Some people might like to have my problem, but believe me, not being able to put weight on is just as much of a problem as not being able to take it off.

I had the feeling I was not absorbing nutrients from my food properly. But all my trips to regular medical doctors showed the same results: standard tests and blood work could find nothing wrong with me. This went on for years until other things started happening. After developing severe pain in my shoulder, I decided it was time to see a doctor who specialized in food allergies.

Fortunately my instincts were right and I found my way to an allergist who tested my blood and found I was allergic to gluten, dairy and corn. I removed the food offenders from my diet, and the inflammatory condition in my shoulder disappeared. It took about four weeks. I would like doctors to re-read the last two sentences.

Avoiding gluten, dairy and corn were not the only changes I needed to make. I also needed to embrace healthy foods that were not in the meal plans for my family and friends, all meat and potato type eaters. They had little interest in what I was going through. Also, I was not a confident cook, so on top of everything else I was challenged by the need to prepare my own meals. My co-workers, however, were fantastic. Each one had personal reasons for embracing a particular diet or ethic around food. Several of them had food allergies and/or were on restricted or vegetarian diets so I found much needed social support in the workplace.

I decided to take it one step further and eliminated all animal products. This was fine. I was supported by several co-workers, whom I had worked with for seven years and there was an abundance of restaurants to choose from. But then I changed employers and lost my safety net. I did not want to be labeled a freak at my new job, so I kept quiet about my food allergies. At that point, I felt very isolated and stressed. I was not a good cook, and I had little time to prepare healthy meals. And complicating matters was the fact that I lost my favorite food joints; my new neighborhood offered very few options.

When I read about Suppers in the newsletter from a health food store near my new place of business, I was thrilled and amazed that such a program existed so close by. It looked a little bit like cooking classes where attendees would learn to cook healthy meals. I didn’t get my hopes up though because I was certain the Suppers organization would not allow me to join once they found out about all my food allergies.

What I didn’t know was that Dor is herself a universal allergy reactor, which means she tests allergic to everything. Her particular Suppers welcomes people with food restrictions, and she wasn’t put off by my detailed emails about what I can’t eat. I still knew after one meal I would not be asked to come again, but I knew wrong! I was welcomed with open arms and asked back. I learned there were others like me. Not exactly the same as me, but with their own set of food allergies and food challenges that make it hard to fit in socially.

I have made many new friends at Suppers. I now feel I have a good support group when I need someone to listen. My food preparation skills have improved, and I am much more confident in the kitchen. I attend general Suppers meetings, and I attend Suppers meetings focused on supporting the stomach and digestive system. I have learned a lot, and now I can help others who feel like social misfits because of their food sensitivities.

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