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It’s okay to say no on the holidays

It’s Okay To Say No On The Holidays

Everyone has their own holiday traditions, with things they enjoy doing each holiday season. But after you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, you’re not always able to participate fully in those traditions. It’s hard enough knowing that you have to turn down some of the foods that you’ve enjoyed in the past. But it’s even harder when other people insist that you should be joining in too.

“You’re just being fussy”

I’m sure you’ve experienced it before, but many people who don’t have IBS or food restrictions think that someone saying no to foods is just being fussy. You know it’s not true, because you’d love to eat the food if you could.

So how do you tell someone that you’re not being fussy? This depends on how well you know the person and how much you’re willing to share about your situation. While it’s not always appropriate to go into lots of detail, there’s nothing wrong with giving the basics. I normally say “I have IBS and certain foods really upset my tummy, so it’s best that I don’t eat them.” Then if they challenge me on that, or ask for more information, I tell them more.

Some people genuinely want to understand your situation so that they can find a way to help you. With these people, give them as much information as they want to hear, while maybe glossing over the toilet talk – that never goes well while you’re eating. Now, they may not be able to help you then and there, but they should stop pushing food on you and will likely try to help more next time.

But you will find some people who either don’t care or don’t want to understand. The best way to deal with those people is to ignore them and pleasantly tell them that you’re glad they’re enjoying the food. I find that pleasantness often shuts those people up faster than an argument.

“One won’t hurt you”

Sometimes when people realize that you have a food intolerance and not an allergy, they might respond with “surely one won’t hurt you”. If people say this to me, I politely correct them. I tell them “because it’s not an allergy, it’s not going to kill me or put me in the hospital, but it’s still likely to make me very sick for several days”. Again, I keep the details light, but if they ask for them, then I’ll tell them more.

But if someone is silly enough to continue insisting that I eat it, I’ll give them more details whether they want them or not. My patience does have limits! Try explaining it like this… “You know when you have a gastro bug and you end up on the toilet for most of the day? Well imagine that for several days, all because you ate this one thing.” Depending on how they’ve been treating you, you might like to give them more or less gory details about your actual symptoms. That normally shuts them up pretty fast.

Here’s how to prepare…

Unless you’ve already trained your family and friends to be respectful of your IBS, or if you’re spending time with new acquaintances, you will run into these scenarios. So if you’re not yet confident dealing with these situations, stand in front of the mirror and practice. It might sound silly, but if you can get some practice saying it before you need it, you’ll be able to say ‘no’ more easily if you’re challenged. It may still be hard the first time you do it, but it gets easier. So does ignoring the people who still refuse to listen.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.