Brown Bagging It

I did something yesterday I forgot I used to do quite often. I brought my own bagged lunch to a restaurant.

At first, I was like, is this a first?! Then, I remembered I used to do that for YEARS while struggling at the start of our careers without much to spend on eating out. It was more of a financial decision than a food issue back then.

When I was a newly minted librarian, I had a lot of coworkers who would go out to eat daily. Every day! I didn’t have money like that rolling in (not sure they did either) and I felt terrible always saying, “No,” and regularly afraid they’d eventually stop asking.

One day I decided to say, “Do you mind if I join you and bring along my lunch that I brought today?” They had no issue with it, which was very nice, and the restaurant we had gone to that day was more of an order-at-the-counter type place.

From then on, for a few years after they always knew me as the “librarian who brought her peanut butter sandwich” out to lunch when I could make it out with them. I’d order a drink if I had extra money, but otherwise, I was never given an issue by any restaurants. They definitely were spending enough as a large group!

There was one professional conference I attended where I decided to switch things up; I brought cash! One of the librarians was shocked and immediately said, “Where’s your peanut butter sandwich?” She even said she kind of missed that I didn’t bring it as I inspired her to cut back on her own spending…

Cut to yesterday, and no one at all cared that I ate a protein cookie and a clementine for lunch out at a restaurant with a large group. Normally, I would’ve made something better, but I literally was wiped out this week (i.e. glutened on Sunday/Monday) so a protein cookie sufficed.

And then after they had no issue and embraced my choice (they know full well the constant medical issues I’ve been dealing with, probably TMI for them, ha) I realized, I can do this each time I go out in these situations. Duh! I literally did it for years and never once did a place give me an issue 🙂

Being diagnosed with Celiac has somewhat changed the game a little more for me. It’s a lot larger than just intolerance and feeling crummy. It’s literally damaging my intestines anytime I have cross-contamination in addition to the stomach pains, brain fog, skin rashes, and extensive exhaustion. This post by Iowa Girl Eats sums up pretty much how I’ve experienced the last few years and this new diagnosis (and it took her 4 years to write!)

There is such controversy over being gluten-free that I never knew existed prior to giving it up two years ago, and now researching more about the disease I must live with. It’s interesting how annoyed other people get with what I must not put in my body. I definitely know there is A LOT I can eat (vegetables, fruits, proteins) and truly the rest of it is probably no good for the body anyway.

If only everyone focused on the positive and how much is available, maybe they’d not get so stressed out over it. I know I’m not.

I actually never feel like I’ll starve or go without food 🙂 A few weeks without food might not be so bad for the waist… The stress I feel is when I don’t know what’s available to choose from, or how something may be prepared in a restaurant or in another’s home, despite how hard they may try. I’ve been “glutened” by the best of intentions, which always gives me a little anxiety about eating out.

And, to be honest, I feel awful when someone goes out of their way and it turns out that I cannot consume what they worked hard on or what they purchased at the store with me in mind. I’m not being picky, I swear! I was the biggest “everything in moderation” advocate for my entire life (I’ve never purposely dieted prior to the elimination diet…). I just cannot live with the consequences of the hours, days, and sometimes weeks after trying to be polite.

In order to deal with my own anxiety over social situations is to always bring something along I can eat! Simple! Fruits are perfect for this task! Bananas and clementines even come in their own wrappers 😉 Or I’ll just brown bag it.

Also, I’ve tried to ask about party menus ahead of time, but I realize that just makes people feel uncomfortable or awkward in their not understanding. So, unless someone is going to ask me what’s good (my sister is great at texting me all sorts of foods at the store when shopping to say, “Is this okay for you? I’ll pick it up for [insert party here].”) I am not going to make anyone else worry about it.

The only sad part about this all is… no more free food. I used to LOVE going to professional conferences, professional development days, parties, events, anything where food was served for free. It was the perfect time to save money on my grocery bill by eating everywhere else! It worked well for us in our early days when we had trouble making ends meet. It was nice to know I didn’t have to make food, plan a lunch, or even was able to bring home leftovers for dinner.

When, darn, this isn’t going to be so frugal anymore. Every conference I’ve been to in the past two years was filled with bagels or breads, or muffins, or full on sandwiches. I literally teared up a few months into my gluten-free life when I went to a workshop that has PANERA! on the table. My goodness. It smelled delicious!

I didn’t choose to live this way for sure. I don’t know who would rightly sign up for this lifestyle. I don’t like the attention it brings, honestly, and it makes every event feel like a landmine to walk through. I will however happily focus on improving my intestinal tract and focus on what I can have to take the best care of me. It’s so easy to say no to everything available when I know how amazing I’ll feel the next day.

Today I feel awesome for the decision to bring my own lunch yesterday. This post could’ve easily gone another direction or been nothing at all had I decided to give in and order food with fingers crossed at what clearly was not a Celiac friendly establishment.