Ask Marge

I Think My Friend Is Faking Her Food Allergy. Can I Say Something?

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Dear Marge,

I think my friend is faking food allergies. We go to restaurants and she has long conversations with the waiter about how she will get really sick if there is even a hint of … and then she names like seven or eight foods she can't eat. And when any of us want to get together at each other's houses, it becomes this whole big production to make something she will eat. But seriously, this just sort of appeared one day; she went from being normal to having these "severe" (her word) allergies overnight. Plus, none of us have ever seen her actually get sick or have a reaction.

If I were 100% sure that it was real, I swear I would have total sympathy for her. But I think she is faking — maybe for attention — which makes this super annoying. It's embarrassing at restaurants and a royal pain when we're hanging out. It's gotten to the point that I don't even want to see her, because I don't want to deal. I want to call her out on it, but I don't know how.

Signed,

Friend of Faker Girl

Dear FOFG,

I understand the frustration of dealing with someone with annoying self-imposed food limitations. I went to real effort to prepare a menu for a dinner that respected one friend's assertion that she was gluten-free — only to see her scarf down bruschetta the following week and call it "cheating," as though being gluten-free was a choice like portion control.

But your situation doesn't sound at all like that. Your friend is consistently avoiding a litany of foods, and going to great lengths to do so. Before you think about confronting her, there are two questions to ask yourself.

Is there any chance she actually does have a dietary issue? Perhaps it is not exactly an allergy, but if she is on something like the FODMAP diet (a gradual elimination program to figure out what is causing gut problems) because she has digestive issues, the easiest way to talk about the foods she can't eat is to call it an allergy. You might not have known there was anything "wrong" with her before, because there are many of us who are uncomfortable talking about stomach issues.

Here's the second question: What do you hope to accomplish by "calling her out"? Your friend is clearly in distress, be it physical or mental. If she is faking for attention, as you say, then consider the pain she is in — enough that putting herself through these dietary machinations seems worth it to her. In that case, this is a cry for help — and perhaps you could answer it with a sympathetic ear.

Let her know that up until recently you had no idea she had such pervasive food allergies, and that you are concerned about her and thought maybe she would like to talk about it. But do this with and from caring, not just because her food aversions are driving you crazy.

Sitting down with her to get a better understanding of what is going on may help you feel less annoyed and more compassionate — and will give her a place to talk about whatever it is that she is going through — be it dietary or emotional.

— Marge

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