Socialization Without Food

Socialization Without Food

Imagine not being able to eat.

Imagine my friend who receives total parenteral nutrition through a central line. Imagine me a few years ago when I could only eat a handful of pureed foods and had such severe Mast Cell Activation Syndrome that my parents had to cook and eat outside to avoid putting me in anaphylaxis from smelling their food and who still can’t eat gluten, dairy, and nightshades and little sugar or processed foods.

People attend social events, whether at church, work, or school, that include food. They catch up with friends over coffee and doughnuts. They invite people over for dinner. Fellowshipping over food is natural, and it should be. After all, people need to eat, and mealtime is a wonderful opportunity to nourish not only our bodies with food but also our souls with fellowship and words of encouragement.

Yet some of us can't eat, or if we can eat, we often can’t eat what is served at social events. Still our souls crave fellowship with others, and we hate being left out.

If you have a friend who is tube feed, who receives total parenteral nutrition, or who has food allergies or sensitivities, please believe that their inability to eat is real. If they tell you that they can’t eat something you prepared, please believe them and don’t think they are rude. If possible, prepare something they can eat, or if you are the sick one, bring your own food if there is something you can eat. Both my mom and I have brought our own food to church dinners and other events. However, if eating a meal together is not possible, don't let that keep you from getting together with friends and family. Not being able to eat a traditional diet can be lonely because so much socialization happens around food, but there are fun activities you can host or participate in that don’t require food. Here is a list of ideas.

A hymn sing. Every month during the spring through early fall, my family invites friends to our house to sing hymns. 

Movie night. Sure, popcorn is nice to munch on while watching a movie, but it isn’t necessary.

A walk. I love to go for walks with my family and friends, especially at parks.

Craft party. Invite a friend over and make crafts together. Maybe create scrapbook pages together and tell each other about the stories behind the photos.

Retail therapy. Go shopping with a friend or family member. Bonus points if you go to a thrift store.

A “Sunday drive.” Take a relaxing drive and enjoy a change of scenery. Now that it's the holiday season you could even take a drive to see Christmas lights while listening to music.

Play board or card games. I especially like Dixit and Monopoly Deal.

Go to a museum. If you're local to my area, check out the Westmoreland Art Museum, which has free admission.

Word sprint with a friend or friends. This is actually what I'm doing as I'm writing this article. A few online friends and I are all writing as fast as we can in 15 minute intervals and chatting on Slack between sprints and celebrating our word count accomplishments.

Food shouldn't be the only thing that results in socialization, and not being able to eat shouldn't equal loneliness. Be creative and invite others to enjoy some of these fun activities while you deepen your relationships.

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