14 Everyday Struggles of Having Food Allergies
Food allergies and sensitivities have become widely known over the past few years. If we had grown up during our grandparents’ time, we probably wouldn’t have even known what Celiac disease was—and there most definitely wouldn’t be gluten-free options at the store. But today, there are companies dedicated to providing good food to the food limited—and boy am I grateful.
However, regardless of all the support and products that are out there, it’s still hard to feel normal. I found out I’m allergic to gluten, dairy, soy, and eggs about two years ago—and believe me when I say my life completely changed that day.
Anyone who has any type of food allergy will tell you that it’s not easy or fun to avoid food—so if you have food allergies or sensitivities, hopefully you can laugh along as you read this; and those who don’t will learn to be a little more mindful the next time they run into someone with limitations.
1. Having to Read the Ingredients of Everything You Eat
Most people don’t even think about what’s in their protein bars or bags of chips, but when you have serious food allergies every little thing matters. Before I developed these issues, I didn’t think twice about grabbing a complimentary snack at the car dealership or work, but now I have to read each label thoroughly before eating it. So next time you grab a quick snack, take a minute to read the ingredients—you’ll be surprised at what you’re actually eating.
2. People Thinking You’re Trying to Be Trendy
Nothing is worse than seeing the disgusted face of someone who assumes that you’re not eating the bun of your burger because you don’t want to contaminate your body. That’s pretty much the first question someone asks when I start to explain what all I can’t eat.
“So, are you like actually allergic to gluten and dairy or are you just doing it for fun?” OF COURSE I’M NOT DOING THIS FOR FUN. If I could eat cheesy pizza or chocolate chip ice cream, I promise you I would—in excessive amounts.
3. Having to Check Non-Food Labels
I only recently found out that people with food allergies can have a reaction to non-food products that contain the things they can’t have. I’ll give you an example. I went to Target last week and found this amazing-smelling coconut shampoo that’s supposed to make your hair extra shiny. I fell in love and couldn’t wait to get home and try it. After my shower, I looked in the mirror and realized that my face was bright red and it soon started to burn.
Turns out, that perfect new shampoo contained eggs and milk (which I would’ve known if I had read the label).
4. Having to Pre-Check Menus
Every time I go to a new restaurant, I have to look at the menu online first to make sure they have something that I can eat (that’s not just salad). This can be really annoying because I can’t just go on a spontaneous dinner; everything has to be planned. And if someone suggests a place and it turns out I can’t eat anything there, I have to tell them no—which is one of the worst things ever.
5. Having to Send Food Back
When I finally do find a place where I can eat, half the time the server misses something. So I’ll order a corn taco with just meat and lettuce, and when it comes out there’s cheese all in it. Or I ask for the sushi not to be fried with cream cheese and they bring out a completely fried roll.
Now I’m not necessarily blaming the waiters, because it isn’t their fault that I have so many allergies—it’s hard for me to even keep up. I’m just saying it’s a struggle I come across way too often. And to top it all off, I feel like a total snob sending food back.
6. Always Having to Say, “Sorry, I Can’t Eat That.”
“Do you want some of my cookie?” Sorry, I can’t eat that. “Do you want some pizza? We have some left over from dinner.” Sorry, I can’t eat that. “Let’s go get some ice cream!” Sorry, I can’t eat that.
I could think of hundreds of situations where I’ve had to say those five painful words. It’s just downright inconvenient not to be able to eat much. I’m constantly having to turn down foods that normal people can enjoy, even when I don’t want to. This phrase also segways into a conversation about why I can’t eat whatever someone has offered (and that’s even more annoying).
7. Constantly Being Asked, “Oh My God, What do You Eat?”
It never fails that, after I explain my allergies, someone says either “holy crap” or “oh my god, what do you eat?” I can see how when I say no gluten, dairy, or soy, people automatically assume that all I can have is grass or tasteless tofu, but that’s not the case at all.
One of the (few) benefits about having food allergies is that I’m so much more knowledgeable about how foods are made and what exactly goes in them. My heart sinks a little every time someone asks me that question because there really are some delicious alternatives if you just keep an open mind.
8. Having to Bring Your Own Food to Friends’ Houses
Sleepovers were always such a pain because I had to bring a bag full of gluten-free snacks to make sure I had something to eat. This was especially hard when my friends’ moms would make the usual sleepover brownies or cookies and I had to sit on the couch with my bag of apples while they all chowed down.
9. Being Forced to Choose the Restaurant
My friends and family always put me in charge of picking the restaurant, which just puts added pressure on me to not only find somewhere I can enjoy but also to pick a place that they’ll like. I’m pretty easy when it comes to places to eat, because I can usually find something anywhere, but my loved ones just don’t understand that.
10. Watching Others Eat What You Can’t Have…ALL THE TIME
At home, it’s easy to avoid things that I can’t have because my family is mainly gluten-free too, but outside of that I’m constantly filled with temptation. Going to a Mexican restaurant and watching my friends eat cheese dip and quesadillas stuffed with cheese isn’t fun. I’ve gotten to where I have friends and family describe to me how things taste (which sounds silly, but it really helps).
11. Having to Explain Your Story to Everyone
While it’s nice to connect with people, my story is personal and I don’t always want to share it. But any time food is added into the equation, I end up having to tell someone about how I developed my allergies. This is a struggle among anyone who has sensitivities because it makes us think about something we don’t necessarily want to.
12. Literally Dreaming About Foods You Can’t Eat
Sometimes I have this crazy dream where I eat a piece of pizza and then actually explode. Other times I have dreams where I eat tons and tons of donuts or walk into a room with a giant chocolate fountain. Then I wake up and realize those were highly improbable situations (and also that I can’t eat any of those things). It’s a sad realization, but boy are those dreams sweet—pun intended.
13. Feeling Different (and Not in a Good Way)
Probably the worst thing about having food allergies is always knowing that you’re different from the people around you. Food is such a big part of our lives, and every time I think about it I’m reminded that I have limitations. I get seriously embarrassed when I have to give a complicated order at a restaurant—especially when the waiter looks at me like I’m a picky brat.
14. Coming to Terms With the New You
It took me almost two years to stop fighting with my body. I had to realize that this was how things were going to be from now on— whether I like it or not. I had to change my way of thinking and see food as a way of nourishing my body instead of eating what tastes good.
Having food sensitivities might not seem like a big deal to most people, but it’s a very hard thing to live with. I grew up (like most people) eating food for comfort and it no longer feels that way. I’m grateful that I developed these allergies because I would probably be 50 pounds heavier if I hadn’t, but it’s still something that I carry with me every day.
So the next time someone tells you they’re gluten- or dairy-free, take into account that it’s a little bit more complicated than avoiding certain foods.
Follow Anna on Instagram: @annamariedepoyster