blurry photo of an outdoor festival

As someone who has gastroparesis, a stomach disorder that slows digestion, I have had many unpleasant experiences at food-centric events. Due to my restricted diet, I am often unable to eat the food served. Sometimes this is a minor inconvenience, such as at short events where I know I can eat afterward. Not being able to eat at an event can be troublesome, however, when the event is long (such as at a conference), when the event is your only source of food (such as at retreats) and when outside food is not allowed into the venue. If you are planning an event, you can make your event more friendly to people with dietary restrictions in the following five simple ways:

1. If possible, tell your guests about the menu ahead of time.

If the event you are planning is invite-only, or if it is publicized, tell guests about the menu ahead of time. Doing so will allow your guests to know if they need to eat before the event or bring their own food. Even if the menu items cannot be altered, allowing your guests to know in advance about what will be served will allow them to plan ahead properly.


2. At buffet-style events, label dishes and provide their allergen information.

Buffet-style events can be especially difficult to attend for people with dietary restrictions because of the uncertainty about how the food is prepared and about the ingredients used. Labeling the food, including the ingredients list, and providing the allergen information can help greatly in making your event accessible for people with dietary restrictions. Labeling the dishes ahead of time also helps the event run smoothly by allowing guests to determine for themselves if they can eat a dish, as opposed to the guest needing to ask the host about ingredients.

3. If the event requires an RSVP, include a space where guests can specify their dietary restrictions.

If your event has a guest list and requires an RSVP, you can make your event more accessible for people with dietary restrictions by allowing people to list their restrictions on the RSVP form. Many catered events with multiple entree options already include a space for guests to specify which entree they would like. Including space for guests to list their restrictions gives them an unobtrusive way to make their needs known. In some cases, dietary restrictions can be accommodated easily by preparing a guest’s meal without certain components, such as by leaving a cream-based sauce off of the plate of someone with a milk allergy or intolerance. Allowing people to list their restrictions in advance also allows the event planner to accommodate the specific diets of their guests, rather than having to guess which diets to accommodate. This can allow the event planner to avoid accommodating diets that their guests do not have, such as by going out of their way to provide a gluten-free option when none of the guests follow gluten-free diets.

4. If not all diets can be accommodated, allow people to decline the food ahead of time.

There are many medical conditions that cause people to have to follow special diets, from common conditions like irritable bowel syndrome to lesser-known ones like eosinophilic esophagitis. It may not be feasible for all diets to be accommodated. While it can feel isolating to be the only person not served food at an event, it feels even worse to have to leave the food you were served untouched and wasted. Allowing people who cannot eat the provided food to decline it in advance reduces food waste. It also saves money by preventing unneeded meals from being purchased and prepared.

5. Allow people with medical conditions to bring their own food and drink into the venue.

Many people with medical conditions carry wallet-sized cards with them that explain their condition and the reasons for why they may need to bring food or drink into a venue. Even if the venue does not usually allow people to enter with outside food or drink, please make exceptions for people with medical needs. This can be important for a variety of situations. Some disorders, like gastroparesis, can limit the amount of food a person is able to eat at any one time. People with gastroparesis are encouraged to eat small portions throughout the day. It may not be possible for someone with a medical condition like gastroparesis to eat enough before an event to keep them full until the end. People with dietary restrictions who have co-morbid diabetes may need to bring food into a venue to prevent their blood sugar from dropping.

Through these five methods, you can make your events easier to attend for people with dietary restrictions. Informing guests about the menu ahead of time will allow them to plan ahead for the event more effectively. Labeling dishes at buffet-style events will allow guests to determine which dishes they can eat. Event planners will benefit from eliminating the need to guess which restrictions their guests have at events that require an RSVP by allowing their guests to list their restrictions on the RSVP form. Allowing guests to decline food they cannot eat before the event will prevent food waste. Ensuring that guests on medical diets can bring their own food into the venue will allow them to manage their conditions more effectively.

This post originally appeared on Spoonie Musings.

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Thinkstock photo via TeerawatWinyarat.


Remember that time
That time you had the flu?
Couldn’t feel worse —
Ya, I’m sure that’s true.

You’re nauseous and you’re weak —
Haven’t eaten for days.
You want it to be over.
You pray it’s just a phase.

You’re sweaty and you’re hot.
You can’t get out of bed.
If you didn’t have a pulse,
You’d swear that you were dead.

Your stomach’s doing flips.
You can’t keep down your food.
When you can’t take anymore
Your friend says something rude.

“Come on, you don’t look sick.
You’ll feel better when you’re out.
Just take this vitamin and
You’ll be healed without a doubt.

“I’ve felt nauseous before.
It’s really no big deal.
Some exercise will do you good
And a nice big meal.

“You’re looking pretty thin.
You need to eat some meat.
Let me fill your plate.
You really need to eat.”

“I couldn’t eat a thing,”
You hiss through your teeth.

“That’s just in your head —
Just a silly belief.”

Then what’s even worse,
Your doctor also said,
“No, you’re really fine.
It’s all just in your head.”

How would you feel
If no one believed you —
When you felt so sick
But no one thought it true?

Could you go to work?
Could you do it every day?
When you could barely stand
For eight hours, would you stay?

What if it never ended?
For some it never did.
The stomach flu continues
Yet our illnesses are hid.

What this really means
Is people cannot see
How sick we really are.
We look like you or me.

But underneath it all
We’re fighting for our life.
And what we don’t need
Is all your added strife.

Maybe we don’t look sick —
Maybe not to you.
But remember back to
That time you had the flu.

Well imagine if
It never went away.
That is gastroparesis —
Stomach flu every day.

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Thinkstock photo via Mila_1989.

As 23-year-old dance teacher Raven Walton competes on CBS’ “Big Brother” this summer, she’ll be fighting for more than the $500,000 prize. She’s also raising awareness of her chronic illnessgastroparesis, and the gastric pacemaker she uses to treat her condition.

The Arkansas native was diagnosed with gastroparesis at 16. In a pre-show interview for CBS, Walton said it’s possible to actually see her pacemaker in her stomach. She’s asking “Big Brother” viewers to use the hashtag #PacerPower when discussing her on the show on social media.

“Pacer power, ya’ll!” Walton said. “It gave me a second chance at life. And it’s my second heart.”

Gastroparesis is a chronic digestive condition that literally means “paralyzed stomach.” The stomach does not contract normally, preventing digestion of food and leading to symptoms like nausea, vomiting and malnutrition. Though the condition currently has no cure, treatment options include diet changes, medication and in some cases a feeding tube.

The gastric pacemaker, or gastric neurostimulator, is a relatively new treatment in which a small battery-powered device is implanted under the skin and connected to electrodes placed on the stomach. Electrical impulses stimulate the stomach. Again, gastric pacemakers are not a cure and are not effective for everyone with gastroparesis, but some patients find one can help improve their symptoms. Walton’s battle to afford a gastric pacemaker was featured on CNN when she was 15.

Like most people with gastroparesis, Walton wants to raise awareness; in a feature about Walton that aired on KTHV 11 last year, she said she’s hoping gastroparesis can some day have an “ice bucket” moment (referring to the once popular Ice Bucket Challenge). How she’s feeling fluctuates every day, and she knows she may not always be able to do things like dance, so she’s trying to fit in as many experiences while she still can.

“I know one day eventually I won’t be able to do all these things. I know my disease is going to progress to where I can’t. So that’s why I’m doing it now,” Walton said.

Walton’s illness will also influence how she spends the money if she wins — she told The Hollywood Reporter  she isn’t able to have children because of the pacemaker and “different circumstances,” so the first thing she’d do is freeze her eggs.

“[The show] is bigger than me. It’s my future. I’ve been through a lot with my disease and it’s taken a lot away from me growing up,” Walton said. “This is my chance to take some of that back.”

“Big Brother” airs Sundays and Wednesdays at 8/7c and Thursdays at 9/8c on CBS.

Many people seem to struggle with some sort of insecurity when it comes to weight…but with gastroparesis it’s a unique type of insecurity. You worry about getting too skinny because if you do, people think you’re sick again. You worry about losing weight from your illness and people saying, “You look good.” You worry about gaining weight and people mentioning you should slow down on your eating.

Size always seems to matter with this condition and it can fluctuate. From gaining weight to losing weight and repeat, over and over again. Your clothes never fit you just right as they did before you got sick. Some people who’ve had it their entire lives never have clothes that fit properly. Weight seems so superficial, but having the “perfect clothes” and the “perfect body” has become an ideal.


Gastroparesis can hurt your self-image. You try your best to ignore it, but the insecurity always lingers. You wonder if you should eat more or eat less, even if it hurts your body, just please others. To everyone struggling with this, I know how it feels and it’s unfortunate.

Try your best to not listen to the comments about your weight. Block out the negativity even when it seems impossible. Tell people to stop talking about your weight. Try not to be someone else with a different body. Just be you and try to be as healthy as possible. And even when you don’t feel like “you,” you’re still beautiful. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

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My one year anniversary of getting diagnosed with gastroparesis happened on May 12th. One year of knowing what was plaguing my body. Leading up to this day I was worried I would be a total wreck emotionally. Three days earlier on May 9th, I had a huge exam that had been causing stress for me and my classmates for a while. Having May 12th looming over my head didn’t help in the slightest. It really started to get to me. Thinking about how much worse off I was, how I may keep getting worse, and not knowing the future. The GP diagnosis blindsided me completely in 2016 and was a lot to think about. Especially as so many fears had poured into my head that night after the diagnosis. In the midst of all of this near the anniversary, I got this text from my friend:

“I think you have had a lot of wins, and it is best to focus on those instead of the troubling things that have come up.”


It is beyond simple to let the wins slip through the cracks when day in and day out you are stressed, nauseous, in pain and tired. I can get stuck in the monotony and negatives of dealing with this. When you are in the trenches of living with a chronic illness, you can live day to day waiting for things to ease up a little. It is easy to focus on how things might get worse or worry about what your condition will be like in a few years and how that could ruin your life. I know I get stuck in that occasionally, especially with flare-ups. But you have to look back and find your victories, notice your conquered mountains, look to all the moments of sunlight and joy and just simply celebrate the wins.

For me one of the big “wins” was having survived my first year of PT school when it seemed like body was working against me and trying to derail the plan. I have many amazing things set up for the next year. I graduated college a few weeks ago. And even beyond the big things, I had tiny wins that were worth celebrating too. Like enjoying a night out with friends even though I couldn’t eat.

Find the little things, find the big things, write them down and keep a list. On days where it gets hard or scary, look at that list and remind yourself of the amount of times you have won. Remind yourself that deep inside is a superhero fighting and winning on a daily basis. Chronic illness can’t stop you from finding those wins. They are much more joyful and a better focus than the negatives of dealing with a malfunctioning body.

Choose your favorite win and the next time you don’t think you can do it, remind yourself you can. You’ve done it before and will do it again. Plans change and life causes things to turn upside down, but that will never change how much you have already done and will continue to do. Remember, focus on your wins and celebrate them!

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Thinkstock photo via dmbaker.

Nausea, vomiting, dry heaves, pain, exhaustion and malnutrition are just some of the many symptoms I deal with having gastroparesis.

Gastroparesis is paralysis of the stomach muscles, so when I eat, the food just sits in my stomach way longer than it would for the average person. It will sit in my stomach and rot, make me nauseous and make me very bloated. A lot of the time it sits in there so long my body will eventually reject it and I throw up. Eating with gastroparesis is like Russian roulette – you never know if you’re going to go into a flare and get really sick or be OK.


My body is trying to starve me, eating becomes scary, I feel hungry but I am too nauseous to eat. My bed becomes my prison because I feel so awful that I can’t leave it. Imagine having a really bad stomach flu that just never went away – that’s my life. I start to miss food, but I associate food with being sick. It’s no way to live. It gets extremely lonely, being sick constantly and always in bed. I don’t get out much or interact with a lot of people, minus doctors and nurses. It’s emotionally and psychically exhausting.

There is no cure for gastroparesis and very few treatment options. I’ve tried many different medications, different surgeries and right now I’m using a jejunostomy tube for feeding. A jejunostomy tube is a feeding tube that is placed in your abdomen and goes into your small intestine, so it bypasses the stomach, which is the problem area. My surgery options right now are a pyloroplasty, which is where they cut out part of your stomach to widen the pylorus so your food can empty into your duodenum. The other is a gastric pacemaker which is an electrical device that goes under the skin and has wires that connect to your stomach and send electrical pulses to move your stomach muscles, in the hopes of reducing nausea and vomiting. Both surgeries are invasive and not guaranteed to be helpful.

The truth is awareness and research for gastroparesis is minimal. We should have more options. We are struggling, we are fighting, we shouldn’t be invisible but we tend to be. I even occasionally have to explain to the doctor what this disease is.

collage of photos of a woman in the hospital with gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is awful, and it’s a giant question mark in my life. Especially when it is diagnosed as idiopathic, which means doctors don’t know what caused it. I don’t know why I was fine for the majority of my life then out of nowhere my stomach muscles just stopped working. We need to raise awareness and hopefully more research will be funded to help lift the giant weight off gastroparesis warriors.

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