I am a foodie and while my eating habits range from supermodel yoga enthusiast to hungry unsupervised child in a candy store I have the utmost respect for those like chef Elizabeth Falkner who have the nearly mystical ability to create culinary magic proving that cooking is both an art and a science.
Yet along with an estimated 1.6 million U.S. adults, who live with uncontrolled, moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis, a disease that impacts life at every level yet still flies under the awareness radar she has chosen to take her experience public and share her story.
In a candid, funny, revealing and all around enjoyably discussion, I was left with a sense that Elizabeth is a woman with integrity in and out of the kitchen. A professional with the willingness to share her personal life in an effort to raise awareness and raise the bar regarding what we all need to know about her journey which includes a very intimate struggle with atopic dermatitis
Joshua Estrin: We are here to talk about some important topics, but before we get started what is your favorite part of summer?
Elizabeth Falkner: I enjoy summer a great deal. I am a runner and it is such a great time to get out of doors. I must admit I also have a competitive streak in me and while I am running for pleasure, I am also training for the New York Marathon. Summer is just a great time to have a great time.
JE: While it is not uncommon for celebrities to lend their name to a cause and to educate us on medical issues that impact their lives and the lives of millions. It takes a special brand of courage to talk about topics that relate to aesthetics. Somehow, it’s more acceptable to talk about things that happen to our bodies on the inside. What gave you the courage to go public with your experience?
EF: For 20 years I suffered with lesions on my hands. It was embarrassing, frustrating, and isolating. Atopic Dermatitis is not one of those “cool diseases” and I am not making light of anyone’s pain and suffering as all too often I think people get caught up in what I think is a total waste of time when they compare whose pain is worse. Pain is pain and no one deserves to suffer so I hope that by being public about my experience with AD I can bring some relief to others who struggle with it and educate the public on the facts.
JE: How do you manage your symptoms?
EF: Atopic dermatitis is a chronic form of eczema that can be serious, and is often involves unpredictable flare-ups triggered by a malfunction in the immune system. Symptoms can include red rashes, intense itch, dryness, cracking, crusting and oozing of the skin, and they can occur on any part of their body. Not something that is easy to talk about or live with. It is a part of my life and as a chef who is also on television I work long hours, I work with my hands, and all of this is happening under the watchful eye of the camera or during live demonstrations. The key is balance. I am not going to lie and say that I have it all figured out or that I live a stress-free life. But I am aware of the repercussions when I don’t take care of me. So I do my best to eat right and manage the stress with running while being mindful that it will simply make life far more difficult than I want it to be if I don’t make my health a priority.
JE: What do you think is the biggest misconception about AD?
EF: This is not a pretty disease and when someone has flair up it can look really scary to someone who might not understand the facts. AD is NOT contagious, but it is also not like a bug bite that got infected. It can be very painful and since there seems to be a connection between stress and symptoms the stress of having it and being judged for the way you look only adds to the challenges.
JE: What are some of your upcoming projects?
EF: I like to stay busy and I will not allow my AD to keep me from continuing to grow personally and professionally. I still can be seen on Food Network’s Sugar Showdown, I always enjoy my time at LA’s Food & Wine Festival and I am working on a book, which is currently being edited for publication giving people a look into my life and my journey as a chef. It is an honest look at challenges and victories that have shaped who I am today.
JE: If I were to sneak into your houses right now what would I find in your refrigerator?
EF: I just got back from a trip to Maine so it resembles a basket from Chopped. Beer, Broccoli, some corn and blueberries. I guess it’s time to go shopping!
About Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic form of eczema that can be serious, and is characterized by unpredictable flare-ups triggered by a malfunction in the immune system.
Symptoms can include red rashes, intense itch, dryness, cracking, crusting and oozing of the skin, and they can occur on any part of their body.
In addition to physical issues, the lack of understanding and awareness of atopic dermatitis can make the disease burden even harder to bear for patients who may also experience embarrassment, stress and anxiety.
An estimated 1.6 million U.S. adults live with uncontrolled, moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis, yet many people haven’t heard of the disease before and more awareness is needed on the disease’s significant physical and emotional impacts.
For more information on atopic dermatitis, including healthy recipes visit www.UnderstandAD.com