Feeling the "Food Pressure" and Paying the Painful Price
Last updated: July 2023
"Oooh... It smells so good," I think to myself. I try to ignore the sizzle, crackle, pop of greasy goodness. But it's right there in front of me.
"You know you can't eat that," my head warns with kindness.
I'm standing at the stove frying up some bologna and eggs for my husband's lunch. The debate between my head and my senses will continue throughout the cooking process.
Always assessing with Crohn's and UC
Life with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's causes one to assess every food choice. When eating, I must avoid trigger foods. Trigger foods are selections that set off my colitis. After living 3 decades with this companion called UC, I know which edibles will anger my gut and which ones will soothe it. It's how it goes with IBD living.
So how does a person avoid the food pitfalls?
Honestly, it's not easy. On most days, I'm good about my eating choices. But sometimes my nose and eyes overrule my gut. It's just human nature.
Resisting the food pressure... or not
On this particular fried bologna-and-eggs day, I resisted... for a little bit. But the fried bologna became the perfect bait that snagged me when I bagged up leftovers to put in the fridge. My nose and eyes said, "Just 1 little slice won't hurt you. What harm can come from just a 'taste'?"
So, I slowly nibbled 1 small bite of the fried, greasy, scrumptious processed bologna. "Oh, my," I thought. "I haven't eaten this in years." And then I continued, relishing each bite of that 1 slice. Smacking my lips along the way. Enjoying the greasy residue left on my mouth.
The instant dopamine rush made me smile and skip around the kitchen. "Yum. Yum," rang out in my head.
My UC punishment
But hours later, punishment arrived. The pain in my gut was so intense. The pounding and throbbing pulsated throughout my entire body. I just wanted that dang lunch meat out of my system.
The bologna had won out, and my colitis dragon thrashed its penalty. I deserved it. I knew that I shouldn’t have given in to temptation.
As a UC "veteran", I know better.
Avoiding trigger foods is hard!
On any given day, though, I might not possess the strength to avoid "trigger" foods. I'm human.
Place a bag of chocolate in front of me, and my resolve will melt away. I'm going to eat those M&Ms, truffles, brownies, etc. I will eat them knowing that milk products and – like the bologna – processed foods, red meat, fried food, etc., are going to kick my bum – literally!
So why do I do it? Why give in when paying the price hurts?
Sometimes we have to give in
Sometimes, I believe my moods (dare I say... hormones) overrule the common-sense approach to eating. Also, convenience sometimes plays a role. It's way easier to order a cheeseburger at a drive-thru window rather than go home and fix something that won't trigger my UC. Another point lies in cost. Ordering a regular pizza is way cheaper than a smaller, gluten-free version.
Finally, it's my sheer stubbornness that occasionally wins out. In social settings, I get aggravated when I can't eat what everyone else is eating, so I give in.
Cave to the food pressure, pay the price
Here's the point, if I cave in to "food pressure," then I will – without a doubt – pay the price. Period.
My gut will scold and reprimand my lack of willpower. And the scolding will not be pretty. I'm the one left dealing with the trigger food fallout. No one else is.
So, what are some tips for resisting food temptations?
How I try to resist tasty temptations
First, if you don't buy it, you can't eat it. I know this about myself. Therefore, buying anything with chocolate is a no-no. (In my defense, I bought bologna for my husband. Oh, well. Bad decision.)
Secondly, remove yourself from the temptations. I did this temporarily with the fried eggs and bologna. But I should have asked my husband to put away the leftovers.
Next, plan ahead. If you know you'll be out socially, pack food items you can eat. In this way, you aren't stuck going hungry or eating only what's in front of you.
Finally, on those stubborn days, maybe the best approach is a "worst-case scenario" mindset. What I mean by this is a bit unconventional. Maybe I should stop and reflect on the worst UC flare I've experienced.
The painful potential of "giving in"
This might sound a bit extreme, but when temptation hits, I need to think about the terrible gut pain, bleeding, mucous, and diarrhea that I've had from eating those foods in the past. (Do you remember the popcorn that sent you to the hospital? Yeah, that was a BAD day.) Creating the "worst-case scenario" might cause me to stop, pull back my hand, and walk away.
In the end, I know each day presents conscious choices that will either make or break one's UC or Crohn's. It's up to each individual to decide whether the price is worth the taste and few minutes of pleasure.
But none of us are perfect – and that's OK!
I know I'm not perfect. I will make food mistakes, and I know I will pay for them. As 1 author states, "The devil doesn't come dressed in a red cape and pointy horns. He comes as everything you've ever wished for..." Such as bologna, hot dogs, chocolate, gluten, etc.
The food-devil list is endless! And impulsivity can be a heavy price to pay when it kicks me in the bum.
How do you resist devilish foods? Please comment to share your tips and ideas. You might just help someone avoid paying the IBD price... like me.
What has been the most helpful for managing IBD symptoms?