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May 29, 2015

How We Can Put an End to Food Allergy Bullying One Person at a Time (From Teenager's Points of View)


Have you ever been picked on for being gluten-free? Gotten an insensitive comment from someone saying, "oh, that must really suck you can't eat gluten." As teenagers, we see bullying almost every day. We grow up in a world where food allergies are becoming more and more prominent, yet some of us are still not taken seriously. I, myself, was never really bullied much as a kid. I grew up having a pretty normal life and always faced every situation with positivity. But when I got diagnosed with Celiac Disease at age 13, that started to change. People saw it as something that made made me different and saw it as something to pick on me about. I didn't show them that it bothered me, I didn't give them a reason to continue bullying me because fortunately enough, I enjoyed eating gluten-free. As a young teenager at the time, I thought high school would be the end of it. I assumed that only kids picked on each because surely a grown adult couldn't be immature enough to bully one another over food. But guess what? I was wrong.

As I've turned 18, I've realized that bullying exists all around us, every day, against any age group. There will always be that one person in life who tries to bring negativity to every situation any chance they get. Whether you're an adult, a kid, a teen, or whomever, we all deal with bullying at some points in our lives. It's just something we have to face, and sadly for some of us, it'll involve our food allergies too. When dealing with food allergy bullies, it can be hard to confront these people or even know how to handle these situations. But that's where we need to come together as a community and learn to change this behavior as a whole. We need to realize that food allergy bullying is a problem at any age and we need raise awareness not only for celiac disease, but against food allergy bullying too. As teenagers, we're taking a stance against food allergy bullying because we believe we can put an end to it, one person at a time.


Sema Dibooglu's Point of View Against Food Allergy Bullying
(17 years old)

Sema Dibooglu from EatWithoutGluten.com

Food allergy bullying exists no matter what age you are. Overall, people are very understanding; I have been to many parties where people have gone out of their way to make sure I could eat. However, some people have made snide remarks about my food or rolled their eyes when I explain my diet or brought my own food. Whenever people tell me that gluten-free is gross, I just shrug it off, since I know that my food does not pale in comparison to their food. Sometimes all you have to do is shrug your shoulders and move away from the bully, and other times you need to confront them. Different situations call for different coping mechanisms in relation to the “food allergy bullies.” Do you see them on a regular basis? On-going bullying is never acceptable, so try involving a trusted adult if you are a child. If you are a teenager and cannot avoid this individual, you may have to assert yourself, educating him/her through facts and even taste-tests. Try shifting the focus from what you can’t have to what you can have, as many foods don’t contain the ingredients you can’t eat. Once they realize your food isn’t as gross as they set out to believe, they won’t feel obligated to point out that your food is disgusting (because in reality it’s not!).


Rebecca Pytell's Point of View Against Food Allergy Bullying
(18 years old)

Rebecca Pytell from StrengthandSunshine.com

Facing allergy bullying within family members
Personally, I've never been bullied by friends or acquaintances. I was diagnosed when I was going into 8th grade so eating in school wasn't as noticeable to my peers than it may be for elementary kids. However, I have felt bullied by my own family with certain remarks they've made. My extended family has made remarks behind my back, or where I could see, about being gluten-free saying, "it's some type of eating disorder and that it's not real". My own father has mad remarks about not only my celiac, but my other food allergies as well saying that it's not "real". Considering how false and far from the truth this is, it hurts. My greatest passion in life has always been cooking and food. It's an art, creative expression to me, and I love learning about it. So having someone say things that undermine my illness around food does cut deep.

Food allergy bullying as an adult is different compared to as a kid
Again, I think kids may have it worse in some ways since food is such a prominent thing, be it parties, school, etc. They always want to experience what their peers do and their peers already have a hard time grasping the concept. Yet, the bullying takes a new form as an adult. It isn't the "I'm sad I can't have that cupcake at the birthday party because I'm, different" type of thing. It's the bullying around the "fad" of gluten-free, having to deal with relationships where the other person just doesn't understand the severity/necessity of the diet. There may be people that think your diet is just a form of the "gluten-free craze", people that don't take you seriously, or maybe even people that don't include you in an outing because they think you're difficult, childish, or picky. Food is such a touchy topic in our society in the first place, so the "realness" of actual food allergies, celiac, and autoimmune disorders gets overshadowed, lessened, and so misunderstood.

Best tips to handle food allergy bullying
The number one thing you can do for yourself when dealing with allergy bullying is letting go of the need to have everyone understand. Some people just won't understand no matter how much you explain yourself or how many times you tell them it's an autoimmune disease that you have no control over. Bullying (all forms) comes from ignorance and resistance to change. When someone is confronted by something new or different than what they deem as normal, they put up a natural defense, so to speak, and close off their mind from all things outside of their realm of knowledge. You shouldn't always take it personally if someone makes a remark or doesn't include you. They just don't "want" to understand and change their views of normal. However, what you CAN do is try to educate, advocate, and show them that you are not a nuisance. You know how to effectively deal with food situations surrounding your illness and you know that your necessary diet/lifestyle will not have any negative effect on them. All you are doing is taking care of yourself and your health. Period!


My Tips for Ending Food Allergy Bullying
(18 years old)

Taylor Miller (Myself) from GlutenAway.com

It starts with you:
It all starts with you and how you behave. You can't control how others react, but you can always control your actions and what you say. It's important to always voice yourself and try your best to be heard. Never stoop down to someone else's level because if you do that, it will not only leave you feeling attacked but them as well. Try your best to be your own advocate and express how you enjoy eating gluten-free because it makes you feel better!

If someone asks you a question like, "What do you even eat if you can't have gluten? I would die if I couldn't have it!" Don't feed into their assumption that, "eating gluten-free sucks."

Instead, try offering them a different point of view like, "I can actually eat a lot of things like x, y, and z plus it makes me feel a lot better!" If you give them a positive response that shows that you actually enjoy eating gluten-free, they most likely will take interest into it rather than see it as something to pick on you about. For every new person I've given this response to, not one of them has picked on me in the future. Instead, they became curious as to why I was gluten-free and wanted to learn more about it!

Whatever the situation may be, never put up with someone who is going to add negativity to your life. You can put an end to this negativity by taking the conversation into your own hands and giving them a positive response. You are the one who controls your own life and you deserve to be surrounded by those who support you rather than those who bring you down. That doesn't just apply to being gluten-free, that should always apply to you.


Final thoughts:
As you can see from all of our views against food allergy bullying, the best way to deal with any situation is through positivity. Whether you're dealing with a bully head on or coping with bullying on your own, it's important to realize that it doesn't have to be put up with. You can turn almost any situation into a positive one as long as you realize that you are not the problem. Being gluten-free is not your fault and it surely can't be that detrimental to someone else's life to be a problem. Use meeting new people as an opportunity to show them that eating gluten-free doesn't suck. Show them that eating gluten-free is something that you actually enjoy and take away all their reasons to bully you. We as teenagers see bullying almost every single day. We know what it's like to deal with bullies and we know that we can end food allergy bullying for this generation and the next. The next conversation you have with someone about being gluten-free, know that you can take it as an opportunity to end food allergy bullying...one person at a time.

Have you dealt with food allergy bullying before? How did you handle it? Comment Below!

11 comments:

Rebecca Pytell said...

This was great Taylor! I totally agree with being your own advocate, but also showing and telling how your diet is restricted to SOME things, but you actually probably eat a much larger (healthier and informed) diet than most of America!

Kat said...

Thank you all so much for a wonderful article on a sensitive topic. As a much older adult with multiple food allergies most of the bullying I receive has been from extended adult family members. I usually take my own meal and quietly reheat it so I am not putting the host out. Also I take a delicious dish to share with everyone. (again most people at gatherings don't even realize I can't eat the foods they eat). Most of the time the bully is insinuating that I don't really need to eat the way I do (after all they are experts on my health and allergies). I am just grateful that they aren't allergic to the foods I am. Thank you so much for this article, you each did a wonderful expressing yourselves.

Celeste said...

Great article, thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences!

Taylor Miller said...

Thank you all for your comments! I enjoyed working on this and hope it helps some of you :)

Anonymous said...

Great article! My daughter is 11 with Celiac Disease and she has been bullied more than once. Praying she will grow up to be an advocate and not a victim!

Barbara Callanan said...

Hi Taylor,

Fantastic article!!

We understand how difficult it is to adhere to a diet due to a medical necessity. I am a chef with celiac disease and my sister is a nurse whose daughter has a tree nut allergy. We developed an anti-bullying program for school kids called “The Golden Apple Rule”.

It teaches awareness, understanding and tolerance for children with food allergies and dietary restrictions. When we first speak with them, most students have no idea how important our diets are to stay healthy and in some cases alive!

I hope you all keep up the great work and continue to get the word out!!

Best,

Barbara
JCB Consulting Services
Make Gluten-Free, Worry-Free ™

Anonymous said...

I think that you're using the word bullying too loosely. Being bullied is so horrible. I don't expect people to know or fully understand such allergies. It's great that you try to help them. That's all.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. Even in my 30's I still get bullied or put down about my food allergies. When I was a lunch lady working at an Elementary school I made a "Super Hero Table", the menu's were tailored to have extra gluten-free, dairy-free and protein-free options. I also sent letters home with kids with menu's for the month and highlighted which ones were off-limits based on the child's allergy, so that parents could be informed and help with letting them know what options they could chose while going in the lunch line. I remember when I was little and having kids put me down for not being able to eat school foods. I hope that other parents and schools have as many options as we do.

Anonymous said...

I have 5 food group allergies, plus i have developed intolerances to GMO foods (corn, soy and who knows what else?). Plus wheat flour has malted barley flour added to it, and when you cook it (who eats raw flour?) it creates MSG, which I am extremely allergic to. I am not celiac but I can't eat wheat for that reason - I wonder how many people have this reaction? A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Lupus, and she did research and found out that food is a huge trigger ! Fast foods, those are major culprits in making people sick! Irritable bowel problems, etc. It doesn't have to necessarily be a food allergy, most of the food available out there in fast food is not good for you!

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