29 October 2012

Real Stories on life with a Food Allergic

Food Allergy Gal on Food for "Foodals"

Definition of "Foodal": A Food Allergic Person

Have you ever shopped with a food allergic person?

It takes forever! It's such a CHORE!!!! Especially in a store they have never shopped at-talk about the NEED to be a creature of habit. While I am a Whole Foods shopper, even they don't seem to "GET IT" when it comes to food allergies.  Turn over the package of any product that seems "harmless or healthy" and read the REAL ingredients. It's all about the marketing. I used to see "RICE Cheese" and my instant thought was, "DISGUSTING" who in the hell would eat that. Now I see it and say, "Thank God!" until I turn over the package and read the ingredients. What the hell is the point of making RICE cheese if it still has dairy in it. 
Just eat the real thing- in fact, go to a cheese store and get the BEST cheese on earth, don't waste your time eating manufactured products if they still have the real stuff in them. I know there are vegans and vegetarians and people who want less real to be more healthy- but what about those 150 million of us who will DIE if we consume real milk products, nuts, or other top 10 food allergens. 
Most grocery store buyers don't know this and neither do most consumers without food allergies, in fact even parents of food allergic kids would think-"Oh it's not the real thing, so my kid can eat it." It's frightening what food packaging is doing to us. That's why every food facility of any kind, including grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries, schools- need a food allergy/gluten free consultant. Everyone needs to talk to an expert about SAFE ingredients- on top of ingredients that TASTE good. The food allergic and food intolerant do not need to things that taste like cardboard, they too should enjoy eating! It's a beautiful part of life. Good food is nourishment to the soul and the body. Food is more than that even, it's a huge part of social life and should be associated with enrichment and fulfillment. 

Real Life. These Stories have all been shared with me personally and there 1000's more very similar to them. 

I listen to other people's stories, I experience the pain myself. Whether I am shopping at the grocery store or dining out, it's a challenge. I feel even worse for the friends and family of "foodals." Having to listen to the food allergic recite 1 to 9 food allergies at a every restaurant to having to cook separate items so the family "foodal" can eat at a dinner or attend a dinner party. 
I have friends who have kids with food allergies. I heard my dear friend, Willow, tell the story of when her daughter was first diagnosed with a gluten and dairy intolerance and she had to go grocery shopping for the first time. Willow had to pick up every, single item and read every ingredient. Twenty minutes into shopping, she finally burst out in tears in the middle of the grocery store aisle.  It was not only exhausting to read the labels but disheartening to know that familiar products contained the very items her daughter was allergic to, but what was a 30 minute trip to the market, was now going to turn into HOURS! She noticed less products in her basket, than ever before and suddenly one grocery store turned into 3 grocery stores, to get what they needed for her "foodal" daughter.  
When I meet a fellow "foodal," the first feeling I have is PITY followed with empathy. It doesn't matter young or old, child or adult- having food allergies is a life changing experience.  I remember a 5 year old (at the time) girl named CJ. She has the most adorable cheeks you have ever seen, followed with the cutest, little personality (totally full of spirit). Every time I would see her and her mom, she always had a tummy ache. I observed her several times in my encounters with her mom.  I finally decided to speak up and explained a condition I had as a child, that sounded familiar to what CJ was experiencing- but I didn't know I had food allergies, as a child, so I felt it might have been a long shot.  Low and behold, the mom had her tested and we ended up having similar food allergies. The next time I saw CJ, she looked angry with me. I could relate to that emotion. I asked her how she was feeling and she looked at me like, "YOU ARE EVIL, YOU MADE MOM TAKE MY FAVORITE FOODS AWAY." I got down and told CJ how sorry I was that she had food allergies, but once she started feeling better, maybe she would understand and wouldn't want those foods anymore. (I still feel awful for CJ, she will always have a place in my heart- a kindred spirit). 
My adult friends who are foodals are few! They are all recent friends.  Usually they are late onset foodals, like me. The kids have great advocates, the parents, FAAN and schools, all stick up for them, but the adults have no advocates and because most other adults still don't believe food allergies are real, we get teased A LOT! I've heard all these comments:  "It's all in your head. You are just saying that because you don't like it. You are so picky. You use to eat that all the time. What's your problem. Toughen up. You are high maintenance. " 

Confession time: My Personal Story
10 years ago I was diagnosed with 2 food allergies (Peanuts and Tree nuts). While I was sad to give both up, my food life was still manageable. It took some adjustment but I still enjoyed a lot of great food. 6 years ago I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy and 3 weeks before I was I said, "I would rather cut off my left arm than give up dairy." I was serious. I had just been "preaching" how eating REAL food- real milk, butter, and cheese were far better for you than all this "fabricated crap" made to taste like --------(whatever it was you were eliminating). I still believe this, by the way. If you don't have to cut something out- please eat REAL food! Enjoy warm brie spread over a freshly baked baguette, taste granny smith apples and brie together and crumble up some walnuts and sprinkle on top, if you don't have food allergies.  
My Life has been harder food for the last 6 years with 3 food allergies but not as bad as it has been for the last 2 months ago (Aug 2012) when I was diagnosed with 9 food allergies.  I would stand in my kitchen and look at everything with grief. Goodbye sesame seeds, goodbye salmon, goodbye citrus- (which was much harder than I thought)... and the list went on. I was sick for days recovering from anaphylaxis shock to begin with then and then my spirit just fell apart. I was running this business and eager to make an impact, but I was about give up. I felt hopeless and helpless, and this was my BUSINESS! MY JOB is to help people like me via helping grocery stores, restaurants, and bakeries serve the food allergic. I realized today that I needed to share this story, because when people are diagnosed with a food allergy they should know it is okay to grieve and as silly as it might sound, it's okay to seek support and therapy. 
Food Allergy Gal runs a Food Allergy Consulting Practice catering to commercial kitchens (Restaurants, bakeries, cafeterias) teaching and certifying them in  food allergies and gluten management. She specializes in ingredient analysis, specialized menu and recipe development, marketing support, and policy development specifically for gluten and food allergens. 

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