What it’s like to be allergic to all of life’s greatest foods
“You can’t have chocolate?!”, “How do you live?”, or “I would die if I was you”: these are the top replies I get when I tell people about my allergy.
Unfortunately, I can’t eat anything containing soy. And no, this doesn’t only mean the sauce you pour on top of your YO! Sushi tuna rolls; I am the unlucky one that also has to be sensitive to the emulsifier called soy lecithin.
At this point, you may be wondering what on earth that actually means. To explain it in simple terms, it is used in many foods to make them aesthetically pleasing and to improve their texture and taste.
As a result, I am forced to stay strong and forget about chocolate, sweets, fast-food restaurants, ice-cream, ready-made meals, chewing gum, and the tantalising smell of freshly baked croissants that surround the campus Co-op. The list is practically endless.
So, how do I actually live with this allergy? Well, it has definitely taken me quite some time to get used to. I simply stick with food which is less processed and more natural. As a result, all this adjusting has actually allowed me to develop a few impressive skills.
The first is eyesight somewhat similar to an eagle’s. I may look like a weird health freak looking for the fat and sodium content of a product. However, reading the food label is crucial. I will never pick something up without looking through the ingredients list at the back. As a result, no matter how small or transparent the letters are, spotting the word ‘soy’ has become second nature to me. No need to go to Specsavers.
The second is the improvement of my communication skills. Though it may sound strange, this allergy is a great conversation starter (especially during Freshers’ Week). Picture this: you are awkwardly sitting around the kitchen table with your new flatmates. In the meantime, one of them will probably end up grabbing a packet of M&M’s or chocolate covered digestives to snack on.
Because you are new and innocent, they will offer you some. When you decline and say that you can’t have chocolate, they will be so shocked and intrigued that your mundane discussion about A-level results has finally come to a screeching halt. This new conversation is now a lot more lively and explosive. Trust me.
The third is my patience. This characteristic is key for people with allergies. Whenever I go to restaurants I have to ask whether the food contains soy. I usually get a kind reply in the lines of “just one moment, let me go and check that for you”. I honestly do not know where they go to retrieve this information. Back to the bloody food factory? I can be sat down for a very long time until I find out if a dish has my allergen in it. However, I still manage to remain patient and kind about it. All I can say is, I am sorry to whoever has to wait with me.
Living with a food allergy is tough. I may feel left out whenever my housemates order a Chinese takeaway or indulge in their chocolate trifle puddings, but I stay positive because I know there is always an alternative – like the soy-free chocolate list I’m proudly assembling.