How To (Emotionally) Survive Thanksgiving If You’re Gluten-Free


I’m not a health freak and I never have been. I’ve never been into “healthy living” or “healthy eating.” In fact, I’ve always been the girl who’s had an open obsession with pizza, cake, and other foods that can cause cardiac arrest. But this summer, I had to make some changes to my diet that included going gluten-free.

At the age of 15 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory disorder that basically means my digestive system is lazy and can’t function like that of a normal person. For the most part, the doctors have always been able to control it with steroids and other medicines. But this summer I was extremely sick, to the point that nothing was helping me, so one of my doctors put me on a strict diet that I’ve been on ever since. The diet started to work, so as of now I stick to mostly natural foods and I unintentionally think of gluten as the enemy. 

There are definitely plenty of worse things one could be going through, but I must say that being gluten-free during Thanksgiving is not an ideal situation. This year I will be watching everyone chow down on stuffing and mashed potatoes while I eat Greek yogurt and drink my own tears. My intestine will be rejoicing, but I will be lamenting the fact that at this time last year, I was in the middle of an intense pumpkin bread eating contest with myself. And I was both winning and losing. 

The diet has been tough so far, but I’ve promised myself that I won’t forget what Thanksgiving is truly about: watching your family get drunk while you browse Instagram and read all the captions of people saying what they’re thankful for while pairing said caption with an inexplicable selfie. 

It’s definitely going to be tough this year, because Thanksgiving literally revolves around food. The entire day is about preparing for a meal that you will inhale in 20 minutes, each bit being more delicious than the last. This year I will start drooling while I watch Lily scarf down some delicious pumpkin pie. I will close my eyes and wish with all my heart that we could trade places. Lily is my dog. 

Any sort of social situation is hard if you can’t eat the same food as everyone else. It makes you feel different and separated from everyone else. But you can’t let your gluten-free diet ruin your Thanksgiving. You can still relax and have a blast with your family and watch football and eat things that are green. 

But the best thing about Thanksgiving, whether you’re gluten-free or not gluten-free or in-between-boyfriends-right-now, is that it makes you feel like a kid again. You’re surrounded by family, you’re off from work, and you have little responsibility that day. It’s fun to watch people let loose and have fun and talk about what they’re thankful for. It’s fun to watch the wine and whiskey flow and wonder how long it will be before your uncle starts telling everybody he loves them. 

Yes, Thanksgiving will probably be the toughest of all the holidays for you if you’re on a gluten-free diet. But this is the holiday where you’re supposed to be thankful. So instead of throwing yourself a pity party, look around at all the wonderful things you have to be grateful for. Appreciate the fact that you have food on your plate, regardless of how boring that food may be. Be thankful for the fact that you have a home to go to on Thanksgiving. Enjoy your meal and wait for half an hour from now, when everyone else is feeling obese and totally disgusted with how much they ate, while you feel light as a feather. 

Just remember that while your Thanksgiving may be gluten-free, it doesn’t have to suck. It’s all up to you.

image – Nathan Congleton