Learning to Rally: Obstacles Are Ours To Conquer

Learning to Rally: Obstacles Are Ours To Conquer

We don’t choose our parents, we don’t choose the circumstances we are born into, we don’t choose our bodies. These are a combination of other peoples choices and genetics, but once we are born, it is our parents, it is our environment, it is our body and we have not only the responsibility for our own lives but the choice to live it how we choose.

For those of us with allergies, we didn’t choose them, we don’t even know why our body has them or can’t tolerate certain foods and proteins. But how we manage them, how we approach the obstacles which are laid in our path are what will define who we are as people. Who we are as a person is far more important than our an allergy. An allergy is manageable because the beauty of it is that we know exactly what can make us sick. Who we are as people and how we manage the obstacles that come toward us has a far greater and deeper lasting on us and those around us.

I find that stress is a great way to test our personal strength, do you crumble or do you rally? but like everything in life, you always have a choice. To forget you have a choice, to ignore the choices you have, that you can create is to forget and ignore your own strength. Deciding to ignore your ability to choose is to ignore your own potential to grow and to become better. 

I always say that “allergies aren’t about missing out, they are about doing things differently.” I have made the choice that I am not going to miss out, to not miss out I am going to take actions and choices to make this so. That is my choice, my decision. I see a potential obstacle of ‘I can’t eat this cake because it has nuts in’ or ‘most cakes have nuts in’ so I learned to make my own. When I found gluten wasn’t good for me, my boyfriend and I were following a paleo diet but I really wanted something sweet. Unfortunately for me, most paleo recipes use nuts as a substitute – big no no for me for obvious reasons. This was an obstacle. Do I give up at this moment and say – well I can’t have cake anymore/forever? No! (My sweet tooth really wanted cake.) I made the choice to experiment! and experiment I did. It took at least 6-8 months to come up with a cake that actually tasted good and had a good texture. Each time something wasn’t quite right, it could be thought of an obstacle to a good cake. But I thought of it as a “that’s interesting, why did that happen?” I used it like a science experiment. The more things went wrong with my baking the more knowledge I acquired as to how different flours, oils, butters, and other ingredients interested together. I learned WHY some recipes were written in a certain way, I learned about the different qualities and characteristics of different gluten and nut free flours. I wouldn’t have learned this if it had all gone right fro the start. If it had, to truly and fully understand why things worked, to be able to teach other people, I would have had to back engineer the baking of my cakes and other creations, to deliberately make it go wrong to find out why it worked. I would have had to create “obstacles” in order to learn.

In business I used to get really upset when someone didn’t like my food. It would really cut me to the core and make me incredibly upset. In hindsight, some of these people had no idea what they were talking about, others did have some constructive criticism but it hurt. The hurt was my ego getting bruised. But these little obstacles, these little bumps to my ego helped me to learn about myself to make my food creations even better. After a bit of “oh woe is me” time, (Ali White podcast episode4/5 has a great technique, have a 5 minute blubber then carry on), I decided that I was going to develop recipes that no one could fault, I was going to make them so good that no one would be able to realise they were free from allergens. The obstacle in this instance was more my ego, my feelings and I needed to get over them because they stopped me from moving forward. 

Later, with some more hurdles to scale (mostly my own brain), I created a recipe book full of chocolate treats and desserts free from the top 14 allergens, which actually sold to people who weren’t just my family and friends. 

I think this gets to the heart of it. Obstacles help us to learn what we are made of. It helps us to learn where and how we need to grow more in order to achieve our goals. Our emotions are our own obstacles, our fears are our own obstacles. But thank goodness they are ours and therefore we have control over them!

 

Lockdown has been an opportune time to tidy, to organise and clear up direction. Some of that has meant cleaning up the files on my Dropbox. This was originally written 19th April 2017, with a few edits today (31st May 2020), and in this current Covid thing that’s going on, I believe the sentiments I wrote about still ring true.

2019 and Beyond: Living Proactively with Food Allergies

2019 and Beyond: Living Proactively with Food Allergies

Over the last 6 months I was unsure where I have been taking the blog and podcast. It got to the point where I was falling out of love with it.

The purpose and driving force behind Eat Allergy Safe has always been that allergies aren’t about missing out, they are about doing things differently. Since starting the blog in 2015 and the podcast in 2016, I have found there are SO many inspirational allergy bloggers and people out there.

Unfortunately, these inspirational people can often get drowned out by a few negative vocal voices and newspaper stories. (I have definitely felt pressure from these negative voices and haven’t always known how to respond…) The fear mongering encourages others to believe they are victims and that the world owes them something because they have a food allergy. I believe this is wrong and destructive and does not allow each person to find their innate strengths.

Food allergy deaths have become popular topics for newspaper articles. Although the frequency of allergies being in the news is great for awareness, they serve also to fuel fear, anxiety and stress about living with allergies everyday. They have forced people to pay attention out of fear. This serves an initial purpose, but I believe only in the short term. If allergy education and awareness is to be a long term plan, we can’t go at it from fear because that just builds resentment. Not to mention, being an allergy sufferer I don’t want to depress myself by reading about a death that could have so easily have been me. For my own mental well being, I want to take action.

Through learning about my allergy I know I feel more in control of my life and ability to manage on a day to day basis. The more knowledge I have acquire I find I can understand more than just my own views, and that gives me perspective on the actions of others and helps me manage my emotional response to negative news articles or opinions.

Things Are Changing…

This said, things are changing on the blog and podcast. As some of you may have noticed if you follow me on social media, I’ve been posting very sporadically. This is going to continue and I have made the decision to log out of many of the accounts. I have an auto-poster app that I will use to share blog posts, but I will no longer be active on the accounts. This is for my own well being and also because I have come to dislike some of the bad human traits that social media encourages in general. (I’ve found over the last year that negative and angry posts get the most interaction and are promoted the most by social platforms – that is not what I want to promote at Eat Allergy Safe and it is not what Eat Allergy Safe is about.)

Instead I encourage you to comment on a blog post or, even better, send me an email through the contact form! I want to encourage actual communication rather than the fleeting comments or ‘likes’ on social media that we often make and forget so quickly.

Proactive, not Reactive: Information & Education

Content in 2019 is going to be focused on information and education about all aspects of living with food allergies so that we can make informed decisions.

If you are an allergy parent, your time will come when allergies won’t be a big part of your life. That is good and the natural order of things, but your allergy child will always have allergies. Allergies won’t go away, and the best protection you can give them is to arm your child with knowledge and confidence so they can own their allergy. 

I will look for your input over 2019. What information do you wish you could find? What practical information do you want? What are you curious about? The science and psychology of allergies? or food manufacturing? 

I want the content to be proactive rather than reactive, so that living with allergies is proactive rather than reactive.

What do you think?

Leave a comment below or send me an email, I’d love to hear from you.

When Your Opinion Gets You in “Trouble”

When Your Opinion Gets You in “Trouble”

Last week I published my Open Letter to Allergy Teenagers and it received an overwhelming amount of attention. It was part of a series of articles talking about different aspects of living with food allergies for Allergy Awareness Week 2018. 

The post had a mixture of some positive, some negative and some comments which hurt me personally and made me question whether I’d gone too far. Especially as the most vehement comments came from people I had interviewed on the podcast, who had supported and shared my other posts and had never mentioned that they had a problem with what I said.

When the comments were coming in thick and fast I felt a bit like this…

Christopher Eccleston Australia GIF by The Leftovers HBO - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Now that I’m over the personal nature of some of the comments (and I went through a whole gamut of emotions: shock, sadness and [lots of] anger), and feel of a more rational mind I wanted to respond to some of the valid points. Although many were accusatory and attacked my character, they raised an important issue surrounding how we help food allergy kids and teenagers feel empowered.

The Open Letter was inspired by an instagram post I saw last year and later compounded with conversations I had with kids & teenagers at the Allergy and Free From Show in Liverpool 2017.

Now first up, I admit the facebook post I wrote was inflammatory and as pointed out by a fellow allergy blogger, perhaps had a negative slant whereas the the article had a positive message, in her opinion.

I’ve got a bone to pick with allergy teenagers…

Read all about it in my open letter for…

Posted by Eat Allergy Safe – gluten free, nut free, dairy free, vegan on Thursday, 26 April 2018

 

Although there were in total about 28 comments on the post, these two get at the heart of the issue:

Commenter 1: “A 16 year old was expressing how she felt about her allergies at the time […] to actually judge her for her comments or any other comment you could be referencing now I feel is rather harsh […] Please assess this was the maturity it deserves. Don’t put people off sharing their thoughts on Allergy. Not everyone has the confidence to talk about it!”

These first comments I must admit took me by surprise. I hadn’t written it from a place to judgement or to berate, how could I judge those who feel now what I had felt before.

It is true when you are a teenager, your world feels like it is falling apart all the time. I remember how each conflict or challenge was life and death, the dramas were so real. Life is chaotic for teens!

As commenter 1 rightly says, “not everyone has the confidence to talk about their allergy” and how they feel about it. I certainly didn’t when I was a kid or a teenager!

Commenter 2: “We, the adults need to help them navigate their worries about fitting in […]and it is we who can show them that their allergies definitely do not define them. Less judgement for our vulnerable age group and more support in getting them where they need to be”

 

Commenter 2 is absolutely right, we as grown up allergy kids and allergy parents do need to lead by example and show kids and teenagers that allergies don’t have to define them if they choose not. 

We do need to guide them and help them process the challenges of feeling like we belong, and what teenager truly knows where they belong? There are so many hormones and things (friendships, body, school etc) changing all the time! 

Most teenagers are worried about “fitting in” and while most people will try and give advice for how they can fit in, I am suggesting rather than trying to “fit in” to someone else’s mould, make your own.

I question the idea of following the herd. Why we would we let our allergy teens settle for trying to “fit in.” Why wouldn’t we challenge, encourage and support teenagers to forge their own path in life?

And sometimes, when we are going against the flow, when we forge our own path, we have to bare our teeth or draw our sword. Just like dragon tamers. To bare our teeth is not about trying to start a fight, but to show those who might stand in our way, whether verbally or physically, that we mean business. That we mean what we say and are willing to stand up for ourselves.

My approach is different not wrong. I wrote the open letter in a way that, I hope, would encourage action. You might even apply this philosophy to not just how we live with allergies but life in general…

Unfortunately, these commenters blocked me on instagram in the end, which is sad because it ends the conversation. Without conversation we cannot move forward nor find ways to help our allergy kids and teens who don’t have the confidence to speak out when they need help.

There isn’t a one size fits all way to raise food allergy kids. Nor live with food allergies. We all live different lives, learning and adapting in our own way. My way might not be your way and vice versa. As such, discussions on these ideas are vital for us to help our allergy community and the many more children and adults who are developing allergies.

How do you help your allergy teens and kids? Leave a comment below and join the discussion.

Disclaimer: I annoyed my boyfriend for a week about this before I finally sorted out how to respond to the personal attacks vs idealogical attacks. I have done my best to separate them and present as rational a response as possible and leave out those feelings that could divulge this post into a slinging match. 

To read my posts from Allergy Awareness Week UK, including my open letter, click on the links below:

 

Life Is More Than Food Allergies and Here’s Proof…!

Life Is More Than Food Allergies and Here’s Proof…!

Life is more than food allergies. They won’t stop you from reaching your goals, but it’s up to you to not let them. Today, for the first time, I reveal how I know that life is more than food allergies…

If you want something, you should make it the focus. Food allergies are just one of life’s challenges, but not everything in life is about allergies. To focus on allergens is to put allergies into the forefront of your life. If you don’t want allergies to be the focus or the goal of your life, then don’t make them the only thing you think about.

When I go to the Allergy & Free From Shows in London & Liverpool, parents visiting the stand often say to me “I assume allergies isn’t the only thing you do” and I answer “no it isn’t but I have chosen to make it a focal point. I’ve done all the normal stuff: school trips, parties, university, going travelling etc and I have other interests too.”

Today I’m sharing the other part of my life with you. I wouldn’t be able to achieve it if I let every fear and worry about my allergies stop me from trying to achieve it.

I am training as a Ballroom and Latin dancer (you know, like Strictly!), specialising in Latin American. As of Easter weekend my partner and I are now the reigning European Pre-Amateur under 35 latin American champions!

Nina Modak u35 European pre-am winner

Winning U35 Pre-amateur Latin Trophy at the European Championships held at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

If I worried about my allergies all the time I would have never of tried ballroom and latin because Think of all the cross-contamination risks!! People eating nuts and then holding my hand. Then the worrying about asking people to change their habits for me and what if they don’t?

Of course I get concerned, but it’s simple to solve. Every dance partner I’ve ever had, in our first practice together (or before) I tell them I am severely allergic to all nuts and please would then not eat nuts when they are going to dance with me because I can’t dance with otherwise. I have never had a partner say they wouldn’t and if they did, I would certainly know they are not the right partner for me!!

Allergies had nothing to do with my dancing, actually they didn’t impact it all because I made sure my allergy fears didn’t get the better of me. I took all the proper precautions (checking ingredients labels, my partner didn’t eat nuts etc), and I had a dream. Sometimes you just have to take a leap into the unknown and actively not let your allergy rule your life.

 

Thanks for joining me for Allergy Awareness Week 2018. I hope you’ve enjoyed the the last 4 articles. I’ve covered topics close to my heart because life isn’t all about allergies, it’s just sometimes you have to do things differently. If you haven’t read the other articles make sure you check them out #1 – What allergies are not, #2 – Build confidence in your food allergy kids, #3 – backpacking with allergies and #4 – Open letter to allergy teens.

 

P.S.

So you’ve read my story and you’ve been following my posts over Allergy Awareness Week 2018. I know life is more than allergies and now I want to help you know that yours and your food allergy kid’s lives are too! For this reason I started Allergy Coaching.

Allergy Coaching is about having someone in your corner to teach and coaching through allergy challenges to help build your confidence and so you can empower your food allergy kid.

To find out more about Allergy Coaching and book your complimentary 15 minute consultation send me an email via the contact page today.

Episode 15: “She Lied to Us” and Almost Killed Our Daughter

Episode 15: “She Lied to Us” and Almost Killed Our Daughter

Today’s Guest:

My Parents, Robin and Suzie

 

What You’ll Learn:

We spend this episode talking about the time I ended up in hospital with a severe allergic reaction to peanuts. My parents share their emotions, what happened, how it happened, everything we went through to prevent this allergic reaction and we reflect on what we can learn from it.

We went through all the necessary precautions, all the usual processes we would go through to educate, to safe guard against me eating nuts but this time someone did not listen, they did not believe us.

EAS015: The thing that hurts the most is that she lied to me and put one her best friend’s grandchildren’s lives at risk. Click To Tweet

We also talk about how we can learn from and move past my allergic reaction ordeal.

My parents top 3 methods to managing other people:

  • “We explain the importance [of anaphylaxis] and then we act to check things.” – Dad
  • Explain it’s our issue not their issue.
  • If someone can’t respect the importance of allergies, then you have to decide whether you are going to be friends with them.

 

”EAS015 Click To Tweet and then we act to check things.” username=”eatallergysafe”]

THANK YOU FOR LISTENING

To get more EAS content sent directly to your device as they become available, you can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher!

One of our little goals we would love to achieve for is to get into the iTunes “New & Noteworthy” Section, it means we get free front page advertising on iTunes, how great for allergy awareness! But we can’t do it without you. Please subscribe, rate and review on iTunes so that the people at Apple will take notice of our podcast

And lastly, if you have any questions, thoughts, or guests you want to see on the show, please contact me via the contact page.

RESOURCES:

Read my blog post about my reaction here.

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Episode 14: When Do You Know You’ve Raised Your Allergy Kid Right?

Episode 14: When Do You Know You’ve Raised Your Allergy Kid Right?

Today’s Guest:

My Parents! Robin and Suzie

WEBSITE: www.eatallergysafe.com

TWITTER: @eatallergysafe

 

This week I will be talking to both my parents. We chat about how they had to educate family and friends, whether allergies are a disability or not and how you can raise a confident allergy kid.

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • How do you talk to people who have to look after you child but who may not believe you: be blunt, explain that allergies and anaphylaxis is a medical condition
  • Take action where you can be present, if you can’t then you have a choice.
  • I people still don’t listen then it’s time to make a decision as to who your friends are
  • No environment is safe, not about policing it’s about education. About educating other people and educating me (the allergy kid)
  • How do you know how much to scare someone so that they listen? Is it about scaring them?
  • It’s about being matter of fact about allergies and asking people to be reasonable and about being reasonable when you ask.
  • About making people understand the importance of following allergy precautions.
  • We discuss the question: are allergies a disability?
  • How do you an enable an allergy child to be confident?
How you know you’ve raised your allergy kid right = when they start educating you, the parent! Click To Tweet

THANK YOU FOR LISTENING

To get more EAS content sent directly to your device as they become available, you can subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher Radio!

One of our little goals we would love to achieve for is to get into the iTunes “New & Noteworthy” Section, it means we get free front page advertising on iTunes, how great for allergy awareness! But we can’t do it without you. Please subscribe, rate and review on iTunes so that the people at Apple will take notice of our podcast

And lastly, if you have any questions, thoughts, or guests you want to see on the show, please contact me via the contact page.

RESOURCES: