What to do when you are “uninvited” to Thanksgiving dinner because they don’t want your “nasty” gluten free food by your family?

First off let me apologize because this just sucks, there is no way around this. And, I honestly can’t even imagine any family coming out and being that rude; but, unfortunately family dynamics can be complicated at best. 

Clearly this family member has forgotten the real meaning of Thanksgiving. There is much more to Thanksgiving than the food, football, and family reunions. Thanksgiving is suppose to be an expression of gratitude, an expression of love, embody the feeling of unity, and coming together as a “family”. Unfortunately, your family has missed the mark and doesn’t understand that Thanksgiving is about more than the food…. In truth, you are not alone, coming from the different versions of this question that I have received. And, I’m sorry!

As a celiac, all too many people don’t understand this disease. I swear it’s the only disease that everyone seems to have an opinion about. You don’t see anyone being rude to someone who is suffering from cancer? And, in truth if you don’t take care of yourself you have an increase risk of getting additional autoimmune diseases and you are at a 30% higher risk of developing cancer because your immune system is so compromised (see the studies attached).

You, have made the decision to take better care of your health and other people may not truly understand this. There are several people who still think that going gluten free is more of a diet choice and think you can cheat once in a while. I have always said that there is a very big difference between going gluten free because you have to and going gluten free because you want to.

My guess here is that your family member just doesn’t understand how serious this is, to your health.  If they do understand and still chose to treat you this way - then they just don’t care (the time for sugar coating is long gone), Yes, that’s a tough truth to swallow; but, it’s time to face the reality of this and move on. 

If someone in your family treats you this way, the reality is that this has absolutely nothing to do with you being a celiac. There has to be lots of ‘other’ family issues between you that are not about to get resolved any time soon.

Something that is not often discussed about being a celiac is the fact that we have to learn how to stick up for ourselves, in ways that we never considered before. 

As a former people pleaser and shy girl, this was really hard to learn to do. I truly believe this bravado, if you will - only came when I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was so sick and I could barely function when a few extended family members tried to guilt me into doing things that I literally could not do. I just couldn’t force my body to do what they wanted and guess what the world didn’t end. 

It was that first step, that protective instinct for my health and really my life (at that time), that changed everything for me. And, now I am much more straight forward and comfortable with saying “no” and not giving a crap what other people think, even family. They don’t see me sick they don’t know how bad it can be, they don’t know how long it takes me to fully recover from getting glutened. So they don’t get a say how I live my life and how I chose to protect my health. These choices are on me, not them. If they don’t agree with my choices, I honestly don’t care.

That being said, where does that leave you? What options do you have, when it comes to being “left out” of yet another event. 

The way I see it is you have a few options…..

Option #1: Go anyway and bring your own food

I think this depends absolutely depends on who technically “uninvited” you. Perchance it is their first time hosting, they may be incredibly stressed out and really nervous about trying to make everything perfect (not that this is any excuse for the way they treated you). But, if that were to be the case then you have to decide 

Perhaps, the rest of your family is more supportive than the host, this year. This one family member is not speaking for all of your family.  It’s possible that the rest of your family has no clue that the host took this chance to hurt you. Could it be possible if they knew, they would be seriously upset with them. Now, I’m not by any means encouraging you to start a family war over this.

What I am suggesting to you is to be the bigger person and absolutely show up with a smile on your face and all of your food in a small crockpot or rice cooker (already cooked). I don’t give a sh*/t who they are. To say that you are uninvited to a family function, unless they are the patriarch of the family - they don’t have that right. 

And, you sure as hell should not give them that kind of power over you. (I’d also suggest bringing your own festive paper plates, utensils, serving spoons and saran wrap so that when the meal is finished, you can throw away what you used, wrap up your small cooker and get out of the kitchen.  Then, I would absolutely ignore the host the rest of the day.) Enjoy your time with the rest of your family and be grateful for those who love you and treat you the way you deserve to be treated. Talk about the way they treated you, at another time.

Option #2: Show up after Thanksgiving dinner and go for dessert only.

Sometimes when you have certain dietary needs, it can be just so much simpler to make your own food and enjoy it in peace. There is nothing like telling some people that certain foods are gluten free or dairy free that causes some people to crinkle up their noses and declare that your food is disgusting or gross without ever tasting it. I truly have never seen anything like it, but it happens every darn day. At this point, I’m use to it and don’t pay any attention to it; but, some people really become uneasy and bothered by this when this happens. 

I say enjoy your morning, watch the parade, eat your meal in peace and be grateful for all that you have survived, look forward to the health that you are working towards and then show up for football and pie, if that works better for you.

This was the norm for my family just about every holiday I had growing up. I was such a picky eater (we later found out that I had celiac disease). My mom never put that burden on the rest of my extended family to try and get it right for me. She knew what I liked and would eat and it was her way of loving me minus the family drama. So she would cook our Thanksgiving meal just for us. We would eat early, enjoy our meal together as a more intimate group which was always full of love and gratitude for our little family. Then we’d clean up and do the extended family rounds for dessert. 

Let’s face it, even if your family is supportive, you are still going to have to cook because you can not expect them to become gluten free experts and make safe food for you. That’s just not fair and way to much pressure for even those that love us and would do anything for us. Your health has to be your priority, so you have to find a happy middle ground when dealing with your family. 

Obviously, here bring your own gluten free pie or eat some before and just go for the family time. Thanksgiving is about so much more than the food and once you truly get that it frees you up to enjoy yourself even more.

Option #3: Screw them and create new holiday traditions of your own.

If you were “uninvited” by the family patriarch (or in another readers question, her mom) if option #2 is not going to work for you -  I would absolutely need a few minutes to come to grips with this reality, then I’d take a deep breath, pick myself off the floor and realize that I am not the problem, they are. 

Most likely you already don’t have a great relationship with them and this is just another nail in the coffin so to speak. It is absolutely your right and your choice to not let this become a literal nail in your coffin by going and making yourself sick because someone does not recognize your disease as a lifelong, real and serious condition. Yes, it can be difficult to navigate; but, if you were going to bring your own food then they are just plain being mean, hurtful and intentionally trying to harm you by not allowing you to bring your food. So guess what, screw them…. It’s time to start your own traditions without them.

If you were already planning to cook, then cook make a fabulous gluten free Thanksgiving meal. Invite “other” family members or friends over and have a wonderful day without the drama. If you belong to any kind of local celiac support group maybe you can invite some of them over and make them and this part of your new tradition. 

I’m not saying you need to cut these people out of your life; but, they have made the choice to “uninvite” you to this holiday. I’d suggest speaking to them in a few weeks and try to find out the real why’s they reacted this way and try educating them about how serious your condition is. And, then it will be your choice how you proceed in future for all holidays that large family dinners are held. 

I really hope this gives you a few ideas, dear readers. Again, I am sorry that your family is not more supportive of you and your disease. Maybe, it’s time to create a new “family” that is. I understand creating a new healthier version of ourselves can have crazy side effects, if you will - and sometimes those come in form of letting go of some sh*/ty family members and the old way of doing things. Have a happy Thanksgiving - your way!