I try to deal with events and situations that revolve around food the best I can without it turning into a big deal or getting upset. I should be good at this after 4 years, right? Well, wrong because it will never be easy. This week has been rough for me with three work situations revolving around food. The first event was a lunch meeting with a motivational speaker. They served pizza and cookies as usual (no salad option or fruit). I could have attempted to find where they were ordering pizza from, and if the dough or sauce did not contain milk ingredients ordered a pizza without cheese. I didn’t have time. I just brought my lunch and ate ahead of the meeting. I learned fast that one of the skills you need when dealing with a food allergy is preparation. I need to be prepared for eating safely everyday or finding milk-free food. When this becomes impossible, I end up eating granola bars I had stashed in my purse. However, I don’t think anyone can ever get used to or easily handle sitting in a small room while they smell, hear, and watch dozens of people eat pizza in front of them. I went into the pizza party/lunch meeting and of course the questions came right away, “not eating pizza!?”, “Don’t like pizza!?!” I don’t know what is worse- the person that can’t believe you wouldn’t be able to eat the pizza or the one who feels guilty to be eating in front of you and keeps apologizing.
It’s amazing that even as an adult you just want to fit in and not feel like an outcast. I couldn’t eat the cheese covered pizza that smelled delicious, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was talking about not eating it. People feel the need to discuss the fact that you’re not eating the same food as everyone else. It was amazing to some that I was not eating the pizza. It didn’t take long to hear the usual, “well, I’d die if I couldn’t eat cheese”. Then when pizza time was finally over, it was delicious cookie time. I can only imagine the pain a child goes through with a food allergy. The positive side of all of this is that you become a different person, a better person, and it shapes how you think, feel, and act. It will always amaze me how much food is a part of our lives. Every social situation seems to involve food.
One way I get through times like this is to not go into detail about my food allergy. I try to minimize all conversation around the food allergy. I just simple say, “I have a food allergy and I can’t eat anything unless I know the ingredients.” When the questions pour in I just do quick answers and change the subject. The less I react or discuss the situation the less of an issue it is in the end. Yes, I feel like crying or screaming, I am embarrassed for some reason, I am wondering what people are thinking and I want to leave the room. Sometimes I have left the room. It isn’t easy, but if I remind myself that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels then I seem to make it through. Listening to your head and not your stomach is something to be very proud of. Besides, I can make my own pizza at home and it’s delicious!