Inflammatory Bowel Disease Holiday Party Survival Guide
With the holidays come parties and for a person with Inflammatory Bowel Disease I know this can be a daunting time of year. That first holiday season when my symptoms were at their worst and a family friend invited us to Christmas dinner, my first reaction was, "No! I can't go. I'd never make it through without a problem." But, my step-son was visiting for the holiday, I didn't have enough energy to prepare a grand meal, and my husband really deserved a day and night off from worrying about me. So, I tried to figure out how I could accept the invitation and still keep my IBD on track. I graciously accepted our friend's invitation and just as graciously declined her offer to "cook me something special." Her offer was very kind and thoughtful but it was just too hard to explain to her what I could and couldn't eat and how things needed to be prepared. Instead, I told her I would bring my own dinner. And, I did. At first I feared there would be a deluge of questions from the rest of the guests about what I had in the plastic containers, why wasn't I drinking wine or cider, and how could I pass up the delicious looking desserts? But, in reality, nobody batted an eye. The other guests ate their roast, veggies, and pecan pie while I dined on shrimp pasta and Jell-o I'd made at home and brought along. I was well-fed, had the company of my friends and family, and no incidences with my gut marred the evening.
When attending a cocktail or dinner party I suggest planning ahead on how to keep your gut happy and on track. In the case of a cocktail party why not eat something before you go so that you won't be tempted to nibble on appetizers and snacks that could upset your gut. Or, better yet, make and take an appetizer that you know you can eat. If there is any concern about not being able to find an appropriate beverage to drink (I have a hard time with any kind of alcohol) take along something to drink that is on your "safe" list.
In you are attending a dinner party ask your host or hostess what they plan to serve. Chances are you'll find at least one thing on the menu that you can eat. Then augment your dinner with one or two items that will settle well with your gut. You might let your host know what you are planning to prepare and ask him/her if they would like you to make enough for all of their guests. Chances are they'll say, "No," but it's nice to offer.
The most important thing to remember about the holiday season is that it really isn't about food. What makes the holiday's so special is getting together with friends and family and sharing a common experience together. Since my IBD & IBS reared their ugly heads ten-plus years ago I've gone to many cocktail parties, dinner parties, pot luck parties, and garden or pool parties and very rarely do I eat anything more than a cracker or a piece of bread and a glass of mineral water (add a slice of lime or lemon and it looks like a cocktail!). But never have I had people chastise me, embarrass me, or be offended when I politely decline an offer of an appetizer or cocktail. There are times when I have spent a mere 45 minutes at a cocktail party before making my exit. And there have been times I've spent three or four hours at a dinner party where I've not thought once about my gut.
Know that having IBD and living a social life is possible. Just learn to prepare ahead of time, listen to your body and its needs, and have a happy holiday with your friends and family.
P.S. It doesn't hurt to check-out where the nearest powder room is before you engage in the festivities - just in case.
Read about all of my experiences in my book, Living with IBD & IBS: A Personal Journey of Success - www.ibdandibs.com