7 Tips For Holiday Eating During Colorectal Cancer Treatment


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Food can be a tricky subject under the best circumstances. Add in the complications of cancer, the holidays, and family – now that’s a minefield that would make anyone want to crawl under the table and hide.

Holidays often come with stress and expectations. Many celebrations revolve around food.

Colorectal cancer and treatments can make enjoying holiday dinners a challenge. 

Food is much more than simply fuel for our physical bodies. Food is emotional. It’s social. It can have deep roots in family and cultural traditions. Humans have always gathered to share and build social bonds through eating. So, when something like colorectal cancer steps in and fundamentally changes our relationship with food, something that was once positive can become a real problem.

The holidays can put this issue front and center. Not only do we navigate what our individual systems can handle, but we have to deal with the awkwardness and problems that our new food restrictions can cause with family and friends. Being the one who can’t join in, or the person asking for specific accommodations, is really difficult. The last thing we want to be is the one ruining everyone else’s fun.

So, what to do? Here are 10 steps to help make holiday eating and celebrating less stressful during cancer treatment.

1. Bring What You Can Eat

If you are asked to bring a dish or a snack, bring a dish that fits your meal plan. Set yourself up for success. Look for recipes that include healthy choices for you ahead of time.

2. Hydrate Well

Some health issues like constipation, weight gain, and fatigue can be lessened by drinking fluids throughout the day. Plan to have 8-12 ounces of fluids every three to four hours. Water, juices, decaffeinated tea, coffee, broths, soups, ices, popsicles, gelatins, and low-calorie beverages can help you feel more like yourself. Liquids assist in moving food through the digestive track and curb cravings for high calorie snacks. If lactose sensitive, choose lactose-free options.

3. Tell People How You Feel 

Let them know in advance if you don’t feel up to hosting your usual holiday party. If unable to contribute your signature holiday dish for dinner, offer to bring condiments, plates, paperware, or cups. These items are essential to a great party.

4. Let Others Help

Family and friends want to help. Cancer is also really difficult for caregivers because so frequently there isn’t anything they can do. So, they’re happy to know that making some accommodations can help you. Communicating your needs won’t only help you, but it allows those around you to know what you need. Otherwise, they will be guessing, and that’s a recipe for problems.

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5. Look Within Yourself

Look within yourself. You are responsible for one person: yourself. Let go of worrying about how other people might think or feel: That’s not your job. Taking care of  your needs means  you need to tell others what those needs are. Remember the part in the safety speech on the airplane that says, “If the oxygen mask drops down, put on your own mask before assisting others.” The same thing applies here; your responsibility is first to yourself.

6. Connect

Clearly communicating your needs allows you to connect. Cancer can be so isolating. You’re trapped in your own terrible experience while those around you go on with normal life. How to bridge the gap and reconnect? Communication. By honestly sharing, you will let others in and allow them to help. Don’t be afraid to say “No.” Imagine a friend of yours is struggling, but you don’t really know why or how to help. What if they honestly shared how they’re feeling and specifically what you could do to help? What a relief! Communication opens up connections.

7. Embrace the Season

The real reason for the season is not food and drink but more about family, friends, and celebrating another year. Give thanks for those around you. Taste some holiday foods that you haven’t had the energy to make lately, and embrace the season.

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3 thoughts on “7 Tips For Holiday Eating During Colorectal Cancer Treatment

  1. Great advice for eating during the holidays. You shouldn’t feel forced to eat anything you aren’t comfortable with. Your health is more important so it’s good to stick to your guns. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing these great holiday nutrition ideas. Christmas time is always challenging but these strategies will make this year better.

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