A Positive Approach
While it is true that people with the condition lose much of the spontaneity around food that those without dietary restrictions enjoy, with a little bit – and sometimes a lot – of pre-planning there is no reason why people with FCS cannot lead a full, healthy and integrated life.
What can I eat?
You might find it useful to make a list of all the foods you know you can eat and all the foods you know you can’t eat and all the foods that you know you need to be careful around. For instance, turkey breast with fat and skin removed would be a Can Eat, Cheddar Cheese would be a Can’t Eat, and beef would be something you will need to be careful around.
We have an example of a Eating out document here. You may want to create your own.
You may want to expand this by adding your favourite products. Be aware that what you can eat when you prepare food at home, will be very different from what you can eat in a restaurant or at an untutored friend’s house. It can be a useful resource when eating out (see our eating out page)
This is something you might want to add to as you discover more and more things that are suitable within your restrictions.
Using this as a resource can help to allow you to plan your meals more easily. For those of you who have a flair for cooking, seeing the types of foods you can eat might prompt an idea. People with the condition, or interested partners may discover all sorts of ways to prepare food without fat. Please share your successes via our ‘recipes’ page.
Why do I eat too much fat sometimes?
It is hard to know what governs an individual’s eating habits so try and be honest with yourself about how you found yourself eating more fat than you intended and work out strategies to avoid repeating the situation.
You may already know if you’re the type of person who can successfully change everything at once or if you need to make small changes that are easily achievable and which over time build up to a big change.
For instance, you might be anywhere on the spectrum from, on the one hand, clearing out your cupboards of all foods that you want to avoid to, on the other hand, incrementally replacing items with healthier options. Of course your personal situation and the needs of other household members may influence or limit your approach.
A good way to start is to record what you are eating and how much fat is contained in your food choices. It’s important to be very honest with yourself – you don’t have to show anyone else what you are recording. Make a note of the mood you were in when you were eating – this can often reveal patterns which can help you to understand yourself and your eating a little better. This will come in handy when devising strategies to make better choices.
We have created a handy daily fat counter to help you. You can download it here.
Lifestyle not diet
One of the problems of living with FCS is that its impact tends to be minimised as currently the only way to manage it is to limit fat intake to a level which enables a symptom-free life. The short hand for this situation is ‘eating a low-fat diet’. Unfortunately, the word ‘diet’ in this context can immediately put the experience of living with FCS into the world of weight-loss, of choice, of ‘fad’ and can put in on a par with the many different diets people aim to keep because of their allergies and intolerances.
It may be that you have internalised this way of thinking about your situation. If you do think this way it can immediately add a negative element to your life as ‘diet’ has connotations of restriction, or ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour.
If this is the case (and only you will know how you approach the condition), try to reframe your situation as a choice to be healthy and as a shift towards a healthy lifestyle. Try to forget the idea ‘diet’. Think instead of setting up patterns and habits which once embedded into your daily routine will allow you to be confident of what you are eating and will free you from diet-induced anxiety and stress and will provide you with a cuisine which you enjoy and is manageable to maintain.
Changing eating habits rather than dieting is less likely to lead you to feel bad if things don’t go so well on one day. Feeling you have broken your diet is more likely to lead to self-punishing behaviour of continuing to eat wrong foods (because I am a bad person for not keeping to my diet). Reverting to healthy patterns is an easier process than going back onto a diet.
Telling others about FCS
When telling new people about your condition find a quick and easy way of explaining the basics of the condition which doesn’t’ include the word diet. You could say something like “I have FCS which means I don’t have (or have enough) of the enzyme which breaks down fats. If I eat fat it goes round in my blood creating all sorts of complications and leads to pancreatitis. There’s no medication for it, I just have to avoid eating fat in the first place.” Find a way of saying this that works for you.
People will follow your lead – if you minimise the impact of the condition it will be harder for others to take it seriously.
We’ve developed a checklist of 4 questions to help you keep on track
You can download it here – it might be helpful to display it!
Do I want it?
Do I need it?
Can I ‘afford’ it?
Am I being honest with myself?