When a Colleague Has Food Allergies

A couple of months ago, I overheard a young lady and her colleague on the elevator, in a conversation that went something like this:

“Are you going to the pizza lunch?”

“Yes, I guess we have to. It’s mandatory.”

“Except for those people who asked for gluten-free.” She started shaking her head and continued, “Come on, it’s a free lunch.”

Ever since that conversation I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief that anyone could say something so unenlightened. Whether a person has an allergy, an intolerance, a medical condition, a dietary restriction or a preference, people’s food choices need to be respected. Period!

I suspect that the young lady in question probably does not have a family member with a food allergy or intolerance, for her to say that a lunch being free is a good reason to eat something that could pose an allergy risk.

In my case, wheat can turn my world completely upside down for about 24 hours. Imagine if you will, your absolute worst stomach flu, resulting in frequent, persistent, urgent and (please excuse the vulgarity) “explosive” trips to the washroom. Then add the sensation of something sharp painfully working its way through the digestive system.

By the time it has worked its way out of my system, some 24 hours later, exhaustion sets in, as well as a very uncharacteristic grouchiness, as I become cold, tired and hungry following the incident. And when life delivers a heavy dose of stress or anxiety on top of that, the intensity of the symptoms is magnified.

Without going into more crude details, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of how it feels. The experience is so unpleasant that the idea of consuming wheat, even in small amounts, is out of the question for me.

When it comes to my intolerance, I’m not looking for pity or praise in how I deal with it and I wouldn’t dream of imposing on anyone to go out of their way to make sure a wheat-free option is available. I understand that people are busy.

I look forward to the day that a solution to food intolerance is found. Life takes a lot more planning, food preparation and can become costly, when alternate products or ingredients cost two to three times more.

I definitely have an open mind when it comes to new theories and medical reports and I welcome any new information people forward to me (… except the ones that refer to food intolerance as a myth. Thanks anyway! My Charmin bill tells a different story.)

People who have food allergies are not trying to be dramatic or frivolous. For some, it is a matter of health and wellness. For others, it might be a matter of life and death.

We all have different body chemistries and different genetic predispositions. When it comes to food, one size does not fit all and people can’t help that. The lady in the elevator’s judgemental comment was out of line and inappropriate.

Anyone with food allergies already has a more challenging path in life between reading food labels, searching for safe recipes, preparing foods from scratch to guarantee their safety and being so vigilant to avoid unexpected or accidental sources. For some it means carrying an Epipen for the rest of their lives, just in case.

A little sensitivity is all we ask. If we politely decline an offer of free food, just go along with it.

To the friends, family and colleagues who have been so kind, generous, understanding and respectful in this regard, I offer you my heartfelt thanks.

The bottom line: Even if a lunch is free, the price I may have to pay for it afterward is not worth it.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,


Filed under food, Health and Wellness, Misc blogs

2 responses to “When a Colleague Has Food Allergies

  1. As someone who is allergic to milk, thank you for this post. I couldn’t agree with you more on every point you made.

    • Hi Lydia
      Thank you very much for the feedback!
      As I was first writing the post, I was thinking that this wasn’t just for me, it was for all the people who have encountered similar shades of the awkwardness that comes with dietary restrictions of any kind.
      It was an empowering feeling to revise it with that in mind!
      I’m glad that it struck the right chord with you; I really appreciate your taking the time to let me know!
      All the best

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