Living with food allergies presents many difficulties, from the mildly frustrating:
- bringing your own food to social events,
- asking servers at restaurants a laundry list of questions before placing an order,
- reading and rereading food labels…
to the downright scary:
- not having access to safe food,
- going to the ER after a reaction,
- and knowing one mistake may cause you physical harm…
It’s hard not to get bogged down by the negative — but there are actually some superpowers that come with living with food allergies!
One of the coolest things about having a food allergy is that it means you pay attention to the world around you in ways other people don’t. There could be invisible poison lurking around you, a kryptonite only you’re susceptible to. But like Superman, your eyes are trained to see beyond what’s obviously visible.
How can food allergies give you x-ray vision?
When you’re at an event with food, whether it’s social, school-related, or at work, you’re likely scanning the room like a hawk to find out where your allergens may be lurking and who may have come into contact with them. You notice the details. There is the kid in the corner who popped some mixed nuts into his mouth and then grabbed a plate from the buffet stack, contaminating the whole bunch. Then there’s the girl who used the same serving utensils from the sesame chicken for the lo mein platter. And then the friend who swears that she never touched her food and her hands are clean before high-fiving you, when just a minute ago she brushed some crumbs off her chin.
These are the inevitable human behaviors that happen whenever we’re around food, and most people are completely oblivious to them. But to protect our lives, people with food allergies have to notice. We don’t even realize the ways our brains have adapted to scan, categorize, and memorize. These super helpful superpowers, and not just when it comes to self preservation.
Scan, Categorize, & Memorize!
For one thing, watching people’s small actions helps us learn about human behavior in general. We’re able to see what choices people make when they think no one is watching, or even when those choices are relegated to their subconscious. This insight can be helpful for a range of careers, including acting, writing, psychology, marketing, education, law, investigation, journalism, and research.
Additionally, noticing the little things people do means we’re naturally detail-oriented. People with food allergies can catch small errors and correct problems before they get to be too big. Many people have to work hard to cultivate this skill, but people with food allergies hone it with life-or-death stakes, often over the course of their whole lives — that puts us way ahead of the pack.
Multitasking is a breeze.
Plus, keeping track of all of that information means we are especially adept at multitasking. When you’re hanging out with friends, secretly logging their contact with food and other items, they have no idea! That’s because you’re not constantly interrupting the conversation to note their behavior, but rather, you’re engaged with them and enjoying their company. You just know in the back of your mind that you need to wash your hands before you eat or touch your face. And you take note that you can no longer eat whatever dish has been contaminated.
Unlike in most situations, if you see something, you don’t necessarily have to say something, at least not immediately. Your brain is fully trained to be present in the moment and keep a running log of everything that’s happening around you. The multitasking muscle will come in handy in so many ways in life, whether it’s juggling school work with family obligations and extracurriculars, or managing multiple projects at your job.
Your food allergies give you awesome superpowers. Now, if only they also came with a cool cape.
Want to use your super power as part of a team of superheroes? Become an Elijah’s Echo Ambassador to help advocate for kids with food allergies!
Let us know how you use your food allergy superpowers at firstname.lastname@example.org and on our social media channels!