Meet Leigh-Anna Nielsen, one of our incredible 2023 Equal Eats Ambassadors.
What are some of your favourite hobbies, interests and activities?
Dancing, Reading, Traveling, Spending quality time with friends, Exploring NYC, Trying new food, Making silly TikToks
What countries have you travelled to?
Mexico, Canada, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, China
What's your dream travel destination?
What's your relationship to dietary restrictions? (e.g. you/your child, allergy/celiac)
I have Celiac Disease
What led you to become an Equal Eats ambassador? (why is their mission important to you?)
I had a hard time being diagnosed so recently. I was scared of my food and didn't trust my own body for a long time. I want to show people that with the right tools and knowledge, you can take control over your food journey and get to know yourself better. Equal Eats is one of these tools that help people feel confident in their travel and food journeys.
What do you find is the most challenging aspect of managing a dietary restriction?
The most challenging part for me is that my disease is incurable and most people don't understand cross-contamination. It's not just that a food can have gluten and make me sick, there are shared surfaces and fryers that can also cause a lot of harm. I wish people were more educated about this concept with Celiac because many folks in the food industry were never taught this.
What's the one bright side you have found of managing a dietary restriction?
There are so many! But since I was a little girl I've always loved baking!! I have found so much joy in experimenting with different gluten-free versions of my favorite baked goods and perfecting my flour blends.
What's your goal or impact you'd like to achieve being an Equal Eats ambassador?
I don't have a specific goal in mind other than educating my community. I often feel made fun of or seen as "making my disease my personality" by many friends and family. I have been asked to stop talking about it as if it's a quirky interest of mine to be gluten-free. Telling a disabled or chronically ill person to stop talking about their condition and accessibility needs furthers stigma and leads to a lack of education about how to create equity for the disabled community. I want to show my community that we should celebrate our conditions by talking about our needs and hopes. This is how we keep ourselves and our communities safe.