When you have a bowel disease the relationship with food can be, at the very least, a complicated one.
In my mind and in my heart I LOVE food. I love the smells, the sights, the taste of it. I love the comfort it brings, the happy memories it evokes, the new experiences it allows. But my stomach HATES it. My stomach physically despises it. Rejects it faster than a 3-legged-puppy at a dog shelter. (Which is something for the record, I would never do)
And therein lies the issue – the one place where food should find its happy, nourishing home before starting its journey into the sewage system, is stunted by an intense, repellent disgust for anything I choose to shovel into my cake-hole.
Food and the partaking in eating it, may seem initially like such a basic human need that we can often lose sight of how wonderful an aspect of life it can be. We associate often unknowingly, food with socializing, with blossoming romance, cultivating friendships, nurturing our children. It is associated with being part of something. This eats into (pardon the pun) a common issue patients with chronic illness have; feeling on the outside of things.
For me the idea of going ‘out for dinner’ is great. I love thinking ahead about what I’ll wear, scoping out the menu in advance to see what looks delicious, anticipating the great conversation I might have in a cosy environment. But then, much like a selfish lover, that thrill disappears as quickly as it comes.
I am then met with the stark reality-reminder of what might actually happen; I’ll worry about what I can wear to disguise the inventible bloating that comes after one morsel, I’ll panic over what I can eat that doesn’t contain an ingredient that will cause me pain (clue: nothing), I’ll worry about a potential lack of bathrooms or my tables’ proximity to a bathroom, and worst of all, I’ll worry about ruining the evening for my companion before the night has even begun. All this anxiety serves [can’t stop won’t stop with the food puns] to put a dampener on what should ideally be an exciting and fun prospect.
Much like any bad relationship, when you love something that causes you nothing but pain you must learn to cut all ties. Not quite as easy with food, due to that pesky aspect of needing it to stay alive.
Food is an inescapable part of life, so in order to avoid an early meet and greet with the Grim Reaper, some form of adaption must take place. We must learn to fit it into our life in a way that causes us the least mental and physical torture. No easy feat. Or should that be no easy feed?! Haha ha ha no you’re right probably not.
For me there has been no ‘diet’ I’ve found to absolve my symptoms (and believe me I’ve looked). Over time I’ve established the main foods and drinks which I know will particularly upset me, I try as much as I can to cut these out. Often IBD is so utterly unpredictable that ‘safe’ foods cause just as much discomfort as others; this is a particular gripe of mine, especially when it takes so much will power not to eat what I love.
On the whole my appetite is as elusive as a vegan at a cattle market. I generally don’t crave food: against my will I’ve conditioned my brain that ‘food = pain’ and this is a hard mentality to break out of. Don’t get me wrong I still eat and drink as much as I am able, I ensure I stay hydrated when I am unable to tolerate food and I seek advice when food is off my proverbial menu [don’t take on the pun-queen unless you want to be humiliated] for longer than I’d like.
I suppose this blog is just a reminder you are not alone in seeing food as an uphill challenge. What may seem like an unthinking aspect of the day can be a stressful and anxiety inducing experience for others. So don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to finish your plateful, just be sensible, patient with yourself and your body and take care of yourself. And if you ever see me eating soup in a steak house please don’t judge.