Seven years in and this gluten free/dairy free thing is old hat to us. We’ve got this. It’s how we roll. And it’s honestly not that big of a deal. But it was not always so easy. In fact, it was a life-sentence at first. No parole, no time off for good behavior. Behind bars with ice cream cones and macaroni and cheese on the other side and out of our reach.
An invitation to a birthday party required finding out what was on the menu, and bringing our own gluten-free versions of everything. We would show up with a cooler full of cold food and hot packs full of hot food. We were always so relieved when the party plan was simply cupcakes and pizza. One trip to Sprouts and we could easily replicate that. But in North Dallas, you couldn’t always depend on simple fare—that place can be fancy. It’s very difficult to explain to a 5-year old that while everyone else is eating the eye-catching delicious-looking treats on the big table, we have to eat these sticks and twigs from mommy’s purse. I did my best to make sure all of the alternatives that I brought were delicious, fun-looking, and as close to what everyone else was eating as I could manage.
I was a stay-at-home mom, so I had a little more time to take care of these kinds of details. My friends who worked 40 hours a week in an office might not have been able to manage the multiple grocery store trips and impromptu allergy-free cupcake making for unexpected school parties. We started to learn the lingo, recognize safe brands for us, memorize some of the ingredients lists, automate some of the shopping—but we had to put in some time and hard work on the front-end.
My Personal (from experience) #1 Tip for Thriving with Food Sensitivities
It was also during these early days that we decided to take one sentence completely out of our vocabulary. In our family, we never say “I can’t have that.” Instead, we say, “I do not eat that.” It may seem like an insignificant change, but it is actually the pebble creating a ripple-effect across the entire pond.
“I can’t have that” makes us a victim, sufferers denied certain privileges that others enjoy, underdogs in a hot dog world.
“I do not eat that” implies power over our circumstances, the choice to select the healthiest option for ourselves.
I can eat that piece of pizza, but I will then have to deal with the consequences. Alternatively, I could choose the healthiest version of myself and live free of those consequences.
This simple rule has made all of the difference for us.
When you first get a diagnosis, test results that confirm what you do not want to hear, but already suspect, the next steps can seem difficult to take. They may feel too big, too high, too wide to ever anticipate “getting there.” In those first few moments, it is important to remember that step #1 comes first. Then step #2. Then step #3. It may sound like an over-simplification of a complex issue, but it is actually how you get anywhere. Even marathons are run one step at a time.
May I suggest that Step #1 is to maintain power in a circumstance that you may feel is out of your control. Choosing to remember this piece of Old Testament wisdom will be helpful to you in your journey, “All things are permissible for me, but not all are beneficial.”
This is the bible version of “I do not” vs. “I can not,” and is a mantra that equals freedom for us—freedom to choose health.
When the task of cleaning out the pantry feels overwhelming, when travel seems impossible, when a dinner invitation feels like more work than it’s worth, remember that you are in control, and with a little planning and practice, you too will become a baller at living (thriving!) with food sensitivities.
*Please note that the food sensitivities in our case are not life-threatening.
**Any allergies causing anaphylaxis require different and much more strict considerations.
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Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers