Lessons I’ve Learned From Having Food Allergies

A guest blog post by Teen Advisory Group member Julia Gray.

Having multiple food allergies has been such a blessing in disguise. You might wonder why going through all this extra work to avoid allergens and educate others would be a positive in my life, but really, it’s all about attitude. I may not have been able to partake in a traditional relationship with food, but I grew a lot as a person instead. 

Children with allergies have to grow up and gain independence quickly. From a young age, I have had to carry my own epinephrine with me. This has taught me to always be prepared for emergencies and has made me more conscious about the presence of food in all aspects of life. As I got older, I began to carry bigger bags that could hold my epinephrine and some snacks so that I would be ready for any time that my friends are eating. Now I’ve become the designated mom friend in my friend group, and people will ask me if I brought various things because I always have exactly what they need somewhere in my bag. An initial inconvenience has turned into a positive habit and life skill.

One of the best things that my parents did for me as a child was promising to take me to get a safe snack of choice on my way home from a party where I don’t eat the dessert. This helped to positively shape my attitude about allergies, because although I couldn’t eat cake with everyone, I got to choose my dessert for the day and that made me special. I became confident about my allergies and ready to stand up for myself when offered unsafe things. Now this confidence has spread across other aspects of my life and allows me to grow as a leader on my college campus.

Having food allergies has also brought me a sense of diligence that I carry across all aspects of my life. Because I have always had to read labels, talk to chefs, discuss with friends and roommates, I know that precautions are necessary. This attention to detail has helped me thrive in my studies in school as I think about the smaller details needed for projects to succeed. 

My personal favorite lesson from having food allergies has been my knowledge of cooking and baking. My mom is an amazing chef and baker, and learning how to make all kinds of safe foods by her side has really strengthened my skills as a cook in my own right. I’ve learned how to make allergy safe substitutions for myself and for my friends, and now I can make accommodations for many people.

The extra steps children with allergies must learn to take can seem like a barrier at times, but attitude is everything. The challenges you may face today are setting you up for future success, and it is very important that you view any setbacks as opportunities for growth.