At least half of the workload with food sensitivities is the mental game. It's all about dealing with a chronic thing that just keeps coming back day after day after day. There is no Food Sensitivity Day when we get the day off and eat whatever we want with no repercussions!
For many of us, if it were just a matter of navigating for ourselves, it wouldn't be that hard. But then there are (generally) well-intentioned family and friends who play a big role in life. We can't completely keep them in the dark, right?
But that presents a whole different predicament. Not everyone understands what living with food sensitivities is like. Some just simply can't imagine such a weird situation because it is completely foreign to them. (Understandable when it doesn't always make sense to you and me!) Others don't have the time or interest or ability to try and figure it out.
And then there is the wonderful backstory we bring with every relationship. You know…the stupid stuff that can ruin a day in a heartbeat or remind you of that one wonderful (or horrible) situation or experience over and over again. Let's go ahead and say it - relationships are hard! Food sensitivities do nothing to simplify them.
Ultimately, you and I have to decide how we're going to share our situation with others and what that is going to look like. And my best advice is to think about it and plan a bit before the next big dinner or party or holiday.
Emotional and mental stress are mast cell triggers - they aggravate allergies and sensitivities. I can't think of anything quite as uniquely stressful as answering rapid-fire questions about my relationship with food! So…let's chew on this a bit!
Here are some questions to consider…
- Do you need the other person to know about your food sensitivities? Please notice I asked if YOU need them to know. At the basis of this work, we need to find what is best for you and your situation. If you have food allergies which cause anaphylactic-type reactions, I would suggest having those around you aware is a good thing. But, again, you get to decide.
- If you deal with food sensitivities and there are uncomfortable but not life-threatening impacts of eating your trigger foods, is the benefit of someone else knowing worth the effort of telling them the story and answering the questions?
- To what detail are you willing/do you need to share with others? Is it enough to say "I can't eat bananas" or do they really need to know your entire story and what happens when you eat bananas?
- Even if they don't need to know, are you willing to answer questions about your relationship with food if they are curious and ask? I find this to be the tricky one. It depends on the other person. Some genuinely care about you and have an interest in your life. They want to know more about you. But others ask questions like they're at a circus side-show and then use the information as conversation starters with others. Before I start offering a lot of information about my situation with food, I get to know someone so I can get a feel for their motivation and the role they will play in my world.
As you get into your own rhythm of sharing and establishing boundaries, remember you can always change your mind! It can get easy to get into the mindset of rules - do this, don't do that and say this, don't say that. There are no hard and fast rules here.
OK…I take that back. The one rule is to be true to what you need to stay sane and happy on this journey. We both know it's not easy and we do need others to help us on the way. But you get to decide who walks that journey with you!
Sixty-second Self-care Tip…
This is a skill I'm working on because I love it THAT much. Let's just call it - "Bean Dip".
Yes, there is a story. I don't remember where I was or with what group but there was someone in the group who was skilled at getting out of answering questions, even when the one asking got a little persistent. Her technique? Someone would ask a question and she would answer by saying, "Have you tried the bean dip?"
Sounds a little ridiculous. But think of it this way - she already knew how she was going to take the pressure off herself in a situation where someone was asking questions she didn't want to answer. BRILLIANT!!! My personal technique has always been sweaty palms and praying no one would ask. Not nearly as effective at keeping me in a good mental space!
I will acknowledge that not every situation has bean dip to which you can appropriately refer…but there is always something: Have you tried the wine, the turkey, or the dessert? Have you read this book or seen this movie, [insert title]? Have you ever heard this podcast or artist [insert name]? Have you ever traveled to [insert a place you can talk about]? How did you meet [insert name of mutual acquaintance or friend]?
Or...ask about the bean dip and then prepare yourself for confusion!
This is another one to think about before the situation arises in which you need it so the question will be easy to ask. But just think of the freedom and (literal) breathing room it can offer you when those awkward situations pop up!
So…what is your Bean Dip question?
This is a really challenging topic within our food sensitivity world. Have questions about how to navigate some of the conversations with family and friends? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's get you some answers! They come straight to me - my eyes only!