10 Body Positive Instagram Accounts to Follow this Summer

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As summer approaches, you may find it difficult to own your confidence in your body. If you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, you are not alone. Everyone deserves to feel empowered. Body positivity belongs not to one group of people but to everyone, it is an all-encompassing movement to conquer life with confidence.

Finding confidence doesn’t happen overnight — and despite reports that Instagram can be harmful to your mental health — following the right accounts and using strategies mindful of your mental health can make your feed a source of positivity. Here are 10 Instagram accounts to follow for body positive inspiration.

1. Loey Lane

Every year on my birthday my dad would call to play me a song on his trumpet. This is the first year I woke up and didn’t hear him saying “Happy birthday punkin!” Every year on my birthday I like to get myself something small as an act of self love. A manicure, a new phone case, a comfy pair of PJs. This year, all I wanted was that phone call. Instead, I had my closest friends by my side as I picked out this cutie from @buildabear, he’s a Star Trek (my dad’s favorite show) bear and he’s wearing a Minnesota Vikings (his favorite team) hoodie. He also plays the Star Trek theme, which I would pitter patter downstairs in the middle of the night to when I had a nightmare and just wanted to be near my dad. I am happy that in so many ways I can keep my dad with me and remember those things I love so much about him. I love you forever and always Daddy. Love, your Lolu ❤️

A post shared by Loey Lane (@loeybug) on

Loey Lane is a body-positive YouTuber who maintains a strong presence on other social media platforms, especially Instagram. She openly discusses her own mental health, including her experience of grief after losing her father. Lane consistently encourages others to love themselves.

Follow Loey Lane.

2. Nourish and Eat

A few years ago, I never would have tried on these dresses. I would have seen them on the rack and loved them from afar, but never brought them into the dressing room with me. ❌ Bright patterns scared me. They drew attention. Made people look. And that was the last thing I wanted. ???? For those of you who followed along with me on my stories (which is why this photo only has the captions on it, whooops), I went out of my comfort zone shopping for a dress for an upcoming event. A FANCY event. Where people would not only be looking at me, but I’d also be making connections and TALKING to people. (Hello anxiety, my old friend.) And when I saw these dresses, with their gorgeous bright and attention-grabbing patterns, my first thought was “beautiful, but not for me.” BUT TO HELL WITH THAT. Why shouldn’t I try something on? Why can’t I wear something I love? ✨ Our bodies are made out of stardust. They’re actual, literal miracles. The fact that we’re here, right now, trying our best and just EXISTING is a beautiful thing. The world is so much greater than worrying about the shape of our arms in a sleeveless dress, or the number on the tag, or what other people think of us when we walk in a room. ✨✨✨ YOU ARE MAGIC no matter what you put on your body. Regardless of if the clothes fit or don’t fit. Plain or brightly colored. Covered or exposed. You are a miracle of the universe. ???? (PS – the dress I ended up choosing? is BRIGHT RED. No hiding this time for me. ????????) #youaremagic #dressingroomwarrior #wearwhatyouwant

A post shared by G I N A ✨S U S A N N A (@nourishandeat) on

Gina Susanna uses her account to promote body positivity and recovery from eating disorders. Susanna has been featured in Teen Vogue for dealing with weight gain and encourages her Instagram followers to “embrace the squish.” Susanna is often featured, as well as friends and uplifting text images.

Follow Nourish and Eat

3. Positivity Poppa

**MINDSET*** ~ So here’s a little before and after photo of me. There’s probably only about 2-3 years difference. ~ On the left, I’d just finished a circuit from Insanity. I took the photo in the most flattering way possible – best lighting, I was drenched in sweat so I felt it accentuated my muscles etc. It was perhaps the time I was closest to having an ‘aesthetic body’. I felt like having a ripped body would make me happiest and that I’d keep doing insanity until I looked ‘perfect’. ~ HOW SILLY OF ME! 😛 ~ On the right is a picture of me now, taken this morning. I’ve got a bit more of a gut, I’m not trying to focus on lighting (only to make the picture more visible, not to make me look ‘better’) and I’m not posing in any way…but I’m happier in myself! Why? Because I know that my body fat and definition don’t affect my worth as a person. ~ I still exercise and my fitness levels are pretty much the same in both pictures, but my mindset is completely different. Don’t bank your happiness on looking like the models you see in magazines. You’ll spend your entire life trying to achieve a body that might not even be possible! Love yourself and think about all the wonderful things you bring to the world! 🙂 ~ Love you all ????????????????

A post shared by Rishi Bhaskara (@positivitypoppa) on

Rishi Bhaskara advocates for male body positivity, mental and physical health and feminism. He also fundraises for organizations during the half and full marathons he runs. His most recent marathon was run for Beat, an eating disorder charity in the U.K.

Follow Positivity Poppa.

4. Gutless and Glamorous

 Gaylyn Henderson uses her social media presence to fight Crohn’s disease stigmas as well as provide education, empowerment, and awareness for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). “People may stare, that’s OK.  I’ve learned people are either genuinely curious or genuinely inspired,” Henderson told The Mighty. “Curious of what may have caused the scars I have. Inspired because I have the courage to be all that I am regardless of what others may think.”

Follow Gutless and Glamorous.

5. Chronically Carmel

Day 27 ????What you hate most about Lyme ????herxing ????A Herxheimer reaction or Herx for short ????is something that happens when you treat Lyme Disease ????it can be a sign that treatment is working ????????when the bacteria dies off it realises toxins into the body and it really hurts!! ????it causes the Lyme patient to enter a debilitating physical and mental state ????????it can last from a couple hours to a couple weeks ????if it’s not handled properly it can cause a fair bit of damage or even death if it’s really severe ????detoxing is something that really helps ????I have to do it regularly because I have MTHFR as well ????????(a gene mutation to impairs the body’s ability to detox) ????????when I start treatment in a couple weeks there’s gonna some intense herxing ????and I’m pretty nervous ???? but ready ✅and ready to share the journey with you all ????????photo: went to the movies today, we saw Dead Men Tell No Tales ???? ☠️????

A post shared by chronic illness realness ???????? (@chronically_carmel) on

Carmel lives with IBS, fibromyalgia, migraines and Lyme disease. She is open and honest about her experiences and acknowledges how difficult it can be to love your body when you have a chronic illness. Nevertheless, she takes the time to explain and educate, all while maintaining a positive attitude.

Follow Chronically Carmel.

6. Marcela Ilustra

Yesterday I posted about sensitivity and my outburst inspired me to make this illustration. For some time now I’ve identified myself as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), but I realized that I never talked about it. It is basically a condition where a person has a hyper-sensitive nervous system, processes things in a deeper and more detailed way, and has a deep empathy for others. In my experience, being an HSP is being seen as a fragile person almost all the time. I have always cried very easily and have shown negative and positive feelings in a very intense and spontaneous way. If something hurt me I could not hold back tears no matter where and with whom I was. I also always found that having lots of things at the same time made me a bit stressed and surrounded by people for a long time too. Above all I have always worried and felt the emotions of the people around me. I can always tell when someone is not in a good mood or sad and that affects me deeply. A subtle change in the way a person treats me may be capable of causing me an immense anguish and making me wonder about a thousand different possibilities. All this has always made me a very insecure person because many times I’ve heard that I was not normal, that I was making drama or that I was very difficult to deal with.Some people have already used this as a justification for not having sex with me and it hurt. It still hurts when it happens. But today I know I have a positive side in my condition and despite all the suffering, I’m proud of it. I care. I care to help, to understand, to listen and if I were not that way, my job would not be this. I’ve done wonderful things for being HSP. I know my sensitivity may be too much for some and even for me at times, but my empathy is something I would not change. Sensitive and wonderful people, we are not alone. Fight to be proud of who you are and use that in a positive way. We can, you can ❤ #mentalhealth #mentalillness #mentalhealthawareness #highlysensitiveperson #hsp #illustration #art #arte #artistsofinstagram #artist #draw #drawing #desenho #dibujo

A post shared by Marcela Sabiá ???? (@marcelailustra) on

 Marcela Sabiá is a Brazilian illustrator who advocates for mental health, self-love and body positivity. Her drawings range from loving your own smile to remembering it’s OK not to be OK.

Follow Marcela Ilustra.

7. Madeline’s Modelling

Happy World Down Syndrome day from Mexico #BreakingTheMouldTour #downsyndrome #inclusion #holiday

A post shared by Madeline Stuart (@madelinesmodelling_) on

Madeline Stuart is a young woman with Down syndrome who has modeled for magazines, fashion shows and news networks. From a young age, Stuart was determined to be a model and make the fashion industry a place of empowerment and inclusiveness for all. “Maddy just likes to show people that if they believe in themselves they are capable of anything,” Madeline’s mother, Roseann Stuart, opreviously told The Mighty. “To never give up or doubt yourself.”

Follow Madeline’s Modelling.

8. Winnie Harlow

Dreams of being a Bond girl… ???????????? #007

A post shared by ♔Winnie Harlow♔ (@winnieharlow) on

Winnie Harlow is a model who made her fame on “America’s Next Top Model” in 2014. Harlow lives with vitiligo, a chronic skin condition characterized by depigmentation of portions of the skin. After being bullied due to her condition, she struggled with mental illness and contemplated suicide. However, she strove for success and is now a world-renowned model.

Follow Winnie Harlow.

9. Mama Caxx

Mama Caxx is a Haitian-American blogger and is an amputee, advocate and motivational speaker. She uses her social media platforms to talk about body positivity and dismantle notions of what people with disabilities “ought” to look or act like. In September 2016, she was invited to the White House to walk in the first ever White House Fashion Show, celebrating inclusive design.

Follow Mama Caxx.

10. Invisible Body Disabilities

Sapevo che Salvatore, come me, soffre di colite ulcerosa, così decisi di contattarlo per fargli conoscere il mio progetto e conoscere la sua storia. Da quel giorno di qualche mese fa iniziò una lunga conversazione, che ancora oggi prosegue e racconta le nostre battaglie quotidiane e le limitazioni della malattia. Quest’estate ho avuto l’onore di conoscerlo di persona, ascoltando la sua storia e scattando alcune foto (ringrazio A.M.I.C.I. – Associazione Malattie Infiammatorie Croniche dell’Intestino per avermi concesso lo spazio dove ho poi montato la mia attrezzatura). Salvatore mi ha raccontato che prima di Dicembre del 2009 non conosceva la malattia, aveva solamente 19 anni. In un primo momento aveva pensato che il suo malessere fosse legato alla cattiva alimentazione o allo stress dello spostamento a Milano dalla Sicilia per studiare all’università. Solo in un secondo momento (in ospedale), ha scoperto l’esistenza della colite ulcerosa. Fino a due anni fa Salvatore stava abbastanza, viaggiava moltissimo e teneva diversi convegni, poi la ricaduta, il ricovero e varie terapie a seguito. Anche una passeggiata di pochi metri lo sfiniva e il dover uscire fuori di casa gli creava panico misto ad ansia ed agitazione. Adesso, invece, va molto meglio ed ha ripreso a viaggiare, a uscire con più serenità e a tenere più controllata la malattia, e spesso finiamo per raccontarci di cibo e viaggi, tralasciando completamente la malattia! La consapevolezza aiuta a prevenire le ricadute, conoscendo già il tipo dolore, e lascia affrontare in maniera più positiva le battaglie di ogni giorno. Full interview: http://www.invisiblebodydisabilities.org/fotointervista-a-salvatore-aranzulla-ci-accomuna-la-colite-ulcerosa/ #raiseawareness #invisiblebodydisabilitiesproject #ibd #ulcerativecolitis #coliteulcerosa #crohnsandcolitisawareness #salvatorearanzulla #web #informatica #internet

A post shared by invisiblebodydisabilities (@invisiblebodydisabilities) on

The work of Chiara DeMarchi, this account proudly dubs itself as a collection of encouraging stories and images of people living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Individuals are often featured as well as families — demonstrating support, validation and love. While this account is published in Italian, these powerful pictures speak for themselves.

Follow Invisible Body Disabilities.

Have a body positive account you love? Let us know in the comments below. 

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To the People Who Assume I’ve ‘Stolen’ My Disability Parking Permit

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I can walk, but I can’t walk very far, and it’s always with pain and fatigue. I can stand, just not for very long. I use a mobility scooter — a small version of an electric wheelchair — and walking sticks. 

Limited as my mobility is, I’m still made to feel like a faker. I don’t look sick enough. I don’t look disabled enough. I’m too young.

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If I get these comments when using medical aids, imagine what happens on the rare occurrence that I don’t use my aids and park in a disabled space, which I’m legally entitled to use. You got it. All hell breaks loose.

Just because I don’t fit society’s view of “disability” or conform to how a sick person should look and act. The much-used universal symbol for disability — the wheelchair — doesn’t always reflect reality. The definition of disability is often pigeonholed as someone requiring a wheelchair, or, at the bare minimum, crutches.

It’s so much more than that.

Painful, invisible conditions exist that entitle a person to a disability parking permit. Unfortunately, as has been demonstrated all too often of late, these invisible conditions are often assumed illegitimate by strangers. We are branded as fakers and con artists. Told over and over that we don’t look disabled enough to be entitled to a disability parking permit.

Take the recent story of Justine Van Den BorneWhen Justine, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 35, parked her car in a disabled space at a shopping center in Melbourne, Australia, she had no idea she would return to see a nasty, anonymous note stuck on her windshield that read, “Did you forget your wheelchair?” It was placed directly above her disability parking permit on the dashboard.

How could this be? Simple: Justine walked into the shopping center.

Our opinions and conclusions are greatly influenced by what we see. If someone looks healthy, they obviously can’t be too sick, right? Too often these judgments are completely wrong. I ask you this: Would you like to stop breathing on the idea that air, being mostly invisible to the naked eye, isn’t a real thing? No, I didn’t think so!

Invisible illness, ghost illness or whatever terminology you want to use, manifests internally, affecting the body from within. Many don’t understand what an invisible disability is really like for a person. Extreme fatigue, chronic pain, disorientation, dizziness, vision impairment, difficulty with mobility, cognitive issues, neuralgia…the list goes on and on.

We smile, we laugh and we get on with things, trying to live each day to the best of our abilities and be happy. Know this though: Despite my apparent healthy appearance and sunny disposition, I am legally disabled. I am battling a daily struggle. I am restricted by chronic pain, fatigue and neurological dysfunction, including numbness, weakness and intermittent spasticity in my limbs.

As I recently described in a conversation to my doctor: “My right leg has been numb from thigh to ankle for the past three weeks; my hands are tingling and short-circuiting like a failing strobe light; fatigue has knocked the wind out of my sails; pain is having a party at my expense; the nerve burn is kicking into overdrive in my arms…you want me to keep going?!”

These symptoms aren’t always obvious to the untrained observer, so even though my life is far from normal, I’m often mistaken for having a perfectly functioning body.

And I’m persecuted for it.

We need to start assuming the best of people instead of the worst. Don’t jump on a person with a disabled parking permit just because the driver or passenger isn’t in a wheelchair.

As Justine, who took the note as an opportunity to raise awareness for invisible illness, posted on Facebook: “I am sick of people like yourself abusing me on my good days for using a facility I am entitled to.”

If you see a disability parking permit but don’t see a wheelchair, don’t adopt the negative stance and assume the person has stolen it.

Yes, I understand that faking disabilities can and does occur, but I choose to believe that the number of instances is relatively low.

We need to advocate for the rights of the disabled community, but abusing people over a parking permit they are legally entitled to use is not the way to go about it.

Reporting the Ferrari double-parked across two disabled spaces without a disability parking permit might be a better place to start.

A version of this post originally appeared on Starbrite Warrior.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When a Friend’s Brave Act for My Son Knocked the Wind Out of Me

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My son, Caleb, is a looker. He’s only 5 years old, but at 36 pounds and nine surgeries, he’s a real head turner. That wasn’t always the case (says his mom who doesn’t believe a word of that). Even at 2 pounds soaking wet and not at all ready to brave the world, he was gorgeous to me. It took my son a few months to look like a real baby, but he came around. That scary NICU place let him out after seven months, and our days of surgeons, scrubbing in and gown-wearing were over. That feeling was actually short-lived but that’s another story.

One day, I found myself the victim of the proverbial rock and hard place. Our medical supplier called to say our coming shipment was denied due to insurance changes (non-fixable by me and with a full one day’s notice!). I’ll spare you the details and just say it was a nightmare. What does any mom in this situation do? My son’s shipment literally contained his nutrition, the one and only thing he “ate,” his tube-feeding formula. After the phone calls, tears and offers to trade kidneys, I turned to Facebook.

In my desperation and spilling of all emotions to a group of moms who would “get me,” I didn’t realize the settings of the group were open. That means all my friends saw my sad, desperate plea for help from other moms who might have extras of this particular formula.

Let me gently remind you — my horrifying problem involved my infant son not getting his only source of nutrition, his specialized formula, to my house. No, I couldn’t feed him something else, and no, I couldn’t buy it myself. A box of six cans was over $200 or more. At the time, it was the only thing he could get through his g-tube, and it was cost-prohibitive for us.

Jessica’s son

Then there was this friend… Delaware is lucky to have her. 

Remember how everyone saw my hideous post screaming to the winds for help? My friend, Jessica, saw the post and helped in a way that knocked the wind out of us.

Her son was in the NICU facing IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction), liver failure and coagulopathy (a condition that affects blood coagulation), and even so, she showed an incredibly generous and brave heart.

She saw my post and sent the information of the formula my son needed along with our address to several of her friends and family she thought could help. Explaining our situation, she told them if they could buy and send us the formula, to please do it. No yes or no answers needed to her email.  Jessica told them if financially they could help, to just do it. And did they ever.

Let me spare you the ugly-cry details, but that one Facebook interaction fed my son for months. Within two days, boxes of formula arrived at my doorstep.

The brave, generous and incredibly bold act she took upon herself to reach out to others, and even dig out of their own hearts and wallets to help my family — well, that just changed my life. I saw what the power of desire could do for the better. By the time our insurance situation was fixed, over a month had passed. Sometimes I still wonder… what would I have done otherwise?

Years later, I’m still moved that most of the kind souls who helped us in times of need didn’t know us from Adam or had never heard of my son’s medical conditions. (Caleb has short bowel syndrome, pulmonary vein stenosis and hypertension and gastroparesis.) They just sympathized with another hurting human being.

I try to make a difference wherever I go, because I remember that generosity of spirit. It was more than opening their wallet to my family; they opened their hearts to my son’s heart and literally his stomach.

Give a smile, a dollar, a handshake or hug. If it’s in your hand or heart to help, do it. Even in the most unconventional way, you could change a life. Because I’ll never forget that time my friend used Facebook to feed my son.

Caleb and Noah

Follow this journey on Hey Little Fighter.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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4 Ways to Be a Good Friend to Someone Dealing With a Health Issue

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As I learn how to navigate this new pathway of living with disease, I’m realizing some folks naturally seem to know how to step up and be a friend in this difficult situation, while others mean well but struggle to know how best to help and be supportive. So here are four things you can do to be a good friend to someone with a disability or disease.

1. Love us.

While disability may impact who we are, we’re not defined by that disability. We are people, just the same as someone with a crooked smile or flyaway hair. See us for who we are and love us for our hearts and inner selves. There is much to love about us, from our quirks to our kindnesses, from our hobbies to our pet peeves. Yes, this still involves our challenges, but who doesn’t have challenges? When it comes right down to it, just love and care about us the way you do all your friends.

2. Learn about our conditions.

It means a lot to us when our friends take the time to read up about our disabilities or illnesses. Educating yourself about our conditions has many benefits. You’re likely to better understand why we do (or don’t do) whatever it is we’ve been doing. It might help you to know ways to offer assistance or just allow you to talk with us about what’s going on with our health. If you have a question about our condition, ask us. The gesture of learning about what ails us is touching and shows us how much you love us.

3. Listen to us.

Sometimes we just want to talk about our troubles. These may or may not involve our medical problems, but if they do, please listen. It can be hard to find someone to discuss things with when your health is dicey. Pity and dismay isn’t really the kind of reaction we’re seeking. Neither is it helpful to be assured it must be nothing when it’s something that’s important to us. Mostly, we just want a friend who will listen and give us their attention and understanding. We want a friend who will make no more of what we say than we do. Sharing our challenges isn’t a plea for being coddled — honest! Our feelings need to come out, and having a safe person to confide in can mean the world.

4. Live your lives with us.

What do you like to do? We probably like to do that, too. How do you live your life? We do the same things. These are opportunities to connect, to spend time together and to offer the company of a friend. Sure, we might regretfully decline an invitation, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invite us the next time. Or the time after that. Even small things are worth doing together. A movie night on a couch can be just as fun and fulfilling as a movie night at the theater — maybe more so. Spending time in the kitchen laughing and talking is absolutely invaluable. Live your lives with us and include us even if you aren’t sure what we’ll say yes to. It will mean so much that you have included us.

Perhaps it takes a little more effort to be friends with someone dealing with a health issue. Or maybe once you begin, you find it’s easier than you thought. There really isn’t a secret formula except to just be a friend. We’ll do the same for you. When all else fails, let’s talk. Let’s plan. Ask us how to help, and I bet any of us would be happy to share our thoughts and ideas. Friends are jewels in life who are to be treasured, especially in times of trouble. So let’s be friends!

Follow this journey on Lupus Rhythms.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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To the Parents Whose Child Has Just Been Prescribed a Restricted Diet

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It feels so hard… at first. It feels like the purest definition of overwhelming because it is overwhelming: the beginning of a life lived without what may feel like one of the foundational foods of your family’s diet.

Maybe your child has just been diagnosed with a food allergy. Maybe it’s celiac disease, lactose intolerance or something rarer and harder to explain. Whether it’s a lifelong restriction or a temporary one, the thought of reading labels, re-thinking your family’s mealtimes and being vigilant about whatever your child puts in her mouth seems like a lot to manage right now.

The first thing you might want to do is start searching for replacements for what your child is not allowed to eat. You may want to begin with the one-word suffix “-free.” Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free – that “-free” word will initially pepper every corner of your consciousness as it plasters itself across the labels of the foods in your pantry and refrigerator. However, before you look for those items, I suggest a different approach:

First, look for the things in your existing diet that already work.

When my already-vegetarian daughter was asked to follow an elimination diet that completely removed dairy, eggs, soy, nuts and wheat from her life, it seemed there was nothing left. However, when we began to look at our average week, there were several meals that worked already. Beans and rice were fine, for example. So was our favorite chickpea soup. Every fruit, every vegetable. We began to marvel out loud at how many things could be made from potatoes.

When I realized there was a place to start, I took out a notebook and opened my cupboards. No matter the item, if it was something she could eat on this diet, I wrote it down: canned mushrooms, lentils, all our spices, artichoke hearts, quinoa, five kinds of rice, Jello mix, sugars, pickles, on and on. I listed every single “yes” in my pantry, and then I moved onto my refrigerator, where I found every vegetable and fruit, salsa and hummus, jam.

From there, I moved onto the meals we could recreate with only minor tweaks. Pasta with butter and cheese was recreated with gluten-free pasta, olive oil and fresh herbs. Many of our favorite morning cereals could stay once we found a nondairy milk we liked. With a quality thermos for her lunchbox, every dinner I’d discovered already worked could become the next day’s lunch

By the time I was done, I had three pages of “yes” items in my notebook. I sat on the floor of my kitchen with a stack of sticky notes and every cookbook I owned. I labeled promising recipes – yellow stickies for the ones I could make without a trip to the store and white stickies for the ones I could make once I’d purchased some substitute specialty items.

Then, finally, I sat down at my computer and began searching for substitutions. I began with the things I needed to complete the recipes we already liked, searching for the best gluten-free pasta, the most effective egg replacers, something that would approximate soy sauce. I joined some discussion groups and asked questions. I started a folder of “Elimination Diet” bookmarks in my web browser.

Within three days, I had a game plan: a list of meals to try, a cabinet full of new experimental items, a mindset shift that made an enormous difference for our family.

In the end, these diets are still hard. They still require vigilance and planning, and as a parent, you still need to know – and memorize every variation of – the foods on the “no” list. However, starting from the perspective of what does work makes an enormous difference.

Hang in there, parents. You can do it.

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The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to the parents of a child with your disability, disease or illness. What do you wish they knew or better understood? What words of advice would you offer based on your own experiences? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Parents Are Pressuring Lego to Make a Disability-Inclusive Christmas Set

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These parents are trying to send Lego a message the company can’t ignore.

Toy Like Me is a parent-run social media campaign calling on the toy industry to produce toys with disabilities. The group, formed in April, started a Change.org petition asking Lego to create a set that featured figures in wheelchairs in a setting other than the hospital. The petition got nearly 19,000 signatures, but the organization says their request was ignored. Now, with the holidays approaching, they’re trying again.

Toy Like Me has submitted to the Lego Ideas platform, a place where people can upload and vote for new Lego design ideas, a set of holiday-themed figures in wheelchairs. The figures come with accessories like Santa beards, wands and white canes. It’s called “Christmas Wands ‘n’ Wheels.”

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Courtesy of Toy Like Me

The organizers are urging people to visit the ideas platform and vote to make the toy set a reality. According to the Lego website, if a project receives 10,000 supporters, it automatically qualifies for a project review by a board of set designers and marketing representatives.

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Courtesy of Toy Like Me

“For a child with an impairment it would be hugely affirming to be reflected by a brand like Lego,” Toy Like Me co-founder Rebecca Atkinson said in a press release. “It says that the brand is behind them, believes in them and that they are part of the mainstream. For children without a disability, seeing a brand like Lego celebrate human difference helps to create a more positive attitude when they meet someone with an impairment in real life.”

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Courtesy of Toy Like Me

Toy Like Me says Lego has yet to respond to the campaign’s multiple challenges on TV, radio, email and social media.

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Courtesy of Toy Like Me

In July, Lego released a Duplo Community People Set, a collection intended to educate young children about a variety of different people and occupations, featuring a person with a disability. The figure was an elderly man in a wheelchair, which Toy Like Me says furthers misunderstanding about disability as well as the stereotype that it’s something that only affects the elderly.

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Courtesy of Toy Like Me

“Lego has huge cultural sway,” Atkinson said, “and the power to really change perceptions. Children look up to global brands like Lego and learn through them. But if these brands don’t include positive disability representation, then what are they teaching children? That exclusion is OK in real life?”

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Courtesy of Toy Like Me

The organization hopes Lego will soon be the latest to join the ranks of Playmobil, Orchard Toys, Lottie and Makie dolls, who have already answered the campaign call for positive disability representation in toys. Playmobil is now working to produce a line of characters that positively represent disability, to be for released in 2016/17.

Go here to vote for “Christmas Wands ‘n’ Wheels” on Lego’s idea platform.

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