How do you manage the holidays and all the complex interactions around food? It can get pretty complicated, as I’ve learned over the years. Holidays often mean interaction with family or friends who do not support the way I choose to eat. I have felt torn; I don’t want to ruin the relationship or the family event, but I also know what my body needs. The temptation to keep the peace and eat foods made with bread, cheese, and other foods that I am avoiding can be very strong. I’ve found myself there and I’m sure many of you have too. It can be hard to not eat the delicious foods that you miss, particularly if you do not have a severe and immediate reaction to the food and instead have a reaction 2 to 3 days later.
If a dietary approach has worked to control your disease or symptoms, you can expect that dropping your dietary plan for a special meal will trigger a flare of your disease symptoms. When you “cheat,” you are increasing the probability that the disease you are treating with your dietary plan will flare in the next two weeks.
Here are the rules I use for my life as well as holiday food-related events and travel.
- I talk to the host, explaining that I have a severe reaction to gluten, dairy, and eggs that would put me in the hospital. I offer to bring food to share. I make something that will likely be a big hit with everyone, such as kale chips and bacon for the meal and chia pudding for dessert.
- If the meal is uncertain, I eat ahead of time so that I am not hungry at the event. Going to an event hungry makes it more likely that the wrong food will find its way into my mouth.
- I travel with a head of cabbage, even on planes! Cabbage keeps well without a refrigerator for a couple days. I can eat a wedge of raw cabbage before leaving the hotel room. That way I have sufficient intake of vegetables each day.
- I carry allowable snack foods, such as Epic meat bars and nuts, as a backup when flying so that I always have safe choices available.
- I know what I can’t have (in my case gluten, dairy, or eggs) and what I generally don’t eat but simply avoid, such as hummus or quinoa. I can eat those items on occasion and will if a friend prepares them and I know they are gluten, dairy, and egg free.
- I help the host as much as I can during the meal preparation and clean up.
- I do not talk about my dietary choices or food issues. If people ask me, then I will discuss my experiences, but I am careful to not criticize or offer recommendations to other people.
- Your children will make their own food choices away from your home. If your children have critical food choices – and risk a severe reaction if they consume excluded foods – talk to your spouse and the hosts ahead of time about what you need for your child to be successful at eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones. If you can’t create a plan that works, you may need to avoid that event to keep your children from eating foods that will make them ill. This is a judgment call best made ahead of time.
These are not easy things to do. Over the years it will get easier. Support from your spouse makes it easier, as does support from a community of friends, and a lot more fun.
Every August I host the Wahls Protocol® Seminar and Retreat in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Each year the event gets better and better! For three days I teach the practical steps of how to adopt and implement the protocol.
I review the latest science on how to use diet and lifestyle to improve health and vitality. We practice skills together and as a result create friendships that are renewed year after year.
It is a life-changing event. It is also a perfect gift for someone you love or for yourself. We will sell out this year, so buy your ticket soon. Early bird registration ends December 30.