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Holiday Hints

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As we prepare for the next round of holiday festivities, I am reminded of the variety of challenges we face with digestive illness. Sticking to dietary protocol over the holidays is often difficult to manage. We tend to eat out more and have more of our meals at parties and family gatherings. We are exposed to more foods outside our normal routines. And, we simply tend to eat more food.

This year I had great intentions… I wanted to eat fewer risky items. I wanted to stick to my salad-for-dinner routine as much as possible. And I also wanted to eat cautiously away from home. That can be difficult when family traditions center around food and when we tend to eat more foods prepared for us by others. Abstaining from, or inquiring about, the ingredients in such meals can be tricky. We don’t want to appear ungracious or overly picky, but we do need to attend to our dietary restrictions.

I succeeded in some ways and failed in others over the past week, but overall I managed fairly well. Over last couple days I have tried to ease back into my normal routine, or at least something closer to it. We still have New Years ahead of us, however.

A few ideas as we approach the last round of year-end holiday festivities:

  • Try to know ahead of time what you’ll be eating at parties and family gatherings, and plan accordingly.
  • Potlucks are great because you can bring along at least one safe food for yourself.
  • When you’re unsure if there will be safe foods at the event, eat something before you go or bring some safe finger foods with you to eat discretely.
  • Keep in mind that, in general, people tend to be understanding when it comes to dietary restrictions, so try not to worry too much about offending hosts or cooks. Be polite and hope for the best.
  • If your system is highly intolerant of unusual foods, try to keep on track by reminding yourself that the reward for discipline is the extra fun you have when you’re not feeling crummy.
  • If your system is more flexible, and you can afford a liberty or two, allow yourself a modest indulgence. Some foods are riskier than others, so use your best judgment here.
  • Remember that alcohol can provoke digestive distress. And, since it also has a tendency to alter judgment, it may effect the sharpness of your dietary decision-making
  • Listen to your body. Be well-rested when you go out. Take a breather when you get tired: go outside and get a breath of fresh air; find a quiet room to sit down for a few minutes; go home early if you need to.
  • Don’t be overly hard on yourself if you experience problems, even if you could have prevented them.
  • Most of all, try not to focus on the negative side. Yes, restrictions are cumbersome and it’s sometimes disappointing to hold back when everyone else is taking liberties in the festive mood. But it’s not your fault, and it’s not something you can change, so try to embrace the reality of it and focus on the fun things you can do. After all, there’s more to the holidays than food!

With these suggestions and the wisdom you have already assembled, hopefully you can enjoy the season even if you’re not feeling at the top of your game. Happy Holidays!

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About the Author

Andrew Tubesing is an acclaimed advocate and humorist on the subject of inflammatory bowel disease.

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