I have a few more topics to post about in celebration of Food Allergy Awareness week which is this week. The question I will be answering today is: How do you navigate awkward conversations with other people that do not understand food allergies?
I will admit that I am not perfect in this area, but I am well known for having many awkward conversations with people when necessary. My professional history is counseling at risk kids and their parents. Talk about some awkward conversations… Trust me, I’ve had more than my fair share of those. Having those kind of awkward conversations and having awkward conversations about food allergies have many things in common. Here are some guidelines that I try to stick with when having awkward or difficult conversations with people that do not understand what you are going through. I hope these are helpful. Remember, these are ways that I have learned to deal with these situations, they may or may not work for you.
1. Don’t be awkward yourself. I know that may not come off very nicely, I don’t mean to offend anyone. There are times when we feel self conscious, have had bad past experiences, etc. and we take those emotions into our conversations about food allergies. I try to remain matter of fact when telling people about my family’s food allergies and intolerances. If I act like they are no big deal, others will behave the same way. If I overreact emotionally, others will likely not take us very seriously. I find that when I talk very matter of factly about our food allergies and intolerances, other people want to hear more and find it all fascinating. This to me, is a great place to arrive. They have taken me seriously and are comfortable asking me more questions.
2. Be calm. For those of us with severe food allergies or have kids with them, our lives are very stressful. Our emotions can often be found clearly on our sleeve. It is a VERY emotional journey! Remember, I’ve shed buckets of tears over the span of having kids with food allergies. Since our emotions are so raw and our stress levels high, we can tend to drag those emotions around with us. When we enter into a conversation with people that don’t understand our food allergies we can spew our bottled up emotions quickly and easily. We often think these people deserve it. This doesn’t help our plight with our family and friends that don’t understand our food allergies, it only makes it worse. Hear me clearly, it is OK to have all of these emotions, but we need to find the right place to deal with them. I HIGHLY suggest finding others in your area that have food allergies to be in fun active community with them. It not only helps to have other people that understand, it also gives you safe people to have meals and outings with that “get it”. This should help when you have to have those hard conversations with people that don’t get it because you have a village that does. Then, be sure to go into conversations with others that may not understand you with a calm attitude. In any situation, being calm is always helpful.
3. Put yourself in their shoes. I really do my best to understand where other people are coming from. We may not see eye to eye on some things, but I really want to hear them. It’s important to really seek WHY someone doesn’t understand our food allergies. Do they just need us to educate them better and in a kind way? Are we behaving in a way that may feel offensive or crazy to them? I meet people all the time that I just don’t understand their situation, because I’m not in their situation. The same goes for others that don’t have food allergies. I have had to realize that I can’t expect people without food allergies to understand us fully because they aren’t in our shoes. It does feel so good when friends and family that don’t have food allergies attempt to understand us the best they can. Let’s have the same attitude towards them as we want them to have towards us.
4. Be an educator. Living with food allergies has made you an educator whether you want to be or not. It is our job to educate people that don’t understand what we live with on a daily basis. If we want to be understood, we must be willing to help people understand us. A good teacher is one that is well versed, has an engaging way of educating (this varies with our personalities which is good), and teaches the facts. From there, our “students” get to choose whether or not to believe what we have taught them. It is no different than a school teacher, it’s just in a different context. Life is full of teaching and learning.
5. Let it go. Some people just simply won’t ever understand us and will think we are crazy. That’s ok and we need to get to a place where we can embrace that. We will be misunderstood by someone at some point in our lives because of food allergies. That’s unfortunately the way life goes, for everyone, food allergies and not. For those that you have tried to educate, have had very calm conversations with, and been very kind to about it, but they still just don’t understand, let them be. I have had to learn that there are some people that just don’t want to understand us or what we deal with everyday. With those people, I just have to learn to still be kind to them, but not spend meals with them very often or ever if I can. I don’t let these people get under my skin, they just simply won’t be someone that I live a close life with. That’s ok, I have plenty of amazingly supportive family and friends that do understand us.
I hope that you find my tips helpful. Know that I have been in those awkward food allergy conversation shoes. I have someone close to me that just doesn’t get it, makes snide comments often about food allergies, and thinks I’m crazy. You aren’t alone if you find yourself in those shoes. While it can be very difficult, I have learned to be thankful for the MANY family and friends that do get it and are very supportive. I hope you have a great village around you that “gets it” too.
I’m also posting a recipe for you today as I will be out of town on Friday. A reader hinted that she would love my blueberry rhubarb (blubarb) crumble recipe. It’s hot off the press, so here you go!
2 C Chopped rhubarb
2 C Frozen or fresh blueberries
1 C Coconut Sugar, divided
2 T Lemon juice
2 T Tapioca starch
6 T Earth balance soy free buttery spread
1/2 C Gluten free oats
1/2 C Gluten free oat flour
1/4 t Salt
Preheat your oven to 350°. Prepare an 8×8 baking dish with non-stick spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, blueberries, lemon juice, tapioca starch, and 1/2 C coconut sugar. Mix them until all of the ingredients are well combined. In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, oat flour, the remaining 1/2 C coconut sugar, and salt. Then cut the butter into the oat mixture until it is pea sized. Using a spatula, scrape the fruit mixture into the 8×8 baking dish and spread the mixture until it is even. Then sprinkle the oat mixture over the top of the fruit and make sure it is evenly coated. Bake in the oven at 350° for 45 minutes or until the fruit mixture is bubbling. Eat warm with your favorite allergy friendly ice cream. Enjoy!