It’s an annoying fact that the aspects of our life we would rather do without, such as a food allergy, can expand our personal horizons.
Though we may initially resent the lifestyle changes food allergies require, we do what is necessary to create a food-safe “new normal” lifestyle, and new normals often require fresh perceptions and skills.
New Awareness, Beginner’s Mind
Living with a food allergy can, for instance, make us more aware of how food affects the body and our moods. Instead of focusing solely on cuisine flavors and the pleasure of a full stomach, we may become more sensitive to the way different types of foods impact the energy level and emotions of our self, and others.
Food allergies also compel people to cook differently, and trying new recipes or using ingredient substitutes can lead to interesting results—some edible, and some not. To pump-up our patience, we may adopt a “beginner’s mind” and decide to learn from kitchen failures instead of giving into frustration. This makes any lost investment of time, ingredients, and anticipation easier to bear.
Refresh and Release
Employing a beginner’s mind may provide another benefit as well. By refreshing our experience it helps us release what can no longer serve us.
Over time, most of us develop shopping and kitchen routines that we like and depend on. Then, something comes along, such as a food allergy, and kicks over our apple cart. However, trying new foods, experimenting, and engaging curiosity enliven us, sparking our innate sense of play. Focusing on the pleasures of learning makes releasing what’s been lost a little easier, and sometimes letting go helps us acquire good things we weren’t even looking for.
A couple good things allergies may force us to acquire – or polish – are practical skills.
Food allergies turn us into conscientious label readers, making us acutely aware of what’s in the processed foods lining grocery store shelves. Even “natural” packaged foods can contain refined flours, added sugars, dyes, fillers, and preservatives. So, while label reading helps us avoid allergens, it can also morph us into more health-conscious food consumers.
Food allergic people also find themselves forced to plan ahead in ways previously unimagined. Since it is more difficult to grab lunch or snacks on the fly, we soon learn the advantages of buying or preparing portable snacks and carrying them everywhere. To ensure enjoyable evenings out, we plan on a light meal or protein shake before heading off to a restaurant or friend’s house.
Overall, accommodating a food allergy causes us to reinvent our kitchen environment and our relationship to food. We might decide to keep change to a minimum, or let it take us on an adventure involving farmers’ markets, unfamiliar herbs, exotic spices, and intriguing ethnic food stores. Either way, food allergies expand our life’s narrative in ways we might never have chosen.