In a society where the word "no" has little to no meaning, it is no surprise that those of us with allergies have to stretch the truth every once in a while. When your co-workers want you to join them at lunch but you know they chose a restaurant you can't eat at, the questions never seem to end.
"Aw, why not?"
"You can just eat a salad or something."
"You could just get a drink."
The situation intensifies until you give them an answer--anything but the word "no." When you personally know the host, you have to list more reasons than you should to a room full of people. One of the unfortunate realities of living with food allergies is that "no" is never an acceptable answer when it comes to rejecting food.
Here are twelve lies we have all told before!
1. "I'm not that hungry." or "I'm full."
As a general rule, social gatherings are usually centered around food. We're all too familiar with that sick feeling in the pit of our stomach once we eye the food table, and watch others line up to serve themselves. Try as we might, simply holding a drink in our hand is never enough for the host or other guests in attendance.
When asked why we aren't eating, we usually say we aren't hungry or are already full. If we tell the truth, it leads to more questions and attention that we never wanted in the first place. So instead, we give a believable answer so we will be left alone, and can enjoy the event.
2. "I ate before I came."
Instead of saying no to food, or explaining why we don't feel comfortable eating, we lie and say we already ate. After giving this response, there is generally less pressure to eat at all, and will often be encouraged to consume as much of the drink options as we want. People simply want us to participate so they feel like everyone is included. Even if you hate that strange-flavored, grab a cup, fill it up, and hold it so people will leave you alone.
3. "I'm eating after."
Maybe you are at a drop-in get together around dinnertime. Instead of eating what's been provided, you lie and say you plan to eat after the event is over. You might even throw in the name of a restaurant to make it sound more convincing. If people have multiple plans in a day or evening, the host of the first event is less likely to pressure you into eating because they don't want to ruin your appetite.
4. "I have plans later."
If you are dropping in at a casual gathering and mention that you have plans after the fact, there is less pressure to eat and drink. Maybe there are free donuts or pizza at a club meeting for those in attendance to snack on. Saying that you have dinner plans afterward lets those in charge know you are saving room for later and usually won't pressure you to fill up right then.
5. "I'm watching what I'm eating."
It's not a perfect excuse, but people are more likely to accept this lie than you telling the truth. The unfortunate reality is that people have more respect for those dieting than people with legitimate dietary restrictions. Since people refrain from eating different types of food while dieting, this lie can apply to almost any social situation whether it's an office party or some other gathering.
6. "I'm a picky eater."
Again, people are more likely to stop pressuring someone to eat if they think you genuinely won't like the food than if you physically cannot eat the food. Technically it's not really a lie though. If you are a person with a particular taste in food, this excuse always works, and if you are picky about the foods you eat because you want to keep yourself safe, it's still truthful. People respect picky eaters so leaning into this can ensure you will quickly be left alone.
7. "I don't think it's safe."
Perhaps the people hosting know you have allergies but don't like hearing "no." Instead of asking about where the food came from etc., simply saying you don't feel comfortable eating even if you are curious about the food's history allows you to have control. Some might bend over backward or try to pressure you to eat, but saying you don't think the food is safe lets you make the decision for yourself--to eat, or not to eat?
8. "I can't stay long."
If you have been invited to a family gathering like a holiday meal or a barbeque, simply excusing yourself before the food is served ensures you don't have to watch other people eat! The less time you spend there, the less likely you will have to worry about food, or answering any questions people throw your way. Leaving early gives you the control here.
9. "I already have plans."
When your co-workers ask you about joining lunch somewhere that isn't safe, and are pushing for an answer other than no, sometimes you have no other choice but to let them down "gently." This lie also applies to situations where people want you to hang out at other times but refuse to listen to you and respect your dietary restrictions. Saying you are busy pushes off the inevitable for a little while longer.
10. "No, it's fine, I'm not that hungry anyway."
If a group has convinced you to join them, or you are forced to participate in a meal which you had no control over, we often find ourselves lying about our hunger. Maybe a host tried to find food that's safe but you double-checked behind them and learned it's not safe at all. As they apologize, you'll tell them it's okay, because you weren't that hungry anyway. When you leave, you'll probably stop at a restaurant or cook a meal at home to curve your hunger.
11. "I brought my own food."
Whether this applies to any workplace scenario or other social gathering, saying you brought your own food, or you have something to eat lets others know you are taken care of--even if you didn't bring anything. Even if it is something as small as a granola bar in your bag to get you through this party until you can purchase some real food, this excuse is sure to get others off your back quickly.
12. "That ___ isn't my favorite."
Everyone has their own preference for pizza, birthday cake, and more. Simply saying the food item isn't something you enjoy will tell others you just aren't interested in eating what everyone else is. Sometimes this statement is true but most of the time, it's not.
People with allergies shouldn't have to lie about food. Instead of others being offended or uncomfortable when someone says no, they need to know that we aren't trying to be rude. We want to make life as easy for ourselves, and the people around us as possible, so we often make ourselves uncomfortable, to ease the minds of others.
"No" should never be followed up with dozens of questions. Simply take someone's answer, whatever it is, and move on. Listing the reasons why we aren't eating shouldn't be a part of our social experience.
To those who want everyone to feel welcome and included, just communicate with the person who has allergies beforehand! Buying or preparing allergy-free food is simpler, and less inexpensive one might think. Even setting some fruits or veggies aside to avoid cross-contamination means the world to us.
Even if your well-intended efforts fail, please don't be offended if we simply do not feel comfortable eating what you are offering us. Peer-pressuring someone with allergies to eat, or give their reasons will ensure they will not attend one of your gatherings again.
Peer pressure in any capacity is unavoidable, but it can easily be controlled by something extremely simple: If someone with allergies says no, they mean no. Don't try to change their mind, and don't pester them with questions. Just move on and change the subject.
Otherwise, we are forced to give creative answers so we will be left alone. If we have had our allergies for years, we have plenty of responses up our sleeves.
But please, don't make us use them.