The obligatory post about food

Image via user Contributorwiki on Wikimedia Commons

Image via user Contributorwiki on Wikimedia Commons

They say that March is National Nutrition month, which is a but awkward since I really have nothing to contribute to the discussion when it comes to nutrition. (Case in point: my breakfast on Sunday consisted of two Eggo waffles with sugar-free syrup, three strips of bacon, and coffee with a splash of whole milk — with a “Sell By” date of eleven days prior.  I also had a bacon-cheeseburger for dinner that night.)

But I do have something to say when it comes to food. Not as it relates to diabetes, but to allergies.

Both of my kids are allergic to milk, to egg white, and to peanuts. And though they seem to handle it well (the older one is seven, and the younger one – too young to understand or to care – is two. And while allergies and diabetes are radically different, there are a few similarities which hit uncomfortably close to home.

Like the “you can’t eat that” / “can you eat that?” discussions.

When someone asks this question of me, I typically see it as a reflection not of me, but of them and their understanding (or lack thereof) of diabetes. I also know how to handle myself and how to face adversity. I’m a big boy.

But with the kids, it’s different. The effects are immediate, and the effects are unpleasant. So, just like me growing up, they get the “special food” treatment.

No gooey-cheesey slices of pizza. No ice-cream cake. We need to arrange for “substitutions”. Birthday parties become a place to be differentiated.

The special meals weren’t fun for me growing up, and I’m sure it won’t be fun for them (when they’re of age to have such opinions). I know it disturbs me when I see it — or worse, when I say these things — and it’s not even the same thing.

Or the “why did they get these allergies?” / “what did you do to cause it?” questions.

My wife struggles with this one a lot. Did she eat too much peanut butter while she was pregnant? Did nursing the kids for a year do harm, rather than good?

The questions come from others as well as from ourselves, and nobody knows the answers. It’s not like we did anything “wrong” in bringing them into this world — at least not that we know of.

But there are always the thoughts of what might be different if we did things differently.

What if? Well, I don’t know the answer to that, and I’m not sure I’d be comforted to learn the answer anyway. But thanks (sarcastically) for asking.

How about the “will they outgrow it?” / “will they deal with this for their whole lives?”

It’s not quite the “five-year-promise”, but it’s still the question that assumes we can gaze into the crystal ball and see what lies ahead.

We can’t. And though I often hope, I really have no idea.

“Oh, I get it. You should try..”

Usually this comes with the presumption that it is a lactose-intolerance, and that a simple pill will help. But just like those trying-to-be-helpful-but-don’t-know-any-better folks who try to push Type 2 tips on us Type 1s, pushing a lactose-intolerance treatment to help with a simple, run-of-the-mill dairy allergy reeks of a person just waiting for their chance to speak, without bothering to listen to what is being said beforehand. It can get annoying, and after awhile — it gets old.

It all gets old.

But seeing it affect someone I love seems to bring a clarity to a concept that I’d never before seen when it was only about myself. It’s the concept about “your relationship with food”.

I’ve heard those four words used together quite often, and never could quite understand what it meant. For some reason, food never involved a complex analysis that centered around socially fitting-in or standing-out. The discussion of food and me was always about me and the food.

In fact, the most disturbing “interaction” with food that I can remember was when, before-diabetes, I was in our town’s summer recreation program (i.e. the cheap alternative to summer camp), and when I bough a Bomb Pop from the ice-cream truck, it took me a long time to eat it and a counselor yelled at me to “hurry up!” and to “never order that again!”.

Perhaps being directly yelled at over a food choice made me numb to the more subliminal, implied, or self-directed scolding that comes from facing food restrictions.

But seeing it on the outside makes me see it differently.

I don’t know if my kids are, or will be, bothered with their special substitutions, or the Ice-Cream Social exclusions, or being sequestered to the peanut-free table. Like me and diabetes, it will probably be all they ever know and they’ll become numb to it.

But as a parent, seeing it from a distance, I see how it could affect them.

I’m starting to understand the concept of a strained relationship with food.

And I don’t like it.


Posted on March 25, 2014, in Diabetes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. this is interesting for many reasons.
    Mostly because allergies are serious business and a lot of people think it’s an intolerance. I think once your kids are old enough to understand the consequences of what could happen it will be different.
    I know me…. I can’t drink alcohol because I have a damaged liver and I do not process it. It means I get very VERY sick and very quickly. So many people think it’s a choice not to drink. I get judged for being boring and “unfun” at parties. Now I just come right out and say it… “I don’t drink because I physically can’t drink”. I basically use the “allergic type” response to get people off my back. I’m okay with this though… because I KNOW what will happen.

    I’m getting off track


    • My older son *does* understand what happens. But sometimes he’s super-cautious (like with cheese on pizza), and sometimes he tries to deny that his mouth is swelling up (like cupcakes at a party). A peanut once led to an EpiPen/emergency-room event. Essentially, he knows when to say no, but once he gets a taste of the sweet, forbidden food, it’s hard to know to turn the rest away.


  2. I promise I am not trying to be insensitive here, so bear with me. HOPE (not that you don’t already, even if they didn’t have allergies) that they don’t get T1. My 10 y/o has been dealing with severe food allergies since age 2 (Nuts, shellfish, eggs, dairy (specifically casein allergy), some random other stuff that has never shown any signs but the allergy tests showed positive) so she’s always been used to “You can’t have that, it has nuts” and she learned how to read food labels as soon as she could read anything. And then at age 9 was dx’d with T1. So, when people hear me say “you can’t have that” they assume it’s because of her diabetes and when I explain (if I feel like explaining instead of giving them the finger, that is) that she has food allergies we get pitying looks and the “I’m so sorry…have you tried XYZ?” It’s like a burrito of stuff I never want to hear from another human being so long as I live. And when you can list off all the immune system or possibly food related things that are “wrong” with your child in alphabetical order the stares and looks and questions of ‘What did you do wrong?” makes you not want to punch someone, but punch them ten times for every medical condition that your child lives with and is STILL THRIVING in spite of!!! Sorry, that ended up being a bit more ranty than I intended. ANd don’t you dare say or think “Poor you.” lol ADHD, Allergies, Asthma, Eczema, Type 1 Diabetes. Oh, and being a kid. We can’t forget that most unfortunate condition that requires her to respect her elders or people in authority simply because they are chronologically older even though they are spouting off rude and ignorant things that she must sit through.


    • You’re not being insensitive at all (and the older one did have pretty bad eczema as a baby as well; I hadn’t mentioned that). I don’t know if there’s a correlation or not, but I am always concerned about T1 looming, but I try not to worry myself over it. Worrying accomplishes nothing, and there’s really nothing I can do whether it’s coming or not — other than to be aware of the signs — and I’ve already got a razor-eye for picking up on those indicators (I’ve blogged about it before) — and know how to deal with it if and when it happens.

      You bring up a very interesting point about how to respond to an older or more authoritative person who is acting inappropriately — it’s something I’ve never thought of before, and would love to read more about those types of experiences. I would say that a person has to advocate for themselves first, and that it IS possible to tell someone that they’re wrong without being disrespectful. It just takes a little confidence and a certain way with words.


  3. I know exactly where you’re coming from. It’s so hard to sit there and explain to people what a milk allergy is and constantly feel like it’s not doing any good because they relate it to lactose intolerance. SO frustrating! I never used to let my diabetes dictate what foods I ate, just the amounts. But now, having to say “no” to a food (milk for me and him, eggs (white and yolk) for him) because you and your kid really can’t have it is a pain in the butt… and makes you hate food.


    • Tell me about it! I can’t count how many times I say “he’s allergic to milk” and the response is “oh, he’s lactose intolerant?” (No, I would have SAID that if it were the case). And between all the dietary restrictions, finding a meal that works for all, rather than different foods for each, can really be a pain-in-the-butt chore.

      (BTW, my kids are just allergic to the egg yolk. So many people eat only egg white, and they even sell egg-alternatives in the store that don’t have the cholesterol-filled yolk. So what do they do with all those discarded yolks — and how can I get them?)


  4. My dance teacher is also allergic to casein and nuts. The nut allergy is more serious, but the dairy thing is harder for him to explain. (Especially since a nut allergy is easier to explain/more common.)

    But I’m guilty of asking him, “hey should you be eating that?’ when he stuffs a big baked good in his mouth. Pot meet kettle. But he gives me crap about stuff I eat too, so it balances out.



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