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    Posted February 6, 2014 by
    New Jersey
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Living with a rare disease?

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    80 lbs and dropping: my story about being allergic to food

    When I was a kid, I could eat as much as I wanted and anything I wanted to. I was always thin, but I wasn't sickly. I exercised regularly, I was healthy. Then, one day when I was 15, I started getting sick. I thought it was just a stomach virus at first but then it never went away. After a year of being in the dark about what was wrong with me, I saw a specialist who told me I was allergic to animal protein. My stomach was such a mess that not only could I not tolerate dairy or meat of any kind, but spices and sauces made me sick also. The specialist put me on a 6 month carrot juice diet to repair the internal damage. I stopped feeling sick. But I turned orange and I lost weight. I was very weak all the time. I couldn't play sports. I slept a lot. I asked my parents to buy me a small table and I put it in my bedroom so I wouldn't have to eat with them and look at their food. It took me 3 hours every day to make the carrot juice.

    As a young teen, it was hard to have sleep overs or stay over a friend's house for dinner, because I could never eat what they were serving. I couldn't easily go away on trips like the other kids my age did. When I got off of the carrot juice diet, I was put on only fruits and vegetables. I remained that way for what would be the next 6 years of my life.

    When people see an overweight person, they usually have enough respect to keep their thoughts to themselves. When you are too thin however, everyone makes it their mission to tell you what they think about it. They will come up to you off of the street, they will talk about you to another person around a corner in a clothing store. They assume that if you are very thin, it's because you want to be that way. They assume you make yourself that way on purpose. They have to tell you to your face everywhere you go, "please don't do this to yourself, you look terrible." Teenagers have enough stress to deal with as it is, having this didn't help.

    When you are like I was and you make friends, they have to look at who you are on the inside. They have to see past the outside. Most people won't go that far. If they don't take the time to trust you and get to know you, they automatically judge you and avoid you and label you as a typical young person with an eating disorder. And if they don't judge you, their parents often do. They don't understand why you won't eat in front of them, they can't imagine that just eating one small bite of something you are allergic to can make you so sick that you are bedridden for days at a time.

    I used to pray and ask God to take it away. I didn't understand what the point was for me to be that way. Why me. I was angry. I used to ask to just be overweight instead, at least that's socially acceptable.

    Then, one day I met a girl who was like me. I realized I was not alone and she was able to take comfort in my advice and support. I was able to see that by going through this difficult journey, I could help others who had just begun theirs. I also saved myself from having some shallow friendships. I learned to take good from what I used to only see as bad. I also learned not to judge other people according to their weight.

    I was lucky to find good friends and even luckier to have found a husband who could see the truth and support me through the hard years of my illness. Today, I would say that God healed me because I no longer have those issues anymore. People see me today and they would never even recognize me and that makes me happy because I never thought I'd see the day when the scale would tip over 100 lbs. There were no guarantees that my illness would ever go away, but regardless of whether it did or not, I am still blessed. Sometimes, being able to say "I've been in your shoes" carries a lot more weight in helping someone than just offering sympathy. That kind of support can mean the difference between a person finding hope and them giving up.
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