How to pick the right school for your child with food allergies

We are please to have Julie Trone from Allergy Free Table do a guest blog for us. At Center For Healthy and Happy Living, we work with many parents who are anxious to send their kids with food allergies (FA) to school. Julie provides wonderful strategies to determine what school is best for your child.
When Elika and I first talked on the phone I was so impressed by her passion for her work.  It complemented my passion for educating others about practical food allergy management.  Our business relationship took shape during that call.  This article on my experience as a parent of food allergies is the result.

I have twin boys who are energetic, curious, very enthusiastic, smart, funny, and delightful, now eleven years old.  Both of my sons have asthma, one has multiple severe food allergies, and the other severe reflux.  They have dietary restrictions as a result. 

One of the most serious and important decisions I have had to make as a parent of a child with food allergies was choosing a preschool.   At the time our FA son could not eat wheat, barley (malt), oats, rye, egg, dairy, peanut, tree nuts (all of them), or soy.  He was also contact allergic to dairy and allergic to many animals and pollens, started wearing glasses at age 3, and was born with low tone (loose connective tissue so he was wobbly).

Preschoolers, as you know, are always on the go.  They run, jump, climb, paint, learn, sing, dance….the list goes on.  This age group also is very tactile.  Their little hands are always touching their mouth, nose, eyes, and ears then other surfaces, people, food, and so on.   This was a scary thought for us.   With our son’s medical needs and physical condition we were not sure whether he could even survive preschool.  So we sketched out our needs for him to be safe in the school environment.  Most important was his needs to be safe to be taken seriously by the entire school community.  We wanted a heightened awareness and specific routines (such as hand washing after eating and crafts) to thwart any accidental exposure or ingestion.

With lots of help from friends I generated a list of six preschools then visited each one, met with the director, toured and observed the classrooms.  Before I began I prepared a list of questions to ask as follows:
                How do you manage food allergies at your school?
                What is your standard emergency procedure?  How about food allergy emergency procedure?
                Where do you keep the medication?  Is it locked up?  Who has the key?  Who can administer?
                Where do the children eat?  Are they supervised?  Are they allowed to ‘share’ food items or water bottles?
                Is there ever a ‘hot lunch’ served?
                Are all of the children drinking milk at snacks and meal times?
              What is the routine before and after eating?  Do the children wash hands?  If not, would the classroom teachers also add hand washing to their daily routine? 
                Is there an allergy safe table for eating?  If so, what allergies are avoided at that table?                                                         
                Are the tables washed off after meals, snacks, and art projects?
                What themes are taught?  Are animals in the classroom?  Who feeds them?  What do they eat?
                Do the children make crafts out of milk cartons, egg cartons, jars or cans, or use play dough?
              What is the teacher/student ratio?

In all six schools I was haphazardly reassured that my son would be safe.  A typical response was ‘oh we have a student with peanut allergies and have not had any problems’ after which they would move onto another topic. 

Then I decided to add a seventh school to my list.  I made the call expecting to hear the same old response however the admissions director caught me off guard.  She enthusiastically shared their classroom and school policy on food allergy management and reducing risk.  She answered my questions with confidence and told me a story to illustrate how their plan has protected others.  This school was a perfect fit.  The boys attended and loved this school. I loved the school and everyone in it.  Our son’s teachers were exceptionally careful and for that I will always be grateful.  He was able to start his academic life with a positive experience not a scary one.   If you or someone you know has an emerging preschooler with food allergies, celiac disease, or other food related disease I hope you will take my list of questions and use them in order to find a school that is a good fit.

Julie Trone, CEO
Allergy Free Table, LLC

Do you have other tips you would like to include? What is your experience like?

Resolutions and Un-resolutions

Photo by: silversolo

Happy New Year, welcome to 2013 everyone! We hope you enjoyed our last post about surviving the holidays. If you are like most people you probably have some new resolutions you have made. Elika Kormeili, our founder, believes that it is best to get your goal (yup it includes resolutions) down in writing. There is something that happens when you put things down it writing, it becomes a contract with yourself. Whether it is a personal goal, a health goal or a professional goal; get it down on paper. The new year is also about endings. We end one year in order to begin a new year or cycle. Are there things that you resolving not to do aka your un-resolutions? Maybe your un-resolutions are “I will not scream about my kids”, or “I will not be a workaholic”. In the spirit of resolutions and un-resolutions, we wanted to share ours with you.

Un-resolutions and Resolutions
1) We will not diet. Instead we will continue to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet. I will eat when I am hungry and stop when I am not.
2) We will not join a gym. Instead we will try new workout classes and go hiking.
3) We will not compare ourselves to others. Instead we will emphasize our strengths and be the best that we can be.

Elika has the following resolutions and un-resolutions
1) I will stop waiting to “make it big”. Instead of waiting to make it big to share my passions and talents, I will share them now. Specifically, I will create relaxation CDs that actually helps you relax. I will write a book.”
2) I will not forget my purpose. I will continue to work on building Center for Healthy and Happy Living and helping it meet its mission to help others create healthy lifestyle habits (via stress reduction, healthy eating, and getting more active).”
3) I will not wait until I am “thin enough”, “rich enough” or in a “perfect relationship”. I will each and every moment, learn from each opportunity and be grateful for what I have.
4) I will not neglect my friends. I will continue to work on my relationships as they are important to me.

Don’t forget to check out our Stress Less in LA services. Stay tuned for more information about our weight loss coaching program.

We would love to hear from you, what are your new year’s resolutions and un-resolutions? How can we help?

Stress, Depression and the holidays: 8 Tips for Coping

The holiday season is upon us. For many that means great food, family, and time off. To others the holidays can become stressful and anxiety provoking. The holidays can bring out uninvited guests-depression and stress.
The hussle and bussle of holiday preparation: cooking, shopping, gift wrapping, and entertaining can be exhausting just to think about. If food is an issue (dieting, food allergies, history of overeating) then a lot of preparation goes into the holiday meals and it can cause stress.

Here are a few tips to survive the holidays and maybe even enjoy them.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died, you or a loved one is sick or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. Don’t force yourself to feel things that you don’t.
  2. Reach out. Many people feel lonely around this time of year. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic. Listen up Type As and perfectionists: the holidays don’t have to be perfect. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. If you are missing one side dish or someone forgets the dessert, it’s not the end of the world.
  4. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness.
  5. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. This will also help you stick to your budget. Get family and friends to party prep and cleanup.
  6. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
  7. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone to help you refresh. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
  8. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor, therapist or a mental health professional.

Don’t let the holidays become dreadful. Take steps to prevent holiday stress and depression. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown.

Happy Holidays From Elika Kormeili and Center For Healthy and Happy Living.

How Well Do You Cope With Food Allergies, Food Intolerances, Food Sensitivities Or Restricted Diets?

Elika Kormeili, works with many individuals to help with create healthier relationships with food. The holidays present to be a more stressful time for more people. Typically over the holidays, people stress out about their gift shopping and party planning. For those with restricted diets, the holidays can be even more stressful.

Just in time for the holidays, test your ability to cope with food allergies, food intolerances and/or a restricted diet.

Quiz: Test Your Ability to Cope With Food Allergies, Food Intolerance, Food Sensitivities or Restricted Diet

Answer yes or no to each question and then rate the level of distress that each “yes” answer contributes to in your life. Distress rating is between 0-10, with 10 being the most distress possible, and 0 being none.

1. Do you ever feel anxious whenever you are asked to attend a social event that may involve food, such as a party, wedding, or even just happy hour? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

2. Do you avoid social events that involved food because of anxiety, fear, or embarrassment? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

3. Do you ever feel resentful towards loved ones when they eat something in front of you that you can no longer have? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

4. Do you ever crave the foods you can no longer eat? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

5. Do you find it hard not to cheat or break your diet? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

6. Do you have a child with food allergies, diabetes or other food restrictions? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

7. If you answered yes to number 6, do you have difficulties talking to other parents, schools, babysitters or other people about your child’s dietary needs? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

8. If you answered yes to number 6, does your child’s food restrictions cause you overwhelming stress, anxiety and fear? Is it affecting your relationship with your child? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

9. Are you afraid to travel due to food restrictions? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

10. Do you avoid taking trips and vacations due to food restrictions? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

11. Are you experiencing stress in significant relationships due to necessary changes in your lifestyle? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

12. Do you find it hard to just enjoy time with your family or friends because you are constantly worried about food restrictions? yes or no: level of distress 0-10

There are many other factors you may also want to think about, however if you answered yes to any of these, Elika Kormeili can help you overcome these obstacles! If you find that there are areas that you would like to change and improve, give us a call to schedule an initial consultation at 424.274.2276

Scared to Eat: Conquering Anxiety and Food Allergies

As a therapist and coach specializing in coping with food restrictions, Elika Kormeili, is passionate about educating the public about food allergies. Last month, Elika was interviewed by Rheyanne Weaver for GoodTherapy.Org about the connection between food allergies and anxiety.

Food is a big part of our culture. We learn so much from other cultures through their food. For many people food is a source of enjoyment and fun. Many people so food to cope with stress or unwanted feelings. However, when this often mindless process is disrupted it, there can be anxiety and stress.

Food allergies may lead to anxiety, but anxiety may or may not lead to issues with food allergies. Stress and anxiety can weaken the immune system to the point of aggravating food allergies. People with food allergies might also experience changes in behavior and mood. Sometimes just getting on a diet to eliminate allergens improves mood, decreases irritability, and allows for better concentration.

In the spirit of giving, Elika also provides strategies to coping with food allergies. You can read the full article here.

Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Food Issues & How We Can Help

Is stress or anxiety making your eyes pop out? At Center for Healthy and Happy Living, our Founder Elika Kormeili, likes to focus on solutions rather than problems. Whether you have food restrictions or not, stress can weaken your immunity. Stop the stress-induced madness, read about how we can help you with more than just your restricted diet.

Problem: Too Much Stress
Solution: Identify and tackle triggers. Learn effective stress management techniques.

Problem: Anxiety

Solution: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to identify and reduce anxiety provoking triggers. Effective relaxation techniques.

Problem: TMJ, Grinding, Clenching

Solution: Identify and effectively manage emotions.

Problem: Spread too thin/Too many commitments

Solution: Appropriate boundaries and self-care. Stress Less in LA services are just right for you!

Problem: Food Temptations.

Solution: Eliminate food temptations by stocking a healthy home/office environment. Challenge self-defeating thoughts and triggers for eating when not hungry and eating foods that are not on your eating plan.

Problem: Anxious About Food Allergies

Solution: Increase ability to manage stress, anxiety and fear. Learn strategies to explain why you or your child have to eat differently from others. Learn to battle against isolation, labeling and bullying.

Problem: Need to Lose Weight

Solution: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Weight Loss. Managing food temptations. Overcoming all the reasons for eating other than physical hunger.

Problem: Difficulty focusing and getting meeting deadlines

Solution: Time management and organization skills.

Problem: Your child is not following directions

Solution: Positive Parenting Program (Triple P)

Problem: When bad memories won’t go away

Solution: Trauma-Focused Cognitivie Behavioral Therapy

Have a problem that you would like a solution for?

Inside The Psychotherapy Office: What Does Therapy Look Like?

As a holistic therapist in Los Angeles, Elika Kormeili, recognizes the impact our psychological well-being and our emotional health has on our physical health. Throughout her training and work as a therapist Elika has heard many questions about what the therapy process is like, how a therapist can help, and as you can imagine many myths and biases about what therapy and counseling really are.

A big component of our success at Center for Healthy and Happy Living lies upon educating others about our services and demystifying the therapeutic process.

Without further delay, here is a glimpse of the Psychological Therapy Consulting Process.

Establishing the Framework: A contact is made between the psychotherapist and the patient. The therapist encourages the patient to conduct a self examination and problem history through the use of various questionnaires and open-ended questions. A therapist or counselor will note the feelings of the patient, the statements, and the nonverbal behavior (gestures, mimics, body language etc.)

Identification of the Problems: The therapist attempts to describe the problems of the patient. The problem(s) are explored until the therapist and patient have the same clear understanding of what the problem or problems are. This makes it possible to understand the reasons the problem exists, and sometimes it will also indicate the methods of solving them.

Looking for the Solutions: The possible solutions of the problems are explained and openly discussed. The therapist may provide additional alternatives; however, a good therapist will not impose his/her beliefs or decisions upon the patient.

Planning: The selected solutions are evaluated. The therapist helps the patient to see what realistic approaches there exist based on the previous experiences and the present readiness of the patient to change. Composing the plan of the realistic solution of the problems will also show that not all problems can be solved. Some problems require a lot of time and commitment to be solved; others can be solved only partially.

Implementing of Plan: The therapist helps the patient to build a plan of resolving the problem. The therapist also helps the patient to understand that there is a possibility of a failure in the achievement of the objective. In the case of a failure the plan of resolving the problem should be reassessed, a new plan should be created and then implemented.

Estimation and Feedback: At this point the patient together with the therapist evaluates the level of achievement of the objective (degree to which the problem is solved). It is possible to once again refine and fine tune the plan of the resolution of the problems. Returning back to the previous stages is necessary with the appearance of new or deeply concealed problems.

Keep in mind that each therapist is different and there are many different approaches to therapy, so it is important to find the right fit for you!

Subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss our upcoming tips for how to pick the right therapist. Ready to schedule your appointment? Give us a call 424.274-2256.

Why You Should Get Therapy If You Have Food Allergies or A Restricted Diet.

At Center For Healthy and Happy Living, our Founder, Elika Kormeili (aka “the food allergy therapist”), encourages adults and children with food allergies, food intolerances, food sensitivities, or other restricted diets to strongly consider getting counseling.

 Whether you are new to a restricted diet or if you are overwhelmed with the daily stressors of adhering to a strict diet, here is an explanation of why you should get counseling for food allergies, in addition to seeing your regular doctor.

Eliminating foods from your diet goes beyond just knowing what to eat and not eat. It involves an overall change in your relationship with food. It requires changing your attitude about food, associations with food, making effective and healthy decisions, tolerating emotional distress that can arise from not being able to “just eat”, especially in social settings.

A doctor can give a diagnosis, a dietician or nutritionist can tell you what to avoid, a health coach can teach you about alternative foods, however, they are not generally able to be there with you through the social, behavioral, and emotional aspects of making such drastic lifestyle changes around food.

It’s easy to know that a certain food should be avoided, but making that choice every time is not as easy. Especially when that food was once your favorite, or you show up at an event and there’s nothing safe to eat.

An alcoholic can stay away from bars and nightclubs. The alcoholic can even refrain from ever having a sip of alcohol. It is impossible to refrain from eating food, we need food to survive.

Counseling can provide you with the emotional support and motivation that is needed to overcome the cravings, anxiety, depression, and social challenges that arise when making such drastic lifestyle changes.

The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter: Interview With Sharon Chisvin

There are many books out there about how to explain food allergies to your child, Elika Kormeili, Founder of Center For Healthy and Happy Living, interviews Sharon Chisvin about her journey and her book The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter.
What was it like for you as a parent of a child with food allergies?

At first it was frightening and a little overwhelming because I hadn’t heard about food allergies and I didn’t know any other parents who were dealing with the issue. However, as I began to read about the topic and become better informed, I began to feel calmer and more in control of the situation. It was a tremendous help to join a support group and be able to discuss the issue with other parents going through the same thing”.

What is the toughest part of raising a child with food allergies?

“The toughest part is being ever vigilant, trusting you child to make the right decision and trusting other people (teachers, parents of her friends etc.)”

What was your goal when writing your new book The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter?

My goal was to help my daughter feel better about being different than all the other kids in her class, to reinforce for her the importance of being careful with regards to food, and to inform others about what it meant to have a food allergy and the kinds of precautions that need to be taken.”

How would you say your book is different from other books on food allergies?

“I think my book is different than others for a number of reasons. First of all, it is about children, not animals. It rhymes, so it is easier to read, to listen to and to remember. And it deals with a serious subject in an entertaining and positive way. It is educational but also engaging, and is straightforward and simple. It also reminds children that everyone has something that makes him or her different, and that being different is perfectly okay. “

Thank you Sharon for sharing your story and your book.
Have you read Sharon’s book? Would you like to share your experience with food allergies?

Surviving Thanksgiving With Food Allergies and Emotional Eating

Do you feel left out of Thanksgiving “fun” because you can’t eat what everyone else can?
Do you dread going to social events for fear of insulting the host when you find there is no food you can eat? Many of people struggling with food allergies or emotional eating (or heck even those trying to lose weight) find it difficult to participate in holiday festivities while staying on track with their health goals. Therapist, Elika Kormeili, discusses ways to negotiate these events graciously and leave feeling full and nourished.

With so many delicious foods at holiday parties, many people worry about overeating. However, those accustomed to watching what they eat usually overcome this obstacle because they know how bad they feel after eating past their comfort zone. After indulging a few times, they usually realize it isn’t worth it. If after eating your fill of acceptable food you feel left out of the fun, nosh on salads or raw vegetables such as carrot or celery sticks. These foods are safe for most allergy sufferers and devoid of the extra calories that will make you feel guilty in the morning.

Potlucks are usually the easiest events to fully participate in since, if necessary, you can eat only the food you bring, without anybody noticing. Because most desserts are off limits, bring one you’ve made from a favorite recipe. Also consider bringing an entrée, as many main courses contain mixed ingredients, making it difficult to detect the culprits.  When accepting an invitation, gently tell the host or hostess about your situation and your desire to be part of the festivities. Clear communication about your food preferences will not only keep you on course but also be less offensive than quietly passing over the untouchables and going home hungry. Once informed, most people are more than happy to accommodate special needs. More than likely you will be informed of the menu. Upon hearing of dishes you cannot eat, suggest that you bring a small portion of one you can eat.   Keep in mind the purpose of the holidays – celebration of family, friendships, and community.

Happy Thanksgiving from Center For Healthy and Happy Living. Food allergies and emotional eating are not on the menu.

How will you celebrate Thanksgiving?