December 4, 2012

A Cranky Gerd Thanksgiving: 2012 Edition

This year's place-setting, before the food.

Like last year, this year's holiday was spent divided between households.  Who can complain -- two Thanksgiving feasts, diverse dinner conversation, and lots of festivities, including a library book sale and Small Business Saturday shopping in a cute New England town!?

Navigating all this holiday ambience was a challenge for my guts, which have been "cranky" lately, with frequent heartburn, reflux, clenched throat feeling, belching and even chronic intestinal issues:  I've been swinging between diarrhea and constipation for a few weeks now, and am seeing my GI specialist this week because of all of these increased issues.  I've had bad nausea a few times a week, with episodes so profound I thought I would throw up.   And, three times since my road trip, I have thrown up after hours of feeling extremely bloated.

So, for the long Thanksgiving holiday, I was concerned.  How would I deal with not only my vegetarian/vegan diet and my preference for "locally sourced" foods, but also my out of control guts?

My common-sense strategy:  I decided I'd eat only what I was comfortable eating -- gently or, if necessary, slyly, ignoring foods that were problems for me.   Specific strategies:
  • Emergency snacks in my luggage -- raw nuts, a Luna bar, some single-serving nut butter packets, dried fruit.    
  • Leaving the room -- I excused myself a few times during a pre-meal coffee-cake snack "to check on the food" in the kitchen (where I snuck a few tastes of the butternut squash and white bean cassoulet).  
  • Watching my portions -- I took only one serving of everything and ate slowly (if you want to avoid offending your host, take two tiny portions that make up one portion…)


Here is what we had for our meal:
  • White bean cassoulet
  • Sweet potatoes with tamari marinade
  • Mashed butternut squash
  • Roast turkey slices (for the non-vegetarians)
  • Cranberry sauce 
  • Spice cupcakes with chocolate frosting


My second Thanksgiving was spent with my parents, so I could more candidly navigate my gut issues.  (By now, I'm not shy about discussing all sorts of bodily issues with just about anyone, but even I have limits around a holiday table!)

Bloating was a huge deal by the time I left for my next destination.  I was also taking TUMS a few times a day for moderate indigestion.  I was feeling awful when I boarded the train north, and anxious that I had a long day ahead.  I told myself I was not going to "die from constipation," to relax, things would work out one way or another. Self-talk is something I apply a lot when I feel anxious, and it did help calm me down so I could enjoy the day.  (Things did work out later…but it took days for me to get back to normal motility.)

We enjoyed lunch at Whole Foods and a light dinner of lentil soup.   The next morning, we visited a new French bakery in the neighborhood -- and I indulged in a chocolate croissant AND tasted part of an almond croissant.   I was ambivalent -- here I was, going off my "vegan when eating out" and "pastured eggs only" rule, and possibly exacerbating my GERD, but not caring about either concern.  I was excited to just sit and enjoy the well-made pastries.   (My willpower is not the issue - it's my willingness to ignore my rules.  Not the same thing…)  (I'm being candid here!)

French bakery, Cape Cod, MA

Almond croissants, French bakery.

Long walks and a six-mile bike ride through the New England landscape helped de-stress me, and helped my food digest.   Another Thanksgiving meal followed, but it was full of vegetables and foods that were familiar to me, so I felt more at ease gut-wise.   Except for one surprise: a "Tofurkey" vegetarian "turkey."   I was excited to try this strange iconic food of vegetarians!   After a few bites, I decided I had enough -- I could sense it might result in indigestion for me (too processed?  too salty?) so I did not hesitate to just stop eating it.   

Cranberry sauce. 


Tofurkey with Savory Gravy
Breadcrumb stuffing
Nut loaf
Roasted sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and small potatoes
Corn off the cob
Ham (for non-vegetarians)
Cranberry sauce 
Pumpkin pie
Apple crisp

I overate slightly (during "clean up" when I ate extra scraps from the pans) but was pleased that I listened to my body.   Since Thanksgiving, I'm feeling less GERD/gut/motility issues. 

Meditation garden, Providence, RI.

Wildflowers, Cape Cod
Cape Cod, MA.  Martha's Vineyard in the background.

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