Valerie Kraft is a Nima College Ambassador and food safety activist studying Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Valerie has been a leader in allergy advocacy work for young adults since being diagnosed with celiac disease in 2015. Read more about Valerie here.

 

A lot of teens and young adults with celiac struggle with the social aspects of the disease. Especially in college where so many social events revolve around food, it can be anxiety provoking to be the “odd one out.” For some, using the Nima in public may seem like another way that they stand out. But truly – it’s all in how you frame it!  

A lot of teens and young adults with celiac struggle with the social aspects of the disease. Especially in college where so many social events revolve around food, it can be anxiety provoking to be the “odd one out.” For some, using the Nima in public may seem like another way that they stand out. But truly – it’s all in how you frame it! 

 how cool is it that such a tiny machine can check my meal in just a few minutes? 

How you introduce the Nima is how your friends will follow along, so I always am sure to introduce it positively. I explain that I have celiac disease, which means I can’t eat gluten, and Nima is a tool I use to check to see if my food is safe. Rather than focusing on the downsides of the situation – yes, there are many foods I can’t eat, and yes, if the meal has gluten in it, I won’t be eating – try to focus on the bright side: how cool is it that such a tiny machine can check my meal in just a few minutes? 

I think the first thing to remember is this: while the Nima may be commonplace for us, to most people, it’s novel and fascinating. Without fail, every time I use the Nima in front of someone new, they are extremely interested and want to know more about it. I remember one time my freshman year, I was so nervous about using my Nima on a first date. Yet, when the time came, I offered my simple explanation, and he was unphased, and even thought it was cool. Truly, if you don’t make it a big deal, they usually won’t either.  

I won’t lie and say everyone in your life will be extremely supportive. I’ve had my fair share of friends and peers who simply scoff and wonder why I can’t just “have one bite” or stop being so “high maintenance.” Yet, one thing I always remember is this: If they can’t handle your need to put your health first, then they’re not worth having in your life. If your friends can’t be supportive of your need to eat safely, they may not be that good of friends. 

I’m lucky that I’ve found an incredible group of people who not only actively support me and my health, but who always strive to make sure I’m included whenever food is present at social events. Over time, my friends even gave my Nima sensor a nickname, and my experience using the Nima even led one of my friends with peanut allergy to become a Nima ambassador herself! While social situations can be nerve-wracking, it can also be a great teaching moment, and it may even bring your friends to a greater understanding!
Valerie Kraft
College Ambassador