7 Reasons NOT to Downplay Your Food Sensitivities
One summer, way back before I learned about my food sensitivities, I was working at Buffalo Wild Wings. I had a customer come in one day with her only child saying that her daughter cannot eat eggs. She had already checked the website and knew what she could get, but she wanted me to double check with the manager that we did not have any cross-contamination with eggs. I obviously obliged and I received such negative feedback from my manager who said I was “stupid for asking” and “she probably doesn’t even have food allergies.”
Not hard to guess that I didn’t stay at that job for very long. I still think about that woman, though, and how she was just trying to do right by her daughter. It absolutely breaks my heart to think (& to know first-hand) that there are so many people out there who have such a negative attitude towards those dealing with food issues.
My *Little* Rant:
*You can scroll passed this part if you would like, but it needs to be said*
Food sensitivities get a bad rep… from being considered “not a real allergy” to others just thinking you are making it all up just trying to be “trendy”, there are lots of reasons why people who suffer with food sensitivities do not necessarily want to make it known... Which is sad.
No, food sensitivities will not kill us dead at the dinner table (thankfully!) – anaphylaxis is no joke and I do not want to downplay the danger of this reaction to foods!
Yes, our food sensitivities cause a great deal of pain. Typically gastrointestinal issues, which by the way nobody wants to discuss lightly over dinner. Those “GI issues” start to break down the stomach lining, which a lot of us have worked so diligently to repair, and cause much greater issues than many can possibly realize.
For some it may be arthritis, Hashimoto’s, chronic migraines, anxiety, depression, ADHD & other psychological disorders, asthma, eczema, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, insomnia & about 100 other disease and symptoms. None of these diseases are “no big deal”… yeah you may not die at the dinner table, but your long-term health is seriously impacted because of these diseases.
That is why it is SO IMPORTANT to NEVER downplay your food sensitivities. *rant over*
I’m totally guilty:
Now, I have downplayed my food sensitivities a lot over the past few years in order to not make anyone else's life complicated. I have had friends say “oh it’s just a sensitivity” without correcting them that “just a sensitivity” downplays the issues that arise from ingesting these foods… it may not kill me now, but it might over time if I let it. I attempt to not bring it up around people I don’t know well (never works, we always end up having a 30 minute discussion on all the foods I can’t eat and why). I have even avoided eating so as not to have to bring the issue to light, and you know what? That totally stinks! And I refuse to be that person anymore!
Without Further adieu:
7 reasons why you should NEVER downplay your food sensitivities!
1. People will pressure you to waver (if you downplay your food sensitivities)
Whether you are hell-bent on avoiding your food sensitivities or you downplay them, people will always pressure you to eat the foods that hate you. I haven’t had beer in 2 years and people still ask me if I want to try their beer. If you waver in your stance, or even downplay the affects that these foods have on your body then people will dive in… “It’s only a sip” or “just a taste won’t kill you” are some of my least favorite sentences my friends and family have mumbled to me. If anyone says these words to you then RUN LIKE THE WIND!
2. Restaurants won’t take you seriously (if you downplay your food sensitivities)
Like my story earlier about the little girl with an egg allergy and my manager who couldn’t have given a rat’s you-know-what. People don’t always like to give other people the benefit of the doubt. Especially when it’s 7 pm on a Saturday evening on Valentine’s Day and your waitress is scrambling around to serve everyone, including you. We all get busy and we don't want to complicate anyone's life more. However, if you ask for substitutes without letting them know why, you might still get hit with your sensitivity. Unfortunately, I hear it all the time from my chef-friends “no, you don’t have a food allergy, you just don’t like it.” On the other side of the table, chefs can be incredibly accommodating if you ask! So never be afraid to speak up! *Now, there are ways to make life easier for you and our beloved chef-friends (see below!).
3. NO ONE will take you seriously (if you downplay your food sensitivities)
If restaurants don’t take you seriously then who cares? But if your friends and family don’t take you seriously then you have a big problem on your hands. It is incredibly hard to say no to a mom who has spent all day creating a Thanksgiving meal only to find out that you cannot eat more than half of the things on the menu. You may be tempted to be nice and just eat a little bit, but you should always remember why you are avoiding those foods in the first place. This is why all of your close family and friends should be well aware of your food sensitivities and are willing to help you work around them. *Bonus points to the mom’s out there who cook an entire sensitive-free Thanksgiving dinner for you and no one even realizes it!
4. Prevents gluten-free options from becoming available (if you downplay your food sensitivities)
“People who say they have food sensitivities but don’t ruin it for those who do have food sensitivities.” First of all, no they don’t! The more people who ask for gluten-free options, the better! My favorite restaurants wouldn’t have gluten-free pizzas or easily modifiable meals if people hadn’t consistently asked for them. With all the amazing chefs out there, people with food sensitivities shouldn’t be limited to just eating salad everywhere they go. So ask away for sensitive-friendly options, because it makes it to where I CAN go out to eat! If a place isn’t willing to work with you, then leave. Don’t throw a fit… just write them off and be gone!
Second of all, I don’t know why anyone would want to lie about having food sensitivities. It is not fun not being able to eat some of your favorite foods. But even if someone did feel compelled to say that they were allergic to a food in order to get the point across that they do not want that food anywhere on their plate, they shouldn’t be judged for that.
5. So you won’t have to kiss dining out goodbye
Going out to eat can be so much fun. Great food, great atmosphere, no meal planning/prepping/cooking, and most especially no dang dishes to clean! There should be no reason that anyone (including folks with food sensitivities or allergies) should have to kiss dining out goodbye. However, if you do not do your research or let it be known that you have some serious sensitivities then dining out can become a huge issue! Locally, create a list of places you can go without any issues. If you are traveling then Google restaurants/hotels/resorts/cruises etc. that are food allergy/sensitivity-friendly. A little bit of research goes a long way. We cannot simply rely on those serving our food to be completely knowledgeable (or even sometimes honest) so we must always be our own detectives. If you are not sure about something then don’t even bother eating it.
6. People think you are faking it or just on a “fad diet” (if you downplay your food sensitivities)
I am really torn on this because some days I think “it’s your life and you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.” While this is true that you do not need to justify yourself to anyone, this is also very closed-minded. In order for people to empathize with you, sometimes they need to hear your story, or more simply, your reasoning. If I am unsure of an ingredient, I will straight up ask what ingredients are in it. If there is an ingredient I cannot eat, I will ask if that ingredient can be removed. Usually not a big deal at all!
7. People will never learn how food sensitivities affect the body (if you downplay food sensitivities)
Sometimes we are all just a little too quick to judge and slow to enlighten. People you encounter in your life may have someone in their life who struggles with Hashimoto’s or Fibromyalgia or arthritis and have no idea that hidden food sensitivities could be a big player in their hardship. A lot of people truly believe that the only issue you get is a little bit of gas. When you and I both know it’s a heck of a lot more than that! So teach them!! You don’t have to get into all the nitty-gritty details, but you can definitely use it as an opportunity to bring one more person to understanding.
If someone doesn’t get it, enlighten them. If either of you don’t have time or patience (or if they just are so stubborn that they refuse to get it), then ignore them! However, I am no longer downplaying my food sensitivities and I hope you won’t either!
How to get chef's to like you & easily accommodate you and your food sensitivities without batting an eyelash:
1. Don’t go out to eat at the busiest time of day, if possible. You want the staff to be able to pay attention to you and your order.
2. Thoroughly vet the places you eat before you eat there. Call them up or read through their menu. A lot of allergy-friendly places will have it right there on their menu if a food contains certain ingredients.
3. Frequent the same places that you either know are safe or they know you and will work around your food sensitivities.