The Holidays and Chronic Illness


One of the hardest things I think for someone who is chronically ill and who has a special diet because of that illness is for them to get through the holidays healthy and well. There are so many reasons for the holidays being hard on those with chronic health issues, from the added stress of visitors, extra shopping, less sleep… and of course, all the food.

People tend to do really well on diets when they can set themselves up at home with a system and not sway from that system. Sometimes, they can do really well when they go out in public, with a game plan and knowing where and what they can eat at different restaurants. But when the holidays come, well-meaning relatives and friends will tell you, “Oh, just one bite. It won’t kill you! Everything in moderation!”

For me, the hard part of the holidays is salt. Sodium restriction and fluid restriction are the two things that help me feel the best. But when someone else cooks, I can’t control how much or the type of salt they put in the food other people cook. Also, for those trying to control sugar, the holidays is rife with candy and cakes and cookies and egg nogs and all sorts of desserts.

I ended up falling for the holiday trap this year. My feet and legs swelled up, then my hands and face. My neck gets so swollen sometimes I can’t breathe without wheezing. It’s uncomfortable. It was totally my fault too. I ate the wrong foods, the types of foods, at way too much. I also didn’t take all of my diuretics, because I don’t like having to run to the bathroom every five minutes when company is around or when I’m cooking. Then I didn’t sleep as well as I should have, stayed up late, was up and much more active than usual, and so much more.

Took me a week to recover really.

All my fault.

But for others, it’s not always their fault, entirely. Family, well-meaning as they can be, often doesn’t always understand a special diet. People think the word ‘diet’ these days means trying to maintain or lose weight. But for some people, their diet can literally mean life or death. It’s not always as simple as a choice, and you can’t be offended when someone tells you something is not on their diet. Maybe they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Maybe they don’t want to upset you. Maybe they don’t want to get into all the health reasons why they are doing what they are doing, but you simply have to respect a person’s choice. When someone says no to something you’ve offered, respect the choice and don’t put them on the spot. They might have a real , legitimate health reason why they can’t have what you’re offering.

Try to help your friends and loved ones when they are trying to stay strong with their health and their diet over the holidays. Your support can make the difference between a week in bed miserable or perhaps a hospital stay versus enjoying the holidays in good health.


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