Attitude is everything, so you might as well have a Good One, is my motto. I am unable to eat or drink regular food without becoming ill, so social situations such as parties, weddings, picnics, or just about any place that food is served always presents a challenge for me. I thought I would share some things that have worked for me.
- I usually check with the hostess before the occasion to find out what is being served and see if there is anything I can eat or if there is an easy way to modify the menu to my needs. This of course is done as early as possible, without making extra work for the hostess.
- I usually bring along my enteral feeds with me, so that I don’t feel quite so hungry during the occasion. An alternative is to eat something you are able to tolerate before the event.
- This is probably the most important thing to remember. It is a social event with food. Food is just one aspect of the event. Enjoy the conversations with other guests, or if the event is a football game for example, enjoy the game, and your surroundings. You must make up your mind beforehand that food is not everything, and don’t dwell on the reason why you can’t eat during the occasion. If this is impossible, skip this one event until you are ready to take on this challenge.
- Remember that there are other aspects to eating food other than swallowing it. Allow yourself to enjoy the aromas, the colors and the textures of the food. Mingle in the buffet line and comment on how good the food looks to you. Don’t be shy during eating time but explain matter of factly why you can’t eat, and then let it go.
- If you decide to eat something, remember there isn’t any "food police” around to haunt you. Decide what you can reasonably tolerate and then just do it. Remember what consequences you’ll have to pay, such as being detained in the restroom the entire time, then make your decision for yourself and stick to it.
- Bring something along that you can tolerate, such as bottled water, Jell-O or hard candy, and enjoy it while the others are eating the planned menu. Remember how well you are going to feel that night or the next day, if you need any reinforcement to stick to your plan.
Kathleen was on J-tube feedings for almost two decades. She had gastroparesis, pseudo-obstruction and multiple sclerosis, but she did not let her illnesses, limited mobility, or vision prevent her from being active in Oley. She was a Regional Coordinator (part of the official Oley volunteer group, now called Ambassadors) and co-led the Chicago Pumpers support group. She helped plan the 2001 Oley Conference in Milwaukee, and attended several others. In addition, she and her husband Larry staffed the Oley booth at clinician meetings, and she and a fellow support group member spoke on tube feeding issues with students at a Chicago nursing school. For her courage and outstanding volunteer efforts, Kathleen won Oley’s Mead Johnson Enteral Award in 2001. She passed away in March of 2012 at the age of 67.