The Secret Life of an Image Consultant With a Nut Allergy

The Secret Life of an Image Consultant With a Nut Allergy
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Illustration by Randal Gordy Lee

I'm an image consultant who has a not-so-stylish severe nut allergy. I am allergic to all nuts including peanuts; the smell of nuts impacts me and I carry an EpiPen. My work takes me all over the city some days and I deal with multiple clients in any given work day.

It's sometimes a tricky task to stay out of harm's way with a nut allergy when you are on the go. Not only do I need to be aware of what I ingest, I also have to be aware of what is going on in my immediate surroundings.

As I was going about my day the other day, I had a realization -- I have thoughts throughout my day that only those with a nut allergy can fully comprehend. For the last few days I've started to make myself more aware of and track my "nutty" experiences and thoughts to share with you. These are my norm every day and have been my norm every day for most of my life.

When I first found out that I had a nut allergy, I was very nonchalant about it and would take risks all the time. Now after a couple of allergic reaction scares that have landed me in the hospital, I've inadvertently put into place these thought patterns as a safety mechanism.

I'm sharing these thoughts to...

- Raise awareness
- If you have a nut allergy and have similar thoughts -- I'm hoping to remove your sense of isolation
- If you have a loved one with a nut allergy -- perhaps this will give you some insight on what they may be thinking as they go about their day

So without further ado here are a sample of my experiences and inner thoughts as I go about my day while defending my body from its dreaded nut allergy.

Morning Coffee Shop Stop
A common routine for many that I try to avoid due to the high likelihood of nut products in many coffee shops.

If I am in a rush in the morning and don't have time for coffee and breakfast before I leave home, I will only ever purchase a coffee while out and skip the breakfast part. Muffins, pastries and most baked breads are frightening to me.

If I do grab a coffee while out, I've had the following "nutty" thoughts -- Is there nut residue on my cup? Do they make nut-based coffees such as hazelnut? Is it possible hazelnut made it through to my coffee?

Public Transit
I live downtown in a major city and most of my work is in the downtown core. Public transit is really the only logical option to choose to quickly get around as I go about my day.

Here are some of the "nutty" experiences and thoughts I have while on public transit.

- If I hear a wrapper being opened around me -- I will immediately decipher what is being opened to see if it is a nut-based item. If it is nut-based, I will move to a different area.
- If there is a wrapper on a seat, I won't touch it or sit there.
- Because I am sensitive to the smell of nuts, I immediately can smell if someone near me had nuts recently to eat -- I will move away from them because the smell is very bothersome to me.
- Slightly off topic: I have been on a plane when someone beside me started eating nuts. I immediately got out of my seat, talked to the flight attendant so that I could arrange to sit in another section of the plane. My worst nightmare -- having an allergic reaction on a plane!

Client Engagements, Out Shopping Etc.
Here are some of the "nutty" experiences and thoughts when I'm out and about.

[A couple points below perhaps point out a need for a new set of etiquette rules required for people with nut allergies when dealing with those without nut allergies.]

- At the hair salon: I have had to tell clients who were about to eat a nut product in my chair that I am allergic and kindly ask them to put the product away (I feel just awful when I have to ask them to do this!).
- If I'm shopping with a client and they want to stop for a bite to eat -- I always let them choose the place. If they choose somewhere where there is a high probability of nut products -- I politely say I am not that hungry and only order a drink (even though more than likely I am starving!).
- If I'm not with a client, I will grab something quick on the go that more often than not is unhealthy, but, labeled (i.e., bag of chips, chocolate bar etc.) -- logical or not -- I feel safer eating labeled items vs. risking eating something like an un-labelled salad somewhere.

Eating a Meal Out (At End of Day)
If it's been a long day, I typically will grab something for dinner on the way home. I always go to the same places and stick to the same orders that have not caused me problems. I rarely will try a new restaurant or new menu item, quite simply to mitigate risks and risks of adding more "nutty" thoughts to my repertoire -- it gets tiring.

End of Night Kiss
The perfect way to end a lovely evening -- a wonderful spontaneous kiss -- stopped by the always sexy question -- "Did you have nuts today or recently"? Which is then followed by a long pause and sometimes his eyes look away as he thinks through his food intake for the day.

My home is a nut-free zone so really the "nutty" thoughts, questions and experiences above stop once I'm at home.

So there you have a sample of some of my experiences and thoughts as I go about my day to avoid contact with nuts.

I could write pages upon pages of additional "nutty" experiences and thoughts and write about additional experiences during other activities such as a visit to the grocery store, shopping for makeup, out in public in general, shopping for lotions or creams, at a baseball game etc. If you have a nut allergy, I am sure you can imagine most, if not all of the thoughts that could be placed on these "additional pages."

I truly hope this blog has raised awareness and starts some conversation / further understanding if you or your loved one(s) are impacted by a nut allergy.

I hope this blog inspires you to wear your authenticity!

Carol Brailey is an Image Consultant who specializes in color analysis.
More of her blogs can be found at

Randal Gordy Lee is an illustrator and designer living in Toronto, Canada. More of his work can be seen at Toronto Art Revival.

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