This blog post shows the perspective of a customer who is new to coeliac disease that you may encounter when they dine at your venue. This will give you an understanding of what they are experiencing and enable you to be empathetic, communicating appropriately giving reassurance and a positive customer experience.
Guest post by Ali Walsh of Life On A Rice cake.
Getting a coeliac disease diagnosis can put you in a whole new world of weird. I should know. I’ve been there and got many hats and t-shirts. But by getting help early on, you can avoid some of the stereotypes below.
- Whoops! I did it again…
Did you accidentally eat gluten? Show me a newly-diagnosed coeliac who hasn’t. Maybe you didn’t realise it contained soy sauce (or that soy sauce was off limits). Don’t panic if this happens to you. Just learn from it and move on.
- Miss hospital corners
Let’s make our bed properly! This coeliac wants to find out EVERYTHING there is to know about coeliac disease and all possible (including highly unlikely) issues that may occur. And while it’s important to be informed (that’s why you’re here, right?) remember that anyone can put information online about coeliac disease and there are no regulators, so you need to learn whom to trust. And take it easy. One step at a time (or should that be bed sheet corner?).
- The ostrich
Burying their head in the sand, this person refuses to admit what’s happening to them. They’ll keep eating gluten no matter what. After all, what’s a bit of diarrhoea every now and again? And then (years later) did someone say small bowel cancer?
- Rage against the machine
Like the ostrich but with one crucial difference: their decisions are intensified by rage. They’ll be angry with everything, whether it’s food-related or not, each thought intensifying a notch in their forehead. Worse than the ostrich, not only are they endangering their body by eating gluten, they’re also likely to suffer from burnout.
- Blind ignorance
It’s easy to be ignorant when there are no side effects. If you’re a silent coeliac who can eat gluten and avoid the killer pain that many coeliacs endure, it doesn’t mean you’re any less sensitive to the effects gluten has on your body. A quick biopsy may tell a very different story. Remember: avoid gluten for life.
- Sherlock Holmes
Determined to investigate every possible reason for getting coeliac disease, this sufferer will go to great lengths to dwell on why they tested positive. Why? WHY?!!! Honestly? It just isn’t worth it. I put myself through something similar 20 years ago and realised I could be knee-deep in research for a very long time. My advice? Leave the investigating to Conan Doyle.
- The people-pleaser
So. Much. I. Could. Say. On. This. One.
Instead, just know that it’s not your job to make other people feel okay about your diet. You need to look after yourself. Stop putting other people’s needs first and imagine you’re organising your food for your child. Is it okay if they go hungry or aren’t catered for? No? Then it’s not okay for you, either. You matter.
- 24 hour energy
All fired up about the benefits of going gluten-free? That’s great, as long as you allow time to mourn the life you used to have, otherwise you’re setting up for a fall. If you’re pushing your feelings to one side, it’s important to seek professional help to explore the issues of loss.
Taking steps to change
Whatever type of reaction you have, please don’t waste time wishing you could feel differently.
There’s no “right” way to behave when you get coeliac disease.
That said, once you’ve acknowledged how you feel, there are things you can do to change your outlook, and I’ve got some nifty techniques to help that happen.
It’ll be great to get to know you!
A bit more about me…
Ali Walsh is the founder of Life on a Rice Cake, a website for people with coeliac disease.
Ali was diagnosed with both coeliac disease and IBS over twenty years ago. She is keen to educate others about gluten so they can eat and be catered for safely. Packed with valuable advice and straightforward strategies, Ali firmly believes there is a way to make life easier, no matter how difficult things might seem.
Ali is an accomplished speaker and writer, regularly appearing on BBC radio and often speaking at events in London, Bristol and Bath including the Allergy & FreeFrom Show, the FreeFrom Food Festival and Coeliac UK. She also writes for Gluten-Free Heaven.
A keen supporter of Coeliac UK, Ali featured in their Tales From a Gluten-Free Christmas campaign and raised money for them by running the London Marathon dressed as a stuffed crust pizza slice.
She lives in Bristol with her husband and two naughty little people who love covering themselves in chocolate.