I'll drink to that!
(Survival guide to living on liquids during the holidays)
Here are a few tips for the 'season of eating' that comes with Christmas holidays. With a little preparation and perspective, you can enter the season with gratefulness and creativity.
(This is year 3 of living on blended food and liquid nutritional drinks due to abdominal adhesions. I am now waiting for an upcoming surgery to (hopefully) repair it and be able to eat solids again. Here are a few tips I've learned along the way that will hopefully encourage you if you have a similar challenge.)
#1. Be realistic. Every event will have food and because there is more time to spend together over the holidays, there will be more time lingering over the preparation, flavours and enjoyment of the food. This is a good experience for most people. Don't expect it to be different. But be realistic . . . it can be difficult. It can make you feel more hungry, more left-out and could ramp up a potential pity-party. So see it as a challenge and see what you can do to conquer!
#2. Be prepared. Only you know what works best for your limitations. Think ahead of what you need, nutritionally, and prepare. Most people suffer from guilt from over-eating anyway, so by preparing your own nutritional requirements ahead of time, you'll save yourself some needless guilt at the end of the holidays. (Buy a few extra water bottles that you can put your drinks in and carry to a party or thermos for soup...spend $10-20 on good containers that help you provide your own food. A good investment.)
#3. Be selective. If family is going out for dinner, you may choose to stay home that one time. Sometimes restaurants can be good and fun and sometimes, it's a long event of seeing food that you cannot eat. Have a few favourite dvd's or books in your bag and have some options if you choose to not attend an event. Be brave, and graciously choose to stay home sometimes. Wish them well, but allow yourself to be realistic and honest about attending or not attending one dinner. After all, it's only one dinner.
#4. Be creative. Because eating together is a time of conversation and memory building and time together, it would be sad to miss out on all those events just because you have your one nutritional drink or soup broth in front of you. If your food requirements take less time than other people, what could you do with the extra time? (I came up with an idea that I could do, inexpensively, while sitting at the table with family and friends, but keeping my mind off the food that I can't have. See more here...)
#5. Be Proactive. Have a nutritional drink or soup before you go to a party. Don't go to dinner already hungry or it makes it more difficult to resist solid food.
#6. Allow yourself to Chew. If you're able, chew and spit. Maybe not in public, but at home you can chew on a piece of pizza and spit it out. Enjoy the physical aspect of chewing and tasting the texture and flavours but just don't swallow. Then, you can enjoy the sight and taste and texture. Enjoy it. Allow yourself to experience it. Then after a few spits into the garbage, you probably will feel done with the experience. . . food is meant to go down the hatch, it doesn't look great coming back out. Sometimes, that experience is enough to make you happy to go back to your liquid food.
#7. Treat yourself. If you are able to, purchase some favourite juice or soups that are convenient and perhaps more expensive than usual. If people offer to help, tell them your favourite store or drinks and 'let them' purchase them for you. People like to help you feel included in the dinner, so let them, learn to accept gifts.
#8. Restaurant: Have a few tricks up your sleeve. Bring Carnation breakfast powder packs in your purse or bag. Order milk at a restaurant, add carnation breakfast and you've got yourself a nice, cold, nutritional drink. You ordered something and sometimes that feels good. Soup powder can be added to hot water, chunky soup can be blended for you, if you ask. If you say you have a 'medical condition' and that 'soup needs to be thin, like go-through-a-straw thin', they love to accommodate. Try it and be grateful for what they can do. If it is not quite right, have a back up plan in your bag, like an ensure or boost drink, order some ice and be grateful for nutrition.
#9. Communicate Clearly. Sometimes it's difficult to explain your whole situation and can be frustrating to try. Choose a few sentences that get the job done. You might try, "I need to drink my food in liquid form due to a medical condition" then crack a joke, keep it light or go into more detail if they ask more. Otherwise, tell more, tell less, crack a joke or change the topic. You do have special needs but you don't need to focus the whole party around your needs. Find out what works and speak boldly and confidently. One time, when people kept asking more details and I felt uncomfortable as to how to explain, I said..."Okay, imagine a garden hose laying across your driveway in the shape of an intestinal system" (by this time, the others in the room were intrigued and listened in.) I continued, "then twist the hose so it kinks in a few places. Now using strong duct-tape, (like adhesions) tape the whole thing together and down so that the hose is trapped down tight to the ground. Now turn it on and see what happens. The pressure of the water will cause the duct-tape to stretch and pull. This is the pain that happens when I eat solid food." My story seemed to work. :) Or sometimes, I lighten the mood by asking, "and how are your intestines?" :)
#10. Be gracious. Just as you don't understand other people's needs and all the underlying pressures or things that they feel when they come to an event or family gathering, so they won't completely understand you. It's okay. The point of being together is to be together, to build relationships and play games and enjoy time together. Food, fortunately and unfortunately, is part of it. Be thankful that you can find nutrition to sustain your body and offer grace to yourself and those around you.
Merry Christmas! :)