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21 Things That Can Happen If You're a 20-Something With Celiac Disease

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When you have celiac disease or dietary restrictions, life in your 20s can be a bit… unique. Instead of going to random fast-food joints with your friends at midnight and taking advantage of all the college pizza parties, you analyze tons of ingredient lists each week and are known for your “special diet.” And as someone who was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 17 and is now almost 25 years old, I’ve experienced the “quirks” of gluten-free millennial life firsthand.

That’s what inspired me to write this post about all the obvious and less obvious ways celiac disease or dietary restrictions impact a 20-something’s life. If you have dietary restrictions and are in your 20s like me, I hope this post makes you feel less alone and reminds you that there are people who totally get what you’re going through. And if you don’t fall into this category but know a 20-something with celiac disease or dietary restrictions, here’s a little peek into what aspects of their life are probably like.

1. You’ve gone to restaurants to hang out with friends, not to eat. (Or to eat a safe meal you’ve brought with you.)

2. You’re always the person in your friend group to choose the restaurant.

Thank goodness for the Find Me Gluten Free app, am I right?

3. In your college or extracurricular groups, you’re known as the *insert allergen here*-free girl or guy.

Especially if you go to a small college or live in a tiny town as I have!

4. You’ve had waiters assume you just avoid gluten or dairy or other allergens because you’re trying to be “cool” and “trendy.”

5. You have more advanced cooking skills compared to most people your age.

Especially if your college couldn’t provide safe food, you had a lot of motivation to learn how to cook for yourself!

6. You’ve tried to sneakily choose first-date activities that don’t include food…

7. …and you’ve shared awkward or unique conversations with your dates about your diet.

Like, in my case, telling my now-boyfriend that he had to brush his teeth before kissing me since he’d eaten gluten on our date.

8. You’ve been surprised by friends or friends’ parents going out of their way to make sure safe food is available during your visit.

If most 20-somethings with dietary restrictions are like me, they don’t expect people to go out of their way to provide safe food options. But when people do, it’s a wonderful — and memorable — surprise!

9. You’ve left parties or events early because everyone else is eating and you’re starving with no safe options available.

10. You’ve lost count of how many times peers have said, “I would die if I couldn’t eat *insert your off-limits-food here*.”

Note to people who can eat anything you want: we know you don’t mean to offend us, but suggesting that our diet is so limited, we should just give up on life is not helpful.

11. Your closest friends end up knowing almost as much about your dietary restrictions or medical condition as you do.

And they advocate for your needs along with you!

12. You may not spend as much money on eating out as other people your age…

13. …but your grocery bills could be higher!

Allergy-friendly alternatives can add up quickly — but check out this blog post to learn how to save money on groceries!

14. Going out to eat with your boss or coworkers often feels stressful.

Especially if they don’t know about your dietary restrictions beforehand…

15. You’ve met doctors who know much less about your dietary needs than you do.

16. You’ve shocked friends and classmates with allergy-friendly alternatives that taste like the real deal.

Repeat after me: allergy-friendly food can be delicious!

17. If you didn’t have dietary restrictions as a child, you still daydream about old favorite foods.

As weird as it sounds, I greatly miss Branflakes cereal.

18. Eating at your college cafeteria or studying abroad required a lot more planning and effort to keep you safe.

If you’re still in college and struggling to eat safely, I recommend checking out this post to learn more about your legal options.

19. You’re an expert when it comes to reading nutrition labels.

20. You sometimes feel alone and wish you could be a more “normal” 20-something.

Especially when you feel left out from a social event that revolves around food, or after you’ve accidentally eaten an off-limits ingredient.

21. When you talk to older generations of people with dietary restrictions, you’re grateful for how many more options and knowledge is available today!

And if you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or need to change your diet as a 20-something, know that it does get easier with time.

My Final Reminder to 20-Somethings Living With Celiac Disease or Dietary Restrictions

No matter how old you are, it’s easy to compare yourself to other people you age and feel like your life is limited because of your limited diet. But I know from personal experience that you can still live life to the fullest while avoiding gluten, dairy or other allergens.

And I hope this post reminds you that dietary restrictions don’t only affect your life in negative ways. They can also make you a better cook, a more confident advocate, a nutrition-label-reading ninja and much more!

This story originally appeared on Casey the College Celiac.

Originally published: August 18, 2020
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