Healthy Eating

Be One of Those People

Stand Up for Your Health

As a physician and one who specializes in food sensitivities, many times I’ve heard patients say, “I don’t want to be one of those people.”

Even a friend of mine said that to me recently. She has food allergies. She really likes how she feels when she doesn’t eat those foods, but she feels terrible when she does eat them. She is fairly committed to not eating them, but she confided to me that when she was at someone else’s house recently she ate something that she knew she shouldn’t eat. And then what happened? She felt lousy for the next few days. The next words out of her mouth were, “Of course I had to eat it. I didn’t want to be one of those people.”

I said, “You mean one of those people who care about their health enough not to sacrifice it?”

That gave her cause to pause a bit.

If you haven’t looked at it like that yet, then you should. You are punishing yourself.

This begs the question why do people do this? First, we have to state the obvious: if you do this, it is a clear demonstration that you are afraid to express your needs and to tell people what you feel. That seems strange, but it’s true. Many people are afraid to express to others even simple things like “I can’t eat that.”

Why can’t people tell their friends that something is hurting them? What is it that makes many people such martyrs? Are we really willing to do something as dumb as make ourselves sick just to fit in? Unfortunately, the answer is often yes.

It may be that we think that there is shame in being different. Ironically, your real friends really want to know if something is hurting you or if it is not something you want. And if they aren’t your real friends, then you should want to know that information. But maybe that is what people are afraid of: learning that someone doesn’t really care about them as much as they’d hoped.

When you stop to think about it, do you really want those people around you anyway? It’s a tough decision, but it’s an important one if you want to take your health seriously and have others take it seriously, too.

It’s also representative of a larger problem. If you can’t even tell your friends, then you probably aren’t going to inform the wait staff at the restaurant, ask the questions that you should be asking whenever you eat out or check the ingredients every time you look at an unknown food item. It’s a slippery slope and all it leads to is you feeling worse and worse.

So how can you get this turned around? Be aware that just because you avoid certain foods doesn’t mean that you have to be a jerk about it. It’s simply a statement of fact.

“I can’t eat this.”

“It makes me sick.”

“Even a little tiny bit of it will make me sick.”

That is all you have to say. Or you don’t have to say anything. You can simply not eat it. How someone else takes it is a separate issue that gives you insight into their issues, not yours.

You might think that it’s easy for me, because everyone knows that I don’t eat the things to which I am allergic. Yes, it is much easier. Now. But there was a time when people didn’t know. And guess what? I looked and acted like one of those people.

I told everyone that gluten and dairy made me sick. And I never compromised on that stance. I asked lots of questions when I ate out or when I ate at someone else’s house. Lots of people questioned my sincerity, even family members. Lots of people suggested that I could eat just a little bit or that it wouldn’t really hurt me.

But I kept telling them week after week, month after month, and year after year. And more than that, they saw me not eating those things. They noticed that I wasn’t going to sacrifice my health. And you know what? The longer that I stuck to my guns, , the more others began to understand, and the more they made an effort to help me.

This will happen to you, too. But that is the long story the short one is that you will also be surprised at the number of amazing people out there who are excited to accommodate you right from the beginning. It’s wonderful how it can bring people together when you might least expect it.

You are not alone. I estimate that at least half the population has a food allergy. Unfortunately, most of them don’t know it yet. That makes you a leader. You get to set the example. And I’ll bet you that just by doing what you need to do to optimize your health you’ll help others become healthier, too. Because they’ll see your example and they’ll wonder, “Do I have a food allergy?”

Don’t’ sacrifice your health. There is nothing more important than your health, because if you don’t have it, then you can’t help others either.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m still one of them, too.

Written by Dr. Stephen Wangen

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