celiac status (can you imagine trying to hide that for nearly four years!?!), but they still asked their fair share of questions. Most commonly: "What is that...umm...what are you eating?" Even writing majors can lose their eloquence once in a while... 

But everyone can enjoy their own meals and be happy!
So I told them the ingredients and we kept eating - and enjoying - our individual meals. Like with most things (appearance, comments, etc), we believe people care more about our "special" food than they really do. Heck, they may even be a little bit jealous (though with cinnamon rolls and scones on the brunch menu, I doubt it).

4. The most important part? Enjoy! Even though it was a bummer to not be able to dive into the yogurt parfait or quiche, I loved the senior brunch. I spent time with my friends who will graduate in only a few weeks. I talked about summer plans and grad schools and laughed when an elderly female guest hit on my Advanced Composition teacher.  

senior brunch at point loma nazarene university
A few snaps of the brunch...
And I listened as professors thoroughly complimented and embarrassed each senior - including me - and gave us hand-picked books with notes from our professors inside. The brunch ended with a bittersweet combination of tears, hugs and pictures. A preview of graduation, I'm sure. 

I won't lie and say that surviving social situations with celiac is a piece of (gluten free) cake. Even after years of practice, I still can still feel awkward, isolated or embarrassed at a pizza party

senior brunch at point loma nazarene university
Prayer can't hurt celiac social struggles either! ;)
But with a few tips up my sleeve and some gluten free goodies in my lunch box, I - and other celiacs - can not not only survive social events, but also thrive

How do you cope with social events? What food do you bring, if any? Comment below! 


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