• -Natalie

Eating Out For The 1st Time in 3 YEARS!

You read that right. I ate out at a restaurant.

If you have been following my journey on Instagram (@nonutsme4) you probably know two things about me:

1. I do not let food allergies limit my life - I travel, I go on airplanes, I go on cruises, I pursue all activities that I wish to, and I attend all events.

2. My only rule: I do not eat out AT ALL.

At my last appointment at the SoCal Food Allergy Clinic, one of the clinic staff who I have become good friends with sat with me during my pecan challenge while we talked about my treatment journey, my blog, and my life and we found that apparently we were both going to Vegas that weekend! My fiancé began sharing stories about how I cook all my meals in the room, which is when my friend proceeded to ask me why I have not eaten out at all since starting treatment.

When I started at the clinic over two years ago, I had five safe foods, including olive oil and salt. Obviously, it was impossible to eat out anywhere, and Dr.R actually told me it wouldn’t be safe for me at that time. It was challenging enough to eat at home. But it has been over two years since starting treatment, and I have treated and challenged so many foods since then, that I am not that limited anymore today.

I guess I never really noticed how far I have come. But, I have to admit, I also may have gotten comfortable with accepting my one rule that I do not eat out.

My friend pointed out that the main purpose of my blog, besides spreading awareness and educating of course, is to show people that you can live a normal life with food allergies without limits. But the fact that I don't eat out contradicts my very own view.

My view was that food allergies should not limit you in any way as long as ingestion of food is not part of what you are doing. Once ingestion of food is involved, then that's considered "out of bounds". In my mind, this meant that with food allergies, you can do absolutely anything except for eating out. Eating out is the only way that someone with food allergies is limited.

But my friend pointed out that my view could be seen as hypocritical, and that I should eat out despite being allergic to many foods. If I choose a restaurant carefully and take all proper precautions, the risk should be significantly mitigated.

After some deep thinking, I understood his perspective. I can't advocate for having no limits if I see eating out as a limit right? I also realized that I may have forgotten just how far I have come in the past two years, and that I am not in the same condition that I was two years ago. I might have had only 5 safe foods two years ago, but today I have over 30 safe foods, and Dr.R told me I can most definitely eat out now with caution.

Vegas happened to already be booked for that weekend, and I went with the suggestion of reducing the risk (for me personally) by choosing an upscale Italian restaurant.

Lago, at the Bellagio, is located right on the Las Vegas Strip with a magnificent view of its famous fountain show. With a table outside on the balcony area, my fiancé and I had a front row view to the show - where I was ready to have a panic attack. The way I calmed my anxiety was by telling myself that I am going to take this one step at a time.

I am going to speak to the hostess, and if I feel okay with the conversation, I will proceed. I am going to speak to the waiter, and if I feel comfortable with ordering, I will proceed. Then when I receive my food, I will examine it, and if I feel comfortable with how it as served, I will take one bite and wait a couple of minutes. If everything tastes "right" and I have no symptoms, I will continue to eat my meal. Of course, in my bag right next to me, I had four EpiPens, Benadryl, Prednisone, Pepcid and an inhaler. I was ready. If not now, then when?

I ordered plain pasta and plain chicken breast. Literally plain, nothing but salt (I’m still allergic to all spices except for salt and turmeric). I mentioned cross contamination, hand washing, and was assured that everything was taken care of.

There was a little confusion with the pasta - the waiter at first thought I meant that I wanted gluten free pasta, but I am actually allergic to almost all wheat alternatives. It took me a couple of times to make this clear to the waiter, and he kept coming up to me with questions, which was better than him just taking a guess so I appreciated that.

The food came out exactly how I requested it - the pasta was completely plain in a bowl, and the chicken had no seasoning, oils, or spices and was on it's own plate. The chicken breast was grilled, it had all the grill marks, which made it look amazing.

I have to be completely honest - I was too afraid to try the pasta. The fact that the waiter kept confusing the gluten free pasta with normal pasta made me a little on edge and I didn't feel completely comfortable. BUT, I ate both pieces of chicken. I kind of peeled off the top layer due to my anxiety of cross contamination, but I proceeded to eat the entire plate. And it was DELICIOUS. I couldn’t believe that I was actually enjoying a romantic dinner out together with my fiancé.

As soon as I finished my meal, I was hit with a panic attack. Everything went smoothly, I didn't eat the pasta just for extra safety, and the chicken was perfect, but since the food was now in my system, the anticipation of whether or not I would have a reaction made me extremely anxious.

I began having a full on panic attack, so we skipped dessert, paid the bill, and walked out into the casino. It took some time to calm down, but twenty minutes later my anxiety was completely gone and I was symptom free. I couldn't believe that I actually did it.

I know that no one thought that I would actually go through with it. I had made the reservation a couple of days prior and had spoken to the hostess the day before, but even then, my friends and my fiance all thought I would back out.

I am so glad I did it. I got to enjoy a romantic dinner with my fiance in front of the beautiful Bellagio fountains for the first time in over three years. I am looking forward to my next experience eating out - hopefully a little less anxiety? Any recommendations?

Follow my journey on Instagram: @nonuts4me

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