Why I'm Asking You to Eat in Honor of Gastroparesis Awareness Month

August is Gastroparesis (GP) Awareness month. Unless you or a loved one has gastroparesis, you probably don’t know what it is, so I’ll start with a simple definition: Gastroparesis is a condition that causes delayed gastric emptying. The stomach’s motility (movement) works poorly or not at all for those with GP. This can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, bloating, weight loss or weight gain, malnutrition and dehydration, and more. Essentially, it is like having the flu all the time.

That said, in August you will see lots of posts about our symptoms, how it affects our daily life, alternative nutritional sources like feeding tubes and total parenteral nutrition (TPN), and how thankful we are for our doctors, caretakers and support systems. That’s all great stuff — I’ll be posting it too! However, in this article, I want to focus on all of you “normal people” as I like to put it. (Really though, what is “normal”?)

So, my request: what I want for August is for you to not only eat, but to really enjoy it. Yes, that’s what I, the tube-fed, gastroparesis patient, want for this month of awareness.

girl sitting at campsite getting tube feeding
Rachel having “breakast” via feeding tube with her furry friend at a campground last summer.

Eating for most people is something you do three or four times a day as a routine. You eat when someone puts food in front of you or when your stomach tells you it’s time to have a snack. Sometimes we use it for social events or for comfort, as well, but most often, you all do it because you need it to get through your day.  You may not even think about the food you’re eating or the work your body does to process that food while you’re eating it. Well this month, I don’t want it to be habit. I want you to eat food because you love it, because it’s the food you want to eat. And I want you to take time to be thankful that you can eat.

Eat because you can. Eat foods you crave, and eat them when you crave them. Eat ice cream or pizza for breakfast, waffles for dinner, and PB&J at midnight (feel free to replace those with your favorites — I haven’t had those foods for years, so I could really go for any of it right now).

Don’t look at the calorie count, and it doesn’t matter if you skipped the gym! Your body wants a donut, so eat a donut. Get that second scoop of ice cream in the chocolate waffle cone. Go out for a beer with your friends or sit on the deck with the wine bottle beside you. Do it because those of us with gastroparesis can’t. Do it because some day, you might not be able to either.

I’m not telling you to binge eat or totally gorge yourself all month. That’s not the goal. But make a point to eat some of the foods that you really enjoy and that you don’t get to eat as often. Don’t just do what’s easy or what’s practical. Don’t eat a salad for lunch every day just because it’s healthy. Eat a salad if that’s what tastes good. Eat a sandwich if that is what sounds good. Go out to your favorite restaurant this month. Just take some time to appreciate food and appreciate your functioning body.

You have today to eat all of the foods you love, so do it. I’ve learned a lot from being chronically ill; I’ve learned that life is unpredictable. I’ve learned that life is beautiful, and I’ve learned that you have to appreciate each minute of every day in every way you can because you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. So take a free pass on the diet this month and just enjoy

Follow this journey on Positively Rachel.

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