When you are on a restrictive medical diet and have gut issues, the holiday season often brings a lot of unsolicited advice and unwanted comments. It doesn’t matter if these comments come from a well-meaning aunty, a concerned parent or an ignorant family member; they can still be frustrating, embarrassing or downright painful. In this article, we’ll take you through some frustrating phrases you might hear this holiday season and give you some strategies to deal with them.
Before we get started, we want you to remember that you have no obligation to discuss your body or dietary needs with anyone else if you don’t want to. You also have the right to eat and enjoy your food, no matter your health issue, dietary restriction or food allergy.
Let’s discuss some frustrating or awkward comments you might hear this holiday season.
Fad Diet Question:
‘FODMAP, isn’t that the latest Fad diet?’
Response: The low FODMAP diet is a medical diet my doctor/gastroenterologist has put me on. Monash University has designed and researched the diet to help people with gut issues identify their trigger foods. This diet is only used for medical purposes and is not for weight loss.
A direct question about your gut issues:
“I hear you’ve been having some gut issues…”
If you are not comfortable talking about the topic, then set a boundary and redirect the question:
Thanks for asking. Honestly, I’d prefer to talk about something else. Is there anything else you’d like to chat about?
That’s a stressful topic for me right now and something I’m working on with my healthcare team – do you have anything coming up that you are looking forward to?
If you are okay talking about the topic but not at that time/place, then use this phrase:
I’m not comfortable talking about this topic in this setting. If you want to know more about [insert topic], I’m happy to talk to you privately at a different time.
Unhelpful/unsolicited advice about how to cure your gut symptoms
“My neighbour cured her gut symptoms with a turmeric supplement. Maybe you should try that…”
When responding to unsolicited advice, you have a couple of options. You can interrupt the topic as the person begins or listen to the person, reassure them you are working with a medical team and redirect the conversation.
Interrupt: I’m just going to stop you there. I know you have good intentions, and it’s good that your [friend, neighbour, family member] found something that worked for them, but right now, I’m working closely with my medical team to create a care plan that’s right for me. So that means I’m not discussing alternative treatment strategies with other people.
Listen, close down the topic and redirect: Thanks for your concern. It’s good to hear that your [friend, family member, random neighbour] has found something that works for them. Right now, I’m working closely with my medical team on a treatment plan and I am following their advice. What are your plans for the rest of the holidays?
Comments about your diet and eating habits
Even though it can be embarrassing talking about your gut symptoms and the impact they have on your life, it can be the best way to deal with inappropriate comments like these:
‘A little bit won’t hurt’
Response: Unfortunately, that statement isn’t true for me and small amounts of foods like [insert trigger foods] can give me severe gut symptoms, this means I won’t be eating that dish.
‘You never used to be so fussy about food’ or ‘You’re such a picky eater’
Response: I’m not choosing to be a picky eater and I would love to eat [insert dish name]. However, I experience debilitating gut symptoms and my doctor has put me on a medical diet to improve my health. This means I can’t eat these dishes at this time.
‘But I hid onion in the dish last time and you didn’t get any symptoms so you can eat it again this time.”
Response: “Last time I ate that dish I actually experienced severe gut symptoms. I didn’t tell you because I was embarrassed and I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. This time I am putting my health first. I wouldn’t ask you to do something that physically hurt you and I respectfully ask you to do the same.”
“I’ve put in so much effort trying to cook for you, and I feel offended that you won’t eat the meal.”
Response: I appreciate the work you’ve put into this meal, however due to my gut issues I can’t eat this meal without becoming very unwell. I’m not trying to offend you – I wouldn’t ask you to eat a meal that makes you sick.
Talk to the host in advance and see if any of the dishes can be made low FODMAP. Also offer to take a filling and tasty low FODMAP dish with you to share. That way you can just eat that if needed.
If you think you are will struggle to find suitable food, then we’d encourage you to prepare a meal, a fun dessert and some tasty snacks to take with you.
Here are some tasty options.
- Low FODMAP Charcuterie plate (cheese, crackers, salami, fruit and vegetables that you tolerate). You can get lots of ideas here.
- Roast vegetable salad with your choice of protein, low FODMAP soup, risotto, an easy salad, leftovers from the night before (whatever food makes you feel good)
- Mini cheesecake, a slice of low FODMAP cake, or chocolate mousse for dessert.
We know navigating conversations around gut issues and dietary restrictions can be tricky and we hope our responses help. Do you have other tips or phrases that you use? We’d love to hear them, so leave us a comment below.