Erica Brahan, a high school senior writes honestly about living life with food restrictions

Food Restrictions: A Teen’s Survival Guide

I’ve been feeling pretty cool lately because quite a few high school and college kids following me on Instagram and Twitter.

Wait! It  just dawned on me that I hide my face behind a lemon with sunglasses. So maybe the girls think I’m actually a hot hipster guy and the guys think I’m one of those size-2 cross-fit smoothie-drinking girls. But then again, if I was a size-2 cross-fit girl I wouldn’t be using a lemon’s mug shot, would I?

None the less, it sure makes me feel good when people my kids’ ages want to see the photos of food I post or the info I tweet. I was super flattered when a high school senior named Erica Brahan asked me to review an e-book she wrote called  A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions: A Practical Guide to Keep from Going Crazy.

Poor Erica probably thought I’d never actually review it because I’ve been crazy busy with my social media addiction. But when I finally opened the pages of Erica’s e-book, I was hooked.

A Teen's Perspective on Food Restrictions

Erica has an upbeat attitude about life with multiple food restrictions, yet she doesn’t sugarcoat the very real challenges young adults like her face. While food restrictions are difficult at any age, fitting in is especially important to high school and college students. Erica writes,  “When eating other than the standard American diet, teens stand out and may be labeled as different or not normal. When you don’t fit in there is typically a desire to find others like you, but there is not usually a strong and united support system for teens with food restrictions.”

To help teens deal with food allergies, celiac disease, or other special diets needed for health problems, Erica asks readers to answer probing questions such as What are my dreams? Is my current health preventing me from achieving them?  She then provides concrete ways to overcome obstacles.  Among topics discussed are friends who don’t understand, dating difficulties, eating in school cafeterias, and choosing colleges. Readers can also find support and encouragement from others’ stories.

While A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions is aimed at young adults, parents and other family members as well as teachers and counselors can learn from Erica’s experiences and honest writing.  You can purchase her book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or from her website.

Other Resources for Teens (and Their Parents)

Erica’s blog: Edible Attitudes

Gluten Away (a teenager’s blog about celiac disease)

Teens with Food Restrictions Facebook Group

FARE Resources for Teens

Food Allergies and Anti-Bullying

Celiac Disease and College

Managing Food Allergies at College

Help My Teenager has Coeliac Disease! 

On Twitter: @teenallergies, @celiacteen, @coeliacteens

Please let me know about any other resources for teens and young adults.

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Food Restrictions: A Teen’s Survival Guide first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie

Words to Live By

When I started this blog, I was determined to keep my posts upbeat and inspirational. I’d spent too many years in a funk feeling depressed, lethargic, sick. I’d sat in too many sterile rooms listening to white coats tell me I had IBS (or GERD, or endometriosis, or fibroids, or a bad gall bladder). I’d had too many surgeries and medical procedures (for IBS, GERD, endometriosis, fribroids, and a bad gall bladder). I’d taken enough antibiotics to treat a third world country, popped more prescribed pain killers than I suspect many addicts do, and endured most of the naturopathic remedies the gal at the local health food store suggested. My favorite being the mercury-releasing bath that caused the need for a plumber, but we’ll save that story for another time.

Yet after all this, I still spent days on the couch curled into the fetal position.

Then I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and Multiple Food Allergies and EE and Leaky Gut.  Finally I knew what was wrong with me! I immediately felt relieved. And although there was some initial panic that I might starve (I’m allergic to a page worth of foods), I felt strong enough to take my autoimmune system on. Give me a sword (sorry, I’ve been catching up on The Borgias)! I’d gallantly overcome my health problems and then I’d ride off to help others. Note my blog’s tag line: Don’t let celiac disease and allergies hold you back!

Little did I realize the “others” would include my own 20-year-old son.

While Steve was away at college, gluten became his enemy. The kid who lived on Kraft Mac and Cheese and red licorice throughout childhood couldn’t ingest a cookie crumb without being knocked to the ground.

Suddenly I found it hard to be upbeat. No mother wants her child to suffer, and certainly not suffer with an illness her genes likely passed on. For the last few months when I tried to write, all I wanted to do was whine and pout and stomp my feet. And who wants to listen to a middle-aged mother’s tantrum? Afraid of losing all five of my readers, I erased my negative words.

Now I know plenty of people suffer health issues far worse than gluten intolerance (the young girl with cystic fibrosis who is waiting for a lung transplant comes to mind). Steven’s health issues are not life-threatening and they are manageable. I know this. I also know firsthand how getting sick from gluten negatively impacts one’s life.

And he’s just a college kid . ..  who wants to be like all the other college kids.

Because his body no longer likes gluten, my son’s youth has been drastically changed, and he’ll never go back to the way it was. Always getting “glutened,” his weakened immune system can’t fight off cold germs and he’s constantly sick. When he comes home from college, he turns down his high school buddies invitations to hang out at the local hamburger joint. Back at the university, he can’t share a late-night pizza with his roommates, or even be in the same room as their leftover crusts. He turns down offers of birthday cupcakes and treats the professors bring from home. Fortunately, since he’s underage, beer isn’t an issue. 🙂

And don’t get me started on the school cafeteria! The staff has never heard of cross-contamination. What do you mean you can’t slap the GF bread down on the same counter with the non-GF bread? One worker insisted celiac disease was all in Steve’s head and what he needed was “some good white bread on his skinny bones.” (I’m hoping this was an attempt at humor but still . . . ) In the apartment-style dorm with a kitchen, roommates left cereal and cookies everywhere and cooking utensils were never washed. As a last resort, Steve found a house near campus along with roommates with who get the whole gluten thing. They’ll move in together this fall. Stay tuned.

Oh yeah and it hadn’t even dawned on any of us that being gluten-free would make getting a summer job difficult, especially when all of his experience is restaurant-based. There is no way Steve can work in a restaurant now, and he has no retail experience. Anybody hiring in the Nashville area?

Still, my sweet boy doesn’t complain. Like his mom felt a few years back, he’s just glad to know what’s wrong with him and that removing gluten from his diet will make him feel better. This summer he’s learning to cook and he’s resumed his old workouts and outdoor runs, hoping to gain back some of the weight and muscle he’s lost. Summer classes are going well–now that he doesn’t have a constant fuzzy brain or a bellyache. He’s grateful to have a GF kitchen, transportation to the local Whole Foods and Costco, and a mom who sends GF care packages.

Some gluten-free goodies for the college student

Some gluten-free goodies for the college student

During a recent visit, I told Steve how sorry I was he inherited my stomach issues. He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s not a big deal,” he said before grabbing an apple. “Stuff happens.”

Stuff happens. Now those are inspirational words.

Gluten Free in College Blog Series