Food allergies are not a preference. Not eating a particular food isn’t because we don’t like it or want to be difficult. It’s survival. Like not putting your hand or whole body in the fire type of survival. It seems like a simple concept; yet, there’s misunderstanding and miscommunication on both ends- the foodie with allergies and your garden variety foodie. Let’s break this down. I don’t like kale. I could and probably should eat kale, but I don’t. If I come to your house and you offer me kale or that’s all you have. I will swallow my pride and ignore my taste buds then eat your kale happily. That’s a preference.
It may be a foreign concept for some people, eating certain foods can be dangerous or could kills us. Ever have your throat and lungs close so quickly from eating food? It sucks to say the least. It’s panic, frustration, and at times, weeks to recover from the event. Then if a bite doesn’t outright make an ER trip seem like a cross country road trip, then there’s a long list of painful symptoms us foodies with allergies can experience. We don’t avoid foods because we don’t like them. We want to live after a meal. This is not a preference.
food allergies + trigger foods = potential health risk or death
How do we handle food unicorn situations?
For the non-food unicorns, understanding and flexibility is appreciated. We food unicorns can feel embarrassed to speak up. When a food unicorn states they can’t eat a food or go to a restaurant- it’s not to be difficult or out of preference. It’s a good habit to just ask if there are any dietary needs. Most likely before eating food unicorns do their research. When possible offer a menu or where to locate one. It helps us to feel more human. In a gathering, provide the opportunity for others to bring food. A respectful inquiry helps if you are concerned on how to cook for a food unicorn. This is a food unicorn’s open to door to help you understand and provide a safety net for us. Do not make fun off or make judgmental statements about our dietary needs. This is food bullying and not acceptable.
For food unicorns, while this sucks, we are not victims entirely and grace goes a long way. Food unicorns, let’s offer information and types restaurants we could eat at (not just your favorites). Offer to contribute to a meal to ease the tension. Part of our challenges with foodies come from fear and unknown. When in a gathering let’s be conscious with our food unicorn status. There’s a difference in sharing information and oversharing. A close friend is good for listening to your frustrations. However, don’t dominate a gathering and conversations with your food unicorn needs. Simply inform and advocate then move on.
Restricted diets are not a preference. Realizing this concept changes may change more than you think. It opens the door for compassion. It helps us food unicorns to develop connections with others. It facilitates a food relationship with more trust as our safety needs our being met. It makes mythical food relationships more human. Bring more to the table, honor every food relationship and bridge the gap with food unicorns.