The holidays are a time for spending time with loved ones, for showing generosity to those who need it the most, and for slowing down enough to enjoy each moment. However, for those of us blessed with an IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) it may resemble something like this: Map out each and every party venue for the nearest bathroom and calculate how long it would take to make it there in time, decide between starvation or eating food you know you will regret later, and relatives asking why you are such a picky eater. Sound familiar? If so, keep reading!
As a fellow Ulcerative Colitis warrior (goddess, princess… you know, whatever works), I have put together a few quick survival tips for enjoying the holidays:
- Eat ahead of time. If you know you have a party or gathering to go to, plan on eating a meal or a hearty snack before you go. This way, you don’t need to depend on there being food at the party you can actually eat. Eating food that your body can handle ensures you aren’t hangry (hungry + angry = not a good combo) and that you don’t make a bad food decision that you will regret later.
- Always say yes to a potluck. These types of gatherings can be tricky to navigate if you don’t plan ahead. Instead of leaving it to chance, offer to bring at least one or more dishes. By bringing food, you have the control over the ingredients and the nutrition of the food prepared.
- Review the menu in advance. If you will be meeting friends or family at a restaurant, look up the restaurant online and scan their menu ahead of time. For those with sensitivities, you can take your time choosing a menu item or concocting a masterful array of substitutions to meet your dietary needs. This way you will be prepared to order your food and won’t feel the stress or pressure to choose on the spot.
- Map it out. If restroom availability is a concern, look up the venue online and map out all of the restroom locations. Are they easily accessible? Are they accessible to anyone? Once you know these few things, seat yourself as close as possible to the restroom so that you will not disturb others when you get up, whether that is the outside row of a theater or a back table at a party.
- Fitness is your friend. Don’t drop your regular exercise routine just because the holidays have arrived. Because this time of year can be chaotic, you must make fitness a priority and a part of your day. If family is in town, invited them on a walk or run, and invite them to the gym. It can be a fun bonding activity! Exercising regularly keeps you in a normal routine and keeps your metabolism running optimally.
- Mindfulness matters. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, it is important to keep your mental state a priority. Stress is one of the primary sparks that causes inflammation and ignites a flare up. Since the holidays can cause a lot of stress for many people, keeping it under control is imperative. You can do this by practicing meditation or yoga for as little as 10 minutes each day. Writing down your thoughts each day in a journal can be another effective outlet.
So wherever you are heading this holiday season and whatever parties you are attending, savor every moment you spend together with friends and family. You deserve more than to “just get by” with IBD around the holidays, so follow these tips and enjoy yourself. Remember, preparation is key!