A Crohnie Girl in a Foodie World
In our society today, we are surrounded by food everywhere we look. We celebrate holidays, birthdays, marriages, babies, graduations, new jobs, and many other milestones by indulging in different types of cuisine. We go to happy hour to shake off the stress of the week at work, which involves socializing and eating/drinking. We also can get a love of food from our upbringing; I know this all too well due to being brought up in a household heavily influenced by my Italian roots, which meant meals of pasta + meatballs and bread for days.
What happens to a person in this food obsessed world if they also happen to have inflammatory bowel disease?
How could I be scared to eat?! I loved food and ate for pleasure most of the time. I never thought that having Crohn's would change that.
However, I never really thought about how big of an unconscious role that food has in our lives and how that could negatively affect someone with IBD.
Anxiety around eating and food
To someone with IBD, little things related to food (like going out to eat, buying them food, getting invited to happy hour, holiday cooking, or regular meal times) can bring on intense anxiety. I know this like the back of my hand. In my first few years with Crohn's, I wouldn't go to happy hour (for fear of not being able to eat anything), always be the last one to order at a table when out to eat (due to overanalyzing the menu options), not eat as much as I should for fear of pain and continuously got into arguments with my family over mealtimes.
I'm sure that most people who live with inflammatory bowel disease can relate. I don't think any of us ever realized how much our lives revolved around food until we got diagnosed with IBD. It can be tough at times, but there are also ways to mingle with your foodie friends.
A few tricks I've learned to navigate food-related situations:
- Find a way of nourishing your body that works for you and try to stick with it (even in the tough situations). Whether that be an Autoimmune Paleo Protocol, FODMAP diet, gluten-free diet, or mixture of a bunch of them, knowing what works for your individual case of IBD and your body is important when trying to live life in a foodie world.
- Have conversations with the family and friends who show love through food. I know there are some IBDers out there who know what I'm talking about. In a lot of cultures, making food and having a meal together is a way to show love to others. In our day and age, it can translate to buying you groceries you don't necessarily eat, sharing an appetizer at happy hour that doesn't settle well, or always going out for ice cream with that one friend as a way to catch up. Talk to the people in your life who use food as a way to show love and explain to them the way that you choose to eat and why. Having open dialogue around that topic can help alleviate some anxiety around food and give them more insight on your condition.
- Bring your own + some to share! When going to a family or friend gathering that will have food and drinks that you can't have, be prepared by bringing your own. Having snacks and drinks on hand that you can have will help you feel more included without sacrificing your health. You could also bring some food that you eat to share with others. You might just find that your family and friends like what you eat! :)
- Indulge (if you can and are able to). We can't possibly be perfect 100% of the time with the way that we choose to eat. It's impossible, and when we try to do so, it makes us crabby and resentful. When I started eating the way that I do now, I tried for so long to not eat something that wasn't considered "healthy" - cue another weird relationship with food. However, I've learned that indulging once in a while (if you can and in ways that personally work for you) can help you stick to the eating style that helps you feel your best.
- Learn to say "No, thank you". There will be times where something is being offered to you and you can't eat it. You didn't bring any of your own food and aren't prepared for this situation at all. The best response to an unwanted food offering is "No, thank you." Saying no is hard, especially to those who love food (and you) so much, but it is necessary to do so for your health. Practice saying it if you have to so that when you need to say it, you stick to your guns.
Less stress about eating and symptoms
Using these techniques has helped me navigate food-related situations with less stress. I no longer have an unusual relationship with food and nourish my body whenever I feel I need to.
However, that doesn't mean that living in this foodie world gets easier. There will always be food situations that are tough to get through and the anxiety will almost always be there to some degree. Just know that every day that you make choices that are best for you and your body, you are doing the right thing.