Category Archives: Encouragement & Helpful Hints

Encouragement for soyvivors.

Enjoying an Allergy Friendly Summer

Pawleys Island

Summertime will be here soon! For many of us, summer brings a lot of sun, fun, and travel. It also brings with it some allergy-related situations that we may not have to deal with as frequently at other times of the year. Below are some tips and tricks for a safe summer.

Packing Needs Preparation

Sometimes I long for the days when I could be packed and ready for a trip at a moment’s notice. However, when I arrive at my destination and relax on my own sheets and use my own towels and toiletries, I quickly realize that it’s really nice to have the comforts of home when you’re away from home. For those of you that are new to food allergies, be aware that foods are only the beginning of the products that may contain your allergen. Household products, personal care products, crafts, and many other items could contain your respective allergens and should be avoided. Below are some things to consider as you pack:

  • Toilet Paper (this is a big allergen for me!)
  • Dishwashing Liquid
  • Dishwasher Detergent
  • Hand Soap
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Sheets washed in your detergent
  • Towels washed in your detergent

If you are traveling for more than a day or two, it can be well worth the expense to upgrade to a room with a kitchen and washer/dryer. When I am using a vacation to de-stress, I am even more vigilant about avoiding allergens so that I can truly enjoy my time away. Having a kitchen and washer/dryer allows me to prepare the foods I need and keep my personal items free from allergens.

Enjoying the Outdoors

Sunscreen and insect repellent are also major concerns during the summer. Finding a sunscreen and insect repellent that actually works, is non-greasy, and does not contain your allergens can require a lot of research. For sunscreen, I find that California Baby has a soy-free suncreen option but is quite greasy. I am trying a soy-free, fragrance-free spray sunscreen called Kinesys this summer, and will post a review in a few weeks.

Cooking and Eating Out

It’s also helpful to do some research before your trip on things like grocery stores and restaurants. Using apps like Allergy Eats can give you some ideas on allergy-friendly restaurants, and many of your favorite chain restaurants will also have store locators and allergy menus online.

Packing some non-perishable products and easy meal plans will also help you keep your vacation hassle-free.

I will have more tips and tricks on vacation meal-planning in future posts. Here’s to safe and allergy-friendly travels!

My One Year “Soyversary” Is Here!

To kick off the celebration of my “soyversary,” I am publishing before and after photos and more about my story throughout the coming weeks. I have had food allergies for years, but the discovery of my soy allergy on February 23, 2014 changed my life in ways that are nothing short of a miracle. I want to publish photos and information so that you can also be encouraged in your food allergic journey.

The photo comparison below is an important one for me, and both of these photos are from Cade’s Cove in Tennessee. The first photo is taken in March 2009, one year after my husband and I were married. The reason why this photo is so important is because it was taken before my six miscarriages and during a time when I thought of myself as reasonably healthy. This photo shows that even though I thought everything was OK, I look back now and see a very tired and low-energy gal.

Now, take a look at the photo I took last month. I not only see an energetic, vibrant person, but I see pure joy, and that is something that I cherish more than anything. I see hope for a healthy future and the energy to enjoy life.

If you are just beginning your food allergic journey, you should know that it took me years to get to this place, but that does not mean it has to take years for you. Your miracle could be right around the corner with a team of qualified and educated friends, family, and professionals that can help you get there. An AllerCoach should be one of those people.

Cades Cove Collage

I Salute You!

I would like to send a SALUTE to all of you that are dealing with food allergies and are committed to making it work this holiday season!

I Salute You…

If you have already spent countless hours preparing, shopping, and prepping for more hours of cooking that would have been so much easier had it not been for food allergies.

If you have been lying awake at night thinking of how to prepare a delicious meal that will keep you and your family safe.

If you have made some really hard decisions this week related to your safety that aren’t popular with your friends and family.

If you have had an allergic reaction this week and aren’t even sure if you will be able to participate in your holiday traditions.

If you are worried that despite your best efforts, you could have an allergic reaction anyway.

If you have been dealing with your food allergies for a while now and are looking forward to enjoying the holidays more than last year when you were still trying to figure it all out.

If you are incredibly thankful for the friends and family that have rallied behind you and worked hard to help you get what you need this holiday season.

I especially salute those that have made the decision that, no matter what happens, the most important things are your family and friends sitting at your table!

THANK YOU to every one of you that are making our world a safer place one meal at a time! I salute you!

Holiday Parties: Safety vs. Social Expectations

I have served as a mentor for college students for many years. One of the hard questions that that comes up often is “Would you rather be right or would you rather get what you want and need?” There are many general situations in life when our egos can get in the way of getting what we want and need. For instance, I may argue way too long with someone just to prove I am right instead of working towards a solution that gives me what I needed in the first place.

Food allergies can complicate these situations even further. We all have a need for others to understand where we are coming from, not just because it makes us feel better, but because it also ensures our safety.

The holidays bring up all sorts of issues that we may not have to deal very often at other times of the year. For instance, if your holiday work party is coming up, do you stay silent and hope there will be something you can eat, or do you speak up and make sure your needs are met? Do you bring your own food to Aunt Sally’s party, even though she does not understand food allergies and will be hurt that you won’t try her great-grandmother’s stuffing recipe?

You may even have other allergies or family members that have other food allergies. For instance, I have a serious poinsettia allergy (those bright red flowers you see everywhere during the holidays) which makes it impossible for me to spend any length of time at a grocery store or many restaurants. When I attend a party, I struggle with whether to talk first to the host about my food allergies or my poinsettia allergy.

There are some tough decisions to make. For those with food allergies, “being right” is not necessarily about ego. It is about being safe and staying well. At the same time, when what you want most is to make a good impression at that work party or spend some quality time with Aunt Sally, how do you find the balance between being right AND getting what you want?

First, it is important to think about what you want to say before you pick up the phone, but it is also important to respond very quickly. You want to try to respond within a day or so of receiving the invitation so that you and host have plenty of time to prepare. The more time you both have, the more likely you will be safe and also have a great time.

For me, one way I have dealt with host conversations has been to start with the fact that I am struggling with balancing what I want with what I need AND show that I have already spent some time thinking about the solution. 

I will usually say something like, “What I want most is to spend time with you without causing any complications for you. I have some serious food allergies, but I have some ideas on some solutions that could be fairly simple and allows me to spend time with you.” In this scenario, I have stated twice that I really want to spend time with this person (which is the most important to me) and also reiterated that this situation is feasible for both me and for the host. At this point I usually suggest bringing my own food, bringing a dish that everyone can eat, or eating beforehand.

When it comes to allowing the host to cook something for you, I would say that this is a very individual decision. I only have a couple of people in my life that I trust to cook something for me, and that is only when I have approved the ingredients beforehand. However, that does not mean that there are situations that could work for someone to cook for you.

All of these situations are things that an AllerCoach could help you with, such as deciding what to say to the host, what to bring to the party, or deciding if the hostess can provide food.

I have had success in working with hosts so far, but there are situations when your suggestions can be met with rude comments or even dismissal of your needs. In this case, your need to be right (and safe) may be more important than getting what you want, because you don’t want to end up with an allergic event as a result. This is a great opportunity to reiterate what you want (“I want to spend time with you!”), state again that you have a serious medical condition, remind them that there are solutions, and perhaps give them some time to think about your request. In most cases, a little time can be what is needed to turn the situation around.

Calling All Soyvivors: What situations have you dealt with over the holidays?

Restaurants with Allergen Menus

It’s time for school to start, which means that life is about to get busy for a lot of us. My husband and I were accustomed to eating out a lot before my soy allergy, and there are days when I want so badly to grab takeout and forgo the cooking.

Many chain restaurants are now posting their allergen menus. However, there is one thing that I have found to be necessary:

No matter how much information is contained in an allergy menu, it is still important to notify your server and/or a manager that you have allergies.

The thing about soy is that there are some foods containing soy that the FDA does not require manufacturers or restaurants to report. Your meal could still contain soybean oil, soy lecithin, ingredients derived from soy, or “proprietary” ingredients like spices, natural flavorings, and artificial flavorings. There are also cross-contamination and food preparation issues to discuss. I have also had situations where allergen menus were wrong, and of course, we all know that ingredients can change at any time. 😦 The restaurant manager is your best resource for catching any recent changes or errors.

With that in mind, if you are still feeling adventurous, below is a list of restaurants I have found that either provide their allergen menu online or have one to review in their restaurant. This does not mean that I have eaten at these restaurants or endorse them. I highly recommend the Allergy Eats website and app if you want to find out how others rate restaurants in your area.

When eating out, I generally avoid salad dressings and substitute extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon for my salad dressing. It’s also best to check to make sure that your salad has not been coated with preservatives (a hidden source of soy.) Stay away from complex carbohydrates like bread, chips, and hamburger buns.  Always make sure that your hamburger is 100% pure beef.

I will also share one restaurant that many soy allergy survivors talk about, and that is Five Guys Burger and Fries. Many of us have tried their plain fries (cooked in peanut oil) along with a bunless burger.

Calling All Soyvivors: Are there other restaurants with which you have had good experiences?

 

Time Saving Tips for a Soy Free Lifestyle

Many Soyvivors were leading a busy life before they found out about their allergy. They may have been working full-time, raising children, caring for aging parents, or many other of life’s challenges that keep us moving constantly. A food allergy discovery can be devastating to those that have absolutely no time for the hours and hours of research, shopping, phone calls, cooking, medical appointments, emotional turmoil, and self care that all arrive simultaneously like a big slap in the face.

If you have just found out about your allergy, or you have been struggling with the enormous amount of work involved in dealing with your allergy, know that taking some time off from your busy schedule could be critical to the rest of your life. If there is any way that you can take some extensive time off, you definitely need to, and even if it’s a day off, do it NOW. You need time to learn to cook again, learn to shop again, memorize soy ingredients, call manufacturers about food, household, beauty, and medicinal products, and take time to connect with other soy survivors that can give you invaluable advice.

I have a few tips for all of us on our quest to live a happy, soy free life:

  • If you just discovered your soy allergy, you must seek help from a medical professional right away that can give you long-term care and advice.
  • Until you have time to research all of the products you need and test how you react to products, stick to this simple rule of cooking: Only cook whole foods that have not been fed any soy with 100% pure spices and non-soy oils (coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc.) This basically means cooking from scratch for now until you can research and connect.
  • Try to have at least 2-3 soy free items in your fridge or freezer at all times that can be eaten quickly and with little “fuss” that don’t require cooking from scratch. Here are some ideas:
  1. Soy-Free Bread (check Out Rudi’s options), Justin’s Almond Butter, and pure Honey for sandwiches
  2. A Soy-Free Pizza (Try Amy’s Soy Free Options)
  3. Salad Mix with Some Sliced Almonds
  4. A baked potato with toppings
  5. A high-quality frozen lunch option (Amy’s has some great soy-free options)
  6. Quesadillas (Udi’s has a soy free tortilla, but not all products are soy free)
  7. Applegate Natural Uncured Hot Dogs (Applegate has a lot of soy free options, but not all are soy free. They can provide you with a list of items with soy.)
  • Take 2-3 hours each week to cook a batch of something for your freezer that you can use on busy evenings when you do not feel like or have time to cook. Here are some ideas for this:
  1. If you can tolerate chicken, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (no clean-up!) and bake on 350 for 15 minutes. You can put individuals tenderloins in sandwich bags and then put all sandwich bags in a larger freezer bag. Freeze and reheat when needed.
  2. Bake some fish using the method above for 10 minutes. Freeze.
  3. If you can tolerate beans, cook a package of dried beans and freeze. You can try putting a cup of beans each in sandwich bags and freeze all in a large freezer bag.
  4. Cook a large package of rice and freeze using the method above.
  5. Cook a large batch of some of your favorite recipes. My lentils recipe, my slow cooker curry chicken, or my tomato-less spaghetti freezes well.

You will be surprised at how quickly you will fill your freezer with meals that you can use when you just don’t feel like or have the time to cook.

You may also find one or two restaurants in your area that can offer a soy free carry-out option. For me, I love plain wings and a tossed salad from Mellow Mushroom, or a baked potato and a garden salad from Wendy’s with some sliced almonds added for protein.

Planning your meals a week at a time can also be a huge time saver. I have four weeks worth of meals on a spreadsheet along with the shopping list for each meal. I copy and paste what I want for the week which creates my shopping list from there. It keeps me from having to spend precious time and energy during the week stressing about what I am going to cook and making unnecessary trips to the grocery. I will share my meal spreadsheet in upcoming blog posts.

Also take some time to think about how others in your household can help you. They may be more than willing to help you when they find that it relieves a lot of stress and creates more harmony in the house. For instance, because of my reflux, I have to eat early before my husband arrives home from work. We have an agreement that I will cook and he will clean up. You may find that some of your children can help with the dishes or your older children may be able to help with soy product research. If your nearest health food store is a bit of a drive from your home, ask others to pick up items from you if they are visiting, and offer to do the same for them when you shop.

I would love to hear about your time saving tips for thriving with a soy free life! Please share in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating With a Food Allergy

Happy Independence Day to Everyone (a day early)! Shortly after Independence Day is my birthday, and it is another reminder of how drastically my life has changed. I was brought to tears this week by a simple question from my husband.

“Honey, what do you want for your birthday this year?”

In previous years, I would have asked for one of the following: a nice meal at a fancy restaurant, an overnight weekend trip, a pedicure, a gift card to buy beauty products or cosmetics, and the list goes on. The birthday celebration would have followed with a birthday party at my parents’ house with all kinds of delicious high-fat, high-carb celebratory foods and desserts along with several visits to restaurants offering birthday coupons over the course of the month.

When my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I realized how quickly I had been stripped of my creature comforts and how much my life had truly changed. I had no idea what I wanted for my birthday, because all of my go-to habits of celebration and gifts were gone.

But that is when the word “habit” caused me to take a moment and think. Soy Allergy has a lot of downsides, but is it so bad that I have been challenged to rethink all of my old habits?

Perhaps this is actually one of the best things about being allergic to soy. You are forced to think about what you really want instead of relying on the old habits of what you thought you wanted.

My birthday celebration is becoming one of the best yet. First, I had a lovely meal of fresh tacos with my husband, parents, brother, sister-in-law, and precious nephews. My dear Mother made a to-die-for banana pudding with vanilla wafers made from scratch. In years’ past, we would have eaten ourselves silly to the point that we would all sit on the couch and do nothing afterwards. Instead, we all went outside and took a walk and played badminton. Our topic of conversation: the great new farmer’s market in town that we were all hoping to visit. It was much better than a meal at a fancy restaurant, where I would have been a nervous wreck wondering if the cook had made a mistake that could send me to the hospital. What kind of birthday would that be?

My husband and I are planning a day trip to the mountains to celebrate my birthday. I opted not to plan an overnight trip since I wanted my day to be as uncomplicated and care-free as possible. I know that we will have just as much fun as we did before my soy allergy discovery.

I have learned that I have something to be thankful for:

My soy allergy has forced me to get rid of many of the material things that I thought I needed to be happy, and it has made me realize even more that the things that really make me happy have no price tag and do not come in gift packages or food packages!

It sounds cliche, but once again, this very challenging situation has become one of the best things that has happened to me.

Just a side note: There is a great website that has provided a lot of inspiration for simplifying my life. It’s called Be More With Less, and I found it to be really helpful in my quest for finding what is really important in life.

Calling All Soyvivors: How has soy changed your life? Are there other ways that you have found to celebrate holidays and birthdays?