As food allergy awareness week comes to a close, I want to share a very special post with all of you. I teamed up with influential food allergy bloggers who advocate for the allergy community to allow you an inside look into the lives of a person with food allergies. It is easy to feel as if you are the only person experiencing certain emotions or situations. It can seem as though everyone else has their lives perfectly aligned and has their food allergies under control, especially those who have large social media presences. I will admit that my instagram account is a highlight reel and more often than not I find myself in states of food anxiety and feelings of loneliness. However, I also do my very best to approach my food allergies with positivity focusing on all of the good I am surrounded by. I personally find comfort in knowing I have the food allergy community to turn to when I have questions, worries, or when I want to share a celebratory life win. Finding your people is crucial and I have found mine within this passionate online community. I hope through reading this blog post of advice, confessions, and moving testimonies, you realize that we are here for you always and this community is your home too.
Emily Meyer, Eat or Drink / @eatordrink
"I always suggest getting in the kitchen. Food allergies can create challenges when it comes to going out to eat or buying quick prepared foods at the grocery store. But instead of being mad about those challenges, I encourage people to see it as an opportunity to have fun creating your own food. Have fun creating desserts you love. Have fun meal prepping and creating your own easy dinners. Play with the food you can have and you’ll really start to enjoy the options that are available to you rather than being mad about what you can no longer have."
Jessica Carrillo, Nut Free Mentality / @nutfreementality
"Living with food allergies is a unique experience. There are times where I feel so obviously different than my peers. I have a strained relationship with food. I like chocolate and sweets as much as the next gal, but worrying about how my body could react can take its toll. While the allergy experience is definitely difficult at times, I think it’s also taught me some amazing things. I learned to trust myself and speak up about food because my life depends on it. But now I tend to just speak up for myself all the time! I’m conscious about what I put into my body and am learning to maintain a healthy diet despite my restrictions. I’m more empathetic, because I understand what it’s like to struggle with personal limitations. I always try to include others because I know what it feels like to be excluded. Living with food allergies can be scary but it’s what I’ve been given. You learn to adapt and be creative in situations. I’ve been blessed with so much support and love that’s it’s worth having my allergies for the good things in my life."
Joey DiGangi, AssureTech / @assuretechllc
"When it comes to managing food allergies, I think that building a strong network is absolutely the most important thing. This is something I’ve relied on for my 23 years of dealing with life-threatening food allergies. It started with having an amazing family that went out of their way to make sure I never felt different or excluded by doing big things like always volunteering to manage school parties so they could keep an eye on the food served, or simple things like making sure I developed good habits (like always being the one who asked the waiter/waitress about my allergens). As I got older, I was lucky enough to have a best friend who would always mention something to people who ate peanuts around us at college (usually in the form of a light-hearted joke). I started seeing my girlfriend while abroad. She lives in the country, and I didn’t speak the language at all. One of my favorite stories from when we had just started dating happened at a buffet-style restaurant: I was grabbing my next round of lunch while she had moved on to dessert. All of the sudden, I see her stop everything she’s doing and rushing over to me…she explained that she saw the chef use the same spoon to scoop the different ice cream (some of which I was allergic to). She wanted to tell me right away, just in case, and told me not to go over there without her so she could translate everything and make sure the person used a different utensil and opened a fresh tub of ice cream for me. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is! Having someone else helping to remind others about my allergy took so much of the pressure off me because I didn’t have to constantly be the person bringing it up. The great people in my life make all of the difference for me!"
May Contain / @_maycontain
"Always go with your gut instinct. If you feel the staff or waiter doesn’t understand how serious your allergy is, don’t eat there. If they don’t understand, try and speak to the head chef so there is is no break down in communication between the waiter and chef. It’s really important to listen to your gut feeling, it’s helped me a lot over the years."
Amanda Orlando, Everyday Allergen-Free / @everydayallergenfree
"When I was younger, I felt really out of place because I knew my allergies made me different than my peers. But my parents always told me that it's better to do things your own way anyways; to create your own path. Although I really struggled as a teen and young adult, in regards to self consciousness about my allergies, the ideal they had reinforced really stuck and was always at my core. Instead of trying to run away from having autoimmune disease, I decided to embrace it! Living with a positive attitude has been so important. Focus on the good, on what you CAN have, and how you can alter situations or experiences to work for you."
Brittany, MPH, RD, LDN, CLT / @thefoodallergydietitian
"I remember when my daughter was diagnosed with her peanut allergy at ten months old, I felt such guilt and sadness for what her future would look like. I cried over how this would change our lives– dining out, traveling, her future school experience, birthday parties. All of it. A year later she was diagnosed with tree nut allergies after a reaction to cashews while I was pregnant with my second child. Three months later, my son was born. A few weeks into breastfeeding him, we learned he had Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES), a form of food sensitivity. Even though I’ve been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for nine years, I honestly was not aware of the differences between food allergies and food sensitivities and how they can present differently and require different approaches to management. I went on a strict elimination diet of the top 8 allergens plus corn and all gluten. After a month of following this diet, I was able to slowly add back in one food allergen at a time and narrow down his sensitivities to milk protein, soy, and eggs. I continued to eliminate these 3 food allergens from my diet for the 10 months that I exclusively pumped for him. He has now outgrown his egg and milk sensitivity and able to eat these foods regularly as a toddler. However, he has food allergies to fish and some tree nuts. Through this experience, I learned so much about the importance of gut health and inflammation as it relates to food allergies and food sensitivities. During this window of time my daughter started her first year of preschool with her peanut and tree nut allergies. I worked with the school director and teachers to create a safe snack list for her classroom so that she wouldn’t have to bring in a separate snack every school day. In two weeks she’ll have her last day of school and I could literally cry over how wonderful the other parents have been with respecting her dietary needs. All so that she can have a normal school experience. I share all of this to say that I know the journey can feel really challenging managing food allergies in a toddler (or multiple children). Yes, there are and will be adjustments that need to be made – in the form of diet modification, advocacy, education, and A LOT of planning ahead. But along the way, there can be purpose in all of it as a food allergy mom– bringing awareness, supporting moms in similar situations, sharing stories with families with new food allergy diagnoses. For me personally, having these experiences with both of my children has helped me to find my purpose as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. To help support, encourage, and educate mothers in similar situations who are looking for nutrition guidance while breastfeeding and for their children. When we’re able to look at our situation from a different perspective, we’re able to find more of the meaning, hope, and joy in the journey."
Thank you to all of the food allergy bloggers who have shared pieces of their story.