The Loneliness Of Food Allergies

Last August, I sat in a small, hipster art-gallery-turned-bar in the west end of Toronto. It was a friend’s birthday and everyone was gathered around a bunch of tiny tables. It was fun… until the cake came out.

Not just any ordinary cake. A huge, rectangular white cake. With coloured, frosted flowers. The kind of birthday cake you get as a kid, that you special order from the local supermarket, the cake that you look forward to all year. You never cheat and have it any other time except for your special day, even though of course you could. That’s just not done. It’s the cake you dream about.

This was my own birthday cake. Until I couldn’t eat it anymore.

Usually I’m okay with the fact that I have food allergies. At first, in the first six months of giving up gluten, dairy, and eggs (which I’ve introduced back into my diet but only in the form of baking), I mourned the loss of pizza and those huge blueberry muffins from Starbucks and most of all, nachos. I lived for nachos, piles and piles of them, and basically overdosed on them whenever I met friends for a drink. My first week on my elimination diet, my new way of eating, I met journalism school friends at a bar on Friday night. And they literally ordered everything I couldn’t eat: quesellidas with melty, gooey cheese, pita bread and dip, and nachos.

There was a certain loneliness to that evening. I was confronted with what I wasn’t supposed to eat. And I didn’t. I focused on my glass of wine and tried to get over myself. It wasn’t such a big deal — lots of people suffer from food allergies.

Another lonely moment? Last August, when that huge cake came out. Normally I don’t mind when people eat gluten and sugar and dairy in front of me, because life is too short to be upset about things that you can’t change, and of course I would never expect people to give up those things, too (can you imagine?). But this time, on this warm August evening, surrounded by people who could eat that cake, I felt super lonely. I felt like the loneliest person in the world.

A bit dramatic, maybe. Okay, probably. But that’s the thing about living with food allergies: you feel kind of dramatic sometimes. And I truly believe you have a right to. Because let’s face it: giving up gluten and dairy and white sugar is pretty hard. You’re surrounded with it everywhere you go: in TV ads, in magazines, in cookbooks, when your friends order a bacon cheeseburger, when your parents make normal pasta for dinner.

That’s why the world of food blogging is so powerful. When I discovered blogs along with my allergies, I felt comforted. Here were other people, amazing people, smart and funny and sweet, people who could come up with super creative ways to get around their allergies, and who could post such well-written, inspiring posts with such beautiful photos. I felt like there was a way out. Like it would all be okay.

And it was.

Do you feel lonely about your food allergies sometimes? How do you deal with it?

Aya Tsintziras is a food blogger at www.ahealthystory.com. She posts gluten-free, dairy-free and mostly sugar-free recipes, lifestyle and pop culture stories on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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6 comments

  1. Yes! Food allergies can be a struggle when others are eating exactly what you can’t eat. Do you have any other family or close friends with food allergies? I’m thankful that my sister is also allergic to dairy and soy simply because it makes things more bearable. Also, I’ve had these allergies all my life so I don’t really have much of an emotional attachment to those foods.

    1. That’s so true, it’s definitely a real emotional attachment! I don’t have any family members or friends with allergies but thankfully they are super understanding and supportive and have never made me feel uncomfortable. It’s really nice that you and your sister can offer each other support! 🙂

  2. It’s so good to hear that I’m not alone in my food allergy struggles! For a long time, I didn’t let it bother me and, sure it was inconvenient, but I was fine eating bringing my own food or eating at another time. However, the loneliness and sadness has been hitting me hard lately. Whether it’s the stress and struggle of finding somewhere I can eat out or just this past week when my family ordered Chinese. Maybe it was because it’d been a long day and I was super hungry, but the smells of that delicious Chinese takeout were so tempting. They really made me long for the days when I could be carefree and not have to worry about allergies. I think even more than just the food itself, it’s the memories of eating them and enjoying them with my family that made it so hard.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Meah, I can really relate to this and I’m so glad to hear that you could relate to my post too! It’s so interesting how you can be totally okay and then later on it really hits you. You are so right when you say that not having allergies really makes you so carefree — I think that’s something I used to take for granted.

  3. Fortunately, I don’t have wide ranging food allergies and can tolerate the typical gluten, dairy, eggs. But, I am allergic to tree nuts, which can be difficult at dinner parties, baked goods, and even at some restaurants since they can’t guarantee anything. It has motivated me to become more creative in my own kitchen!

    1. That’s so great that you turned that into such a positive! That’s a really inspiring attitude to have 🙂

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