In this week’s episode of The Endo Belly Girl Podcast, I share my thoughts and strategies for navigating endometriosis and the holidays during this upcoming season.
I discuss the challenges and stresses associated with holiday gatherings, particularly in relation to food, family dynamics, and managing energy levels.
You will hear practical tips for maintaining a healthy balance during festivities, including suggestions for managing dietary restrictions, setting boundaries, and conserving energy.
You will be encouraged to embrace imperfection, advocate for your needs, and seek support when struggling.
Join us for valuable insights and guidance to help make the holiday season enjoyable and manageable for those living with endometriosis.
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Disclaimer: This podcast is for educational purposes only. This may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.
Full episode transcription:
Introduction to Endometriosis and the Holidays:
Endometriosis and the Holidays: Finding Joy Without Sacrificing Health
You. Hello my friend, and welcome back to the Endo Belly Girl podcast. I cannot believe that we are already wrapping up 2023. That blows my mind. We are already heading into the holiday season. I feel like this year has just flown by in a whirlwind. I feel so unprepared for the upcoming holidays. But they are coming at us anyway, like it or not.
I’m sure I’m not alone in that now. I do love the holidays. Just to be clear, I really love gathering with family and just all of the feels that come along with the holidays. So I really am excited about it. But also, it just is coming up very fast now because the holidays are coming up. At the time that I’m recording this, it is actually just after Halloween. But by the time this episode is being released, it will be just about Thanksgiving. And then right behind that, we’ll be heading into Christmas and all of the other holidays that come around that time of year.
Endometriosis and the holidays: a time of joy or of stress?
Depending on what you celebrate now, the holidays can be a wonderful, beautiful time. But of course, they can also come with a lot of stress in many different ways. And I think in particular, when you struggle with a chronic illness like endometriosis, the holidays can add an extra layer of stress. And that’s really what I want to talk about today is how to navigate the holidays and balance out having a good time and having fun and being able to gather with your family and your friends. But also coming out of the holiday season not feeling worse than ever before, coming out of the holiday season still feeling good in your body and ready to take on the new Year and not feeling worn out and exhausted and having digestive issues and pain and fatigue and all the things. So of course, everybody’s situation is going to be unique. We all have unique bodies and we have unique families and we have unique life situations that are happening. But I’m going to give you a little bit of insight of what has worked for me over the years, how I have worked on navigating things, how I’ve helped my clients and other people that I have conversations with about navigating stuff like this.
And I hope that this can help you in creating your own journey that works for you. So we’re going to dig into all things food, navigating family dynamics, balancing out your energy, all of that today. So let’s dive in. First thing we’re going to dig into today is food. Because a. I love talking about food. It’s my favorite. I’m a big old nutrition nerd over here, and so I think that that is a wonderful.
Endometriosis and the holidays: food first
And plus, the holidays are just full of food. Let’s be real. That’s kind of one of the main things that we do is gather together for meals. Now, the challenge with that, of course, is that gathering together for meals with other people can bring an extra layer of stress in several different ways, in part because you may not know what’s in all of the food that you’re eating, and that can cause some anxiety and some stress. There’s also a layer for many people of food fear and food perfectionism. That can definitely be an issue. I had actually sent an email out to my email list recently, all about food perfectionism and trying to just eat perfectly and all of the things. And I got so many responses back from that of people saying, oh, my gosh, I feel so seen and so heard.
So it’s definitely something that I want to address today because I think that’s important as we head into the holidays. So I have found for myself, and I know this hopefully is helpful to other people as well, is especially going into the holidays and when you’re trying to just enjoy events with family and friends, give yourself permission to not be perfect, because I think just the goal of I have to eat so perfectly and can’t eat anything, quote unquote wrong, or else I’m going to feel terrible. And I think that letting go of the reins of that a little bit can actually be really healthy. Now, there are some caveats with that, of course, because if you know that you have certain food sensitivities, like, for example, I know that I have a very strong gluten intolerance. I also have a dairy intolerance. And I have found for myself when it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas foods and things like that in particular, that are just full of all of that. Eating gluten doesn’t work for me, period. No, I cannot have that slice of pumpkin pie.
Finding the right balance of having fun and staying healthy
It’s not going to make me feel good. I’m going to feel in pain and sick to my stomach if I eat that. I can, however, have a little bit of butter. That seems to be okay for me as long as I don’t go too overboard. So I found certain things that are really important, like I cannot eat that food or it’s okay to have a little bit of that. And I found that that works well for me. So another perfect example for me is sugar. On a day to day basis, I eat very little sugar.
I would like to say zero sugar, but that’s not really true or accurate because it certainly sneaks in sometimes. I try to stick with alternative sweeteners in general that have a much lower glycemic index and have a much lower impact on blood sugar and things like that because I found that to be really beneficial for my health. So I like to use things like coconut sugar, sometimes maple syrup. That’s kind of the stuff that I stick to more. And I try to avoid the refined sugars. Sometimes that’s really hard to do, especially when you’re heading into holidays where there’s just sugar everywhere. So I find that it’s okay for myself to let go a little bit. I don’t go crazy.
I’m not going to sit there and just eat a big old bowl full of sugar, but I’m going to let myself have a little bit here and there and know that it’s going to be okay. And I’m not going to do this every day of my life. So it’s letting go of that perfectionism and just knowing that it’s okay to not be perfect. And same thing with the food fear. There’s different ways to navigate that. I mean, just letting go of that can be really hard, but trying to find ways to have a little more control over the food that you’re eating may be helpful, too. So, for example, there’s different ways to navigate this depending on your unique situation that you find yourself in. Can you host the event? Is it possible for you to host? Because if you’re hosting, you’re probably making at least a good portion of the food, and you can have more control over the ingredients that go into it and know exactly what you’re eating.
Endometriosis and the holidays: hosting and other helpful strategies
If you’re not hosting either, maybe you don’t have enough energy or space to host the people that you need to host, or somebody else just really loves to do it. See if you can maybe prepare a few dishes that you know are going to be safe foods that you can eat, and you’re going to feel okay eating them, and that’s okay, too. My other recommendation is just to have an open and honest conversation with the host. I know that this part can be challenging because we all have different dynamics with the people that we are gathering with. I know I’ve experienced a lot of just misunderstanding and confusion about what in the world that I’m doing. Most of the people around me eat more of a standard American diet, which is completely fine if that works well for them and their life, God bless them. No judgment. But sometimes it’s hard for people to really understand why I eat the way that I eat, why I won’t eat certain foods or why I do eat certain foods.
And sometimes just sitting down and explaining to somebody why and how certain foods can impact your health. Like, if I really talk to somebody, like, yeah, when I consume gluten, or the last time that I consumed gluten by accident, I ended up with really severe stomach pain. It actually hurt to even breathe because I had such intense pain happening in my abdomen. And so that was kind of my last, whoa, I need to not have this in my diet moment. And most people are pretty understanding when they really understand what’s going on and that you’re not just rejecting the food. Having that conversation in advance can be helpful, too. So that way, not that you need to ask the host to completely bend over backwards and prepare foods that you can eat, I certainly don’t ask that of family. Everybody’s welcome to prepare and eat whatever in the world that they want to eat.
But if they have a knowledge of that, some people do have more of an understanding of dietary restrictions and might be able to help. Awesome. But at least they have an awareness. So if they see you avoiding certain foods, they’re not thinking, just, oh, my gosh, they don’t like the food that I’m making and feel offended. But anyway, I find the most helpful thing for me is just to bring some stuff that I know that I can eat. So if there’s certain dishes that I really like, like, I really love stuffing, for example. It’s been a Thanksgiving tradition in my family for years. We have an old recipe from my grandmother, maybe even my great grandmother, that we’ve been making for years and years and years.
My mom is also gluten free, so she’s on this same boat with me. And we have just figured out a way to modify that recipe and make a gluten free version if everybody else wants to eat the regular version, great. Awesome. We just make a little plate for ourselves, and that way we have that part of the meal and we can feel good about that. Other things that you may need to really think about going into your holiday meals, just thinking about the traditional American holiday meals, it may be a little bit different if you’re in other parts of the world or just different cultural things. But just speaking from my own experience, things like desserts, for example. Most desserts are very gluten and or dairy heavy. That’s just the reality.
We all know what it’s like when you go out, even to a restaurant and try to order a dessert. Good luck trying to find something on the menu that doesn’t have gluten or dairy in it. And if they do, usually the only option is something like sorbet, which just isn’t very exciting. But anyway, that’s a different story. So I like to personally just make my own desserts. I’ll make a little pie ahead of time with a gluten free crust. If I make, for example, a pumpkin pie, I’ll use a coconut milk instead of regular dairy. And I just know that way I can eat that and feel safe and comfortable.
Endometriosis and the holidays: navigating food fear
So it kind of helps to eliminate that food fear. Same thing with things like gravy, for example, is usually made with flour. There are ways to make it gluten free. If you just Google recipes, you can certainly find those mashed potatoes I like to make with ghee and with cashew milk because it makes me feel better than making it with cream and butter and then the stuffing. I mentioned just swapping out gluten free bread. So there are ways that you can make alternative versions of those recipes. If that feels better for your body or if you know your unique needs. Are there ways that you can adjust certain recipes? The cool thing out is with Google these days, it’s so easy to find Thanksgiving recipes.
In fact, if you need help finding this stuff, honestly, I have such a arsenal of recipes that I go to for things like this. Just send me a DM @endobellygirl and just say, hey, I need help finding a recipe for such and such that I can eat. Do you have anything? And I would be more than happy to send you all recipe ideas. I’m not really a recipe creator myself because when I do make up recipes, I don’t write it down. Maybe I could and should someday. But I do have an arsenal of recipes that I have shared from the wonderful recipe creators of the world. Many of them are actually nutrition professionals like myself, or just really into health and nutrition. There’s a lot of good stuff out there.
So DM me if you need help finding anything. All right, so that’s kind of how I like to navigate food. The other thing that I want to touch base on is figuring out the whole family dynamics thing or friends. Insert whoever you work with or share your meals with. But do you have family or friends who maybe don’t understand what’s going on or judge you for your choices? And how in the world do you navigate that? Of course, again, there’s different ways to do it. There’s different ways to navigate that. But what I have found is that helping other people to understand why I eat. The way that I eat is really helpful.
Endometriosis and the holidays: navigating family dynamics
You can encourage other people to try your healthier option. Honestly, I have found it much easier in many ways just to kind of do my thing, let everybody else do their thing. Even as a nutritionist, I feel like a lot of people think I’m going to sit there and judge you about what you’re eating. If it’s not as healthy as what I’m eating, I don’t. I want to do what’s best for my body. If you come to me and you ask me for help or advice, absolutely, I will give it to you. Obviously, I work with clients and I love to do that, but I’m not going to sit there at a family gathering and judge you for what you’re eating because I wouldn’t want that for myself either. I don’t want someone sitting there and judging me for what’s on my plate.
So I do what I want to do. I let others around me do what they want to do. And we just love each other. Right? Just spend your time focusing on what’s going on in your life. How are you feeling? What have you been up to? What’s new in your life? What good things have been going on since we last talked? And I try to make that the focus of the holiday meal rather than picking at what’s on everybody’s plate. If you have anybody that is really pushing you on that conversation, just judging you and making comments and things like that, you absolutely have every right to create boundaries for yourself. Maybe you decide to sit on the other side of the table from that person or change the subject as artfully as you can, but your mental health matters as well. And I think setting those boundaries can help for the long term so that you can enjoy future holiday events and other things with those family and friends that you may be celebrating with.
So, I don’t know. Talking about the family dynamic thing is a little challenging because I think everyone has a very unique situation. I’m pretty fortunate that my family is pretty understanding. Like I said, a lot of my family just doesn’t really eat the way I eat, and that’s okay. My mom and I have pretty similar dietary restrictions, so her and I can kind of coordinate on that and support each other in bringing different dishes that we know that we both can eat. So that part is helpful. If you have another family member who know has dietary restrictions, maybe you can communicate with them and team up on who’s bringing what. That can be great, but just do your best that’s all we can really do at the end of the day anyway.
Endometriosis and the holidays: navigating energy levels
Do your best. Be kind as much as possible. Hopefully others around you will be kind and understanding for your situation. And if not, then you just take it one little step at a time. And then the other part that I really wanted to touch base on today is energy. You all might have heard about the spoon theory or the spoony theory, which is basically when you have a chronic condition like endometriosis or other chronic illnesses, many people only have so many spoonfuls of energy to give in one day, right? So let’s say you’re kind of using the analogy. You’re eating, say, a cup of yogurt, maybe dairy free yogurt. If you’re like me, there are, say, 20 spoonfuls in that cup.
You can only eat those 20 spoonfuls. You can’t eat more because they’re gone. And it’s kind of the similar idea with our energy. You only have so much to give in one day and at one time, and you can’t give more than you have. So that can be a little bit challenging to navigate around the holidays because maybe there’s just a lot going on if you are hosting, which can be beneficial from the food perspective, but can be more difficult from the energy perspective. So that’s where we have to find that balance. It can be a little bit of a challenge to figure all that out, to navigate all of that. So I have a few pieces of advice, or rather just things that have worked for me in the past and I’ve seen work for my clients and other people around me.
One of those is just to set. Like, if you’re going to somebody’s house or whatever for a holiday, set arrival and departure times ahead of time. So that way you can plan in your mind for, okay, how many hours I’m going to be there, give or take. Maybe it doesn’t have to be exact, but around this time and so that you can plan, okay, I’m going to have to rest earlier in the day so that I’m prepared for that. And also so that you can mentally know, okay, I’m going to be here for, say, two more hours, and then I get to go home and I get to rest. If that’s not a possibility, or you don’t have a lot of control over that in your particular situation, maybe there’s even a place that you can rest during the event. If it’s a close family member or friend, maybe they have a spare bedroom where you can go and just take a nap in the middle of the event? Why not? No. There’s no shame in that if that’s what you need to do.
I think everybody understands that during the holidays anyway, we’re all kind of in a food coma, so it’s not that weird, really. And then just can you take time to rest before and or after the holiday event? So let’s say you have a certain day where you know you’re going to have this big family event. It’s going to take a lot of energy. Can you take a little time to rest beforehand, maybe the day or two leading up to that? And can you take a little time off the day or two after that to allow your body to rest and to rejuvenate and to kind of rebalance things and be able to get your energy back? You don’t have to be a superwoman or super person or whoever you are. You don’t have to do it. All right. I think that’s the big thing with managing our energy. I know this is something that’s come up for me a lot in my life.
Navigating endometriosis and the holidays: you don’t have to do it all
I want to do it all. I want to be all the things, I want to do all the things, I want to wear all the hats. I like to be that superwoman. And it’s been such a huge learning curve for me over the years to allow myself to accept help and to stop biting off more than I can chew and to say no to certain opportunities. Sometimes we just have to say no, and that’s okay. We can only do so much. Maybe you’re only going to make one dessert instead of two. Maybe you’re just not ready to host at all this year and you want to just go to somebody else’s house.
Or maybe you want to just have a quiet holiday at home with just your spouse or your closest loved ones, and that’s okay, too. I’ve had Thanksgivings and Christmases where it’s been just my husband and my parents. And those have been some of the best holidays in many ways, because it’s such a calm, easy, quiet holiday. And I’ve had other big, crazy holidays where I’ve celebrated with 30 plus people. And that’s been a lot of fun, too. And just the noise and the energy, and it’s a lot of fun, but it does take a lot of energy, too. And so I find that when I’m having these larger holiday gatherings, I find it important for myself to make sure that I rest. So again, figure out what works best for you.
My conclusions: Just do your best
But that’s been kind of my experience is just figuring out how to balance all of that out and kind of planning ahead for that ahead of time. All right, my friend. Well, I am wishing you the very best holiday season. Whatever you do to celebrate, whatever holidays you celebrate, whoever you celebrate with or choose not to celebrate with, just do your best through the way. Just do your best. That’s all we can really do. It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to give yourself permission to not be perfect.
Whether it comes with your food, with how many events that you’re going to, how much you dedicate to doing for the holiday seasons. It’s okay not to do it all and not to be perfect. And also just remember to listen to your own intuition and find your voice. You’re your own best advocate. We were talking about this recently in the sense of advocating for your health when you’re working with practitioners. But I think it’s the same when you’re working with your close family and friends, of speaking up for yourself and advocating for yourself of what you actually need, what’s going to make you feel good instead of just forcing your way and fighting your way through these holidays when you just aren’t really feeling it. And then surround yourself with the people who really care and really understand, even if they give you a hard time, right? Even if they kind of maybe poke fun at the food that you eat sometimes or don’t really fully understand, that’s okay. But surround yourself with those people who really, truly care and you know how much they love you and you know how much you love them.
And if you need support of any kind, it can be helpful, of course, sometimes just to talk to somebody who really gets it, who’s been there, who’s done that, who really understands. And so if you find yourself struggling through the holiday season or really just any point in time and you need somebody just to be a listening ear or maybe give a little piece of advice on how to navigate this or that, I would love for you to reach out to me anytime you can. Find me on Instagram at Endobelly Girl, send me a DM. Let me know how I can support you. Let me know how your holiday season is going. Or even if you have a wonderful, full piece of advice, maybe you found something that works really well for you that you could share with other people, and I’d be happy to hear that as well and share that information. So what? Whatever lies ahead of you in these coming weeks, I wish you all the best. I send you so much love, wishing you a happy whatever it is that you celebrate.
And I can’t wait to talk to you all again soon. Have a great one.