Monday, January 5, 2015

10 Silver Linings of Living with Food Allergies

By Kelley Lindberg

Many of my friends and I are relieved to see 2014 pack up its bags and hit the road. While it wasn’t all bad, there were some pretty rough challenges last year that we’re ready to put behind us. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the good things that happened. We just hope there are a few more of those in 2015.

But as they say, it’s not what life throws at you that matters. It’s how you handle it.

Attitude really is everything. I believe that. I try to live by it. (I get points for trying, right?) And with each new year, I remind myself that when I’m faced with challenges, I need to stop whining and start acting to change it, find ways to turn it into a positive experience, or at the very least, learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again (or isn’t as difficult if it does).

In that spirit, I decided that with the new year still fresh and shiny, today would be a good day to consider the silver linings of living with food allergies. Sure, there are a myriad of challenges that come with food allergies, and every one of us can rattle off a list of those challenges as long as your arm at a moment’s notice. But focusing on the challenges makes every day darker, every relationship a little more strained, every moment a little poorer. It’s harder to see those silver linings, and that’s exactly why I think we should take a minute (or a year) to think about them. So here are some of my silver linings, in no particular order. What are yours?

With food allergies:
  1. You learn to cook from scratch, and it turns out it’s not as hard as you thought. And it usually tastes better. Who knew?
  2. By cooking from scratch, you eliminate many/most of the chemical preservatives, petroleum-based food colorings, sugar substitutes, overly processed ingredients, and other less-desirable elements from your family’s diet, which is a long-term health gain for every family member.
  3. You have a supportive online community that totally understands you.
  4. You always have an antihistamine and an epinephrine auto-injector with you, which can come in handy if a stranger needs help. (During a parade a couple of years ago in Salt Lake City, someone riding a horse in the parade began experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. Luckily for them, they were right behind a group of Utah Food Allergy Network members who were also marching in the parade, and who immediately provided an Epi-Pen. If you’re going to have an allergic reaction, it’s excellent planning to have it near a group of food allergy mamas.)
  5. Your child’s teachers get to know you really, really well. And that bond/partnership can be a very good thing when your child needs a little extra help in the classroom or on the playground.
  6. You learn to celebrate tiny victories. (“Woohoo! Kroger’s envelope of Ranch Dressing Mix is free from dairy, egg, nuts, and seafood! It’s HAPPY DANCE time!”)
  7. By talking about food allergies with other people, even just casually, whether it’s online, on the train, or on the sidelines of your kid’s soccer game, you spread awareness, which makes the world a little bit safer for all food-allergic people everywhere. (And that mom you met whose kid has horrible eczema and is miserable all the time? When you mentioned that most eczema is an allergic reaction, and common culprits are egg and milk, and many pediatricians don’t seem to know it, that mom may have gone home and made an appointment with a board-certified allergist, meaning you may have just given that child their first chance at relief in years.)
  8. You learn who your real friends are, and you learn that most people are, in fact, genuinely kind and good and helpful. They more than make up for the occasional jerk.
  9. In a country where obesity is epidemic, childhood diabetes is rising, and chemical additives appear to be altering our immune systems, you can instill in your kids a healthier perspective on food’s role in our lives. Instead of focusing on food as a reward, as the main feature of every activity, and as a cure for boredom, your kids will grow up with lifelong healthy-eating habits, because you showed them that food is a fuel, to be used carefully, safely, and responsibly, and that fun doesn’t always have to equal pizza.
  10. That dinner you made the other night that your family loved? When you post that recipe online, you make a dozen (or more) other families super happy. You’re spreading happiness, baby!

And spreading happiness, good health, and safety is an excellent way to welcome in the new year, don’t you think?

If you have more silver linings you’d like to share, post them in the Comments or email me, and I’ll add them to our list.

Have a happy, safe 2015, everyone!

1 comment:

Amber Capell said...

1) You learn to read, REALLY REALLY read food labels.
2) You learn to advocate for your children without being helicopters. (Well, only sometimes being a helicopter, LOL.)
3) You learn what's really important. Keeping your kid alive is a victory. Daily. Anything more than that is icing on the (allergen-free) cake
4) Your children end up self-advocating at a younger age. (My daughter at two would ask if food was safe, and now at 6 can read labels and ask the right questions!)

Thanks so much for this post, Kelly. And for this blog. I don't comment much, but I just love reading it, and knowing I am not alone in raising a food-allergic kid. (Knowing that your kid has lived to go to high school gives me hope for my 1st grader.) You are amazing!