because a little bitty part of me does and I have a feeling I am not alone here. I can’t exactly put my finger on why this is but every time I meet someone new or sit down for a meal at a restaurant I feel a little twinge and immediately become uncomfortable when I have to reveal my food allergies. This is absolutely crazy (I do know that logically) because I didn’t do anything to intentionally bring these issues on but nonetheless I still feel awkward having to reveal that I do indeed have to avoid certain food groups. To be more specific, below is a list of most of the things I am aware that I am allergic to:
To name a few….the list is quite a bit longer and includes a handful of fruits and vegetables such as peaches, cherries and even avocado so no guac for this girl! 😦 Getting down to the root of my why I think I might feel uncomfortable…I’ve come to the conclusion it probably stems from two different factors, one being internal and one being external.
I have always been the kind of person who likes to fly under the radar. I don’t like to purposely draw attention to myself nor do I have to be the center of attention every time I walk into a room and I certainly prefer to blend in rather than stand out in a crowd. Not being able to eat like everyone else is something that makes me different so right off the bat I feel awkward having to bring it up. I often feel a little guilty when my friends or family are planning a meal and ask me what I will be able to eat, or if the ingredients in a dish they are bringing will make me sick or of there is something on the menu that will work with my restrictions. My default response before I even examine said menu or ingredient list is “Please don’t worry about me….I can always find something to eat!” This is barely ever a lie, I almost always can find SOMETHING to eat but just the mere fact that they have to stop to consider it makes me cringe a bit.
But I also think there is something deeper going on here. Some sort of negative connotation that society maybe has placed on us food allergy sufferers. Now just to be fair, I do not think everyone feels this way, probably not even the majority of people, but lets face it, people can sometimes be less than kind. Unfortunately when there is something that makes you different from everyone else or something other people can’t understand themselves because it doesn’t effect them you can become an easy target. I feel like sometimes one of two things pops into peoples mind these days when they hear you follow a certain restricted diet: 1. Oh what did you jump on board that diet fad to lose weight or 2. Oh you must be some sickly person with a weak immune system who can’t eat like the rest of us. I read an article the other day about a man whose father actually disowned him because he was diagnosed with Celiacs Disease. He viewed his son as less of a man or a weaker link if you will because of his allergies. That poor sons story really broke my heart (and also led to me writing this post) but also reinforced that there is a bit of a negative connotation to the label of “allergy sufferer”.
I try very hard not to be negative here. I even stopped myself midway through writing this post because I want this blog to be a positive space were I can share my journey and hopefully inspire others to prioritize their own health and happiness. There is so much negativity in the world, I don’t want to add to it by any means! I also however, want to be real and honest and not feel like I am holding back on any part of my life while I tell my story. Unfortunately food allergies are a part of my life. I do have to think about all the food I eat, and research menus before I go to a restaurant and double check ingredients when I buy a new product at the grocery store but let me tell you I never want to sound like I am complaining! I completely and whole heartedly realize I could always have it worse and there are people out there that do! I am also especially grateful because I have a wonderful support system in my friends and family who never make me feel bad or pass judgement on me.
I wanted to write this post because I would like everyone out there struggling with an issue, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, etc. to know you are not alone and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Food allergies in particular are just a reaction from your body trying to fight off something it perceives as a danger to you. We have no control over why this happens or how they develop (even science really doesn’t know) but with more people being diagnosed each day I am hopeful that treatments will soon follow, understanding will increase, and whatever stigma is out there will diminish. As of now, there are really no treatments for this condition. Avoidance is usually the only way to prevent something bad from happening to an allergy suffer although new immunotherarpy treatments are being explored now and show some promise. Whatever the future may hold for us lucky group of people, I hope that understanding and tolerance goes hand in hand with it. One of my favorite quotes that I feel applies to this topic is:
I know sometimes it can be annoying that you can’t pack that peanut butter sandwich for your kids lunch because another classmate is allergic, or you have a friend who can’t eat Chinese takeout with you because of her peanut allergy but just try to understand that this isn’t something we asked for and certainly doesn’t define us. Many people with food allergies, including myself, can be very healthy people and lead pretty normal lives. In short, be kind to each other y’all! The world needs more of it!