Food restrictions are hard. Especially in the beginning. They do get easier to navigate in time.
Finding out you have food sensitivities might be an annoying diagnosis but not the worst scenario. You finally have the answers to why you feel crappy. You’re feeling confident about these seemingly small lifestyle changes to better health. Gluten, dairy, eggs. I can cut those foods out, no problem.
You clean out your cabinets of all processed foods, trek to Whole Foods with your reusable bags and stock up on all sorts of allergen-free items. Your food bill just tripled in price but it’s okay because you’re finally on the path to stellar health. Somehow you make it through a few days without parmesan cheese and you feel like Superwoman.
But then life happens. You start a new job and your colleagues want to take you out to lunch on your first day. This small celebratory lunch makes you anxious because now you have to disclose your health issues to all these new people. I refer to myself as “Bubble Girl” to make light of the situation.
There is a wedding across the country you need to attend. The flight is 6 hours and you find out the wedding is buffet style (translation: there is no way I can eat anything here). You stock up on carrots, hummus, and shrimp during cocktail hour.
It’s Thursday night. There’s nothing in your fridge and there are no allergen friendly options on Seamless. Close computer and scream into a pillow. Eat rice cakes and cashew butter for dinner.
I have lived every single one of these scenarios. The beginning was so hard. I felt like I was going through the 5 stages of grief. Grieving my old life without all these issues and restrictions. Remembering times when I could hop on a plane and not have to think about what I need to bring with me.
Slowly, I moved past the grieving and the anger towards this new life disruption and started to accept it. In order to do this, I had to find ways to make my restrictions less inconvenient.
I bought healthy cookbooks for inspiration. Cooked items in bulk, created recipe routines and identified the least annoying days to go food shopping. I kept foods stocked in my freezer for the days I was too tired to go to the store and had travel snacks handy just in case. I found new restaurants with healthy options so I could go out and enjoy myself on the weekends.
As time went on, I got used to my routines and this way of life. It took me a few years to be comfortable with my allergies but eventually, they became an afterthought.
Overall, I find most restaurants today are accommodating, even in the smallest cities. I cook most of my meals during the week and bring lunch to work. Traveling requires a little extra preparation. My carry-on is mostly snacks. I eat big meals before long flights and wedding receptions. Nobody likes a hangry travel buddy or wedding guest.
My food restrictions no longer run my life. I still manage to go out, have fun and stay healthy. It certainly took time to adjust but I’ve learned how to navigate work functions, restaurants, travel and my own kitchen. The restrictions don’t stress me out like they once did.