Tag Archives: hyper-allergenic

five great things someone else said, vol 28*

I’m an inspiration board kind of girl. The thought of covering an entire wall in cork has crossed my mind more than once. Pinterest tidily holds all that inspires me in the ether, where it doesn’t take up wall space. Yet Pinterest concerns me. Because there are way too many thinspiration boards. I hate knowing that someone will google thinspiration and probably end up on this blog, sorely disappointed to find I don’t believe that keeping mood boards pinned with images that motivate you to skip meals is inspiring. Or the only Jonathan Adler designs I don’t love – a needlepoint pillow emblazoned with the words “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” That ends up on a lot of those boards, too. (Why, JA? Why?)

For about seven years, as my unknown food allergies grew worse and I grew sick, I gained a lot of weight. Combined with the freshman fifteen, at one time I was a good fifty pounds heavier than I am today. Yet I didn’t look at photos of myself and feel unattractive. It didn’t make me insecure about dating or feel less as a woman. It just meant I bought new clothes.

Why now, a few days ago, looking a headshot to accompany an article I wrote, was I so hypercritical of how my arms looked? Why did I feel so confident then and not now?

In Los Angeles, where dieting is a way of life, I never had parents who made weight an issue. Only now do I realize how making it a non-issue was a huge issue. I was pretty average in height and weight as a little girl. Basically, the only one who ever commented on my weight was me. So, when I began having more health issues and gaining weight, at about twenty, I didn’t have the added pressure of being reminded of what I already knew. For which I am grateful. Because I couldn’t lose the weight however I tried. I’d never been much of an exerciser, but even working with a trainer made no difference. I now understand why, but at the time it was overwhelming. I sort of resigned myself to the fact that this was who I was for the time being. Hopefully, one day it would change.

I’d like to say I got into shape because I worked my ass off. The reality is that most of the change came from cutting out the foods I am allergic to. As a result, my body stopped fighting a war with every bit of gluten, soy, egg or dairy that invaded it. It also meant I removed all things processed, too. (Soy and gluten abound in boxed everything.)

About four years ago, as my weight dropped, people began to say things, flattering things, but they could be depressing to hear. We send really screwed up messages about weight and beauty and health. I remember someone coming up to me and remarking how fun it must be to be thin again because of all the fun things I could wear. And while I know I’m not exactly good with compliments, instead of saying thank you, I said I was just grateful to not live in pain everyday. Living without chronic pain? That made life more fun. Losing the weight was great, but I loved shopping whether a size 4 or 8 or 14. Truth be told, there are some clothes I really miss that I have kept in the back of my closet. Because when I was a size 14, I had fun things to wear, too.

My thoughts return to these thinspiration pins. I’ve wanted to leave comments, but how do you tell someone what they’re allowed to be inspired by? Sadly, we look at the size of someone’s waist as opposed to their BMI to determine their health worth. I know people who don’t gain weight no matter what they eat, but they aren’t healthy. Skinny-fat exists, but we don’t acknowledge it. Instead we embroider bon mots onto pillows that kids will read and take seriously. And they will pin these onto boards to remind themselves not to eat. That’s not inspiration, that’s starvation.

And now, five great things someone else said that are worth pinning:

It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness. – Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata

Beauty is not caused. It is. – Emily Dickinson

Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it. – Salvador Dalí

Nothing,’ wrote Tolstoy, ‘can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness. – Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

Too late, I found you can’t wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else. – Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

*I know, it’s going backwards, but I realized I skipped a week.


i blame sally albright

Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.

Sally Albright: Which one am I?

Harry Burns: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.

                                                                                                                                          – When Harry Met Sally

I grew up with a total foodie for a mother, a gourmand who is truly an artist in the kitchen. She’s made her art a business at times in my life, but her greatest joy comes from cooking from family and friends – and generally “in abbondanza,” as her friend T calls it. Or “for a small country,” as my father would say.

And so many of the amazing things she creates I can’t eat because, oh, the irony, I’m allergic to them.

Over the years my allergies were realized, and I had to say goodbye to all that I once knew. Dairy when I was young. And later gluten. And soy. And eggs. All gone.

It’s the end of Food Allergy Awareness Week, and I can assure you we have a long way to go on the awareness part.

And I kind of blame Sally Albright. Not entirely, but kind of.

A lot of food service workers have blurred the lines between the Sally’s of the world and customers who will be very sick, some dangerously ill, if the grilled chicken on the menu is first put either in an egg wash or tossed in flour. Both common for something that reads simply as “grilled chicken” on a menu.

But it’s not just wait staff or kitchen workers that deserve the blame. It’s customers themselves that have begun using the term allergic interchangeably with “I don’t like…”

(It’s something I’ve discussed with Elizabeth Gordon, of My Allergy-Free Life , part of the group of FA sufferers with whom I share whenever I find some genius allergy-safe product on the shelves. Her book’s recipes are so good that I serve them to those with or without allergies and no one knows the difference. And, believe me, with many allergy-free desserts, you often can tell the difference.)

At what point did people have such a hard time being served what they were paying asking for that they faked an illness? I kind of think that’s the bigger problem.

Two nights ago, I went out for dinner. My steak arrived with a beautiful topping of caramelized onions I had not ordered. The waiter took it back to the kitchen, reappearing moments later with the same plate. The onions had been scraped away sloppily. It was obvious. This isn’t the first time they’d screwed up my meal at this restaurant. But it’s the last time.

I’m never comfortable saying that I want my food remade. I would rather just return it to the kitchen. Because it’s hard to feel safe putting food to your mouth when you don’t think your health is taken seriously. Imagine spending the next few days out of commission and I lose my appetite.

Living with allergies involves a lot of planning.  A lot of Plan B’s (LaraBars in purse? Check.) A lot of label reading. And rereading. A lot of question asking. A lot of faith in strangers.

Trusting servers who tell you they use canola oil when so often they don’t really know (sometimes the cooks don’t even know) and it could be veggie oil (soy). I’ve had horrible experiences at some of the finest restaurants in big cities and the best at divey joints in small towns. You never know.

Perhaps I’m a bigger risk taker than I realize.

xo a.
Not sure if anyone else is in the same boat, but I think I might start sharing my store bought favorites here – I’ve got long lists. Let me know what you think.