Food is love. It brings us together. We use it to celebrate important milestones in our lives. It is precious fuel for our bodies. Cooking food and sharing food keeps us connected and fills our souls.
But, if you are a person with food allergies, every day can be a reminder about what you cannot taste, touch, or smell. Managing food allergies is a daily challenge. So how do people with food allergies learn to cope?
I have raised two children with multiple food allergies. As my children grew from babies to toddlers, school-age children to teens, each milestone meant a new food allergy management plan. When the children were small, I was their main caretaker and the family chef. As kids begin to move on their own, go to school, venture outside the home with friends, all food allergy management plans had to be revised.
As they become more independent, the once compliant child can turn into more of a risk-taker. Pre-teens, and teenagers especially, often cringe at the idea of telling their friends that they have food allergies. This also happens to be at a time when communication is key because they are not always with their parents.
In 2017, I became a certified AllerCoach ™ to work with families and individuals on ways to manage their food allergies. As an AllerCoach ™, I have worked with adults and children to identify important ways to keep them healthy and safe, and to focus on what they can eat. I teach self-advocacy through role playing, teach communication skills, and how to ask the right questions. By teaching the food allergic person’s family as well, the household can learn to work together to keep him/her safe from the foods that can cause anaphylaxis or other allergic reactions, and to understand how cross-contact can cause harm.
It is important that those with a food allergy diagnosis not feel defined by their allergies alone. The fun of sharing meals with others should be about the celebration, and the social aspect of togetherness with our family and friends, and not about anxieties associated with the food.
Coaching is about looking at the solution, not only the problem. Learning from our mistakes, and seeing them as learning opportunities, helps us move forward. Working together, I will help you, or your loved one, take that first step on the journey to staying healthy and keeping food allergies manageable.
Together, we’ll bridge the gap between food allergies and a healthy life.