Toronto Argonaut Thomas Miles grew up in Winnipeg and attended the University of Manitoba, where he majored in psychology. He played for the Manitoba Bisons before being drafted as a linebacker for the Argos in 2014. Thomas is a lifelong advocate for people with food allergies: as a teen he was active in our Youth Advisory Panel in Winnipeg and he is now a media ambassador for Food Allergy Canada. We caught up with him recently in Toronto.
How did your family find out you had a peanut allergy?
My parents fed me a peanut butter sandwich around age one – I hived up so they took me to the doctor, and that was that!
What was it like growing up with a peanut allergy?
There were numerous challenges – dealing with anxiety at a young age, worrying about being different, and always ensuring I had an auto-injector with me.
You joined YAP as a teen and were active with the group. How did that experience shape your approach to managing food allergies today? What do you think of the YAP program?
I think YAP is a fantastic program. Sometimes allergies can make you feel isolated, so being able to interact with peers who deal with the same things that you do can really help the way you view your allergy.
As an athlete, you face specific challenges for managing your allergies. How do you deal with them and how does your team support you in staying safe?
The primary issue I deal with is water bottle sharing – in the CFL all the bottles are squirt bottles so it’s not an issue, but in the gym the shaker bottles are different. Therefore, any friends that may want to share my water bottle know that if they’ve had peanuts that day, they can’t!
Another thing is that peanut butter is an incredibly common food for athletes, so I’m always around it – I just ensure that I’m careful about what I touch, and that I wash my hands before eating (which I would do anyway, just saying!)
Do you have any advice for young athletes in managing food allergies?
My only absolute, hard-and-fast rule is to always have an epinephrine auto-injector present while practicing or playing, so I don’t have to worry about anything and can just focus on the game!
Thanks for all you do, Thomas.