My Disordered Eating

07/12
2012

I’m hungry, maybe a slice of cheese pizza.  (Wouldn’t Gino love that?)  I know but I’m not talking about Gino.  I’m talking about me.  I’m talking about what sounds good to me for lunch.  (Fine, but I bet it would sound good to him too, don’t you think?  I mean, if he could eat it.)  I don’t want to think about that.  (Just for a second, picture him eating a slice and how happy he would be.)  I don’t know.  I’m not in the mood for pizza anymore.  (Why not?)  I mean if my kids can’t eat it, why should I get to?  (True, but you are alone and you are hungry.)  Maybe I’ll get a quick cheese quesadilla and a side of beans instead.  (Go ahead. Hurry and order it before I start talking again.) I’m hungry.  Let me just take a bite.  It’s so good.  (Oh, I bet it is… with all that wheat and cow’s milk.)  Oops, there’s so much cheese that when I took my first bite, a long string of it dragged across my chin.  I need a napkin.  (And a wipe, you know, before you kiss the kids since now your face is dripping in allergens.)  I’ll eat some beans then.  (Remember how much Gino loved beans before he started reacting to them and how sick he got the last time he ate them?)  Maybe I’m full.  (You hardly ate.)  I’m not in the mood for it anymore. (So, when are you gonna eat then?)  When you stop talking so much and I can forget that I am enjoying food that the kids can’t eat!  (Makes sense.)  Really?  Does it?

Does it make sense that we feel bad for eating food that makes our child sick?  Sure.  Does it make sense that we find ourselves avoiding foods that our child has reacted to?  Sure.  Does it make sense that we should never again allow ourselves to joyfully eat that food?  No.  There are some parents of allergic children who choose to completely avoid the foods to which their children are allergic.  If you choose to avoid foods that your child cannot eat because it makes you happy, that may well be a good choice for you.  But if you are avoiding these foods out of guilt and fear, or out of a desire to make things fair or as some sort of well-deserved punishment for yourself, it might be time to rethink this.  You do not need to punish yourself for your child’s food allergy.

Emotionally speaking though, it makes perfect sense that we feel we may never be able to joyfully eat the foods that our children cannot. Some experiences with food, you just can’t get over.  For example, one time I found an eyelash in a bowl of potato soup in my work cafeteria, whether or not it was mine (I really don’t think it was) is completely irrelevant.  I haven’t stomached another bowl of potato soup in 17 years.  Another time at a Corner Bakery downtown, the man helping me with my food had an actively bloody nose while serving my mac and cheese.   I have nothing against Corner Bakery (or bloody noses for that matter… just not together) but I have only stopped there once in the past ten years, post-call, to get a coffee so I wouldn’t fall asleep on my short drive home.  It’s lost its appeal.

Food is emotional.  Every spoonful is a memory.  Every slice brings you back to a moment.  We don’t just eat to eat, we eat to feel.  And sometimes we don’t eat so we don’t have to feel.  Watching your child turn limp, unresponsive, and covered in hives after eating an egg may, understandably, be enough to make you want to avoid egg, in all its forms, forever.  I mean if an eyelash can cause a nearly 2 decade food aversion, imagine the repugnant relationship one may establish with an egg after witnessing such a devastating event.  I call it post-traumatic disordered eating.  And this is my self-diagnosis.

I’ve seen it manifest itself in many ways.  After a long day in clinic working with two adult patients with new-onset anaphylaxis and shortly after my son’s anaphylaxis to egg, my husband and I went out to eat.  I ordered salmon.  I hadn’t eaten it in a long time but it sounded healthy and light.  As I ate it, I started to think about work, about how fish was one of the top-8 food allergens, about my son’s near-fatal reaction to food, about the new adult food allergy diagnoses I made that day, and suddenly my throat felt tight.  I felt like I couldn’t swallow well.  I kept drinking gulp after gulp of water.  How could this be happening?  Was it really happening?  I didn’t want to tell my husband because deep down I believed I wasn’t having physical symptoms but I needed to tell him because I was definitely having emotional ones.  I was on the verge of a panic attack over salmon that I was not having an allergic reaction to.  We talked through it and I calmed down.  My throat wasn’t swelling.  I didn’t have hives.  I wasn’t going to vomit.  But it was traumatic and it was stressful.

Every time we are out to eat with other parents of a food allergic child, we absolutely have to comment on the fact that we are eating foods that our kids cannot.  They talk about how they feel about their child’s allergen(s) and we talk about how we feel.  It’s the elephant in the room (or more likely, the peanut on the plate) and until we verbalize it, I don’t think that anyone is really able to enjoy their dinner.  We have to talk about it, so we can stop thinking about it.  These internal dialogues can, and do, grow very tiresome.  Then we can choose which foods we will still avoid and which foods we will eat because we don’t get to eat them at home.  At this point, I usually dig into the center of the loaf of bread and pull out a dense, soft middle piece that I will soon cover (smother) in butter.  Then I repeat this, literally, ad nauseum.  This sort of over-compensatory, rapid (and often secretive) eating of food that your child cannot eat is another sign of post-traumatic disordered eating.  (Remember this is not an official diagnosis but one that I have coined myself and frankly, have cornered the market on.)

For our ten-year wedding anniversary, my husband and I went to Table 52, and they served deviled eggs along with these unbelievable cheese buns.  I looked at the eggs.  They looked at me.  I hadn’t had a deviled egg in the 6 years following the boys’  anaphylaxis to egg in a cookie I made for them, but I used to eat them with great joy.  My husband and I looked at each other. We looked back at the eggs.  He said, with a certain level of disgust, “I’m not eating those.”  I said with a certain level of desire, “I won’t either.”  See the difference in those remarks?  He really didn’t want one.  I wanted one but wasn’t going to let myself eat it if the kids couldn’t eat it.  After a few minutes, he was able to encourage me to eat one.  He could see how much I wanted it.  And for the first time since the egg anaphylaxis, I put a deviled egg into my mouth. The flavors.  The aroma.  The experience.   I was transported.  I was a child on Easter morning and a little girl at my gramma’s house.  I hadn’t been back to those memories in many years.  I missed them and eating that deviled egg is what brought them back.

Food does this like nothing else can. It captures all of your senses and literally can put you back in a space and time.  Eating a cashew puts my hand deep into a blue can of Planter’s on an airplane (I know, gasp) to Florida with my family as a kid.  Eating a Butterfinger blizzard brings me to the Dairy Queen in Bourbonnais after early-dismissal from grade school.  I can see my gramma’s hand swirling as she made it for me. Eating an eggroll at a Chinese restaurant drops me in the back seat of our family car with my sister after a trip to TJ Maxx followed by dinner at China Gate.  Our memories are intertwined with food.

Our children’s memories may not be filled with deviled eggs or cashews or blizzards or eggrolls but no matter what food they have to avoid, they will have their own food memories.  Food memories that we have created for them.  They may have Benjamint Bars from Divvies on Easter morning, or Cybele Pascal’s vanilla scones at Christmas or Hanukkah, or Cherrybrook Kitchen chocolate cakes for birthdays.  They will have loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, food of the earth.  Each food with its own smell and taste, color and texture.  Each food tied into its own childhood memories.  See, you are not denying them childhood food memories.  You don’t have to deny yourself them either. It’s good for us to take a bite of the otherwise forbidden foods and let it take us back, every now and then.

We talk a lot about the emotional effect food allergy has on parents, but mostly in regard to our fear over our children eating allergenic food.  I don’t think we talk enough about the emotional toll that eating foods our children cannot eat has on parents.  It’s okay to admit that eating can sometimes be difficult.  It’s okay to have these feelings.  It’s okay to need to work through them.  It’s okay to reach out and ask for help.  The next time you go out to eat, think about what you will order and imagine eating that food before you actually do.  Imagine eating it in happy moderation.  Imagine eating it without regret or guilt.  Work out the kinks and anxieties so when you sit down for a nice (and likely rare) night out with your spouse or friends, that you can do so in peace.  Take a deep breath and do your best to enjoy yourself, nuts and deviled eggs and all.  Bon appetite, friends.  You deserve it.

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145 Responses to My Disordered Eating

  1. Homa says:

    I struggle with this so very much. My son is almost weaned so I will technically be allowed to eat things the kids are allergic to again once I’m not nursing but I can’t picture it. I can’t picture going out and having a piece of bread or some tofu or marzipan. I just can’t. I know this isn’t the healthiest perspective to have but I seize up just thinking about it. Thanks for an insightful post.

    • Sarah says:

      Homa,
      It can be such a struggle. Our children have to avoid so much food that I do eat things that they are allergic to when I am not with them. Some days I just do it without thinking too much, other days I can’t eat those foods, and others I will but I feel terrible. Food is always on my mind. I do hope that once your son is weaned that you can treat yourself to one good piece of bread.
      Take care,
      Sarah

  2. Caryn says:

    Wow.
    Once again, you capture each and every iota of this very complicated issue perfectly.

    I gobbled up this blog and I’m sure I’ll return to it and savor it, too.

    For me, one of the most complicated things about eating our daughter’s biggest allergen (peanuts) is the fact that she has had both airborne and contact reactions. SO, I’ve only eaten peanuts when I am VERY far away from her (say, like, when I was in Africa for work a few years ago) and when I knew I would not be with her for at least 24 hours…AND when I knew I’d be able to wash all my clothing elsewhere. Obviously, all very complicated. And, while I enjoyed the Honey Roasted Peanuts, the Peanut Butter Zone Bars and the Peanut Butter on Ritz Crackers (before I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease) — and least I forget the miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — it was all a lot of work and thought…and in the back of my mind, I wondered if it was worth it…

    I’d be interested in hearing from others who have children who have had airborne and/or contact reactions…

    • Sarah says:

      Caryn,
      Thank you so much for your comment. My son does have contact reactions to many of his allergens so when I do eat a food that he is allergic to, I take extra precautions to assure that I do not have that food on me when I come back into contact with him. I have started eating almost exclusively with utensils so I don’t end up getting food all over my hands. This actually has helped me feel less “contaminated” when I come home.
      I think the more we are okay with letting ourselves enjoy foods that our children can’t, the more these indulgences may feel worth it. At least, I hope so!
      Good night, friend,
      Sarah

    • -shelby says:

      Caryn – My son also has severe allergies and contact issues…6 of the top 8 are out for him, and peanuts scares me quite a bit (I think he’s got some airborne problems with them, too)…but we have recently started having peanut butter on date nights when I know he will be in bed before we get home. I make sure I don’t drop any on my clothing, and just go ahead and throw it in the laundry bin that night, wash my hands, and brush my teeth, and we haven’t had any issues. That’s not to say that we never will, but that’s what we’ve chosen to do, for now. It’s always strange to me when I’m out and can “contaminate” both hands with bread or cheese…I’m so used to keeping one hand clean to help him with his meal, and I hardly ever eat pizza without using utensils now. I guess we just get used to our routines and do what we have to in order to survive, eh? Blessings to you, and thank you, Sarah, for your candid blog. It’s nice to know we’re not alone.
      -shelby

  3. Katie says:

    This post really hits close to home. I try to create pleasant food memories for my peanut/treenut/shellfish/dairy/egg allergic 3 year old daughter. I’ve given up peanut butter, my favorite food, because of the guilt I experience when I eat it. (I once had a near panic attack when I saw a display of Charlie Brown Christmas ornaments in a store – then realized it was because they all said “Peanuts”). My 8 month old son doesn’t appear to have a milk allergy (haven’t exposed him to any other top 8 allergens) and I fantasize about taking him out for ice cream, something that I cannot do with my daughter. I am still trying to find that balance between keeping my family safe and enjoying food myself. Thank you for helping me feel that I am not alone.

    • Sarah says:

      Katie,
      It is so hard to enjoy something that your child cannot. It is so important as a parent to share the joys in life with our children. Just remember you are giving your daughter so much joy!! It’s okay to have a little of your own independent joy every now and then.
      Thank you for your comment!
      Sarah

  4. Kate says:

    So perfectly put. I’m facing a new (non-nut free) school, my daughter’s invitation to her first Yankee game (severe allergies to peanut, treenut, sesame, coconut, shellfish, mustard, OAS, grass, polllen…–sigh), and the same guilt/fear rushes over me every time I’m out, I order in, I cook. It is reassuring to know, that even an allergist feels how I feel. Thank you sharing your perspective.

    • Sarah says:

      Kate,
      You’re very welcome. Thank you for your kind comment. It seems like you have a lot of changes/new events on the horizon… there are so many situations that are only exciting to other people but hold within them so much fear for food allergy families. I hope that everything works out perfectly. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help! Take care, Kate.
      Sarah

  5. john conversa says:

    Sarah – So true! I haven’t eaten peanuts or anything containing them in over 12 years! Snickers, Reeses, Choc covered peanuts (Ferrara of course), even peanut butter…none have crossed my lips. I used to do it so I could kiss her without worry. Now I guess it’s my little sacrifice for her. She’s 15 now and dating…new worries, new ulcers, no sleep!! Sounds like a topic for “The Allergist Mom”.

    • Sarah says:

      John,
      I actually thought of you when I wrote this because I remembered you telling me you avoided peanuts. Having to avoid the top 8 plus like 10 more foods has proven more than I have the will power for but I don’t eat those foods at home. I actually prefer the days when I can look back and know that I didn’t eat a single bite of food that my kids couldn’t eat. John, my daughter just turned 2.5… even thinking about her as a 15 year old is giving me an ulcer! In all seriousness though, it is such an important topic.
      Hope you are doing well!
      Thank you for sharing,
      Sarah

  6. Kristi says:

    Thank you for writing this!!! This is the shameful secret of the mother of a food allergic child. For years I was scare to eat nuts, avoided deviled eggs and was guilty when I ate cheese in front of my daughter. Recently my husband and I were in New York and guiltily ate grilled cheese from a food truck. Well, I don’t think he was guilty but all I could think was “I get to enjoy this because Kate’s not here.” I hate those thoughts! I should probably enjoy it because it tasted amazing… Thanks for your honesty. It’s nice to know I’m not alone :-)

    • Sarah says:

      Kristi,
      Right! Enjoy it because it tastes good and brings back good memories for you. You eating that grilled cheese really has nothing to do with your daughter’s food allergy. Hard to get yourself to believe (if not impossible), but it’s mostly true. My heart breaks when I eat something delicious and then the thought comes in… Oh, if the boys could eat this, they would absolutely love it… Ugh. It is so hard. You are definitely not alone, friend.
      Sarah

  7. Emanuel says:

    Thank you for writing this. Ever since my daughter got diagnosed with a peanut, tree nut, dairy, wheat, and egg allergies 4 months ago I have avoided foods that contain, may contain, are made in, or processed in a facility that contain one of her allergens. To the point that while I am at work, most of the time, I eat gluten free rice cakes with sunbutter and honey . A boring lunch, was the price to pay for peace of mind. Tomorrow, I will have a grill cheese or a bagel with cream-cheese from the coffee-shop across the street. I just have to remember to bring my toothbrush to work.

    • Sarah says:

      Emanuel,
      I hope that you enjoy the heck out of your lunch tomorrow. Let me know how it goes! Take care and brush those teeth! :)
      Sarah

  8. Melinda says:

    Love this post. Before my son’s first ana reaction to peanuts, I was a huge fan of anything peanut related. Peanut butter, Snickers, PB cups. You name it, I loved it. Once he had his reaction though, it changed 100%. I’ve tried to indulge on special occasions when he’s not with me, but it doesn’t even taste the same to me anymore. It’s no longer enjoyable. I feel almost betrayed by peanuts, as strange as that sounds. But I also have that feeling of, I shouldn’t be eating this. It doesn’t help that my 6 year old, who doesn’t have food allergies, scolds me if I have something my other son is allergic to :)

    He’s also ana to eggs. I’ve never liked eggs, so that’s been a bit easier on me :)

    • Sarah says:

      Melinda,
      I find myself personifying food so I totally understand when you feel like peanuts have betrayed you. I get that, 100%. I hope that you are able to find a little moment of enjoyment the next time you eat a Snickers…if that is what you want. That is my favorite candy bar and like you, find it hard to eat it and rarely do but I think if I am going to eat that many calories, I better be happy when I am doing it!!
      Thank you for sharing, Melinda,
      Sarah

    • Cindy in GA says:

      Betrayed by peanuts… that’s a great way of putting it! I feel sort of angry just seeing them in the grocery store sometimes. Darn peanuts! And ads and magazines and websites with peanut recipes and products here there and everywhere it seems. I can’t help thinking, “How could they?! Don’t they know how hard this is?” Totally irrational, I know, but I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  9. Lindsey says:

    What a beautifully written post! As a mother with two out of three FA kiddos, you’ve explained exactly what goes through what I think most of our minds when we eat a taboo food. It feels so naughty for me. I feel sorrow at the thought of my kids never being able to experience the simple pleasure. It sometimes hurts in a very real way. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one :)

    • Sarah says:

      Lindsey,
      The pain is terrible. It’s deep and makes me want to weep. But then you have to get yourself out of it to be able to celebrate all/anything we can eat! You are definitely not the only one and honestly, I am glad to know I am not the only one either! Thank you for your comment!
      Sarah

  10. Erin says:

    Love love love love this post. Oh, how I’d love a grilled cheese some day, or my husband a hamburger. (son known ANA dairy and supposedly all mammals, amongst host of other IgE allergens). My kid can only eat apples, though, bc of EoE. I hate food for all of is…. And totally get it. Thx again for great post….. Xo

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you, Erin! EoE is another very difficult diagnosis and the food restrictions in that disease are so often extensive. I hate food too. And then, I love it. So confusing! Have a wonderful day, Erin!
      Sarah

    • Anna says:

      Erin, As I was reading the first three sentences of your post I thought it sounded a lot like what my son has. Then I kept reading and realized sure enough you were talking about not only food allergies but also EoE. We are going through the same thing and very often feel like I just hate food. I hate thinking and worrying about it all the time. Good luck to you and your family.

  11. Amy tierney says:

    Great article

  12. Debbie says:

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece. You captured EXACTLY how I feel re: my boys’ egg and peanut allergies. As a family doc, I feel even more guilty, I think. “Should I even have PB in the house?!?” Thanks for giving me “permission” to safely indulge, when possible.;-)

    • Sarah says:

      Debbie,
      You are very welcome. I find that if I feel too guilty about something, it’s better for me to try to modify the situation because I do not do well with guilt. :) If you feel too bad about having the peanut butter in the house, maybe you can still eat the peanut butter but consider keeping the jar somewhere else – store a jar at a friend or family member’s house or at work for you to eat! And yes, I give you full permission to enjoy food that you love.
      Have a great day!
      Sarah

  13. Annie says:

    Thanks for writing this. I totally understand the guilt and secret eating. My 9-year-old is allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, sesame, and beef. EVERYTIME I eat something he’s allergic to, I feel a degree of guilt. I absolutely love frozen yogurt. I only get it when I’m not with my kids, but guess who always tags along with me–guilt. I can’t ever let myself eat pizza with my son because it’s every child’s favorite food, and my child can’t eat it! Almost 10 years into this food-allergy journey, pizza still makes me weep. I guess I do have post-traumatic disordered eating. I’m glad I’m not alone :)

    • Sarah says:

      Annie,
      MAybe this post will help you to shed a little bit of the guilt. I mean, if you are going to get the chance to eat your favorite food, you should enjoy it! About the pizza, this has been a VERY difficult topic for me as well. I created my son a pizza that he adores!! I use Nature’s Highlights Rice Pizza Dough crusts ( I get at whole foods), I make my own marinara sauce I use as pizza sauce, then I add pepperoni or hamburger or whatever veggie/meat topping he wants and a sprinkle of Oregano to give it that real pizza taste. He loves it. I slice it in triangles just like traditional pizza. And you might even be able to find a soy cheese to melt on the top… we can’t have that but maybe you can! Let me know if you try this!
      Sarah

  14. Erin says:

    And I’ve been there alone @ restaurant….. Ordering an awesome cheese okaylte, as a side, then feeling guilty about it…. But loving every single bite. And my husband can’t tolerate red meat anymore, and he is certain it’s psychological knowing my son can’t eat mammals. (idk how I strayed from the point!). Hard to enjoy it….. But, somehow have to indulge and enjoy it, too. xo

    • Sarah says:

      Erin,
      Thank you for sharing that. It is so bittersweet. And I think it is interesting how we are all using the word “indulge” when really we are eating food that most people just eat. I don’t think you strayed from the point when talking about your husband… maybe he’s got some PTDE too!
      Thank you, Erin!
      Sarah

  15. Charl Rae Cobb says:

    Oh my ! You are so right. Aren’t holidays the hardest ?

    My husband truly felt deprived when we purged our kitchen of all our child’s food allergies and started a 4 day rotational diet until he understood that allergens could be transmitted by kissing and by toothbrushes and could be on the kitchen counter,etc, Being allowed to have “contraband food” on special date nights and for lunch (then cleaning our mouths and hands well afterward) really helped.

    Finding the balance for everyone seems to make a healthy family not just healthy children. God bless you for reaching out and sharing on this important facet of our lives.
    Charl Rae

    • Sarah says:

      Charl,
      Thank you for your comment! Yes, holidays are so difficult. We try to keep most of the celebrations at our house and after years of experimenting, we have managed to serve up some awesome top 8 + meals. The last time of the year we need extra stress is at the holidays!
      Finding a balance to achieve everyone’s health and happiness is essential!
      Have a wonderful day,
      Sarah

  16. Charl Rae Cobb says:

    Sarah,

    On an important side note, having our children see us avoid the foods we enjoy so that they can be healthy is also teaching them compassion and sacrifice in a way that words cannot. We have found it very helpful to ask friends and family what they are allergic to and to make an effort to NOT bring those things to family functions or parties. When our children experience that they are doing something, or NOT doing something, in order to benefit others it makes everyone’s load a little easier to bear.

    God bless you,

    Charl Rae

    • Sarah says:

      Charl,
      I couldn’t agree more. I rarely eat food in front of my kids that they cannot eat unless they have an alternative that they love and we are outside of the house. Eating the same meals all together, if possible, for me, is the most ideal way to support each other.
      Thank you again for your kind and thoughtful comments,
      Sarah

  17. Kristin says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! I won’t eat nuts b/c my daughter can’t…so she can have company of someone else who doesn’t. Your story about eating the salmon and thinking your having a reaction I can totally relate to.

  18. This is a great post, thanks for writing it. I also have so much guilt when I’m eating something my son can’t eat (he’s allergic to wheat, diary, peanuts and eggs). I do look forward to meals alone with my husband or friends, although in my heart I’d love for my son to be there enjoying the meal also.

    I always have an underlying feeling of sadness (although I do my best to hide it) when we eat out as a family, and especially when we eat with other families with children since I know my son would absolutely LOVE what the other kids are eating. Whether it’s a buttery slice of bread, mac and cheese, chocolate milk, or a piece of pizza (the usual kid foods), I know my son would thoroughly enjoy those things from time to time!

    I’m constantly trying to work through my feelings of sadness and guilt and focus on all the things he CAN have, his healthy diet, and my otherwise healthy and happy little guy!

    • Sarah says:

      Kathryn,
      Yes, you just have to get yourself out of that sadness spiral (although I think it is not entirely bad to let yourself feel sad from time to time too). Focusing on their happiness and general health is a great way to find a little peace. But, oh, how they would love those foods! Have a great weekend!
      Sarah

  19. Aunt Barb says:

    Sarah……..great post! Touched my heart, and so sweet to share your memories. Have a great weekend! Mom comes home that will be awesome! Really hoping to see you Sun. love you, Aunt Barb

  20. Jen Mura says:

    It’s amazing how much guilt we have when we eat (or try to eat) our children’s allergens. It feels like a betrayal of sorts. My kids are peanut, soy and egg allergic. It’s never easy, buy you hit the nail right on the head. We all associate these allergens with memories of what they have done to our kids. I eyeball every water fountain as the enemy.lol It IS definitely a PTSD type of feeling. It’s always nice to know we are not alone.
    Thanks

    • Sarah says:

      Jen,
      You are definitely not alone in these feelings! You are not in any way betraying your children when you eat foods that they cannot eat… It may feel like that but it really is about the food, not about the child. It’s your relationship with the food. It says nothing about your relationship with the child who cannot eat the food. We all know you would do anything for your child and if it directly hurt your child for you to eat the food that they are allergic to, you wouldn’t eat it!
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment!
      Sarah

  21. Elisabeth says:

    Wow. I am thankful I do not have this level of emotion about my child’s allergy (though I would guess treenut/peanut allergies are somewhat less restricting to a diet than wheat, dairy and egg allergies would be – so I can see where the emotion would set in easily and quickly). I do eat things with nuts or peanut butter in them when I go out to eat without him – and I don’t feel bad about it. They don’t make me sick, why shouldn’t I enjoy them when there is no risk of making him sick? I’m not sure if it will make anyone feel better – but I am seafood intolerant. I have never been tested for actual allergy, and I’m not sure there is any need to be – I am more than happy not to eat lobster, shrimp, etc. It makes me SO SICK I don’t have any desire to eat it. I’d be willing to guess our kids feel the same way if they’ve had a reaction they can remember. My little guy is 4 and already asks “does it have nuts in it?” when someone offers him a cookie. He loves cookies, but had an accidently exposure to one with peanut butter – bad enough that we called an ambulance, and he was terrified. That set it in stone – he does not like nuts, and has no desire to eat them. We keep a nut free home, but sometimes I will eat something he cannot have in front of him – I make sure he has an equally yummy safe treat, and he never has a problem with it. Maybe he will as he gets older, maybe he won’t. Feelings of guilt transfer though, so make sure you aren’t in turn making your kids feel bad for taking away the foods YOU love and could be eating …

    • Sarah says:

      That is so important, Elisabeth. I have never once said or alluded to the fact, in front of my child, that I get anxious or feel bad when I eat a food that they are allergic to. This is my personal emotion, never to be shared with them. I agree, if they have an alternative that they love and we are outside of the house, I will eat something that they cannot eat. They have never felt bad about that, like you said, yet :) My son doesn’t want food that he is allergic to either, BUT he sure wishes he wasn’t allergic to it. I think we have to be very aware of that emotion. It definitely may be different when your kids are allergic to so many different foods like we experience but I don’t know as I have never really lived too long with a child only allergic to one thing!
      Also I feel like these emotions wax and wane. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me at all to eat the foods. After all, they are safe for me. I feel the sadness more strongly around times of reactions, yearly appointments etc.
      Thank you for sharing your perspective. Very thoughtful comment.
      Have a great weekend!
      Sarah

  22. Rebecca says:

    Thanks again Sarah for yet another awesome blog. I always thought it was just me that had this issue. My son breastfed until he was almost 2, so it’s only been about 6 months now that I even have the option of eating his allergens. Everyone kept saying to me “I bet you can’t wait to stop nursing him, so that you can eat normal food again”. The truth is though…it just doesn’t feel right to eat his allergens. I feel guilty most of the time when I eat his allergens though, so I usually just avoid them. I’m a stay at home mom (because I don’t trust anyone else with him) so we almost always eat together. I will admit to going out with my two teenagers for breakfast (celebrating my oldest’s 17th birthday) and enjoying poached eggs! Eggs, and breakfast out, for that matter, were HUGE favorites or mine before the allergy diagnosis, and it felt like a real treat to eat them. I even had a tea with milk!

    • Sarah says:

      Rebecca,
      Maybe now that we’ve all talked about this, you can enjoy that poached egg and tea with milk with a little less guilt. Breakfast out is nice, isn’t it? Such a treat!
      Have a great weekend!
      Sarah

  23. Stephanie says:

    Your comments about over-indulging ring really true with me.
    I find myself so hungry-I’ve lost so much weight (not in a healthy way) and my husband has gained weight.
    I don’t have my old staples of yogurt, bread, eggs etc. while keeping the allergens out of the house, but I don’t want to eat any of the safe foods I worked so long and hard (or paid so much) to have on hand. Since I work from home, I find myself starving in line at McDonalds ready to eat unsatisfying filler-meal 30 minutes before I pick my daughter up from daycare, just so I’m not in a hunger-rage. This is after spending the day creating food without her many allergens.
    Though I’m not qualified to say how an eating disorder truly presents, it certainly feels like one at times.
    Thanks once again for this blog-you have a unique perspective and write beautifully.

    • Sarah says:

      Stephanie,
      Thank you so much for your very candid comment. Maybe it is time to see a nutritionist or meet with a chef to try to help you find foods/meals that you enjoy that your daughter can eat too. You being underweight, as you say, in an unhealthy away, isn’t doing anyone any good. I understand this quite well but you do need your strength to raise your sweet girl and want to model good eating habits for her. Maybe just talking about your feelings will help you to move past them and you will be able to maintain a healthy weight and eat with a little more joy. Please feel free to reach out to chat anytime. My email is sarah@theallergistmom.com.
      Have a great weekend, friend.
      Sarah

  24. B Ganezer says:

    Thank you. Now I know why I haven’t eaten peanuts or peanut butter in 2 1/2 years. I finally started eating other nuts in the last year… and my guilty pleasure when I’m without the “PA Kid” is eating in a Chinese or Thai restaurant. Yum!

  25. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the post! It would be interesting to hear the perspective of siblings on this too. My oldest daughter (8) is allergic to eggs, dairy, and nuts. My youngest daughter (6) is allergic to only eggs. I was just feeding them the same foods, but at her latest checkup, the 6 year old was really underweight. I started adding food to her diet that my oldest can’t have, but I am going to really have to be careful with both of their feelings on the issue. Oh and by the way, they have a brother who doesn’t have food allergies but does have “food aversion” (premature, special needs, etc.) which means he literally can bring himself to eats about 6 foods in the whole world, two of which are cheese and eggs. Try making dinner at my house! :)

    • Sarah says:

      Jennifer,
      My oldest son has no food allergies and although he does ask me for other food when we are not at home, when we are at home, he has grown to appreciate that we all eat together (frankly, I am not willing to make more than one meal!) and that that meal will be safe for everyone in our family. He has never shown resentment toward this and in fact, prides himself on understanding his sibling’s food restrictions. Have you read the post, Sibling Revelry and Rivalry? http://theallergistmom.com/2012/04/27/sibling-revelry-and-rivalry/ I talk a bit more about the topic of siblings. Thank you for your comment!
      Sarah

  26. melissa says:

    Sarah,
    Thank you for sharing your story and this thought-provoking topic. I have to admit, I’ve always eaten foods containing dairy in front of my now 21-year-old severely milk allergic daughter. Perhaps that because early on, we didn’t know how serious the allergy could be or about cross-contamination. Food allergy education and advocacy has really grown in recent years. But that said, even though my daughter has felt deprived of certain foods at times, she has a firm understanding of the world she lives in, that there’s dairy all around, that friends will be eating pizza at the local shop, while she eats french fries. We’ve catered to her in other ways… baking special cakes and other treats over the years, ordering Chinese or sushi once a week, back when she lived at home (her sister groaned about this). And just because you eat a forbidden food in front of your child, doesn’t mean they think you don’t care about or love them. I love this story: Her friend threw a party the night before my daughter left for college. The friend was shoveling in the leftover cake sitting in front of her. She said, “I’m sad about us all leaving, and I’m eating my feelings. And, since my best friend can’t eat her feelings, I’m eating for her too!” Even the allergic kid’s close friends get it.

    • Sarah says:

      Melissa,
      Thank you for sharing your story. So much depends on the child, how many food allergies they have, how your family handles the diagnosis, etc… You are right, at some point, our children will have to accept that this is their cross to bear, so to speak, and they must be able to accept it and deal with it. We will raise them giving them the tools to be confident and happy. Sounds like you have done this very well! Please continue to share on this site because I think your unique perspective as a mother of an older child with food allergy is invaluable.
      Thank you!
      Sarah

  27. Emily says:

    Thank you for writing this! It put my feelings right into words… My daughter is 15 months and has a milk protein and egg allergy. When we discovered them when she was 7 months old, I stopped eating dairy and eggs too because I was breast feeding. (I still am too.) I have already had conversations with my husband about continuing to not eat her allergy foods after she is weaned so I can do what feels “normal” – being able to share food with her off my plate without worrying.

    Reading this also made me realize that I do the same thing with cashews. My sister has a severe cashew allergy so as a family we have avoided them. And even as an adult, I avoid them at all costs because of the associated feelings. The emotional – food connection is powerful!

    • Sarah says:

      Emily,
      The emotion-food connection is amazing. Considering we have to eat everyday and it involves every one of our senses, I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised but still, it is remarkable. Thank you for sharing! Have a great weekend!
      Sarah

  28. Ruth says:

    I find that when our son is out the rest of the family gorge ourselves on all the things he can’t eat. It doesn’t feel very healthy to do that, but on the other hand I want our daughter to try as many flavours as she can.

    • Sarah says:

      Ruth,
      I know the feeling! Maybe we should be eating small tasting portions of many different things then we don’t have to stuff ourselves! Think tapas :)
      Thank you for sharing! Take care,
      Sarah

  29. Jennifer says:

    Amazing post and so true! I’ve been through two elimination diets and food challenges recently – I wonder if I’m really trying to find something that I cannot eat in order to feel more on the same playing field as my four year old with multiple allergies. Hm. Food for thought – quite literally :)

    Thanks for this!
    Jennifer
    http://itchylittleworld.wordpress.com

  30. lynette says:

    i really can relate to your thoughts, my son has celiac and a peanut allergy, and is diabetic, so lots of foods are off limits for him, we haven’t had peanuts in the house in 6 years. i have a hard time dealing with his big sister, who is not allergic to anything (except seasonal). i try to treat her when my son is far away, but i occasionally feel guilty about it. i have a feeling that when she goes away to school our home with be completely gluten, wheat and peanut free.

    • Sarah says:

      Lynette,
      My oldest son has no known food allergies but we all eat the same meals together. He gets the “other” food when he is at his grammas or we have a “date” or a school lunch. He is content with this plan and appreciates how lucky he is not to have to deal with food allergies personally. He has become a very empathetic little man. Try not to feel guilty about giving your daughter food that is safe for her. Just like my son, I’m sure she has made many changes in her life to help her brother.
      Thank you for your comment!
      Sarah

  31. Sarah,
    I am new to your blog. I’m so happy I read your article featured in Allergic Living that led me to this wonderful support system and informative blog. You describe situations in the exact ways and feelings that I’ve had during my food allergy journey with my now two year old son. It is so nice knowing that you aren’t the only one experiencing the lifestyle that involves managing life threatening allergies. My husband and I recently took a trip to San Francisco, and we certainly indulged in all the eggs, cheese, milk, fish, etc. that we could. It was the first time in a long time that we weren’t treating our food like a toxic chemical. :) Again, thank you for letting others read about your family’s experiences with food allergies.
    Take care,
    Misty

    • Sarah says:

      Misty,
      I am so happy you found my blog and I hope you enjoy the community we are building here as much as I do! It is nice to enjoy food, isn’t it? :) Thank you so much for your comment!
      Please keep in touch!
      Sarah

  32. Kym says:

    I’m actually very happy to know so many other parents feel this way! I have cut out peanuts, tree nuts, corn, oats and oranges from our lives… except that my husband still eats nuts. I feel let down and angry when he brings it in the house. I wonder why he doesn’t feel the same as I do. I would never allow myself to eat these things. And why can’t I ever eat these things? It’s because I need to protect my child. It is so difficult to plan meals for our family of seven. It’s exhausting and I feel like all food is catered to our allergic son. I keep thinking it will get easier. Maybe for me, but my son has to live with this eating for the rest of his life possibly.
    Thanks for the article!

    • Sarah says:

      Kym,
      It is much more difficult to plan a menu for a large family with a limited choice of ingredients. I was talking about this one day with my sister-in-law and she comes from a family with 11 children. She actually told me that her mother served them the SAME breakfast every single morning. They had 2 lunch options every day. They had the same meal every Monday, Tues, Wed etc. and 5 nights included rice and two included meat. They did not have food allergies. I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to create this highly diverse menu when we simply don’t have to! I find it helpful to look at recipes on-line and then change them to meet our needs. Gives me a kick-start.
      Thank you for your comment,
      Sarah

  33. Janine says:

    Wow thanks so much for this, it makes me feel a bit more sane as the mother of a 4 yr old FA child allergic to many, many foods. It is so very difficult to feed and satisfy our family while only eating safe foods my FA child can eat. My FA child is a picky eater, so he isn’t comfortable straying too much from a few set meals (that aren’t very tasty for the rest of the family). I feel guilty that maybe I could try harder to make things taste better so my FA child isn’t eating something different than the rest of the family, but it is so very, very challenging. How do you do it?

    • Sarah says:

      Janine,
      One night a few years ago, my son asked me, “Why don’t mommys eat?” I realized that I would hardly eat the dinner I was making for the rest of the family. It simply was not good. They loved the meals but their palettes knew nothing more. When he said that to me, I realized I had to make this a priority. I looked through my mom’s old recipes with her and we found many that actually didn’t need to be changed (stuffed green peppers and tomatoes) or some that needed to be changed just a little. Then I just started to get very creative, often with the help of my mom and babysitter, finding recipes and then changing them to fit our needs. This has been the most successful approach for us. I have gotten pretty good at this and the kids love when we all sit together and I actually eat with them. What a great change!
      I’ll keep posting more recipes too!
      Sarah

  34. Caryn says:

    Sarah,

    Your blog has stayed with me since I read it last night…and I want to share something else that I think is interesting.

    I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in April, 2011. Prior to that time, I had no dietary restrictions, although my husband and I had made the choice to raise our children as vegetarians (I prefer it and he has a kidney transplant, so, easier-to-process proteins are preferred). Our vegetarianism (a choice) has NEVER felt hard.

    And, frankly, avoiding peanuts, tree nuts and soy was also pretty easy (after all, our daughter’s life depended upon it). Our household is free of peanuts and those tree nuts that pose a risk to our daughter (she is not allergic to almonds, which she eats regularly in our home).

    But, when the prospect of a Gluten Free diet entered our lives in April of last year, I just couldn’t impose such a restriction on our entire family. Frankly, limiting our already limited daughter unnecessarily just seemed wrong…and unkind and unfair.

    That said, we are big Family Dinner people, and I really believe in eating the same foods together whenever possible, so, this has been an interesting period of adjustment. Along the way I have discovered some foods that work for me (GF) but that are not necessarily (in most cases, I just haven’t been able to confirm one way or another) free of possible cross-contamination with peanuts…so, therefore, not an option for our daughter. The mere presence of those foods do not pose a risk to our daughter, and, she is open to the idea of me eating those foods while she eats foods that are not GF. We seem to be all good in this arena — all’s fair and all that.

    (Thanks for sticking with me — because this is my real point…) WHEN WE come across something she and I can both eat — or something NEITHER OF US CAN EAT — our daughter has begun to high five me. (She’s 9, going on 10.) There’s something about solidarity in all these dietary restrictions that really makes her (and I suspect anyone facing such restrictions) feel really good. And, I’ve noticed that if she and I are “on the same page,” she really doesn’t care what anyone else (including her younger twin sibling) and my husband are doing. Interesting, huh?

    • Sarah says:

      Caryn,
      There is nothing more fun than finding someone in the same boat as you! One of my sons and I both have terrible tree pollen allergy and boy, this spring did misery love company! We would sneeze together, rub our eyes together, remind each other to take our nose spray! We may not be able to share in every allergen but you’re right, the ones we do share, we totally get a kick out!
      We have started taking the kids out for pizza (my son with the most food allergies who cannot eat pizza at a restaurant is the one who LOVES eating at this pizza place! – He begs to go because he loves the pizza I make and bring for him and the restaurant has tvs so the boys can watch the Cubs!) Anyway… either my husband or I will eat the pizza from home with him. He likes the company and like you said, doesn’t care that his twin brother is eating the restaurant pizza. In fact, by the end of the meal, the kids who can eat the restaurant pizza are asking my allergic son if they can eat some of his pizza from home. He happily answers, “No way!”
      Thank you for your comment, Caryn. Have a great weekend!
      Sarah

  35. Amanda Lipscomb says:

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this post. It gives a voice to so many things I have not been able to verbalize myself. When my daughter was first diagnosed with food allergies, I remember secret eating and then sobbing from the overwhelming guilt of what I had just done. Like I had failed her because I was craving a PB&J.

    Here’s to giving ourselves a little grace. :)

    • Sarah says:

      Amanda,
      You are so very welcome. Yes! Couldn’t we all use a little grace? There’s nothing wrong with a PB&J every once and a while:)
      Have a great week,
      Sarah

  36. Maggie says:

    I am so glad I happened upon this post. During the time that I have been managing my daughters food allergies, I have felt isolated sometimes. It is nice to know that I am not alone. Thank you.

    • Sarah says:

      Maggie,
      I am so happy you found my blog too! That is exactly what I write it… to let others know that they are not alone and to create a fun, optimistic community of people dealing with food allergies. Welcome!
      Sarah

  37. Jolie says:

    Sarah

    Thank you! I have just come across your blog for the first time & your article brought tears to my eyes. My son is anaphylactic to 9 different tree nuts. Not long after he was diagnosed I had what I thought was an anaphylactic reaction after eating a watermelon & pineapple ice block of all things. I felt exactly as you described – extreme panic – I was salivating, but could not swallow, my throat kept tightening. I quickly grabbed my phone called my husband & asked him to call the ambulance, whilst I took a swig of antihistamine & injected myself with my son’s junior-sized EpiPen.

    The ambulance arrived and they reprimanded me for using medication that had not been prescribed to me (ie the EpiPen). There were no visible signs of allergic reaction, but they had to take me to emergency anyway since I had administered adrenaline.

    My husband and I had just opened an allergy clinic in conjunction with an Allergy Professor, so I was very lucky to have been able to call him for advice. I understand now what caused my symptoms and that it was not anaphylaxis. However he stressed never hesitate to use an EpiPen!

    For the weeks and months following I could not even LOOK at any of the top allergenic foods let alone eat them. Through a cycle of massive anxiety & panic attacks it took me about a year to re-introduce a lot of foods one by one. That was almost 2 years ago and I can just now manage to eat almonds (the only nut he is not allergic to!), but no other nuts. I don’t know when (if ever), I will be able to bring myself to eat (or touch or smell) other nuts. I have been tested, and all the nuts came up ZERO, so I keep reminding myself of this.

    As you can imagine, I have spent countless hours google searching this topic, but yours is the first article that I have read that I can relate to. Well done, your blog is great.

    Kind Regards

    Jolie

    • Sarah says:

      Jolie,
      Thank you for such a kind comment and for sharing your experiences. Fear is very powerful, isn’t it? You are doing great though – you’ve addressed the issue and are working on it… what else can you do? I am so happy that you have become a part of The Allergist Mom community!
      Take care of yourself,
      Sarah

  38. Eoleparis says:

    As always, a most insightful and inspiring post and incidentally, very timely!
    3 days ago I ate schrimp for the first time after several years of eviction due to my BF son’s top 8 (minus egg) alllergies and interestingly, while I know I do not have FA and was tested several times recently, I spent the first hour following the consumption of these schrimps waiting for something to happen and wishing I had taken one of his epipens!
    My son is not even allergic to schrimp even if he hasn’t had it yet and he would like to try (allergist says we can) but like many here, following my son’s 2 severe anaphylactic reactions to nut residues I’ve started to see food as dangerous and even toxic. We often call bread or hommous (sesame) radioactive material in our house.
    The second time round with schrimp it was fine and the 3rd (yesterday), I truly enjoyed it. maybe because I know that he will try it soon but also just because I love that food!
    I still crave for hazelnuts and almond but I don’t dare eat them, not out of guilt but because I would worry too much about cross contamination, cleaning my hands, residues, kissing etc…

    In our house, since I’ve discovered in the process that I am gluten, dairy and corn intolerant, my son and I basically share 90% of our food (on top of the top 8 minus egg, he is also allergic to many raw fruits, some vegetables, sesame and has intolerance to many more) but his father continues to eat wheat (bread, not cooked items), dairy and muesli (nuts) with some meals.
    He is a neat eater so he doesn’t worry as much as me but the gluten and dairy he eats is usually a side dish, we mostly eat as a family, often rice pasta and I believe that it really helps my son enjoy food, he’s a good eater. And he is fine with my husband having a home made cheese rice based pizza while he and I eat the dairy free version.
    However, I do hide to eat raw apples as my son loves them but currently has a very strong OAS to them so that really wouldn’t be fair on him.

    I sometimes do eat other foods that we haven’t tried on him yet and even if he wishes to try them out (like schrimp this week), he understands when I tell him we need to wait and do one thing at a time (he’s 3,5 yo).

    Like several have said in the comments, my son doesn’t mind his father eating gluten, dairy or other things, he knows that maybe some day he will too (dairy he will, he’s only intolerant) and I also think it helps him recognise the ‘normal food’ which helps for prevention.

    I think that often, like Sarah mentioned in another post, we parents are the ones who suffer most from these restrictions, even if my son wishes he could have the same Bday cake as the others in his class, he still enjoys the celebration and going to eat at other people house, even if it is his own food, with his own plate etc..

    It’s a complex subject and this blog really helps to think these issues through! Thanks

  39. Tam N. says:

    Wow. I just discovered your blog and spent an hour catching up with it. I am sorry that your family has to manage so many allergies, but I do appreciate you sharing your perspective — great to hear from an allergist who *really* gets the everyday logistical and emotional challenges! In this post, you did a great job articulating the emotional complexities of eating things your kid(s) cannot. I am especially grateful for the way you describe food memories, and how your kids will have their own wonderful memories, even if they’re different from yours.
    I remember vividly how excited I was when an ice cream shop opened in our town, one with an allergy-aware proprietor (with a nut-allergic nephew, I think). The ice cream was safe for my peanut/tree nut allergic daughter, though some of the toppings had advisories. But no matter . . . I rushed to take her there! She was about 4 or 5 years old, and had never had an ice cream cone before. I was giddy with delight — so much so that I didn’t coach her properly on how to eat it (she made the mistake of biting the end of the cone and made quite a mess. . . .). She had no reaction whatsoever, but as I sat there beaming, awash in nostalgia for my own childhood and thrilled to be giving her this experience, finally, I started to sober up. I asked myself, “Wait a second, self. What do you think is really going on here? Do you think you have rendered her temporarily non-allergic by finding this place? Is your delight really about *her* experience? Or about your own nostalgia and desire to ‘suspend’ her allergies . . . or my feelings of guilt and sadness over her allergies? What is the true value in this for *her*? She won’t be able to eat at any other ice cream shops, probably. So now she’ll just know what a lovely thing she’s missing.” My euphoria quickly dissolved into self-doubt and self-recrimination.
    After continuing to process the complexities of my own feelings for a day or two, I cut myself a little break. No, I told myself, I’m not just showing her what she’s missing out on most of the time. I am teaching her the truth — that some places are safe for her, and some aren’t. And that with a creativity, research, and persistence, she can have more safe choices.
    And now, thinking back to that event some four years later, I say it was not a big deal for my daughter — much less so than for me. What are the food memories she’s most likely to treasure from her childhood? Not that particular ice cream cone, which was a fancy salted caramel flavor that she reported being “too salty.” There are other memories that live larger for her — *her* memories, not mine. And a lot of them involve spectacularly delicious homemade food that many of her peers without food allergies don’t get to enjoy.
    I didn’t see in your posts any follow up on your daughter’s milk challenge. I hope it went okay. Thank you again, and all my best to you and your family.

    • Sarah says:

      Tam,
      I am so happy that you found my blog and that you are enjoying it. It has really been a pleasure for me to write it and to meet, “virtually”, so many wonderful people. The idea that your child will have her own food memories is a powerful thought for me. I believe that this is already happening with my kids and that is why I work so hard creating wonderful, tasty, healthy meals for them. And maybe every now and then, I reward my hard work with a slice of cheddar cheese ;)
      Thank you for your comment and welcome, friend!
      Sarah

  40. Karen Carlo says:

    Emotions, food. I have gained about 35 pounds since my kids’ diagnoses. While we eat normally at home (to reinforce the idea of eating safe items when others are eating unsafe foods) think I overendulge while I am out of sight if my children in foods I know they want because I can’t bring myself to eat some things in front of them and we can only take them to one restuarant. My husband and I load up on italian and Chinese when we have time alone because there is nothing they can eat in those places.
    I also constantly want to treat them with foods they can have because there are so many times I have to say no. Sure you can have more Rita’s because it won’t kill you or erode your esophagus. So much guilt.

    • Sarah says:

      Karen,
      I think either extreme can happen pretty easily. Denying or overindulging. We just have to continue to strive to eat with happy moderation. Difficult with the bread, butter and cheese for me! And I do the same thing with treating the kids with food… you guys want more pop and chips? Go for it! The bottom line – I’m pretty sure we are all doing our best!
      Thank you for sharing,
      Sarah

  41. Oh, this really hits home. For the first 2 years after my daughter’s diagnosis, I had little trouble avoiding her allergens completely. I would have a “cheat” here and there, but only under very specific circumstances (not in my own home, time to shower or at least wash hands and face thoroughly before seeing DD, etc.) The real trouble has come now that we have another child with no food allergies. Depriving her of all dairy, eggs, and nuts feels wrong, not to mention being against the advice of our allergist. Another hitch for me is PREGNANCY CRAVINGS!!!! I always crave things that contain my daughter’s allergens. It’s so hard to find the balance. It’s so nice to read this post because it validates this struggle for me. Even though I would never wish this on anyone else, it’s still nice to know I’m not alone.

    • Sarah says:

      Emily,
      Having multiple children with different food allergens or children with and without food allergens is tricky. Sure it is easy to say, don’t feed these foods to one child but please feed these foods to another. Much easier said than done! I am constantly thinking, oh yeah, I haven’t fed him soy in awhile or I have to feed her cheese so he doesn’t become allergic to it again. Sometimes I think I need to make a special food calendar to keep everything straight!
      You are definitely not alone!
      Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your experience!
      Sarah

  42. Michele says:

    Thank you for this article. It puts into words the feelings I also share. Not every time but many times. I keep our home free of my son’s allergens too it is our choice to have him have his home be the place he can eat whatever is here (and b/c he is the only one with f/a it isn’t hard to do). There are certain things my daughter and I miss like the little almond slivers we ate by the handful or on a salad and cashews & pistachios at Christmas. Since my husband goes to work he eats whatever he wants while there & I think guilt free:) When we go out without my son (which isn’t often) I do have those twinges while consuming the bread we never can have or the appetizer we never order when he’s there. I find the most guilt to be when we get back from being out and my son say’s so where did you eat? For a split second I think do I lie to him (like if I take my daughter to Chick Fila A a place my son used to love) but I don’t lie I just very casually mention the place and move on and he seems to accept it though he has occasionally said oh, these stupid food allergies I wish they’d go away b/c I love (insert Chick Fil A or a fried appetizer like mozz sticks) but then he lets it go. This article puts the feelings into words in a great and concise way, unlike my rambling comment LOL!

    • Sarah says:

      Michele,
      You aren’t rambling! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with all of us. Whenever I go out, I remind myself that I didn’t go out to eat in order to eat foods my child is allergic to. I went out to eat because that’s what couples often do on a date and there is nothing wrong with the fact that I order something I can’t eat at home. I still feel sad a lot of the time… sad mostly because I want my kids to be able to eat without care too. One day, finger crossed… and toes and anything else I can think of!
      Thank you, Michele,
      Sarah

  43. Pam says:

    I find that I have the opposite problem to the one posted on your blog. We have so many conflicting allergies between my kids and I that when I’m away from my kids, I over indulge in the foods that they are allergic to. I feel slightly guilty but not enough to deprive myself when I’m out of their sight.

    My kids are two and four and the two year old already knows that if I say he can’t have something and my reason is because it contains milk, then it’s a firm no. We make a bunch of considerations for our kids, especially in the dessert category but as a rule in our house, our family dinners don’t always consist of eating the same food since everyone has different safe foods that they can eat. It may seem harsh but my hope is that it will help them as they grow up to learn how to safely eat in the world around them. My four year old already understands and has memorized her allergens, some of mine and some of her brother’s. My two year old is of course, still not old enough to really protect himself even a little bit, as of yet. Neither child has an airborne allergy to their foods though, which makes things just a bit easier. But I do still get looks when we’re in public when I remind my kids not to share food with others or come in contact with others who are eating food. :-)

    Kids allergies: Milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, sesame, garlic
    Mom allergies: sesame, shellfish, fish, coconut, peaches, latex

    • Sarah says:

      Pam,
      I definitely eat in that way too! Sometimes I eat so much bread and butter when we are out to eat, it is like seriously ridiculous! We all choose different ways to manage food allergies and to teach our children how to keep themselves safe. Thank you for sharing!
      Take care,
      Sarah

  44. Shari says:

    I have a slightly different take on this, as I am the one with the allergies in my house. So there are many foods (tree nuts, fruits, etc) that my kids have never gotten to eat or try, because I won’t have them in the house. Makes me feel guilty at times, especially when my sister or mother-in-law asks my son if he would like some (enter any fruit here that has a fuzzy skin or hard pit in the middle) to eat, and he looks sideways at me while having to say “I don’t know if I like that…mom never let me try that”. It is awkward and sometimes difficult, especially dealing with people that just don’t understand, and having to deal with the backlash of “just because you’re allergic to _______ doesn’t mean your kids will be, so what is the harm in letting them have ______” hhhmmmm…. how about having to wipe your 2 year old’s face that is covered in peach juice, knowing you’ll get a rash if you touch her? or using a knife to cut a cantaloupe that looks like all the other knives in our house, and we don’t have a dishwasher to sterilize it in?
    So yes, there have been times when my kids have eaten my “forbidden foods” without me, and I have avoided every fruit platter when we are out or make my husband feed the kids, but it is a constant struggle at times.

    • Sarah says:

      Shari,
      Thank you for sharing your perspective. I can imagine how hard that must be for you. I can relate in a way because there are foods that my non-allergic children have never tried because of their allergic siblings. It is difficult to figure out when and how to make that safely happen! We all do what works the best for us. Take care,
      Sarah

  45. Monica says:

    Sarah,
    I can’t tell you how this post really hit home with me! I’m a mom to a ten year old with multiple food allergies. It can be tough because not only are we dealing with hormones, but we are also dealing with the psychological aspect of food allergies as well! I’ve always said some people just don’t get it. Some say, “it’s just food allergies, what’s the big deal?” Food allergies are so much more than a physical matter!, it is so psychological, especially for young children! That need to fit in is huge! We have even gone as far as to see a psychologist because of her anger towards her allergies. She says she hates that she’s different, and that kills me!

    I do find myself staying away from foods she’s allergic to, it’s almost a guilty feeling. Why her and not me! And yes, seeing my daughter struggle through a horrible food reaction, made me traumatized as well. I am extremely nervous when she tries new things, I actually sometimes get sick over it! I struggle with this on a daily basis and so I just want to Thank You for your honesty and kind words on a subject that is so near and dear to me.

    • Sarah says:

      Monica,
      I wish I could meet your daughter and tell her that although her allergies do make her different, they don’t make her any less of an awesome kid and they won’t stand in her way of doing anything she wants to do! Food allergies are definitely more than a physical issue and dealing with the emotions of it is often the most challenging part.
      New food introduction makes me an absolute nervous wreck. Hate it every time. Every time.
      Thank you for your kind comment and for sharing your feelings here.
      Take care,
      Sarah

  46. Shannon says:

    As usual, your post inspired me! My husband and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary last night, and I was determined to eat dairy without consequence. We went to our local favorite, Sepia. Anyway, the bread came…and so did the butter! I didn’t hesitate (yum!), yet the feeling felt so new. We ordered dinner, and waited for our starter course to arrive. As we began to eat, the couple next to us began to talk about having guilty feelings for eating dairy and wheat…their daughters allergens! I was stunned. There we were…trying to free ourselves from the guilt, and we were in the company of another couple doing the exact.same.thing!! Of course, we had to say *something,* and we spoke for a bit. Crazy…how ironic!! Anyway, that butter…it was SO good!! Haha. Thank you…:)

    • Sarah says:

      Shannon,
      Happy anniversary! I am so happy that you were able to eat a little butter with a smile on your face. That is unbelievable that you were sitting next to another couple going through the same experience… of course, they were talking about it!
      Thank you for sharing this,
      Sarah

  47. Charlene says:

    LOVE this post! Because I was still breastfeeding my daughter when she was diagnosed, and for a long time after, her allergies became my allergies, and I ate nothing I wouldn’t feed her. Her life depended on it. But it truly taught me how to live with LTFA’s. Not just how to shop and cook for a child with allergies, but how to live as an adult, in social and work settings, every minute of every day. I had to walk the walk, and I hope to pass this knowledge on to my daughter as she gets older. I’ve personally chosen to continue avoiding her remaining allergens, peanut and tree nuts, because she’s contact-reactive, and I hate the sight of nuts now anyway!

    • Sarah says:

      Charlene,
      You definitely experience it first hand when you are nursing and get the diagnosis. That has happened to me twice… ugh.
      Thank you so much for your comment!
      Sarah

  48. Pingback: Why You Should Eat Foods Your Allergic Child Can’t | talkhealth Blog

  49. Carol says:

    Although it totally sucks for us all to be in this position….I love that we all know how each other feels on this issue!! A few years ago, my daughter was in Girl Scouts….so I bought the honey roasted peanuts jar to keep at work………….but I couldn’t eat them. I think I tried a couple times, and ate a handful….but then felt like I had to run to go wash my hands, so that I didn’t contaminate my work space.

    So now the most I will do, is every now and then I will buy the Uncrustables to eat…..but I try to keep the sandwich in the plastic while I am eating it, to decrease my contamination. The guilt and worry about exposing my kid to peanuts has really killed any joy I have of eating most peanut products.

    • Sarah says:

      Carol,
      I had to laugh when you said you eat the Uncrustable with the plastic still on… I do that all the time now! If I eat out, I try to eat my food only with utensils and keep the food wrapped like you as much as possible. Once I was craving cashews so I bought a bag of them at Starbucks and I poured them from the bag into my mouth. People must’ve thought, what is wrong with that lady!?
      Thank you for sharing, Carol.
      Sarah

  50. Jill says:

    I eat some cookies or a Snickers bar every once in awhile and I eat things containing nuts at work (hours before I will see my allergic daughter again), but mostly I avoid the foods she can’t have. I do it for fear of causing a reaction. I don’t ever want to be the cause of her having to go through that. 

    • Sarah says:

      Jill,
      Thank you for sharing. That is the last thing we would ever want to do – play a role in our child having an allergic reaction. If you eat a food that she is allergic to while you’re at work and then wash up after, there is very little chance that she will have a problem. So every now and then… “a Snickers really satisfies you”:)
      Sarah

  51. Kimi says:

    What a beautifully written essay. I am not a mom, I don’t have any food allergies and I cannot begin to understand the dilemma parents of allergic kids face when confronted with whether or not to eat the food their children will never be able to enjoy. Your insightful piece should be sent to a major magazine or published in USA Today. It’s brilliant, sweet, moving and filled with obvious love for your kids. I wish you the very best. God Bless.
    Kim in Evansville, IN

    • Sarah says:

      Kim,
      Wow. I am humbled by the compliment. Thank you so very much. I am very interested in how you started to read my blog! I would love to have this piece published elsewhere but I’m not really sure how to make that happen!
      Thank you again and God bless you too,
      Sarah

  52. Shelby K. says:

    You put my exact feelings into words! Fish put my son in the ICU when he was 2 and I haven’t been able to eat it since! I am also scared to death that I am going to develop a shellfish allergy since I know that it usually develops later on in life. I used to love shrimp and other seafood, but I can’t eat it anymore out of fear.

    • Sarah says:

      Shelby,
      I can totally understand your feelings – as you can tell from the article! The fear of the memory of the first reaction, the fear of having another reaction, the fear of you having a reaction… It’s all a lot to process emotionally, and understandably, makes it hard for you to enjoy that food again.
      Thank you for sharing,
      Sarah

  53. Liz says:

    Sarah,
    My children do not have any food allergies, but my dear friend (whose kids DO have food allergies) forwarded your blog post to a bunch of her pals and family members. Wow! Did it ever help me get a clearer perspective of her life (and yours, too)! I like to think I am empathic, but I understand that I really will never truly know the challenges you both (and the other readers of this blog) are constantly facing.
    I especially wanted to let you know how impressed I am that you respond to everyone that leaves a comment! Wow! (No response to me is necessary – I know you are busy). You are providing a great service in terms of emotional support to your readers — I admire you.
    Liz

    • Sarah says:

      Come on, Liz, you think I was not going to respond to you after such a nice comment! The fact that you are a friend of someone whose children has food allergies AND takes time to read my blog makes me even happier to respond to you :) Thank you for being such a good friend to the allergic community and to your friend and her children. It is friends like you who make living with children with food allergies just a little easier. Having the kind of support that you are providing is worth its weight in gold. Thank you.
      Sarah

  54. naomi says:

    Even as an adult with these food allergies, I find myself with similar struggles. When I do get myself the “substitutes” that I can have (when I find them), like gluten/dairy/soy/corn free bread, I dig in the same way. I obsess about food in the same way. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who has become like this/that I’m not crazy

    • Sarah says:

      Naomi! You are right – you are not alone and you are not crazy! :) I am so happy that you are part of this community! Thank you for your comment.
      Sarah

  55. Justaperson says:

    Re: Post-traumatic disordered eating

    I found the part about you eating salmon and having panic symptoms even though you aren’t allergic to fish very relatable. In fact, I think that post trauma and anxiety disorders due to severe allergy attacks is a major unaddressed problem for those who had anaphylaxis, and there aren’t many places to turn to for help. The allergist does some tests, prescribes a life-saving Epipen, and maybe a few tips to avoid the cause, but then the patient and family are on their own. Psychologists can only help to a certain extent with their own tools of relaxation or CBT due to their lack of allergic medical expertise, since there are no allergist-psychologists out there. (In my humble opinion, it’s hard to put 100% faith into a psychologist who isn’t an expert in allergies and where bad advice could be tragic.)

    Even a small oral allergy symptom from a non-dangerous fruit or juice, odd lip sensation from not eating anything (not rational, I know), etc. can trigger worries or memories about anaphylaxis. I’m not asking for medical advice, but I’ll tell you what one allergist told me: He said that telling the difference between a panic attack and the initial symptoms of anaphylaxis is like being on the razor’s edge. Add to that the typical allergist advice of injecting as early as possible into any suspected reaction, and you have a formula for frustration and constant (over?) vigilance, which is the hallmark of panic and anxiety problems. Overall, here we have a real physical ailment (severe allergies) that can directly create an anxiety loop as well, which is another thing that detracts from a normal lifestyle.

    • Sarah says:

      Hello Justaperson,
      First I want to say, I love your pen name. Whenever I do something that is less than perfect, I say to myself… You’re just a person :) Anyway, I agree, food allergy should be seen as not only a medical diagnosis but also an emotional diagnosis. It is a huge emotional and social toll for the patient and the patient’s family and this topic needs to be a bigger part (or in some cases a part at all) of our appointments. I hope someday I can be a part of this change.
      Thank you for sharing your comment,
      Sarah

  56. Becki says:

    Wow, I can’t imagine how emotional is must be to have a child with such a severe allergy. I recently got to sample an allergy-friendly cookbook through my blog (I’m giving one away too) and it’s amazing though how there really are lots of creative options that don’t include major allergens. Who would have known that my one year old loves eggplant? I like what you said about the kids having their own memories that they can connect to. I’m glad you aren’t feeling guilty about eating the deviled eggs. They do look really good!

    • Sarah says:

      Hello Becki,
      I’ll have to check out your blog too. There are many creative options and luckily there are more people sharing them on-line and in the form of cookbooks. Thank you so much for reading my blog and for your comment!
      Sarah

  57. Sarah C says:

    My husband has just recently started allowing himself to eat foods to which I am allergic. I’ve always told him that those things obviously can’t come into the house, but if we’re stuck at work late and I’m eating one of my “if I get stuck somewhere snacks” that I always carry plenty of, why not treat himself at the Thai restaurant next door? Just because I can’t eat there because of the masses of capsicum absolutely everywhere doesn’t mean he can’t. He’s always been very, very, very careful about hand-washing, brushing his teeth, scrubbing his face, etc… after eating anything I can’t, and I’ve never had a second-hand reaction from his having consumed anything, but he’s said that he just feels so guilty about eating these things. One, he worries that he might be the cause of my getting very sick, and another, he feels like he’s taunting me with food that I want but can’t have. The truth is, I LOVE watching him eat (most) things I can’t (I like to call it vicariously eating though him :D ). I love the smell of lamb curry, and the spiced muffins the cafe next to my work sells. It took years of reinforcing to get him to the point where he feels comfortable eating things I can’t and he still admits to feeling guilt over it, but at least he will let himself get something if he’s really craving it now. Of course, we have an agreement that there’s no kissing for a while afterward, just to be safe, but since we’re usually at work when this happens it’s not really an option anyway.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that right now, your kids are young enough that they might feel resentment over your being able to eat something they can’t, but as they get older, they’ll probably have the same view I do – just because I can’t eat it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! Enjoy your moments of “cheating,” especially those delicious inner pieces of bread smothered in butter. Mmmmmm.

    • Sarah says:

      Sarah,
      I really appreciate you adding your insight and perspective. It is very, very interesting and I think it will be very helpful to many parents. Thank you for taking the time to share your story with everyone here. It means a lot to me.
      Have a great night!
      Sarah

      • Meli says:

        My daughter is 5 and already has this opinion. When we get a candy treat, for instance, her first question is “Do you want a Reese’s, Mommy?” (shortly before “oooh, Starburst!”)–she is peanut-allergic (as well as all other legimes and tree nuts, including coconut). Once in awhile, she says “I wish I could have one too,” but it’s not about the peanut butter; it’s that she wants to have a shared experience. So we both enjoy a Dr Pepper instead. :)

        She is starting to learn a little about “the flip side” as well. She had a pork allergy but was retested recently and has outgrown it (along with tomato, beef, egg, and chocolate! Woot!)…however, I am still pork-intolerant (pork intolerance and allergies run in my family and we were all pretty surprised that she outgrew that one–we’ll be keeping a close eye on it still). So suddenly she can have something that I can’t.

        We as a family are of the opinion that variations in a shared dinner are totally ok. For example, we’ll make grilled or stir-fry chicken with real butter or olive oil, and hubby and I will have peas while she has orange slices, or she and I will eat applesauce while he eats beets (which neither she nor I like). Since she does not have airborne reactions, and only contact reactions with peanuts (we take the washing and teeth-brushing precautions but do keep it in the house–she is not allowed to touch and we keep it in the exact same place so there is no confusion about what’s ok and what’s not), we can be more relaxed, though we definitely cut some things completely out of our diet and made big changes to make things easier for us and less “nyah nyah you can’t have” for her.

        I think this has made my girl feel more self-reliant and responsible. She understands that sometimes life’s not fair but we can all still enjoy what we have; we keep plenty of alternatives for her and she doesn’t get bummed if we enjoy a forbidden food. She doesn’t panic when we are in public; she has learned to ask questions about food that most kids wouldn’t even consider. She is very self-aware and a great self-advocate, which sets my mind at ease (a little) about her going to school. She has also learned to appreciate things that others take for granted, and I think it helps her be even more compassionate to others (she is a bleeding heart kinda kid anyway lol).

        Still, though, the guilt does eat at me sometimes. Thank you for putting it into perspective. :)

        (and sorry for my long, somewhat rambly, parentheses-ridden post.)

        • Meli says:

          Sorry, wanted to clarify…my daughter has contact-reaction to peanuts but it is not full-on anaphylaxis–it’s nasty itchy hives but at least Benedryl will knock it out fast. We’ve only had it happen once. She has anaphylactic reactions to ingested peanuts or tree nuts. We also had that happen once too. Scariest moments of my life.

          Again, thanks. :)

        • Sarah says:

          Meli,
          You’re welcome! I hope that it helped you a bit! And, thank you for sharing your story. It’s always nice to see how other food allergy families work with food allergies in the kitchen and at mealtime.
          And you don’t need to apologize for your long posts… notice how long mine are? :)
          Please keep in touch!
          Sarah

  58. Manisha says:

    What a wonderful blog! My son has allergies to dairy, nuts and eggs. I have lost all joy for food ever since…how can something that causes so much pain bring any pleasure. This may not be the healthiest mind set but seeing your child is so much pain really kills the joy is relishing a meal.

    • Sarah says:

      Manisha,
      Thank you so much! I am so glad that you enjoy the blog. It is truly difficult to find joy in foods that you have seen your child react to… nearly impossible. Thank you for your comment.
      Sarah

  59. Katie says:

    I so agree. I don’t think we do talk enough about the emotional affects of eating the things are children are allergic to. I just got back from a much needed girl’s weekend, and ate out a lot. It was great, but before everything I ate, I said things like, “Oh, gluten!” or “My daughter is allergic to this.” It starts to feel a little crazy after awhile, when I’m eating so many things I don’t eat as frequently anymore. I have started to feel a little obsessive about washing my hands since my daughter was diagnosed- I can’t stand the feel of food on them- it makes me anxious. I can’t eat peanuts on a plane. I just can’t. I can eat Reese’s cups or things like that elsewhere, but on a plane all I can think is, “What is someone were to go into anaphylaxis because of me eating these?” Ah! I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I lead a local support group and I know other parents go through similar feelings as well, and there is a definite need to talk about it. Thank you so much for writing such an honest and vulnerable post!

    • Sarah says:

      Katie,
      You’re so welcome. It’s never easy to write posts like this but once the comments start coming in and I realize how many people feel the same way, I remember why I write them. You are not alone. This may be a great support group topic if you haven’t done it already. Where are you located? How can I help?
      Thank you!
      Sarah

  60. Tina says:

    Your blog is so nurturing to me. I cried tears of relief the first time I read it, finally. Someone who gets it. Please, do this community a favor: WRITE MORE!!!!! I can’t wait until your next post.

    Mom of p/f , tn/f.

    • Sarah says:

      Tina,
      Oh, thank you so, so much for your comment. It means a lot to me. Once school starts back, I really will try to write more! Have a great rest of the summer and I hope to hear from you again.
      Sarah

  61. Toni says:

    Wow! SO well written. I have avoided dairy and nuts for six years after the diagnosis of EE with multiple food allergies of our son. We don’t even cook with dairy and nuts in our home. I continued because I was terrified to be pregnant, breastfeed, and then have another child that struggled with food like Jacob. We now have 3 children, all avoid dairy and nuts, but they are not allergic to these foods. Our daughter was weaned last week and I struggle to find the guts to attempt to eat pizza.. REAL PIZZA (the only thing I have craved being off of dairy for so long). I went as far as getting tested by an allergist to make sure that I am not allergic to these so when the time came so I would be sure of avoided a reaction. But you can’t help but think about the “what if” I don’t have an anaphalaxis reaction but eosinophils start to gather in my throat or there is a delayed reaction. With EE you might test negative to a food but still react. Knowing his diagnosis truly has changed the way we view food and those without allergies in our family and friend circle just don’t get it. Thanks for writing this!

    • Sarah says:

      Toni,
      You’re welcome! I hope that if/when you decide to eat traditional pizza that you truly enjoy it and don’t have any reactions to it. Food is such a struggle for all of us and it can be very frustrating when people in your circle of friends and family don’t understand it. I am so glad you are part of this community!
      Sarah

  62. Anna says:

    Sarah, so happy I have found this article! My family is new to all this and I was feeling like maybe my husband and I were over reacting. It is nice to know we are not the only parents feeling this way.

  63. Caroline says:

    You write so beautifully and I enjoy your blog very much!

    As the Allergist/Mom, what are your thoughts on the new Epi Pen alternative that just received FDA approval yesterday? Have you seen it or have opions?
    http://www.gratefulfoodie.com/big-news-a-new-talking-epinephrine-autoinjector/

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you, Caroline! I am so happy to hear that you enjoy the blog!
      I am waiting patiently to see a mock up of the new injectable epinephrine when they are available. I will better be able to give my full opinion on the device then. I’ll let you know!
      Have a great day!
      Sarah

  64. Pingback: Baked Milk Challenge | Family Nature

  65. Sarah says:

    This was so funny to read, I have some very similar photos my husband took of me, only with cheese and french bread! My son is almost 3 years old so doesn’t really know about “unsafe” foods for him yet as we keep our house “safe” and we enjoy “illegal” foods when he’s at Grandma’s! Thanks for a great blog, I have added it to my bookmarks. I especially appreciate you being a physician,being a provider myself (a PA), I often skip others blogs who seem well intentioned but uninformed…thanks again!

  66. Laura says:

    Sooo many mixed feelings!! When our older son was diagnosed at 1-yr-old with allergies to peanut, wheat, egg, milk, green beans, garlic, and rye, I had not yet weaned him, but was preparing myself for the process. Of course, I went off all his allergens until he was completely weaned. I’m a fairly slim person, but I became a skeleton in the weeks it took to wean!! I only ate to survive, because I couldn’t think of ANYTHING I actually desired to eat that was allergy safe!! I was shocked to discover that my “skinny jeans” were hanging off of me.

    The first day without nursing him, I went straight into the fridge, grabbed a stale, cold slice of pizza(left over from a game night with friends a couple nights before) and jammed it into my mouth. The emotions that went into that first bite: joy, because I could eat GOOD STUFF again, sorrow, because this finalized the fact that my baby was weaned, guilt, because I didn’t know WHEN he would be able to eat “normal” foods…. It was so dizzying.

    From the time that he was weaned, I have eaten my child’s allergens… I would always fix a separate “safe” meal for him. Because he was only a yr old at diagnosis, he doesn’t remember life WITHOUT allergies, and is accustomed to the family eating things he can’t touch. It’s simply his way of life. He is 5.5 now, and over the years(he has “outgrown” the garlic and green bean allergies, but his list of dangerous foods has RECENTLY expanded by adding mustard, sesame, lettuce, spinach, sunflower, most fish, and now possibly turkey), I have created and discovered some wonderful “allergy free” recipes, and though his lunch may not be the same food as mine, dinner is usually a meal where the whole family can enjoy eating the same dish together( allergy free chili, pot roast, meatballs, fried pork chops. stir fry, etc).

    My guilt comes in more regarding my younger son(now 2.5). As far as we can tell, he does not have any allergies. Like his big brother, he does drink soy milk instead of cow’s milk(simply to avoid the possibly deadly mistake of pouring the wrong milk for my allergic child), but other than that, I let “the baby” eat things his big brother can’t. I have a (probably unfounded) fear that if I DON’T feed milk/egg/wheat/etc to my younger child, he will develope an allergy to those foods due to LACK of exposure.
    Now my older son is beginning to notice that his little brother is getting to eat things he’s never been allowed to eat…. I feel terrible about it, but what can a mommy do?

    My older son began kindergarten(of course this is so scary for moms of allergic kids, and I was/am terrified of the dangers) Monday. I was invited out to lunch with girlfriends on Tuesday, with my younger son in tow. It was so amazing to be able to share a restaurant meal with my child. I felt guilty because my older son has never enjoyed the pleasure of “restaurant food,” but blissful to experience something so “normal” as eating restaurant chicken tenders with my other child.

    At the original diagnosis of allergies, my son’s allergist assured us that he probably would outgrow all of the allergens(except peanuts) by the time he was around three, and certainly by the time he started school. I felt pretty okay with eating his allergens in front of him, because (if he felt left out)I could promise him that “someday” he’d be able to eat all the same foods that I can. Now, he’s in kindergarten, and instead of outgrowing his allergies, the situation continues to get worse!! It’s very discouraging, heartbreaking, and FRIGHTENING, to go through this, and I often feel alone, as none of my mommy friends are experiencing the same thing. Sarah, your posts are such a blessing. It is so wonderful to read your blog, and have you put into words the unique emotions that moms of allergic kids go through. You make me cry a lot, but please don’t stop being a voice to us!!

    PS: I WISH with all my heart that you were my son’s allergist!! Then I’d KNOW he was in the best of hands. :-)

    • Sarah says:

      Laura,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story… Feels very familiar to our family’s experience – especially in regard to each child having unique food allergens. Families with children with multiple food allergies that vary from child to child have so much to balance and figure out. This has been one of the most difficult parts of this food allergy journey for us. Please feel free to reach out any time if you need to think things through… I don’t want you to feel alone.
      Thank you for your comment and for your kind words.
      Take care, Laura,
      Sarah

  67. Christine Young says:

    Sarah, I could gush again about how spot on you are with the topics you choose to write about, or how your passion and gifted writing connects so well with your audience and propels us to read every word… but really, this time, I want to thank you for creating this huge support community. Because of your skill as a mom, a pediatric allergist, a friend, a writer — all of these people post comments that are also so helpful to each other! Kudos to you for creating this place for us to meet, share, and soul-search together!

    • Sarah says:

      Chris,
      Thank you for this thank you! I am also so happy with the community that we have been building here. When I started this last year, I was really hoping that The Allergist Mom website/facebook would create a really cool, smart, funny, supportive group of food allergy mothers and well, maybe, it did just that :) This has been wonderful for me and I am really so happy you feel the same way!
      See you next week!
      Sarah

  68. Robin says:

    Hi! I was just directed to your website and was scrolling down a bit. I’m hooked already. This post…wow…definitely speaks to me. I have a peanut allergic son, and I just can’t go near the things and consider them super-evil. Even when I’m nowhere near my son. Just the thought of just one little speck of peanut being left on my hands, or lips, and coming into contact w/my son? Nightmare. Anyway, the ability to abandon peanuts myself seems to be a bizarre thing to other people….How??? Really? Well, you are hard-core! Some of the responses I have heard….I know most people think it’s needless. But I know it’s the right thing for me. I don’t have any other allergy-family-friends to share this with, so appreciate hearing I’m not the only one. Will be folowing you from now on!

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you for your comment, Robin. I often think that if peanut was the only food that my child was allergic to that maybe I would avoid it when I wasn’t with the children too… out of principal not because I was afraid that if I ate it I would make my child sick if I took the proper steps to ensure it didn’t get in contact with my son. I think I would be more hard core to avoid milk, egg, wheat, soy, oat, barely, peas, all beans, nuts, fish, SF, mustard, sesame etc when I am not with the children! Everyone has their own comfortable place and if avoiding peanuts is yours, then that is what you should do! Just know if you ever just want a taste, you’re not doing anything wrong.
      Thank you, Robin. So happy you found us here!
      Sarah

  69. Robin says:

    Sarah–I hear you….I think I have it rough now, but definitely realize eggs and dairy and some of the others would be toughest to avoid fully—I love both! Oh, and thank you for that “you are not doing anything wrong if…..”)….yes, I do miss Thai food so much (in fact, feeding my child Pad Thai was our first indication of the allergy….) and one of these days I hope I feel ok about stepping back into a Thai restaurant! The husband of course is fine w/it….just me…not quite ready….. take care, Robin

    • Sarah says:

      Robyn,
      When you’re ready, you’re ready. There’s no rush! Just know that you safely eating the food that your child is allergic to doesn’t mean that you love or care about your child any less.
      Take care,
      Sarah

  70. Rachel says:

    Thank you for creating this blog! I just discovered you today. Our 6 year old son has a severe peanut/legume allergy that we discovered when he was 15 months. He had other food allergies too, but less severe and he has grown out of most of them. Our 4 year old was just recently diagnosed with a peanut allergy as well :{ Most children find out before the age of 4 but we are COMPLETELY peanut free in our house and his exposure was from a neighbor girl. I feel like their first exposure is their one “get out of jail free” card {so to speak}. I was happy his reaction wasn’t severe but I know that a next accidental exposure, we might not be so lucky. This particular blog post hit extremely close to home and I am tearing up as I write this. I can not, nor do I think I will ever be able to bring myself to eat anything peanut. I HATE peanuts. I feel like they are our enemy. Until I read this I didn’t realize there was a name for what I have experience for the last 5 + years. I wish I could relax a little and enjoy a few of the food I loved before my boys were diagnosed. I even find myself feel frustrated with parents when I find out their child is peanut allergic and yet they still keep peanut butter in the house. Maybe they have come to a place where they are more comfortable than I will ever be? At this point I am ok with my “disorder” lol. Its such an out of control feeling – this “food allergy” stuff. In a silly way, I guess this makes me feel a little more in control. Thank you again for your advocacy work. I look forward to reading more from you!

    • Sarah says:

      Rachel,
      This blog has been such a wonderful experience for me and I am so happy that you feel it is helpful to you. I can definitely understand how you feel! Maybe, in time, you will be comfortable with eating peanuts when you are not around your children and maybe, you won’t. Either way is okay as long as you are okay with your decision. I totally understand that avoiding them would give you a sense of control and maybe you need that right now!
      Take care of yourself and thank you so much for commenting and reading!
      Sarah

  71. Pingback: Eating Without Guilt | In The Brown Bag

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