Interview With A Dye-Sensitive Teen: Connor
I’ve been collecting insights from kids with food coloring sensitivity, because it’s the one thing that seems to be lacking on the web. Even as the news of food dye problems is spreading daily, many people crave real accounts from families who have been there. So I’ve been publishing personal stories from guest bloggers, and interviewing kids about what it feels like to be dye-sensitive. You can listen to my first installment – a recorded interview with a 7-year old dye-sensitive kid – here.
On a bad day, I tend to feel like these kids are just canaries in the coal mine for the FDA. But as more of them speak out, they are becoming a beacon of information for other kids, normalizing the issue of food coloring dangers in the American conscience. Because after all, petroleum food coloring is bad for all children, not just the ones who have more obvious reactions.
Today you’ll meet Connor, a 16-year old boy who has lived with food dye reactions for most of his life. I appreciate his honest and open attitude towards what could have been a major setback, if it weren’t for his awesome friends and family. Please share this with all the kids in your life!
Interview with Connor
Introduction: Being a 16-year-old living in Austin has its perks. Music is a big part of any teen’s life, but being able to live in the music capital of the world is just awesome! Guitar is my passion, my calling even, although I play the bass and ukulele as well. I am lucky enough to have such a loving family to support me in my passions, and I am grateful for everything I have (although I sometimes take that for granted).
DFD: What’s your earliest memory of being aware that you had to eat more carefully than other people?
Connor: My parents have known since I was little, but it wasn’t up until about two or so years ago that I really found out.
DFD: What food additives are you allergic to, and how does each one affect you?
Connor: I have anxiety disorder. For those who do not know what that is, it is where my ‘fight or flight’ response in my brain will trigger for no reason (in other words, I freak the h*** out). Food dyes only make this problem worse. For instance, when I have red of any kind, I get mad and unmanageable; and with yellow, I have panic attacks.
DFD: What was your worst reaction to food dye ever? Please give details about what you think caused it, how you felt, if the reaction interfered with other parts of your day, and how you coped with it.
Connor: I think my worst food dye reaction was a little over a year and a half ago when I decided I was going to have some Froot Loops (YUM!). That, however, did not go over so well. I felt like death. I begged my mom for medicine of some kind to make the white noise in my head stop, and I could not control myself. It was far from pretty.
DFD: Do you know what food coloring is made of, and if so, at what age did you find out?
Connor: Yes I do. When I first found out was when I first started having my anxiety problems. My cognitive therapist told me what it was.
DFD: Have you ever met anyone else, outside of your family, who avoids food coloring?
Connor: No, I have not.
DFD: How do you explain your problem with food dyes to your friends?
Connor: I just tell them the truth. I am not made fun of or anything – my friends just accept it. My girlfriend will even deny me things if she thinks I can’t eat it, HAHA!
DFD: What is their reaction to your explanation?
Connor: Most just say they didn’t know about it, and even get kind of grossed out when I tell them there is petroleum in their food.
DFD: Have you ever felt pressured by friends to eat dyed stuff? Please give an example.
Connor: Again, my friends are supportive and I am not in those kinds of situations.
DFD: Has your food coloring allergy ever made you feel mad or resentful…that you have to have this problem with dyes?
Connor: At first yes. Who DOES want to quit eating delicious things like “Fruit Roll Ups”, “Fanta”, and “Froot Loops?” In the end though, I am much better off without it, and am leading a healthier lifestyle.
DFD: Do your teachers understand – like do they help you avoid dyes and support your diet?
Connor: Rarely do my teachers have to worry about it. Not many instances occur where I would have to explain it. If for whatever reason I am rewarded with a colorful candy or something, I just quietly give it to a friend or fellow classmate.
DFD: What or where was the hardest social situation to avoid food dyes (sports, scouts, camp, sleepovers, parties, school events, holidays, etc.)
Connor: Most or all. Like I have said before, who can resist the tasty death trap that is yummy candy and snacks? But I cope because the effects are not worth it.
DFD: Do you read food labels?
DFD: What are your favorite dye-free snacks?
Connor: Sunny Bears! They are vegan gummy bears that you can get at H-E-B (Texas grocery store).
DFD: Do you use Facebook or Twitter? Have you ever openly discussed food coloring allergy in either of those platforms?
Connor: I do have a Facebook (what teen does not), but I do not use it in that manner. Although I did “Like” the Die, Food Dye! page and encourage anybody with Dye Sensitivity or children with it to do so as well.
DFD: Do you believe one person can change the way food is made in America? If yes, please talk about *one* way you’d like to do that.
Connor: Honestly I do not. This will have to be a group effort. People don’t care what’s in their food as long as it is tasty or, like me and others, it makes them go Slap Crazy. I would like to see a change, don’t get me wrong, but no one person will be able to do it alone.