Dairy. Eggs. Peanuts. Tree nuts. Avocado. Banana. Kiwi. Coconut. Rice. Chocolate. Peas.
For Westerville South High School senior Alia O’Brien, navigating life with all the food she’s allergic to has been a challenge. But she’s thankful for the experience — a sentiment she wrote about in a new book called “It’s a Beautiful Life,” which features stories from individuals managing food allergies.
“I’m not grateful for my food allergies,” she said. “I wish I didn’t have them, but I’m grateful for the ways that they’ve helped shape me into a person. That’s what I want people to take away.”
O’Brien is a member of the Food Allergy Research & Education’s (FARE) Teen Advisory Group, which serves as a national support group for teens living with food allergies or those who have siblings with food allergies. The advisory group launched the book project last year as a way to raise awareness about the experiences of those living with allergies and inspire empathy.
Proceeds from the book, which was published Feb. 16 and is available on Amazon, will support the advisory group’s youth programs, research and future projects.
The book offers various viewpoints on living with food allergies; O’Brien’s story focused on her experiences growing up and how she had to learn to advocate for herself when faced with situations that could lead to an allergic reaction. She also talks about the importance of being inclusive — a topic she is passionate about having been excluded from parties and activities because of her allergies.
O’Brien marvels at being able to contribute to the book.
“It’s crazy because it’s something I wish I could tell people but I’ve never had the means to get it out there,” she said. “I am just really happy that people can access all these different views and understand what it’s like. Everyone thinks allergies are about avoiding food but it’s so much more than that. And I’m grateful that people will be able to finally realize that.”