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The “Something More” Behind Declaring My Independence from Food Restrictions

The “Something More” Behind Declaring My Independence from Food Restrictions
4th of july toast 250
This morning, we're celebrating the 4th of July by kicking off our second annual Declare Your Independence from Food Restrictions Month on freedible!  It's a celebration of all the good living you can do despite your food restrictions.

And yet, as we launched our site last year with this same campaign, I had the sense that it was also something more. At the time I was hard-pressed to explain to anyone what it meant to "Declare Your Independence from Food Restrictions."  It was an idea that struck me so viscerally - and yet I found it terribly difficult to articulate why.

But almost as soon as the campaign kicked off, the freedible community showed me that "something more." Not yet having a robust community of custom eaters, bloggers and brands, or all the rich and beautiful content we do today, we started more simply, inviting our members to post photos of them "rocking" their food restrictions for the 4th with #customeater.

And our community responded.  There were, among others, American flag breakfast toasts from MakingItMilkFree that thumb their noses at her kids' dairy allergies. Red, white and blue cake pops from AmazingAtopic that promised no child will have to explain his ‘substitute’ dessert. Piles of kids around DontFeedMyMonkeys table to enjoy 4th of July treats – all together, all safe, all smiling in anticipation of the snack in store. And a watermelon cake from IsaVBerg fit for a queen – or, more specifically, for the 9 year old gluten-free princess who was doing a low histamine diet challenge that month.

4th of july cake balls 250Each of these images, I realized, was not just a snapshot of food – it was a snapshot of victory. A meal-challenge solved, a treasured 4th of July tradition successfully passed forward, a childhood memory created of snacks (safely) shared. A determination that food restrictions won’t define their Independence Day celebrations.

And as I watched these little declarations come in while creating my own tray of individually-customized July 4th treats, I saw real tangible proof that my family’s dance with food is not unique. That this thing that so often sets us apart, isolating us from the American traditions of eating out and cupcakes at school, is also our membership card into a passionate, more-exclusive club of “custom eaters.” Suddenly, my long-held and inherently personal commitments to my kids and myself were bolstered, calmed even, by a social commitment to others.

watermeloncake 250A social commitment that today I will not give up. Today I will not cave to the “I don’t wanna’s” as I face down a kitchen full of nutritious snacks I know will none-the-less make us feel ill. Today I will not let a lifetime of training in what it means to be a “good” guest stand in the way of raising food needs I’d just assume keep to myself but instead will accept with grace the awkward discomfort of letting others help me with my most basic needs – whether it be the family members that hosted us over the weekend or a waiter at the restaurant down the street.

And today I will recognize that for all that I can and do offer to simply take care of it all myself, to do so is to ask others to abandon their own lifetime of training about what it means to be a good host. Today we will puzzle through this perpetual learning curve together, holding fast to the knowledge that eventually it will get easier, less awkward, more normal.

So that is what I have figured out about why I think we need this month, this community called freedible and this movement. For me, having a moment in time when we all share our challenges and our victories with one another, and a venue to do it in, is like drawing a thin gossamer strand from my own very particular daily computations and interactions around food to a far greater whole. A strand that connects me to the well of passion, creativity and enthusiasm that so many of you have given our community already. And a strand, no matter how thin, that disempowers the ability of food restrictions to isolate us by turning them instead into the bond that connects us.

I hope our campaign and freedible’s community can give you some of that as well. And from the whole freedible family to the freedible community, happy birthday; we're very glad you're all here.

Happy Eating,
Cheryl

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