Gastroparesis at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is possibly the most food-focused day of the year. It’s a holiday that revolves almost exclusively around preparing, admiring and eating a huge meal for which we are supposed to be thankful. For someone with gastroparesis, this can be depressing and isolating. But it doesn’t have to be…

Here are some Thanksgiving tips that I’ve learned over the last 6 years:

  • You always have the option to leave the room while everyone else is eating dinner. Mingle, chat, and help prepare the food but once it’s time to sit down to the meal, go do something else. Make sure your family knows of your plans in advance and then just quietly slip away and do something you enjoy. Shop online (there are some good deals today!), read a good book, watch your favorite movie, etc.  You can rejoin the celebration after everyone is done eating.
  • If you choose to sit down for dinner, plan ahead so that you know there will be food you can eat. That might mean bringing a special meal just for you, like soup or a smoothie, or preparing dishes to share with your own needs in mind, such as mashed potatoes without butter or cream — chicken stock works great!
  • Don’t give in…unless it’s because *you* want to. One of the hardest things about holiday gatherings is dealing with the people who don’t understand the disease and insist that you must be able to eat x, y, or z. {“Well you must be able to eat corn…it’s just a vegetable! Here, just try some!” } The only way to handle this is to politely — and repeatedly, if necessary — remind Aunt Sally that you cannot eat certain foods or else you will likely become ill. Don’t let anyone bully you into eating something that you’re not comfortable eating. However, if you really want to try something — be it a slice of pie or a helping of stuffing — and you’re ready and willing to accept the symptoms that may result, go for it!   You may even discover than you can tolerate a small nibble of your favorites from time to time.
  • Find other ways to connect with family and friends aside from the meal. For instance, go for a walk after dinner – this will help everyone, including you, digest their food. Or play a game, recount your favorite family memories, or watch a holiday movie. Anything that isn’t focused on eating and allows you to fully participate and feel like part of the group fits the bill.
  • Rather than focus on the turkey, stuffing, and myriad of pies that you’re not eating today, do your best to focus on the things for which you truly are grateful. That’s not nearly as easy as it sounds, and I’m not going to pretend that it is, but give it a try. Just jot down a few things that you’re thankful for and make a point to think of them throughout the day.

Here’s my own list…

  • My wonderful husband and my amazing family. They have been exceptionally patient and kind as I’ve learned to live with gastroparesis, as well as 100% supportive of my constant search for better doctors, treatment options, etc.
  • The gastric pacemaker surgery. My gastric pacemaker, which I affectionately call Chuck, has been with me for about 10 weeks now and the improvement between now and then is significant. I’m incredibly grateful for the results I’ve seen so far, like not waking up nauseous everyday, sleeping through the night, and being able to eat peanut butter on my toast.
  • The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. In October, I began a program at IIN to become a Certified Health Counselor. When I graduate next fall, a large part of my practice will be devoted to working with patients with gastroparesis, helping them figure out the ins-and-outs of their version of the disease and how to live *well* despite the limitations. More on this in a later post!
  • All of the people who read this blog. It has given me so much joy to know that I’m able to share the things that I’ve learned and offer support to others dealing with gastroparesis — even if it’s just to remind someone that they’re not alone. Thank you for visiting and sharing your experiences and insight with me!

What’s on your list?  Feel free to share.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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  1. 1

    Chelsey says

    I can relate completely! Someone is always trying to shove food down me followed by an insistent, “But there’s no way you can’t eat____!” Usually I keep myself busy – fixing the next dishes while everyone else eats, getting drink refills, etc. It keeps me moving so that if I did eat anything, it goes down better. I usually find that it’s easy to become sluggish with gastroparesis, since you always feel so full!

    I’d have to agree completely with being grateful for my stimulator! And I’m grateful that I found this blog. GP can be really isolating, and this reminds me that there are other people out there that understand.

  2. 2


    I didn’t have to deal with GP over a Thanksgiving, but I did have to deal with people trying to get me to eat stuff. My brother was consistently convinced that all I needed to do was “eat a giant burrito”, I think this was half joking / half serious. Maybe if I fluff up the memories a bit it might have been a defense mechanism to avoid admitting that I was seriously ill, perhaps.

    I admire you guys for being able to get into the kitchen and still do stuff around food. I really liked cooking before I got hit with GP & when dealing with it, I was usually on the verge of crying from frustration when being in the kitchen.

    I am thankful that I recovered(for the most part) from GP. I am also thankful there are people out there investing time, money & research into things like gastric pacemakers. Digestive health seems to not get as much “love” as some of the other diseases out there.

  3. 3


    Hi, Gabriel —

    Thanks for the reply. Oddly, I still love cooking, baking, and feeding others despite the gastroparesis. I even watch lots of shows on Food Network. It’s like I get my “food” fix that way. The key for me is making things that I know I cannot eat…that way I’m not tempted to try “just one bite” and wind up in trouble.

    Anyway, I’m sorry that you had to deal with bullying from your family members while you were dealing with GP. I will never understand why others act that way — I think most of the time they are actually trying help, but it’s almost always embarrassing or aggravating and never all that helpful.

    I’m also really glad that research into and the availability of the gastric pacemaker is increasing. I totally agree that digestive diseases like gastroparesis — which don’t offer much profit-potential for Big Pharma — get the short end of the stick. It’s maddening.

    Take care and please continue to keep in touch and share you experiences!


  4. 4



    I am 16 and I have gastroparesis. I can totally relate to Crystal’s food network thing. I love the food network! I also love to cook. Before I was diagnosed with gastroparesis I aspired to go to culinary school and become a chef.

    As mentioned on this blog I too leave the room when others are partaking in a meal. It is just easier. I feel as if I am being judged when I am sitting in the school cafeteria and all I can “eat” is an Enlive. Some days I even go as far as to actually skip lunch all together. I am a percussinist so I will go into the band room and play piano or a mallet instrument (these are my outlets).

    When with a group of people who do not know or understand this illness I feel as if I am being judged. Being a teenage girl there is always the speculations of eating disorders. I have friends who try their best to understand, and for the most part they do not judge. But on the other end I have a “friend” who just says I am a picky eater.

    Gastroparesis is a struggle. In this food-based society food is not just a mere means of survival; it is social and a way to interact with the people around you.