Ask Amy: Allergies Cause Awkward Restrictions

By Amy Dickinson | March 1st, 2021

Well-meaning people can still cause weeks of health problems

Woman with allergies at a dinner party

Dear Amy: I currently am wrestling with several serious food allergies. Lab bloodwork has just revealed an autoimmune disorder. I am scheduled to see a rheumatologist in two months.

My body is thrown into a vicious cycle for weeks after consuming foods that trigger allergies.

So, what should I do when I get together with friends or family for dinners and they try to make special food for me? I don’t want to risk even trying this food because of past experiences with bad reactions.

Recently, a host assured me that all of the ingredients were safe for me, only to learn later that they’d buttered the pan with margarine, which set off my allergies.

They just don’t understand how I have to pay for eating even a trace of that for the next three weeks, but they feel bad because I can’t eat what they eat, and they love food so much that they want to share it with me.

What I prefer to do is bring my own food, but of course people are either very offended or feel so sorry for me that they will try to make something just for me.

I try to avoid dinner parties at all costs with certain people because of this.

What can I say to people who insist I try their food because they made it just for me and they made sure they didn’t put anything in it that I can’t have?

I’m tired of being sick and tired of offending people.

– Sick and Tired

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Dear Sick and Tired: It is hard to imagine a person with an undefined autoimmune disorder gathering with others for dinner parties during a pandemic, but, in the absence of that concern, you need only know this: You are responsible for your health and well-being. Don’t leave something so important to someone else.

Your question is full of anticipation and speculation regarding how others will (or might) respond to your self-advocacy. Don’t concentrate so much on how others might pressure you, and keep your focus on your own health.

The answer is that you must bring your own food to gatherings involving food; in this case, you can only safely eat something that you have prepared. Communicate with the host beforehand: “I am on an extremely restricted medical diet because of my allergies, so I need to bring my own food. Will that bother you? I really don’t want to impose or make a big deal about it; however, until I get my diagnosis sorted out, it is vital that I only eat food I’ve prepared myself.”

If you feel pressured, respond, “Sorry, no. I know this is a bummer and I appreciate your efforts, but I have to be very strict about this.”

If your friends and family don’t or won’t adjust to your needs, then yes, you will have to avoid situations where you can’t safely resist this pressure.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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