Just Say “No” and Other Ways to Turn Down Amazing Holiday Foods because it Just Wouldn’t End Well


IMG_1731 - Version 2Oh, the sparkly decorations, holiday parties and all that alluring food that gives you the come hither look that no one else can see. During the holidays, it is sometimes difficult to say no to all of the variety available at the table. You’re laughing and talking and maybe drinking a few sips of alcohol throughout the evening. You’re having a great time, the conversations are intriguing, your inhibitions are slowly slipping away.

Even though some of us may know exactly what foods trigger our allergic and inflammatory responses, it’s tempting to overlook the repercussions in the moment, particularly when dining with others. As though it’s not hard enough to fight off the urge to try every little delightful dish on the table, there’s also Good Food That’s Oh, So Bad for Me peer pressure. The act of sharing a meal is a significant custom in many parts of the world. It is a cherished form of communing for many, and some take these rituals very personally.

Every culture has its unspoken guidelines about food. In some cultures for instance, burping is apparently a sign that the food was tasty. It is said to equate to a sign of appreciation. In other cultures, it is a sign of disrespect to refuse food, which might be a more difficult custom to work around when trying diligently to avoid certain foods. Although you don’t want to go around offending people, there are definitely ways to stand your ground without feeling like the pretentious jerk of the party.

The more information people have about the severity of a food allergy (or your reasons for staying away from a particular food), the more buy-in you’ll receive. An explanation of your preferences is often sufficient for people to back off, however, in some families, such as my own, people insist that I MUST try a certain dish. If you start getting the evil eye and you want out, it may be helpful to throw out some solid statistics to solidify your point.

If your loving family finds a cunning reason to induce guilt (sometimes being synonymous with family) by saying something like, “Oh, that’s too bad because your 98-year-old grandma made this just for YOU,” thrown in with a look that could slap, you might have to reach far within the back of the arsenal.  In the past, I’ve taken a piece of food and offered the possibility that I might try a teeny, weeny bite. Maybe. This is usually a huge maybe.

And I get the pressure. This is THE family recipe. Your Mama’s Mama’s Mama made this particular recipe for 70 decades. And it’s not about the Jones family cookies or the Mama Lucy’s peanut bars, it’s about unity, nostalgia and making new memories together. So, as I said, It’s a huge maybe, but I’d rather slide something onto my plate instead of hurting poor Grandma’s feelings.

There is also the option of bringing a dish, which the host will surely appreciate. This way, temptation is down and you have a safe alternative. Bringing a dish is also a visual reminder to others that your food concerns are real. They may even love what you’ve brought.

Have a wonderful, yummy holiday filled with blessings.







Why Does Leaky Gut Have to Be so Cruel?

IMG_1667   Leaky Gut Syndrome. It sounds nasty, not very medical, and not even a little official. It reminds me of a lame insult you’d throw at your Kindergarten nemesis. “Ick, you look like a leaky gut.” So why do researchers, clinicians, doctors, and all those guys continue to use that term? Well, despite its disagreeable name, the description very precisely depicts what’s occurring. Thus, the not so beloved term, leaky gut. So what does that mean? It means the intestinal tract is unfortunately getting beat down by various digested toxins so badly that it’s becoming porous. These areas become permeable, leading to toxins then literally leaking out into the bloodstream and causing all types of terror in the body. For more detailed information on how the gut may become leaky, check out this article by the The Daily Beast.

By the way, I hate my gut.

I’ve had to be very careful what I eat and drink in the past few days because for whatever reason, I seem to be so sensitive to just about everything that I my body reacts disapprovingly. It’s so bad that someone recommended I find a bubble I can crawl inside and live in. Thanks, friend. I’d rather not. Instead, I’ve been on one of my many crazed searches to find out what the heck is going on. Of course I’d see my doctor if I thought I’d find solutions that were more long-term and eventually preventative rather than pharmaceutical bandaids, but it’s usually the latter when I do go, so I knew I wouldn’t find solace there.

The most annoying symptom is that I can’t breathe. My asthma’s triggered by foods that I normally have no problem with.  Not breathing is no fun, but even more so when you have no idea what’s making it more frequent. I thought I was coming to learn many of my asthma triggers – preservatives, gluten, animal hair, pollen, dust, strong scents, smoke and strong spices when cooking (thus thus the bubble suggestion) – all irritants I can identify as harmful. But all of a sudden, I started to feel like I was having spontaneous asthma attacks without a trigger.

I hated not knowing when I would have another attack. It used to be so predictable that I would just do what I needed to do in order to reduce inflammation and go about my day, accepting that one of the usual culprits invaded my body. But this new unknown trigger was like the boogeyman, stopping me in my tracks. Not only was I frustrated that I was experiencing symptoms but I was angry because I’ve been so diligent in avoiding triggers. I mean, I even did the unthinkable recently and significantly reduced my sugar intake. Ugh. Who does that? I hated it at first but that’s another story. Ultimately, it was worth it.

Anyway, I was doing all the normal stuff I usually do in an attempt to flee from triggers, so I wasn’t sure where to go from here. I decided that the only option I had was to become even more obsessively hyper-vigilant about what I ate, and maybe, just maybe,  I’d start to see a pattern. So, I became the even more annoying, abnoxious restaurant goer. “Ma’am, do you know if this has ANY unnatural additives, strange colorings, harsh chemicals or hidden gluten in it?” I usually got the disgusted, but casual “No, it doesn’t” just to get me to shut up. It helped to know that I was being lied to, because at least then I had an answer. Twisted, I know, but still helpful. This seemed to help at times, as I realized that maybe the take-out place that claimed to have “all-natural” ingredients included fake natural ingredients under the guise, “natural flavors” that may come hidden in some of the products they purchase. Even more twisted. I’d like to believe that even most restaurant owners are bamboozled by this stealthily hidden problem rather than assume that they’re cut-throat, greedy bastards, but I guess I’ll never know.

Even at home, though, I was having weird inflammatory responses. My breathing became labored and I turned into a blow fish within a few minutes of eating something. “Hey kids, check this out, I look nine months pregnant.” They threw me glances of pity followed by scrunched up expressions that guaranteed they were thinking, “She’s so weird.”

One evening, I decided to have some coffee. I had a few sips from the same cup much earlier in the day and it was delicious. Being the true coffee drinker that I am, I had no trouble reheating it hours later and enjoying it as much as I had that morning. And if you’re a real coffee junky, you’re not one bit judgy or grossed out by my coffee drinking rituals right now.

For whatever unknown reason, this same, innocuous cup of coffee that tasted oh so right and was well-received just hours prior by my finicky gut decided to reject it in the most violent of ways. Once again, I was turning into a puffer fish, uncontrollably transforming like the Hulk when someone ticks him off. The breathing, then the pregnancy belly, which further exacerbated the breathing, then the trying to take deep breaths, then the sheer hopelessness, and ultimately feeling very stuck and desperate for answers.

Wait a minute, I thought. It made sense. It was related to leaky gut. In my gut, I just knew it, quite literally. My gut, although welcoming the coffee with open arms earlier that day, had somehow changed its mind later in the evening. Just a few hours later, the environment in my gut must’ve changed so much that a substance that was harmless so quickly betrayed me. While waddling around feeling forlorn and simultaneously making pitiful attempts to implement some deep breathing, I realized that I was again being stripped away from yet another one of my loves. I couldn’t drink coffee the way I used to any longer.

It’s nothing short of grief, not only because it’s one of the few vices I have left, but because it speaks to the body’s imperfections, to the various phases of life, to aging, even as I often jokingly share that ,”I used to be able to eat anything.” And this modification I have to make, just another thing to add to the now long list, has attempted to conquer me. And I must surrender, not because I’m weak but because in my acceptance lies my fight.