Winning as a Gluten Free Weirdo

I like to think that I was pretty normal in my pre-celiac days. I worked hard at school, joked around with friends at lunch, and devoured a big slice of pepperoni-extra-cheese pizza when it was thrown my way. 

And then celiac entered the picture, gluten left and I became the girl who lugs an ice-chest to sleepovers and turns down homemade chocolate chip cookies. Yeah. I became one of "those." If I've learned anything since May, though, it's that rockin' the gluten-free-and-weird card is totally possible. And if this girl - the nerd who walks into walls and makes funny faces when stressed - can be cool, it'll be as easy as a gluten free piece of pie for everyone else. 

If I can do it, anyone can!

First rule: don't hide your weird habits, explain them. In college, social eating pops into my schedule more often than an essay (and as a writing major, my hand follows a pretty brutal exercise regimen). Midnight burrito runs, ice cream parties and club meetings dominated by Phil's BBQ...I've survived them all. 

Most days, I try the ninja approach of eating before or after. An awards ceremony last week, though, fell right during my dinner time. And I wasn't going to starve with the smell of pizza in my nose. So I brought my plastic Tupperware filled with fish, quinoa, and roasted vegetables to keep me company.  And when people asked or gave me that look-at-the-weird-pizza-hater stare, I told them the whole story

I told them that I love pizza, but pizza doesn't love me. I told them about my celiac disease diagnosis and that my stomach goes on a bender if gluten joins the party.  And we moved on

Maybe they're just jealous? 

The fact is that people love mysteries, whether in books or the latest oh-no-she-didn't gossip. And once you remove the veil, suddenly your weird plate isn't so interesting. They just feel bad that you can't eat the pizza. 

Next, find fellow weirdos! You can put a "wanted" sign in the newspaper, start asking around or just watch for another pair of eyes in a staring contest with a fresh brownie. In my case, geography played matchmaker for me and two other girls at PLNU with eating habits (and allergies/intolerance) as weird as mine! Because of our food sensitivities, the cafeteria chefs prepare our meals separately and deliver them to the same corner of the caf near the kitchen. 

When you stand in the same three foot radius during meal times, conversation becomes natural. And it did. And now we do more than wait together - we eat together, weird habits and all. One day last week, Kendall glanced around at our table of three and laughed. "We're the three weirdos," she said. "I weigh my food, you take pictures of your food and Payton eats her food super slow!" 

Weirdos unite!

We laughed too because while she was right, we had never noticed it before. Because, with us, no food habits - weird as they might be - cause a second glance. 

Finally, to really win the war over gluten free weirdness, embrace it! Yep, that's about as cliche advice as it gets, but it's only repeated because it works. At times, I hate celiac for making me even more socially awkward. No one wants to be the girl who lives off of lettuce at the pizza parlor or avoids food socials. As I've grown in my identity as a college student with celiac (compared to a celiac in college), however, I've learned that that celiac just makes me a little quirky. And that's not a bad thing.

As a writing major, I get a lot of advice on how to craft a story. One of the repeat offenders? Don't make a Mary Sue - or a character without flaws or eccentricities. In my mind, celiac is just the universe's way of pumping a little spunk in my step.

So rock the celiac swag
(feeding tube not recommended)

Because, sure, before celiac I may have been more normal. But growing up is all about experimentation, breaking expectations and change. And Casey the College Celiac has definitely - and will continue - to do that!

Do you feel "weird" at times because of dietary restrictions? How do you deal with the social awkwardness that can accompany celiac? Comment below! 


  1. Hey Casey,
    Thanks for sharing your story and advice on dealing with the "gluten free thing" in college. As a soon-to-be college freshman about to embark on my collegiate journey far from home, you have given me hope and optimism that I will be able to eat well and enjoy life as an undergrad. I've been a follower of your blog for a while, but thought I'd finally comment tonight to let you know how much your words have meant to me. Thanks a million, and keep on keeping on- you rock!
    Your gluten free friend,

    1. This sounds sappy, but I can't tell you how much your comment means to me. Hearing that even one post I've written has helped someone somewhere is what keeps me going, so that you so much for taking the time to comment! I wish you all the luck in the world for freshman year - even though you won't need it! Stay awesome! Casey :)


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