Tips for Educating Your Friends and Family About Food Allergies
Guest author Jennifer Studer Daley
Since I was diagnosed with food allergies over five years ago, I have struggled to educate a handful of family and friends on the lifestyle changes I've had to make and may continue to make. Below you will find what I've discovered are the best ways for instructing your loved ones on how and why you live your life the way you do.
With help from my doctor, I came up with these approaches to educate family and friends on living with food allergies:
1. Explain to them that your choices and comfortability is directly a result of the advice your doctor gave you.
People who do not have allergies or people who do not understand living with allergies need to know that your lifestyle choices are based off of your allergist’s instructions or recommendations. It's imperative to explain that your doctor advised you to take certain actions or precautions. It gives more credibility to your way of life, even though you saying, “this is how I live” should be enough.
2. Explain a traumatic experience that you have encountered having food allergies.
The quickest way for someone to understand you is to tell him or her a story that paints a picture of your food allergy struggles. If you are comfortable sharing your story, it may be the "aha" moment for them where everything begins to click.
3. Explain that you would do the same for them.
After you explain why you have to maintain this lifestyle, it's critical that you tell them something along the lines of this example: "I'm so grateful for your awareness/understanding/patience and I hope you know I would do the same for you. Your health, well-being and comfortability are far too important to me." People tend to be more empathetic and compassionate if they know you would make a similar sacrifice for them.
At the end of the day, I have learned that regardless of whether someone understands your lifestyle choices and eating habits, you must adhere to whatever guidelines your doctor has given you and protect yourself from allergic reactions. There will be people who choose not to respect your choices, or even unknowingly threaten your health. Having said that, you are your best advocate. You know what is dangerous to your health and your life. For each person who gives you a hard time, there will be two people who go out of their way to protect you and keep you from harm's way.
What other suggestions do you have to help educate your friends and family?
Jennifer Studer Daley is an internationally published writer, whose mission is to empower and serve others through storytelling. After graduating from The Pennsylvania State University with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and English, she worked for CBS Sports, the NFL Network and the Dodgers and Lakers sports networks before launching her own website, www.timeformetobe.com.