Last week I was voted Free From Hero Award for 2021, sponsored by Natasha’s Allergy Research Foundation, at the Free From Food Awards. I was completely bowled over.
I still am.
I’ve not really been on my social media channels or commented on it since the Awards. I kind of lost my marbles!
Then had my niece to stay and just had a very well earned break from work, social media and everything.
Having caused a Twitter uproar with my “Coeliacs and Vegans can shut up” blog I certainly wasn’t feeling like a hero! But as my lovely friend Rebecca said on the night, I went from zero to hero! In one second, and I was completely not expecting it.
You can imagine me cringing when I arrived at my virtual table for the awards to find quite a few coeliacs! Days after I’d just told them all to shut up on social media!
Not my best planning but they enjoyed teasing me.
I deserved it to be honest but it was a lovely evening. Everyone on my table was lovely and I explored other networking groups on the night too.
So well organised, and not the same as being in London with everyone and sampling all the winning foods, but they were so well presented, organised and professional.
I had a wonderful night but hope we can get back to normal next year! Come on 2022!
Luckily the awards were recorded so you can watch the awards here:
I had made loads of notes of all my favourite winners but becoming a hero has emptied my mind! That will come later in a future blog post.
Skip to 38.45 to watch the Hero Award and the special award that went to Elijah’s Alavi Foundation who have campaigned to pass Elija’s Law in New York to help protect children with anaphylaxis at day care centres.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t listening properly and thought at first that the Elijah Alavi Foundation had won the whole Hero Award, not just a special part of it.
You can see me watching the award being announce here, but be warned, it’s an amateur video with lots of feedback https://www.instagram.com/tv/CPZJMGHn-aZ/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
You can also see all the Free From Food Awards winners 2021 here.
It was very weird being alone at home watching the awards. Even with all the online networking and group hangouts, I kept getting lost in space and it was a little lonely, having found out I’d won and then being alone, at home with no one to celebrate with. So bless you Cressida for organising an after party.
Why am I a hero?
It’s really hard to me to accept this award has actually happened because I was so convinced one of the others would win. It is slowly sinking in, but I’m still so totally overwhelmed. I can’t thank everyone who nominated me enough. It’s such an honour and really unexpected.
I recently took a psychometric test and it came back saying that I was an Advocate, it’s the rarest type of personality you can have and covers a mere 1% of the population. It would appear I’m a one off! I began to accept and understand that I had a ‘calling’ in life, recently. It’s what makes me happy, since I was a small child I’ve been the peace keeper, smoothing over conflicts and seeking out those who need help.
Read more about the Advocate personality type here, and take the test to find out what personality type you are!
Many people have allergies but not all of them stand up, raise awareness, fight for change and go out of their way to help others. For me it’s just normal. I have to. I have a lot of empathy and I can’t just sit back and let life pass me by.
So the blog was born some 12 years ago and then my book came nearly a year ago. If you’ve not read it yet, check out The Reluctant Allergy Expert – How to kill the fear that anaphylaxis could kill you which is available on Amazon.
I have so many heroes of my own, including the other finalists for this award.
- Emma Amoscato – Author of two books, ‘Living with Allergies’ and ‘You, me and Food Allergies’, a book especially for children, Emma is breaking boundaries in the allergy world. Emma is also Mum to two kids with multiple food allergies and is now studying so that she can further people struggling with the stress, anxiety and fear of allergies. I’m also proud to call Emma a friend. She is a clever, kind, funny, wonderful person and a very worthy contender for this award. We have enjoyed coffee, wine, many chats and hope we can catch up IRL soon!
- Daniel Kelly from May Contain – a blogger, podcaster of the brilliant May Contain podcast and sharing great content on Instagram. Dan appeals to young adults, the age group most at risk of anaphylactic reactions. He’s also one of the few men who are raising awareness for allergies. He’s a great guy, talented, creative and really creates interest in his social media. Having met Dan many times and joined him on his podcast, I wish him well, he will go far and he is doing amazing things to raise awareness.
- Julianne Ponan of Creative Nature – This woman has done so much and is so young. She founded and created her freefrom food company Creative Nature which provides chocolate, snacks, mixes, bread and more that are all freefrom the top 14. She’s also a great advocate, working with the Anaphylaxis Campaign, listed as one of the Forbes companies to watch and is always pushing the boundaries, creating new products and raising awareness. We met while filming Food Unwrapped and when I realised I’d met the woman who created Gnawbles, I was smitten! I love Julianne.
- Chef Akila – I had never heard of Chef Akila before these awards but what she’s doing is amazing. Since Indian takeaways are an impossibility and distant allergy reaction filled memory for me, the idea that I could order curries online was mind blowing. You should check out her website. She was born in a South Indian village in 1945. My father practiced ancient Ayurvedic medicine and believed that food is medicine. He taught us the benefits of spices, herbs and real, wholesome Indian food. She now creates real Indian food that is freefrom allergens. I’m definitely going to be checking out her food soon. Who wants to come over for Indian? I’ve got my eye on a Goan Chicken Curry!
These, and all of the people who share their stories, journey, tips and advice on social media are all heroes. It is an amazing community and I’m proud to be part of it.
To be standing now next to these amazing people is such an honour. I feel truly humbled and overwhelmed. They are all inspirational and still doing amazing things for people living with allergies:
- 2020 – Natasha’s Allergy Research Foundation – Having met the both Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse and followed their heart-breaking journey and the amazing things they’ve achieved already in such a short time, it was no surprise when they won last year. Natasha’s Law comes into operation in October 2021, meaning all food prepared on a premises for sale, such as sandwiches and salads, must contain allergen labelling.
- 2019 – Hazel Gowland – Allergy Action – Hazel is an inspiration. She works with the Anaphylaxis Campaign and also provides Food Allergen training for food service establishments. She also has nut allergies, and yes she’s allergic to hazelnuts. I’m proud to call Hazel a good friend and and know first hand what a kind person she is. She accompanied to to court when I read out my personal witness statement a few years ago and her presence was so helpful and much needed. She’s kind of my allergy mum!
- 2018 – Jacqueline McPeake of JACS Ltd – Specialising in allergen management, Advice and consultancy on food allergen and intolerance management in the catering industry. I feel like I know Jacqui but on a recent zoom call it turns out we’ve never met! Weird how social media can make you feel really close to some people. Jacqui is now working Caroline Benjamin, joining forces to provide their food allergen training across the UK. If you don’t follow Jacqui on Linkedin, you should, her posts are always thought provoking and informative and she always sparks great interaction and debate.
- 2017 – Clare Marriage of Doves Farm – The first gluten free flour to really do the trick and still available across all supermarkets and health food shops. You can rely on this flour to work with any freefrom recipe you use. I remember mixing my own wheat free flour from tapioca starch, rice flour and potato flour and it was quite an effort, to buy all three in bulk and then mix into the right quantities to work with recipes. Anyone remember Barbara the Bread? I used to buy my flour from her and mix my own and it wasn’t easy. So Clare truly changed how we bake our freefrom cakes and cookies now.
Thank you to all the previous winners! All Heroes! Check them out here – Free From Hero Award Winners
So what next?
I have so many plans and ideas. There will be more blogs about allergies, anaphylaxis and also eczema and topical steroid withdrawal. But I have so much I want to do. So many things I’d love to see happen, that are really needed.
- Short stories – A book of short stories for people with allergies and eczema
- Therapy – Tailored Clinical Psychology therapy for people with anaphylaxis
- Rants – Definitely more rants like my recent Coeliacs and Vegans should shut up! I learnt a lot from that and made some new connections. Watch out for some more thought provoking blogs soon!
- What about some allergy poems? To follow on from my eczema poetry book, there are some allergy ones brewing. It’s such a healing exercise and really allows me to tap into thoughts, feelings, memories and challenges in a way that can relate and connect with others. There is already a second book of eczema poems on the way.
- Retreats – with yoga, healthy cooking, meditation
And so, so, so much more! My brain is buzzing with ideas.
And since the Awards my inbox is buzzing with companies looking to work with me. Things are happening and I thought they were happening before!
Other Awards blogs
Winners of Best Product, Sheese vegan cheese have blogged here: Bute Island grabs best product in 2021 Free From Food Awards. And if you’ve not tried it, you need to – it’s so good! I nabbed the end of a pack after judging 😉
As my skin heals (TSW journey for another blog on another day) I have so much more energy so watch out!
Who is your allergy hero?