THE BLOG
01/20/2015 01:34 pm ET Updated Mar 22, 2015

Show Respect for Food Choices

Let's start to respect one another's choices regarding food.

Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo, diabetic, celiac disease, heart-healthy, Crohn's disease, food allergic. There are so many reasons to modify a diet: for financial reasons, to improve mood or energy, out of respect for animals, for environmental reasons, for family, for health.

I fall into the last category there. I have severe food allergies, as of a couple of years ago. I have an anaphylactic and potentially life-threatening reaction to hot peppers and tree nuts, and I have had to drastically change my eating habits and even more drastically, I have had to learn how to cook. My consequences to a mistake in the kitchen are dire and terrifying.

As a result, I initially looked down my nose at those who restrict their diets by choice rather than because of health requirements. I figured that they could choose, and I could not, and so it was not fair. I reasoned that it was not fair for them to make the same requests of others -- by choice -- that I required due to a life-threatening reaction. They were using up all of the extra effort a host might have to put into a meal, using up the extra empathy or understanding that the others at the meal might possibly have to give. I stomped around, fumed on the inside.

So what changed, that I now have respect for restricted diets of all kinds -- and want you to respect them also?

Well, for one thing, I visited a nutritionist. And I realized how many people might take the step to bring awareness of what they are putting into their bodies and how it impacts their well-being. I listened to the vegetarians in my life. I thought about my recent decision to eat oatmeal instead of cereal for breakfast, not because of food allergies, but because I believed it would be a healthier start to my day. I read through the books, binders and boxes of recipes that friends and family have shared with me, and learned about how they approach food in their kitchens. Who am I to judge the choices of another eater, one who has found a way to feel their best? An eater who, restricted by health or choice, has found a way to make food decisions more in line with their values?

Granted, I still feel frustration about my food requirements. I feel frustrated when others don't understand or respect my food allergies, and I feel frustrated that I have food allergies at all. However, my frustration is not with the person who chooses to "go paleo" because they feel more energy that way, or the person who does not have Celiac disease but chooses to eat gluten-free. They deserve my respect and admiration for making a change that works for them.

Happy eating. Let's show some respect.