Holiday Party Hacks
A step-by-step guide to enjoying parties these holidays when you have IBS.
Imagine this: You are at a Christmas party, you feel bloated. You’ve already been to the bathroom 3 times and you are paranoid that people are starting to notice. You feel so anxious that your stomach is in knots and all you want to do is go home. Oops, you feel the gas coming on and you just want to hide in the corner until it is appropriate to leave. You’ve spoken to 2 people but you were feeling so uncomfortable that it was hard to concentrate on what they were saying and you can’t even remember their names. Somehow, you let slip that you have IBS and that’s why you keep going to the bathroom, and haven’t eaten much of what’s on offer, even though no one asked, but you think you have to explain… you know that you will be known as the IBS girl in their minds now….
Sound familiar? This is how the holiday season feels for a lot of people with IBS.
Now imagine this: It’s late and you have a had a great time at the party. You’ve spoken to almost everyone there and they know you as witty and intelligent and [insert other fabulous adjectives here]. You’ve been to the bathroom once but nothing big and you are feeling relaxed and happy. You’ve even eaten enough and don’t feel hungry. It looks like it’s time to go home.
So how do you get from the first scenario to the second one?
Here’s the plan:
Before the party imagine yourself having a great time. Do some visualization and breathing to reduce the anxiety.
Prepare some meals that you know are trigger-free for you. Luckily most Christmas/Thanksgiving/holiday parties are pot-luck and that means you are also in luck. You are told to bring one dish, but you bring two. This makes you appear generous and at the same time there are two whole dishes that you know you can eat – consequence-free! Try to make one a main dish and the other a dessert so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
Take some digestive enzymes in your purse/bag to take during the meal to help digest everything.
When serving out the food, take most of the dishes that you brought and a little of a few other ones, so as not to appear rude or have to explain why you aren’t eating other people’s food. No need to bring attention to it and say that everything looks so delicious.
You eat all of your own stuff and just leave the other food on the plate and push it around a bit. Most people will leave something on their plate so this isn’t unusual. If you are lucky enough to be accompanied by a significant other that understands what you are going through and doesn’t have the same issues, they can finish it off for you.
Alcohol. If alcohol is a trigger for you, find a drink that looks like it could be alcoholic and stick to it. My favourite is cranberry juice, which can easily pass for a vodka cranberry if need be and 1 glass is still low FODMAP. I sit on this drink for most of the night, but as long as I have a drink in my hand, that is at least half full, most people don’t comment.
Bring your own digestive tea. My go-to is simple chamomile, which is both anxiolytic and aides the digestion. So when others are having coffee, or other after dinner drinks, I drink my tea and feel great. Other options include ginger, mint, fennel or pre-packaged digestive combos.
Is gluten a trigger for you?