Tips to Successfully Dine out With Crohn's Disease
Dining out is typically a luxury most enjoy. However, dining out while living with Crohn’s disease can feel like anything but a luxurious and enjoyable event.
Fear of frequent bathroom trips, a restaurant that only has one bathroom to accommodate the entire place, navigating a menu, and worries about embarrassment among your guests is enough to deter us from dining out forever. Unless you have a plan...
Before launching my health coaching business, I was a financial advisor and treated many clients to lunches and dinners. You can imagine the level of anxiety I felt during these meetings since not only was dining out as a Crohn’s patient difficult enough, try adding doing business, and maintaining a strong relationship on which your career depends on it--not fun!
So, I developed a system that would allow me to enjoy the lunches and dinners and I would like to share these tips with you in hopes that it alleviates some fears you feel while dining out at restaurants:
Always choose the restaurant
If you know there are certain restaurants that accommodate your dietary needs and have great bathroom facilities, keep a list of them as your go-to choices. And, if you feel uncomfortable always making the decision of where to eat, offer your guests a choice of two or three options so that you are still giving them the ultimate choice of where to go and you feel comfortable regardless of the place they choose.
Check out the menu online before you go
Fortunately, most restaurants offer their full menu online so you can browse it before you visit. Always have a few options in mind in case they no longer offer one dish so you have a backup. Also note some ingredients that may be questionable and be sure to ask your server (or the chef, if necessary) when seated.
Show up 15 minutes early
Speaking of asking the server how your dish is prepared and exactly what is in it, show up to your reservation 15 minutes early so that you can get all of these questions out of the way before your guests arrive. I always felt more comfortable asking questions about my meal and telling the server/chef why so that they took it more seriously but did not want to share this somewhat TMI information in front of my clients.
So, I would show up early, review the menu in its entirety with the server, ask to speak to the chef if necessary, then when I placed my order with the rest of the guests, I was confident that everything was discussed, and no one else had to know.
Side note--it also helps if you sit at the end of the table so that you can easier converse with the server.
Preface the lunch/dinner with an expected “phone call”
I did this A LOT. If I wasn’t feeling well or knew there was a good chance I would be going to the bathroom urgently or frequently, I would preface the lunch with “I am waiting for an important phone call so I apologize if I have to step away to take it during the meal.”
And, if I were more casual with my guests, I would make a joke about not wanting to seem rude should this happen. This way, I was covered, and if I never had to use the bathroom, then that meant the phone call just never came. And, make sure you keep your phone in your pocket or bag so that they don’t notice that it is not actually ringing when you excuse yourself!
When all else fails, cancel
This is a big one that we, as Crohn’s patients, try to avoid for fear of looking weak or irresponsible. But, if you are honestly not feeling well and know that just one bite of food will exasperate your symptoms, just cancel.
You can either be honest or create an elaborate excuse, depending on your guests, and ask to reschedule at another time. You can also say you have a limited amount of time and change it to a “coffee meeting” where you just get tea that you may or may not even sip--they’ll never know.
As you can see, there are many ways to navigate the task of dining out with Crohn’s disease, and I sincerely hope that these tips help you in the future. I also welcome any other tips to help put our minds at ease when eating at a restaurant!
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