A candlelit table is set for Thanksgiving, while a large cooler is plopped down in the center.

An Eczema Warrior's Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Oh wait - come again? Oh, so you’re not rolling out the red carpet at your place with a huge Thanksgiving dinner for 20 guests with all the trimmings? Addressing each and every one of your food sensitivities? With a dessert spread consisting of pies, cookies, cakes, and chocolates sans gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and nuts? No? Just me? HA. YEAH, RIGHT. Welcome to my dream world. Since THAT scenario will never happen, here’s my sound advice for you this Thanksgiving season!

Do your research

THINK ABOUT IT. Just prepare yourself before walking in. Do some research before you drive over

  • Who is coming?
  • Are they arriving with their signature dish that they’ve so kindly tinkered with to avoid all your food sensitivities?
  • Is your aunt who cuddles with her dogs here? Maybe come up with a lame excuse to not give her a full-body hug.
  • What is your flare game plan this year?
  • Is grandma coming with her chocolate mousse pie that you’ve loved since you were a kid and a bite would send you to heaven way before grandma even thinks of taking up residence there? Is that bite of gluten, egg, and dairy worth it? Thank God Veganism continues to grow in popularity. It avoids all your major triggers!
  • Will a probiotic and Lactaid pill come to the rescue? Or is all that physical discomfort and then residual damage not worth it?

Then it seems like you already have been down this path several times and are at your A-game when it comes to addressing your food allergies in front of the people you love and feel pressured by the most - your family and close friends. Lots of choices to make tonight, but remember that at the end of the day, all the stares, questions, and concerns pointed in your direction are all out of love and concern for your well-being.

Come prepared

SCOPE OUT YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND SUPPLIES. I feel like we naturally do this already without even realizing it since our bodies are just so sensitive too pretty much everything.

  • Is there an AC or heating unit?
  • Is there a quiet bathroom or room with a lock where you can have an itch attack?
  • Are there pets?
  • Is there a HEPA Filter? Freezer? Ice/Icepack/Pack of frozen veggies?
  • Did you bring your hand santizer, baby wipes, anti-itch lotion, regular lotion, cocoa butter, medicated powder, painkillers, and Benadryl?

Have conversation topics planned

CHANGE THAT SUBJECT. I know that this holiday especially centers around food, so naturally, the conversation will drift towards the topic of food! In particular, the food prepared before you. If you are allergic to most of these dishes, it can be a little depressing. So?

Distract yourself with some good-old conversation. Oh wow. Your cousin is already on boyfriend #3? Aww but that first one...or was it second...was just so sweet. He was always so respectful towards his elders and laughed really hard at your jokes. This one seems nice enough...just not as sweet and delicious as that chocolate ganache drizzle on that three-tier cake! Focus. Oh and he loves dessert too? Hey, I tried.

It's all about willpower from here on out. Ate a huge slice of gluten-free pecan pie and had an itch attack later because of the sugar? Oh well, you knew the consequences but sometimes you just have to live life!

Pack a few trigger-free foods

SNACK TIME. Yeah I know it’s Thanksgiving and of course, freshly prepared foods trump packaged foods, but you know what? We don’t know how many of those dishes contain your triggers, so just to be safe, pack a few of your go-to’s and a few treats just in case you find your tummy rumblin’. I would recommend that you even prepare yourself a small meal in a little to-go container, but who knows where that container will end up at the end of a long day with so many hands in and out of the same fridge? Better to play it safe and just have your non-perishable stash handy. Or maybe do both. It’s your call!

To eat or not to eat?

THE REALITY. Because you’re an adult now, you truly do decide what goes into your body. So other than those accidental times you’ve been served gluten at restaurants (although reassured by your server and chef many times over that your dish contains no gluten), you are truly in control of what you put into your body. Remember that the whole point of you avoiding these foods in the first place is so that one day, you might be able to re-introduce them into your diet! So make the right food decisions for YOU.

  • Want to treat yourself to a huge slice of that homemade gluten-free black forest cake because it’s been a rough month? GO FOR IT.
  • Want to stay clean and eat as simply as you can and just have some fruit for dessert with maybe a dollop of whipped cream? GO FOR IT.

Whichever path you choose, just be honest with yourself and own up to your actions. Just remember that at the end of the day, Thanksgiving is about friends and family, and the fact that you were even able to make it to this gathering despite your condition is a miracle and a blessing in itself. Happy eating!

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