It’s so wonderful to be in love. To get butterflies in your tummy, to break into a smile at just the thought of that special someone. But for us, there’s an added dimension. Allergies.
How on earth, do you turn round and say “sorry, you need to tell me everything you’ve eaten and drunk today before I can even think about kissing you because if not, you could kill me with a kiss.” Kind of a mood killer…Unfortunately, it is just something we have to do. But how?
My other half and I met at University. I was a Fresher, halfway through my first year and he was doing his PhD. As we started to get to know each other, before anything romantic, I knew I would have to tell him about my nut allergy, especially if I wanted to kiss him.
Before I get more into the details, let me tell you a bit about who I was back then. I was one of those kids who always ate the brussel sprouts first because I thought they were gross. Most kids would push them to the side or hide them, but I knew Mum would insist I ate them. So, it was my view that I should eat the disgusting things first. This way I could take my time eating my favourite foods and not end the meal with a bad taste in my mouth. I still have this approach, and used it when it came to communicating about my allergies.
All my friends knew about my allergies. When I met my flatmates for the first, it was one of the first things I told them about. My thinking was, get the thing that could be awkward out the way first and then get on with life. It just so happened that we all took an expedition to the supermarket that day, so they saw there was plenty I could eat. I didn’t stress, so they didn’t stress.
But when it came to the confidence to say something about my food allergies it started from an understanding of my allergy (the life-death things) and my self worth.
Allergies & Your Self Worth
Everyone at some point feels insecure about something. We all have challenges, and we can all choose how we respond to those challenges.
When it comes to allergies, I know that my nut allergy is just a biological fact of my body, like my skin colour or eye colour. As much as my family might have hoped for me to outgrow it or a cure to be found, I accepted I would probably live with food allergies my entire life.
I have been trained and I keep training in my allergy care everyday. I carry my medical kit (2 adrenaline pens, antihistamine tablets, and inhalers) everywhere I go. I check all the ingredients labels and I ask about food preparation in restaurants. I have my checklist to keep me safe and I know I will keep doing it my entire life, whoever I happen to be with including friends, family, colleagues and boyfriend. Those people who are worth being in my life know and respect my allergy needs, but I know my allergy is my responsibility and I’m going to keep it that way.
I choose to take responsibility and own it, because it is mine. No one else’s. By making it my choice I start to feel more confident because I feel that I can take control of my actions within a situation. I have also found that it elevates pressure on my relationships because I am not expecting someone else to take responsibility for something they have no training in.
Having an allergic reaction at 16 was a big eye-opener for me. [LINK] I showed me so shockingly that I had to be in charge of my allergy because I am my own best advocate and showed me what my priorities were. To stay alive and stay well. By accepting this I could start dealing with my anxieties.
Dealing With Food Allergy Anxiety
Even though I know my allergy is mine and I want it to be my responsibility I still get anxious. I mean I am human. I still got anxious about telling the boy I liked about my allergy.
I think what makes us anxious when telling people about our food allergies is the fear of being rejected. Of being left out or thought of as being different. Allergies do make us different but not how you may think.
Allergies force you to eat differently but you need to because, in the case of anaphylaxis, you could die. So it’s true allergies make you different, but if you let it, allergies will set you apart. Many of the people I know who deal with allergies, many of whom are allergic from 2 to 30 allergens, are some of the most inventive and creative people I know. They have amazing problem solving skills because they think outside the box, they are so strong and keep fighting, not to mention being amazing chefs! If you want to hear some of them just check out the guests on my podcast. [LINK] (And seriously, who is going to turn down delicious food!)
My other half said to me a little while ago when I said I was feeling scared about making my truffles [LINK: ] and selling them (this is after I won an award for them by the way), “I know your scared, but do it anyway.” This has really stuck with me. It is only when we face what we’re scared or anxious about that we start to overcome it.
When I was scared of food after my allergic reaction, it was through cooking and being in control of the food I ate that I started to conquer my anxiety. I had to face the fear I had of food to overcome it. It’s the same when you have to tell someone about your allergies.
How to Tell Your Date About Your Food Allergies
So when it comes to dating, how do you tell them about your allergy?
Well, there are many mediums you could use: text, social messengers (whatsapp, viber, Facebook messenger etc), email, phone call or even in person. There are so many ways to communicate, so take your pick.
Thanks to the modern age, you don’e even have to deal with the awkward social encounter of telling someone about your allergy. You don’t even have to look them in the face! Definitely a win if you are feeling particularly shy about it.
So now over to my suggestions of telling your date about your food allergy.
Method 1. Steer the conversation to be about food
Via: Messaging/phone/in person
When you have to talk about your food allergy, the whole idea can feel incredibly awkward because in our heads, it feels like you’re randomly blurting out you have a food allergies can be blurting to the surprise of those listening. However in my experience there are ways you can steer the conversation so you can talk about your allergies and make it an interesting discussion point.
Well firstly, I steer the conversation towards food. As I have food allergies, it seems more appropriate to bring that fact up when I’m talking about food. I start on a positive note though, I talk about how much I love food, or foods I love to eat or make at home. The aim is to share my enthusiasm for something I love with the person I like. This way I am already showing them that food isn’t a problem for me but a joy. I ask them about what they like too. If I start a conversation with them, I want to get them involved in that conversation. This way it’s a two-way street and shows that I am interested in them.
Once we have conversation going, I’ll casually talk about a recipe or a favourite food and how I adapt it to be free from because I am allergic to….[insert your allergen] nuts and gluten intolerant. At this point, it usually raises questions if your date isn’t allergic to anything. I am usually prepared for some ignorant comments like “does that mean you’re a vegan?” But I can’t blame them for what they pick up from the media. I just use this as a chance to correct them as is appropriate. Not in a mean way and certainly not impatiently, but just to tell them what it means for me. I want this person to ask questions, after all if they’re going to be with me they need to know that nuts could kill me. The more they listen and ask questions the better it’s going to be for both of us.
Now the conversation is started, I often have people say “oh it must be really difficult.” But for me I say “no, it’s actually really easy because I know what makes me sick, so I know what to avoid and now it’s just second nature to check everything.” A non-allergy sufferer will take the lead from you, so show them it’s not a problem, because that will show them it won’t be a problem for your relationship.
Method 2: Show your date how you food shop with allergies
Via: In person
Sometimes the easiest way to tell someone about your allergies is actually by not saying anything at all. They do say actions speak louder than words.
If your date is someone you know from work, school, university or the gym, chances are that you will eat or go to your local supermarket together. If you haven’t yet, try and engineer it. Not only is it a good way to chat in a neutral location, but also you have the chance to show your allergy management skills in action.
So first go with your date to the local coffee cart, supermarket or vending machine. Anywhere there is food or drink gives you the chance to check ingredients labels or ask about ingredients in front of your date. Now make sure they can see you picking up different packets and checking ingredients labels. Or if you’re at the coffee cart you can ask about ingredients lists while your date is standing near you so they can ‘overhear’ the conversation your having with the barista.
If your date is looking over, or looks curious, just mention you have an allergy. It’s that simple. Through your actions your can show that you’re in control of your allergy, start a conversation and tell them why you are checking labels. You can talk about cross-contamination how sensitive you are and that it comes up in even the most unlikely places such as kissing. How even your parents are careful about eating your allergen and kissing you on the cheek! Use the opportunity to answer questions about your allergy. The more you educate before, the less awkward it will be when you get to your date.
Getting Across The Severity of Your Food Allergy (and Flirt at the Same Time)
So now that you have introduced the subject of your allergies. How do you get your date to understand the severity?
Having to tell someone that you could die really easily always seems a bit too heavy when you don’t know someone. However, if you don’t, and you want to kiss this person…you kind of have to. Otherwise that kiss could be your last one…
A few months ago Kortney from Allergy Girls Eats came on the podcast to talk about how she dated with her allergies. She has Oral Allergy Syndrome (allergic to many raw fruits and vegetables) as well as a severe allergies to nuts, sesame, peanuts, among others. Unfortunately for Kortney, her first date ended with an allergic reaction and a trip to the emergency room. In her case an allergic reaction quite plainly showed how severe here allergies were. Although, as we both agreed on the podcast, we would not recommend this! You can take a listen to our whole chat here.
Another way is humour. Allergies are a serious subject and if you don’t have one it’s a difficult concept to comprehend. However, when my boyfriend and were getting to know each other, I would use my allergy to flirt with him. (Well a girls gotta use what she’s got to her advantage right?! I have a nut allergy so I might as well use it.)
I can’t remember exactly when I said this to my boyfriend, but it would have been early on; I said “well if you want to kiss me, you can’t have eaten nuts. So it’s up to you…” and I would just leave it there. Give a little look, you know the one I mean, kind of looking down but up at the same time, a little bat of the lashes doesn’t hurt either. But you have to mean it ladies (and gents if you’re reading this). You must follow through on your word, no kissing if they are not allergen free, It is not worth taking the risk. So preparing for your first kiss is where it starts.
On a side note…You will also have to be aware of making sure you only share allergy safe forks and drinks bottles as well. Sticking to what is safe even though you feel bad or uncomfortable is going to be the best in the long run because hopefully you will avoid have an allergic reaction.
My First Allergy Freak Out At My Boyfriend
I was speaking with Julianne Ponan, CEO of Creative Nature, for a podcast episode (being released on February 19th) about dealing with people and allergies. We were sharing stories about how we help people ‘get’ that we have severe allergies but also how we try not to go crazy at people. For her it was an allergic reaction and the paramedic coming that proved the severity to her friends. This story got me thinking about me and my boyfriend. He has never seen me have an allergic reaction. I have been incredibly careful over the years because I know how it feels to have an allergic reaction and I never want to have one again.
So on with my freak out story…
I am generally someone who has my emotions, my life and general stuff under control. I don’t freak out much, nor get irrational, but on this occasion it was another matter.
It was a typical grey Manchester afternoon, I was in my third year of University and waiting for my boyfriend to arrive at my house. Not an uncommon occurrence obviously. We had been dating for about 18 months by this point. He has known about my severe nut allergy since we started going out and has always been really careful with what he eats. (Although he loves peanuts butter, marzipan, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, chocolate coated nuts he stopped eating them.) He essentially has gone nut free for me.
So, he arrives at my house, I open at the door and before I can even go to kiss him he stops me.
“So you know you can get chocolate coated raisins in the pick ’n’ mix.”
“yeahhh…” I say. I was pretty sure I knew where this could be going. I never had pick ’n’ mix…
“I thought I had got the raisins” he continues, “but when I was on the bus eating them I bit into one and it wasn’t a raisin…it was a peanut.”
I feel my heart almost stop. My brain was whirring at a million miles an hour with everything that could go wrong. Then with what needed to be done to prevent it. I would like to say I dealt with it calmly and efficiently, but I’m don’t think I did. Panic had set in.
My boyfriend has just got off the bus and walked to my house so he still had peanut on his hands, that freaked me out. I just started barking instructions, “don’t touch anything. You need to wash your hands thoroughly, you need to brush your teeth. I’ll open the doors. You need to rinse your mouth and then clean the sink out after you!”
I was freaked!
Thinking back on it, it wasn’t that pleasant for him either. His girlfriend just suddenly out of the blue, went crazy. I remember a heated exchange of words at the time, not quite an argument but almost.
My boyfriend was used to me not to eat at a buffet restaurant or interrogating waiters about cooking methods in the kitchen. But this was the first time we had had to deal with a very real allergy threat together, and you know what? I think it made us stronger together.
It opened up a discussion that we had never needed before. It showed us both where there were risks we hadn’t known before. I talked about my allergic reaction and my fears with my allergy and why I freaked out like I did. I was able to share something with him that we could solve together and what it was like to have an allergic reaction. We recapped on how to use my adrenaline pens, when to use them and the procedure should I have an allergic reaction.
We often forget to educate others because we are so capable or because we are scared what they will think. From purely my own development side, I was able to learn how to manage my food allergy freak outs more effectively too and there have been a couple times since where my boyfriend has eaten nuts. But now we have a system in place. I don’t freak out every time he eats nuts, (it doesn’t happen often) but when he does we know how to manage it together. So I’m safe and it doesn’t tear us apart but make us stronger.